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Author: Dr Anthony Yung, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, January 2017.
This page describes the different types of products available for dermatological imaging. For a full review of the most popular dermatoscopes on the market, visit Dermatoscope overview.
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Digital cameras and technology have come a long way in the last 10 years. Nearly any camera, no matter the pixel and sensor size, will provide a sufficient image resolution for most applications in dermatology.
There is no one perfect device or camera for dermatological images. All have strengths and weaknesses, and different people have different priorities in terms of what they look for in their imaging devices. For example, many people tend to favour easily available and small-sized handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets with cameras.
In general, as size increases from smartphones and tablets through to cameras with interchangeable lenses, absolute image quality improves steadily with the increasing size of the camera sensor. If there is no need for reproduction or the viewing of images at very large sizes, then most readily-available consumer devices will suffice. With good lighting, good image quality is almost guaranteed if a good technique is used to compose and capture the image. The factor that probably most affects image quality is the ability of the person taking the images to use the available functions and features of their device and their ability to compose and choose the right parameters to use to capture the image optimally with the available light and conditions (or to compensate for these variables).
Every year to 18 months, new models of devices are released, with incremental improvements in functionality and image quality. Significant cost savings can also be made by choosing last year’s model or a ‘runout’ model, or buying during sales periods.
Smartphones or tablets have now been widely adopted as day-to-day cameras, with a resulting marked reduction in the sale and use of compact digital cameras (‘point and shoot’ cameras) and also a reduction in the sale and use of cameras with interchangeable lenses (both digital single-lens reflex [SLR or DSLR] and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras).
There is a misconception that more pixels in an image equates to better image quality, but this is not always true. What adequate image quality (not the same as resolution) and image resolution and detail entail depends largely on what the images will be used for and what size they will be viewed at (eg, web-based viewing requires a much lower image resolution and quality in general compared to printing a fashion spread or billboard).
The following parameters affect the quality of dermatological imaging and should be considered when you are looking to buy a new device:
There are advantages for using smartphones or tablets for dermatological imaging:
There are disadvantages when using smartphones or tablets for dermatological imaging:
There are advantages of using point-and-shoot cameras for dermatological imaging:
There are disadvantages of using point-and-shoot cameras for dermatological imaging:
(These include Nikon 1 series, micro 4/3, Advanced Photo System type-C [APS-C] mirrorless, full-frame mirrorless, APS-C DSLR and 35-mm full-frame SLR cameras)
There are advantages of using interchangeable lens cameras for dermatological imaging:
There are disadvantages of using interchangeable lens cameras for dermatological imaging:
The following devices connect with smartphones or tablets:
Other smaller interchangeable lens cameras include:
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