Abstract Objectives To evaluate the equivalence of a digital X-ray system (DenOptix) to conventional X-ray film in terms of the measured radio-opacity of known filled-resin materials and the suitability of attenuation coefficient for radio-opacity determination. Methods Discs of five thicknesses (0.5–2.5 mm) and step-wedges of each of three composite materials of nominal aluminum-equivalence of 50%, 200% and 450% were used. X-ray images of a set of discs (or step-wedge), an aluminum step-wedge, and a lead block were taken at 65 kV and 10 mA at a focus-film distance of 400 mm for 0.15 s and 1.6 s using an X-ray film or imaging plate. Radio-opacity was determined as equivalent aluminum thickness and attenuation coefficient. The logarithm of the individual optical density or gray scale value, corrected for background, was plotted against thickness, and the attenuation coefficient determined from the slope. The method of ISO 4049 was used for equivalent aluminum thickness. Results The equivalent aluminum thickness method is not suitable for materials of low radio-opacity, while the attenuation coefficient method could be used for all without difficulty. The digital system gave attenuation coefficients of greater precision than did film, but the use of automatic gain control (AGC) distorted the outcome unusably. Conclusion Attenuation coefficient is a more precise and generally applicable approach to the determination of radio-opacity. The digital system was equivalent to film but with less noise. The use of AGC is inappropriate for such determinations.