PURPOSE The purpose of this study was to compare dental hygiene student radiographic performance using film and charge-coupled device (CCD) systems. Specific objectives were to compare the 1) number of technique errors, 2) error type, 3) retake frequency, and 4) learning experience using both systems. METHODS Twenty-eight subjects exposed two 18-projection full series, one film-based, and one CCD-based system, on a manikin. One examiner, using standardized image quality criteria, evaluated all images. Each subject was assigned to one of four focus groups. Quantitative data were analyzed using ANOVA and Wilcoxon tests. Emic expressions and percentages were used to report qualitative data with themes supported by performance data. RESULTS A greater number of technique errors occurred using the CCD system than the film system (p < 0.0001), with vertical angulation being the most common error (53%). Using the film-based system, 66% of the errors were due to incorrect horizontal angulation. Subjects exposed an average of 10 retakes per series using the CCD versus 3 retakes using film. Forty-four percent of the subjects felt their most common CCD errors were film placement and vertical angulation compared to 59% who believed horizontal angulation was the main technique error when using film. Difficulty placing the CCD sensor intraorally was expressed by 74%. The CCD system was reported to be beneficial for teaching theory (67%), with 59% preferring film for learning the psychomotor skill. CONCLUSION In pre-clinical situations, the CCD system may be an effective tool for teaching technique. Radiographic errors are dependent on the type of image receptor used.