Why I Chose a Leica Dental Microscope

I recently published an article on Dental Operating Microscopes for General Dentists and a lot of the factors to consider when choosing one.  In this post, I’ll discuss why I personally chose a Leica M320 Dental Microscope.

To Choose a Scope, Get a Demo

After having used a rented Zeiss OMPI Pico 5-step DOM for 3 years, in 2012 it was time to finally purchase my own.  In fact, we needed 2 scopes to continue our growth, as it was very limiting to only have 1 op to schedule many procedures.  With a lot of changes in technology over those 3 years, I knew it was important to do demos again.

I was able to schedule demos with Leica, Zeiss, and Seiler; I was not able to contact anyone with Global, but had demo’d a Global G6 in 2009 during my initial scope trials.  The Zeiss that I’d rented had a halogen light source, which is rather yellow in color and the least bright of all light sources available, and I wanted brighter.

I was able to demo a Zeiss with Xenon, Seiler Revolution with Metal halide, and Leica with Dual LED.  While each of them is an excellent scope in its own right, I ultimately chose a Leica M320, for the reasons listed below.

The Leica Advantages

  1. Up-Front Cost: in terms of cost, the Leica is not cheap – it starts around $23,000, and depending on the accessories you choose, it can get up to about $28,000.  This is obviously not cheap, and yes, I wanted the DSLR adapters for my Canon cameras for documentation.  However, this up-front cost is offset by a big cost-savings discussed below.
    1. In terms of purchase price, the Leica and and Zeiss are comparable when fully-equipped with accessories.
    2. For pure value, the Seiler is the clear winner.  Starting at just $16,000, and fully-equpped with accessories at $21,000, it is clearly the most affordable of the choices.  However, the light sources need replacing the most frequently, so over time the cost will go up.
  2. Dual LED lights: with the twin LEDs, the light intensity was IMO equal to the Zeiss Xenon.  In this regard, it is clearly superior to the Seiler metal halide, but I couldn’t compare it to the plasma source they’re introducing.  But seriously….the LED is incredibly bright.  For both still photography and video, you need bright light, because as the level of magnification increases, the amount of light entering the scope and reaching your eye decreases.
  3. Long-term Costs: this is where the Leica really stood out.  Everyone knows that LEDs are long-lasting, and the dual LED light bulbs on the Leica are rated at 60,000 hours.  I’d have to leave the bulbs on 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, for 28 years before they’ll need replacing! If I’m even practicing in 28 years (I’m 41 at the time I write this), I probably won’t mind the replacement cost by then.
    1. In comparison, a replacement xenon bulb on the Zeiss runs about $4500; say it needs replacing every 6 years and I practice another 25 years, even if the price drops, that’s another $24,000 just in light bulbs, which is the cost of a whole new scope!
    2. I’m not sure at this time what the Seiler Plasma pricing is (will see if I can find out)
    3. The Leica also has very few moving parts to be replaced, so again, repair costs should be extremely low and rarely needed.
  4. Size: I found the Leica to have the smallest “footprint” in the space above the patient, while still having excellent maneuverability and optics.
    1. The Seiler and Zeiss are quite similar on this point – definitely bigger.  Not a major deciding factor, because not a big difference, but it did come into play.

Factors That Didn’t Play a Role

Optics:I really don’t think there is a noticeable difference among the 3 I compared.  Leica and Zeiss are well-known and have long-established reputations for making exceptionally fine lenses for both scopes, and Seiler has established itself in recent years as making excellent glass, too.  My personal opinion is that very few people have the ability to distinguish among them, and optical quality is no longer a serious differentiating factor.The built-in camera on the Leica:  IMO it sucks.  If they didn’t have the DSLR adapter, I would never have considered the Leica at all for that sole reason.  That’s just my opinion, but when I compared the images taken with the built-in camera to those taken with my out-of-date but still 8MP Canon XTi, the XTi images clobbered the Leica camera.
The Leica M320 Dental Operating Microscope ROCKS!

I’ve been using my Leica’s for nearly 6 months now, and overall, I am extremely pleased.  I’ll be adding some more details of why I love them in a future post.  If you are looking at scopes, my personal recommendation right now is to seriously consider a Leica.

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