New Cerec camera a game changer?

2012 08 17 10 15 19 301 Sirona Omnicam 70

The Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas was buzzing last week with Sirona Dental Systems' introduction of the newest Cerec AC intraoral camera, the Omnicam.

The Omnicam is meant to complement, not replace, Sirona's current best-selling Cerec camera, the Bluecam, according to Roddy MacLeod, vice president of CAD/CAM for Sirona.

"Bluecam is the standand in the industry, the No. 1 selling camera system worldwide and in the U.S.," MacLeod told "It is highly precise and ergonomic and small-fitting, so trying to build something new that was a lot better we knew was going to be a big challenge."

Judging by the rousing reception the camera received during its unveiling in Las Vegas, they succeeded. The Omnicam has a number of features that set it apart from the competition, according to MacLeod: full-color streaming video capture; a smaller, more ergonomic handpiece; and a completely powder-free process.

2012 08 17 10 15 18 806 Sirona Omnicam2 2012 08 17 10 15 21 30 Sirona Bluecam2
The Omnicam handpiece (left) features a more ergonomic design compared with the Bluecam (right). All images courtesy of Sirona Dental Systems.

"Powder-free is a big convenience, and the small access camera is nice, but the color feature is a game changer," he said. "You have to see it, and once you do you realize you are in a totally different game and everything else looks old. You realize you are in a new clinical reality."

What sets the color display apart is the use of a white LED light source, which enables the camera to capture a broader spectrum of data, and the streaming capabilities. The result is full-color, true-to-life images, versus the monochromatic images of the Bluecam and other competing products.

The Omnicam uses a white LED light source
The Omnicam uses a white LED light source to capture a broader spectrum of data and produce full-color images.

"With Bluecam, you see the physical 3D aspects, but because it only uses a single (blue) light source, it can't capture the spectrum of data, which means the engineers make the resulting image all one color -- yellow or blue or green," he said. "What we have now with the Omnicam is full color that allows you to see blood vessels, dentin, amalgam, gold ... what you see in the patient's mouth is what appears on the screen."

2012 08 17 10 15 19 988 Sirona Omnicam 2012 08 17 10 15 21 132 Sirona Bluecam
The Omnicam displays full-color images (left), versus the monochrome images of the Bluecam (right) and competing products.

This offers practitioners a number of advantages, both clinically and for patient education, MacLeod added.

"I think doctors will use this instead of an intraoral camera," he said. "Once you can rotate and zoom in and zoom out, you have a totally different experience with regard to patient education. And up to now, staff delegation has been difficult, but with the Omnicam it isn't."

Upgrade costs

But some practitioners remained skeptical as word of the new camera's features spread this week via social media and message boards. Some were upset by the cost of upgrading to a new camera, given that the Bluecam is a relatively new device and they had only recently upgraded to it from the Redcam. Others were bothered by the upgrade pricing variations; for existing Bluecam owners, the cost to upgrade will be $27,500 if the camera was purchased after January 1, 2012. For those who purchased it prior to that date, the cost to upgrade will be $40,000.

"The only reason I'd be interested in upgrading at this time would be if the camera were free," one poster wrote on Dentaltown. "My Bluecam is only 3 years old, and I was NOT anticipating paying for another camera anytime soon."

Another wrote: "I took sirona up on the recent up grade special pricing from the red cam to the blue cam. That was 3 weeks ago. Now I am learning that there is a new camera! I enjoyed being up to date for two whole weeks. You cannot tell me that I was not a victim of a ploy by Sirona to unload Blue cams with a special deal on unsuspecting doctors."

But another wrote: "I haven't even received the Blue Cam that I just ordered and already it is outdated. Sheesh!! But I realized this actually gives me a nice opportunity, as I could cancel my order if I choose to. So, I actually have a choice: Brand new shiny Omnicam for $64,000, or brand new shiny Blue Cam for $27,500 (after red cam trade-in)."

According to MacLeod, a complete Cerec AC/Omnicam system -- including the milling unit -- will cost $129,995, while the Bluecam package is $119,995. He also emphasized that the Bluecam will remain a viable product that Sirona will continue to sell and support.

"We think the Bluecam is a phenomenal offer, and it currently has a $10,000 rebate on it, so the price difference between the two is $20,000," he said. "As digital CAD/CAM goes forward, we need to offer a variety of products and price points. We would be crazy to take the Bluecam off the market."

MacLeod also put to rest speculation about yet another Cerec development: a wireless camera.

"The data requirements to have a continuous capture data streaming the way we have it, and with the color and amount of data the camera picks up, wireless is not a reliable or viable option for this technology," he said. "Wireless has a ways to go yet."

For new system users, Omnicam will likely be available in early 2013, while upgrades should be available in mid-2013.

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