Iterative reconstruction algorithms, such as the ordered subsets expectation maximisation (OS-EM), are a promising alternative to filtered backprojection (FBP). The aims of this study were first to optimise the OS-EM algorithm in terms of iteration number and to study the usefulness of post-filtering, and second to compare OS-EM and FBP for image reconstruction on a fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) dual-head camera (DHC). These two goals were addressed using phantom acquisitions. The performances of these algorithms were also studied in patient acquisitions performed on a DHC and a PET on the same day. Phantom experiments were performed on a DHC using a Jaszczak phantom containing six spheres filled with (18)F-FDG, two background levels (0.95, 6.80 kBq/ml) and three object contrasts (5.9, 3.7, 2.7). The reconstruction algorithms were FBP with a Gaussian filter (FWHM 0.5-2 pixel width) and OS-EM using 8-128 equivalent iterations (equivalent to the ML-EM algorithm) with and without Gaussian post-filtering [OS-EM (iterations, pixel width)]. Contrast recovery coefficient (CRC) and noise characteristics were assessed. Twenty-two patients (21 male, one female; age 55+/-15 years) with lung cancer underwent, on the same day, PET (1 h post injection of 37 MBq/kg (18)F-FDG) and DHC acquisitions (3 h post injection). DHC data were reconstructed using six methods: FBP (1), OS-EM (16), (40), (40,1), (64) and (64,1). These sets were evaluated by two observers and compared to PET reconstructed with OS-EM (16). The number of detected lesions and the visual quality were assessed. A marked improvement in CRC was observed with OS-EM as compared with FBP when more than 24 iterations were used. The CRC increased markedly from 8 to 40 iterations and then reached a plateau. The noise was stable until 40 iterations and then increased. The best compromise was obtained for OS-EM (32) and OS-EM (40,1). For the patient study, OS-EM provided images of better visual quality, but with no significant difference in detection sensitivity. OS-EM was superior to FBP in terms of contrast recovery and noise level. The optimal compromise between contrast recovery and noise was obtained for OS-EM (32) and (40,1) on the phantom study. The clinical study showed that OS-EM yielded images of better visual quality but with no improvement in terms of detection of lung cancer.