Ocular Testing Equipment: How to Choose the Right Tools for Retinal Screenings

ocular testing equipment

New advances in ocular testing equipment present an opportunity for primary care providers to reduce severe vision loss, especially those cases caused by diabetic retinopathy or macular edema. By bringing effective diagnostic eye care to non-eyecare specialists, the latest retinal screening tools make early detection affordable and accessible for both patients and providers. New, innovative eye exam equipment also offers more mobility and enriched capabilities for providers to leverage, including easier travel to testing sites and handheld imaging. 

Choosing the best retinal imaging camera for your practice can be overwhelming, but it’s critical to effectively delivering quality care. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you select the best camera to fit your practice’s unique needs:


Types of cameras

There are two common types of eye exam equipment used for retinal imaging: tabletop cameras and handheld cameras.

 Tabletop cameras

We use the term “tabletop” camera to describe cameras that sit on top of a medical instrument table. The two pieces of vision testing equipment work hand in hand to deliver the best possible experience for both the camera operator and the patient.Tabletop Camera

Tabletop cameras tend to be more expensive than portable cameras. However, they do allow operators to take higher-quality images more consistently. Most tabletop cameras offer very high image quality and fully automatic image capturing capabilities, contributing to ease of use and high user satisfaction.

Handheld cameras

A handheld camera is a smaller, more portable eye exam device. This tool is battery-operated and does not need a stand or table to operate. And, the unit is best suited for customers who need to be more mobile with their camera to operate their practice successfully.

retinal camera

Handheld cameras have come a long way in recent years. This type of vision testing equipment tends to be more affordable than tabletop cameras, and it allows you to make retinal imaging more accessible to your patients. Handheld cameras are used in mobile clinics and health fairs and are shared between remote locations. A handheld camera also requires a smaller footprint for your clinic, allowing for increased flexibility.

Both handheld and tabletop cameras have been proven to be effective eye exam tools for retinal imaging. But, one thing to note is that the mobility of handheld cameras is associated with lower image quality. Most handheld cameras are fully manual, contributing to a slightly longer training process, taking longer to master. This is not a reason to forgo handheld cameras; instead, it’s a reminder to select the right tool based on the needs of your patient population and to provide personnel with the training they need to use either camera with accuracy and efficiency. 

Watch our latest webinar to learn how one provider uses both types of cameras to reach underserved patients. 


Choosing image quality over price

While price is an important consideration for selecting any vision testing equipment, image quality is paramount. Being able to easily capture a high-quality image using the right eye exam equipment is critical to the effectiveness of your program. 

IRIS offers a unique solution that includes high-resolution digital retinal imaging and proprietary image enhancement technology that helps optimize gradability. And with IRIS’ historic readability rates of approximately 95%, the chance of success is very high. Once the image is captured, a licensed eye care provider or an IRC physician can then evaluate the health of a patient’s retinas.

Staff training is also critical to ensuring high image quality. Select a provider that offers training for your staff to ensure that your team can effectively use the camera you choose. IRIS prides itself on providing both teaching and training for all camera types. Not to mention, we know that superior image quality is achieved with each camera compatible with our software platform. At IRIS, we have a team of training experts that go on-site with our customers to train and teach in person or virtually.

 Why ease of use is so important

Using a tabletop fundus camera to capture retinal imagesMultiple members of your staff can use new retinal screening tools, but it’s important to shorten the learning curve for them as much as possible to mitigate the go-to-market timeline. It is critically important to pick a camera that your staff will be comfortable using. Introducing a new tool can add frustration for your employees, which can ultimately counteract the effectiveness of your program. However, if they can use the tool(s) confidently, it will lead to high satisfaction and engagement in the program, quality retinal imaging, and an increase in early diagnoses of diseases that cause preventable blindness. 



Tabletop cameras are typically much easier to use than a handheld devices because tabletop cameras generally are fully automatic, which usually leads to more consistent quality images. A handheld camera gives users more control but requires more manual effort. Because the camera needs to be aligned and focused manually, there is a steeper learning curve. However, with the help of IRIS trainers, this learning curve is lowered drastically.


In addition to the actual camera itself, software and hardware integration must be easy for users. The more proficient your staff is, the more efficiently you can incorporate retinal screening into your practice and provide high-quality results to your patients. 

There are many factors to consider when choosing to invest in a retinal camera. Your selection will have a lasting impact on your organization and your patients. Leverage these tips to make confident decisions as you pick retinal screening tools for your camera operators and patients.

Want to learn more about what kind of eye exam equipment may fit best with your practice? Contact us to learn more!


Interested in learning more about how IRIS is innovating diabetic retinal exams? Check out our blog!

To get more insights on how we can help you save eyesight, contact us! 

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  • How much are digital retinal cameras?
    • Retinal (fundus) cameras range dramatically in price depending on a variety of factors including field of visibility, size, and portability. Determining what your practice needs will be key in choosing a camera that meets your needs while remaining within your budget. Our team can help you choose the right camera that meets your practice’s needs – connect with us today to learn more. 
  • What can retinal imaging detect?
    • Currently, retinal imaging, done by an eye care professional, has the ability to detect a host of pathologies that affect the eye, such as diabetic retinopathy, HIV retinopathy, hypertension, macular edema, epiretinal, glaucoma, cataracts, wet/dry AMD, macular hole, vein occlusion, etc.  There is ongoing research exploring the possibility of using retinal screenings to detect other issues like Alzheimer’s disease.

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