Pinhole single-photon emission tomography (SPET) has been proposed to improve the trade-off between sensitivity and resolution for small organs located in close proximity to the pinhole aperture. This technique is hampered by artefacts in the non-central slices. These artefacts are caused by truncation and by the fact that the pinhole SPET data collected in a circular orbit do not contain sufficient information for exact reconstruction. The ordered subsets expectation maximization (OS-EM) algorithm is a potential solution to these problems. In this study a three-dimensional OS-EM algorithm was implemented for data acquired on a single-head gamma camera equipped with a pinhole collimator (PH OS-EM). The aim of this study was to compare the PH OS-EM algorithm with the filtered back-projection algorithm of Feldkamp, Davis and Kress (FDK) and with the conventional parallel-hole geometry as a whole, using a line source phantom, Picker's thyroid phantom and a phantom mimicking the human cervical column. Correction for the angular dependency of the sensitivity in the pinhole geometry was based on a uniform flood acquisition. The projection data were shifted according to the measured centre of rotation. No correction was made for attenuation, scatter or distance-dependent camera resolution. The resolution measured with the line source phantom showed a significant improvement with PH OS-EM as compared with FDK, especially in the axial direction. Using Picker's thyroid phantom, one iteration with eight subsets was sufficient to obtain images with similar noise levels in uniform regions of interest to those obtained with the FDK algorithm. With these parameters the reconstruction time was 2.5 times longer than for the FDK method. Furthermore, there was a reduction in the artefacts caused by the circular orbit SPET acquisition. The images obtained from the phantom mimicking the human cervical column indicated that the improvement in image quality with PH OS-EM is relevant for future clinical use and that the improvements obtained using the OS-EM algorithm are more significant for the pinhole geometry than for the conventional parallel-hole geometry. We conclude that PH OS-EM is a practical and promising alternative for pinhole SPET reconstruction.