Fifty-four patients with suspected early rheumatoid arthritis had radiographs taken of their hands and wrists in 4 views (posteroanterior [PA], oblique, reverse oblique, and Brewerton) using conventional techniques and, in the PA view, using radiographic magnification. The radiographs were "masked" and presented in random order to 2 radiologists specializing in bone and joint radiology who interpreted them for malalignment, erosions, joint space narrowing, and soft tissue swelling. The PA was the best conventional view for demonstrating malalignment, joint space narrowing, and soft tissue abnormalities; the Brewerton view was better for detecting erosive disease. Radiographic magnification was more sensitive than conventional films for evaluating erosive disease, but otherwise was no better than the conventional PA view. These results help the physician choose the radiologic technique or combination of techniques that is most likely to detect specific abnormalities.