Which Camera, Which Lens, Is Flash Enough? How to Choose the Right Equipment?

Many dentists are faced with the following situation in the clinic: The treatment has been successfully completed and the restoration of the anterior tooth looks great. The patient was extremely satisfied with the result.

The dentist suddenly realizes that he neglected to take pre-case photos of the front teeth and he mused: “I wish I could have taken at least 2 (before and after) photos!”

There are 2 options to be made after this scenario: Either to continue our treatments with the same protocol or to buy a camera and equipment suitable for use in dentistry in order not to say “I wish” in future cases.

Thus, the desired case can be photographed and shown to our patients at any time.

In this article, we’ll discuss choosing a camera body, lens, and flash. We will give different advice according to different expectations. Having the equipment and technical knowledge to take those 2 photos we mentioned above, a serious archive can be created.

These photos can contribute to our profession by:

» Your own treatment archive can be created for different treatments

» Patient and technician communication can be strengthened.

» Can be kept as a document for forensic cases

» Contributing to raising public awareness

» In scientific publications, presentations, etc. available

» And most importantly, for your professional development, you can get the opportunity to see the treatments more closely.

It can be thought that clinical costs increase by taking photographs continuously; however, the information to be presented with photos from your own treatment is invaluable. Because they allow us to see details that are at least 40 times larger than visible.

Digital cameras have expanded rapidly in the millennium, and their usage areas have also expanded. Previously, dental photos could only be taken using 35mm motion picture films. Photos taken with this method have to go through the bathing stages. Bath solutions, on the other hand, contain toxic chemicals and disposal of their wastes is a problem. Therefore, its environmental friendliness is also questionable.

Thanks to digital photography, the environment is not constantly harmed, the result can be viewed on your computer screen in seconds, photos can be kept intact for years, and as many photos can be saved as you want.

Currently, 373 cameras belonging to 5 different brands are sold in the market. If we can eliminate brands and models one by one with the right strategy, hardware that will serve us for many years can be easily installed.

Cameras are divided into 3 main classes:

Compact and film SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras are not suitable for routine use.

DSLR (Digital-Single Lens Reflex) cameras are the most suitable option when Macro shooting is required. If we are going to install a set on DSLR machines, the number of options is already reduced to 202.

“We have to get the camera body first; Then there is a misconception that we must choose the lens and flash”. Whereas, lenses and flashes play a bigger role in our photo quality.

In a few years the body we have will be out of date; but lenses and flashes will still be out of fashion.

Our new strategy will be in the following order:

1- Lens selection

2- Flash selection

3- Camera selection


A 1:1 magnification factor macro lens with a focal length of around 100mm is required for dental photography. These lenses are distinguished from other lenses by their magnification factors.

For example; Let’s assume that the vertical crown length of a central tooth is 10 mm. If we can detect that the image on a 36×24 mm sensor is 10 mm, this image is a 1:1 macro image. Macro lenses have focal lengths such as 60mm, 85mm, 90mm, 100mm, 105mm, 180mm, 200mm. The most suitable lenses for dental photography are lenses between 85mm-105mm. These lenses allow us to take 1:1 photos without getting too close to or far from the patient.

Tele-zoom lenses also have a macro shooting mode; however, they are not suitable for use in dentistry as their magnification factors are up to 1:4. All other non-macro lenses are also not recommended for intraoral shots, as they cause image distortion.


Photography is, in a sense, “painting with light”. A clear picture like the one below cannot be taken with any camera (without a light source) in total darkness.

The camera can be used to take intraoral (anterior, lateral, occlusal surface, etc.) and extraoral (face, profile, plaster model, prosthetic works, etc.) photographs in the clinical environment. Insufficient light is often encountered when focusing inside the mouth. This is where external flash systems come into play. Generally, two types of flash systems are used in dentistry: Ring Flashes and Twin Flashes.

Ring flashes: They produce a light that circles around the lens. Thus, they can illuminate the focused area from any angle. They provide a serious ease of use in the fields of Orthodontics, Surgery and Periodontology, where the surface character of the teeth, color distribution, and 3D perception are less important. They do not create deep shadows, especially in the shooting of the lateral and posterior regions. The biggest disadvantage is that they make the photographed area dimensionless and flat.

Twin Flashes: This system, consisting of 2 independent flashes, is placed on the right and left of the lens. The position of the twin flashes can be changed by the handles on them. In fact, one of the flashes can be removed from the side of the lens to provide a closer light to the patient. Thanks to the twin flashes, photos with high contrast and 3D details can be taken. It is the most suitable flash type for anterior teeth where we need to evaluate color distribution, surface characterization and translucency.

The use of this system, which provides countless shooting possibilities, requires experience. It is more suitable for use in the fields of prosthetic dental treatment and conservative dental treatment. When used in the posterior region, the flash reflected on the cheek or teeth can create a shadow in the desired area. To eliminate this problem, they have a semi-permeable white apparatus that can be attached to the ends. If we determine which type of flash fits our expectations, the right choice can be made easily.


The machines where we can get the best image quality are DSLR cameras. The biggest reason for this is the following: Macro lenses should be used in intraoral shots and it is desired that both the central tooth and the 2nd molar tooth appear clearly in all arch photographs we take. In other words, it is aimed to increase the depth of field as much as possible, to increase the value we call f: (focal length).

Between f/22 and f/32 is considered the ideal aperture for intraoral shots. Thus, all the teeth displayed are clear. These values ​​cannot be reached in compact machines and the desired image clarity cannot be obtained. For example, if we bought a macro lens with a focal length of 100mm, the f value would mean 100mm. When the lens is focused at infinity, the image falls clearly on the sensor, 100mm behind the lens. The aperture is found by dividing this value and f:8 means 100/8mm. That is, the light enters the lens from a gap of 12.5mm and then falls on the sensor.

The different sensor sizes between compact and DSLR cameras are another factor that affects image quality. Small image sensors are used in compact cameras due to their small size. APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) class, DSLR cameras with an average sensor size of 24x16mm are very suitable for dental photography. We often don’t need expensive cameras with a 36x24mm sensor size that are called full-frame.


Digital dental photography is an outstanding tool for diagnosis, communication and documentation. With appropriate training, equipment, technique and practice, dental photography can support the physician in making the correct diagnosis and providing treatment recommendations. Every physician should create his equipment in line with his own expectations. Thus, the benefit to be obtained from the equipment to be installed can be maximized.

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