Guest Column | September 7, 2023

Surgical Camera Systems: Are 3D Systems A Niche Product Or the New Standard?

By Niamh O’Neill and Kamran Zamanian, iData Research

Medical technology concept-GettyImages-1179260489

In the United States, surgical camera systems are one of the biggest markets in video and integrated operating room equipment, both in value and in terms of growth. In fact, the total market for surgical camera systems is expected to grow at a high double-digit CAGR over the forecast period (2019-2029). It is expected that this market will surpass the $1 billion value by 2027.

The surgical camera market includes HD, 4K, and 3D camera systems, each of which includes camera heads and camera control units (CCUs). Camera heads and CCUs are typically bundled together and sold as one package to a hospital or surgery center. The bundle usually includes one CCU and anywhere from one to four or five camera heads.

HD Camera Systems

HD camera heads can have either one or three chips. Camera heads with three chips tend to have better color resolution when compared to one-chip heads; however, one-chip heads are more compact and usually less expensive. As a result, one-chip camera heads are predominantly used in gastrointestinal (GI) and pulmonary procedures, where their small size is preferable to improved color resolution. One-chip camera heads are also often sold to doctor’s offices, as opposed to three-chip camera heads, which are predominantly sold to hospitals for use in operating rooms.

The HD camera system market is expected to decrease significantly over the forecast period due, primarily, to the rise in 4K technology, which is taking over the majority of the surgical camera system market.

4K Camera Systems

Following the introduction of HD 4K technology, the surgical camera system market has gone through a seismic shift, with healthcare facilities favoring the superior 4K technology over the older HD models. 4K cameras are capable of capturing images and videos at a resolution that is four times higher than their HD predecessors, allowing for clearer and more accurate images and videos. This is very beneficial for minimally invasive surgeries, in which the surgical camera system is the only medium between the surgeon and the area being operated on.

Despite the higher cost associated with 4K models, the market continues to grow, often at the expense of the HD camera systems market. This is due to technological advancements that improve picture quality and software developments, which applies to digital image enhancements. Continually improving the versatility of surgical camera systems means that new products enter the market every year. Despite their higher cost, the continued adoption of 4K camera systems will significantly drive market growth.

3D Camera Systems

When 3D camera systems were introduced into the market about 20 years ago, they were expected to rapidly gain popularity. However, the conversion to 3D camera systems has not happened as quickly as was initially expected. This is due, in large part, to surgeon preference, which determines whether facilities will invest in a 3D or 2D system. By and large, surgeons prefer to work with 2D camera systems over 3D systems as 3D can cause eye strain during lengthy procedures.

Much of the 3D camera systems market is driven by robotics. Vision-guided robots (VGR) are those integrated with camera systems.1 Originally integrated with 2D camera systems, the limitations associated with these VGRs meant they could not provide imagery information beyond a single plane. This led to the development of 3D VGR systems and the expansion of robotic applications.

For surgeons, 3D camera systems offer some significant advantages that 2D camera systems do not, especially in procedures where 3D camera systems are favored. For example, compared to other surgical microscopes, 3D cameras give surgeons more depth of focus.2 This means that all the images the camera captures – everything in the foreground and everything in the background – are simultaneously in focus. This is especially important when working on patients that are moving and breathing, because the image remains the same; there is no need to refocus the camera to obtain a clearer image.

3D Cameras In Laparoscopy

3D camera systems are most commonly used for minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures. In one study that examined the potential benefits of using a 3D camera versus a standard 2D camera for stereoscopic laparoscopy, researchers found that the median number of errors by surgeons was reduced by 62% when using a 3D camera system. In the same study, results showed that the median surgery time was reduced by 35% when using the 3D display compared with the 2D display.3

Similar results were replicated in a 2022 study that compared 3D HD versus 2D 4K imaging used by laparoscopic experts (having performed more than 30 procedures) and medical students.4 Overall, the participants were significantly faster and made fewer mistakes when using the 3D HD camera system compared to the 2D 4K system. All of the study participants reported the tasks as more challenging when using the 2D 4K system. However, some participants reported disadvantages when using the 3D HD system. These included complaints about the goggles being distracting and feelings of nausea when using the 3D HD system, suggesting that the human eye does not easily adjust to using such a system. Despite this, however, over 80% of participants surveyed considered the 3D HD system to be superior to the 2D 4K system for laparoscopic surgery.

Increasing Number Of MIS Procedures

An important driver of growing camera system sales is the increased application of minimally invasive surgeries (MIS), which continues to create demand for surgical cameras; there are nearly 15 million laparoscopic procedures in the United States annually.5 MISs are cost-effective as they can save a hospital between $2,000 and $15,000 per patient compared with open surgeries due to the reduced operating time, shorter hospital stays due to faster recovery times, and, most importantly, lower infection and complication rates. As the technology continues to improve, minimally invasive techniques will be applied to additional types of procedures, resulting in an overall increased use of surgical cameras.

A Niche Market

However, 3D systems are fulfilling more of a niche role in the market, as opposed to becoming the new standard in surgical camera systems. Although the market value for 3D camera systems is set to nearly double over the forecast period, unit sales are expected to remain low. This is primarily due to the fact that, at nearly double the cost, 3D camera systems are significantly more expensive than 4K camera systems. It is unlikely that hospitals and surgery centers will allocate a more significant portion of their expenditure for about half the total units. Therefore, 3D camera systems are not expected to replace the demand for 4K camera systems in the same way that 4K replaced HD camera systems.


  1. Robots Done Right. (2023, April 27). Retrieved from How 3D Vision Systems are Advancing Robotics:,are%20located%20in%20different
  2. Ophthalmology Management. (2017, April). Discovering Surgical 3D Camera Systems, 21, 16-17. Retrieved from Opthalmology Management:
  3. Smith, R., Schwab, K., Day, A., Rockall, T., Ballard, K., Bailey, M., & Jourdan, I. (2014). Effect of passive polarizing three-dimensional displays on surgical performance for experienced laparoscopic surgeons. British Journal of Surgery, 101(11), 1453-9. doi:10.1002/bjs.9601. Epub 2014 Aug 18. PMID: 25131843
  4. Zwimpfer, T. A., Wismer, C., Fellmann-Fischer, B., & al, e. (n.d.). Comparison of 2D 4K vs. 3D HD laparoscopic imaging systems using a pelvitrainer model: a randomized controlled study. Updates Surgery, 74, 1137-1147. doi:
  5. Hospital, N. K. (2023, April 27). Laparoscopy. Retrieved from Meritas Health:

About The Authors:

Niamh O’Neill is a research analyst at iData Research. She works on research projects regarding the medical device industry, publishing the Orthopedic Soft Tissue and Video and Integrated Operating Room Equipment report series for the U.S., European, and global markets.

Kamran Zamanian, Ph.D., is CEO and founding partner of iData Research. He has spent more than 20 years working in the market research industry with a dedication to the study of medical devices used in the health of patients all over the globe.