For decades, diagnostic imaging in rheumatology has used conventional radiography. Over the past 10 years, MRI and ultrasonography have clearly shown their potential in diagnostic imaging in rheumatology and their use is revolutionizing the management of chronic arthritis, revealing subclinical inflammation and predicting progression of joint damage. Although validation processes for these imaging modalities are still ongoing, several investigations have now established the positive correlation between subclinical synovitis and radiographic progression of joint damage. Despite the available evidence and the diagnostic potential, there remains a substantial proportion of rheumatologists for whom MRI and ultrasonography findings do not influence their clinical decision-making. This Perspectives will discuss the key issues related to diagnostic imaging in patients with chronic arthritis, outlining how new imaging techniques have evolved over the past two decades and presenting the most attractive technological advances in this field.