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 Choosing a Camera

By Barry Press, MD

Assuming that you are searching for a camera to use in your office/clinic and operating room, I believe that the most important consideration is size. A full-featured digital SLR (DSLR) may give you extreme flexibility and the ability to be very creative. However, it will be bulky and heavy. Medical photography is more like photojournalism: the object is to realistically and clearly portray what you saw and want the viewer to appreciate. A camera must be AVAILABLE to achieve this goal. For the vast majority of photos, the newer compact digital cameras will do the job nicely, and their small size and low weight will make them easy to carry in a pocket or bag.

Because you will be taking photos of small structures, it is mandatory to choose a camera with good macro capability (the ability to focus at close distances so small objects can nearly fill the viewfinder.)

Various memory card options are available and all function well. Prices for memory cards continue to fall, so look for a card that will hold a sufficient number of images to allow you to download them at your leisure, not when the card is full. Shooting at the highest quality setting will allow maximum flexibility in preparing images for printing or presentations, but will generate large files, so I recommend at least a 1 GB memory card. The most versatile shooting format is RAW, but this is generally only available on larger and DSLR cameras. Each manufacturer has a different name for its “highest quality” format.

More megapixels do not necessarily lead to better images. In fact, if too many pixels are crammed onto a small sensor, artifacts and loss of resolution can result. Digital cameras of 9-10 years ago with 2-3.5 megapixels took excellent clinical and OR photos. Most good contemporary cameras will have 8-14 megapixels.

There are many manufacturers and models of digital cameras available, and new models are constantly introduced. There are a number of good websites that rate digital cameras; some of my favorites are www.stevesdigicams.com, http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-cameras/, and http://www.dpreview.com.

Posted 4/30/2010