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08-28-2009, 08:25 AM   #1
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customs, x-rays, airplanes, ohh my!

So, the word on the street is that airport carry on x-rays are safe for ISO800 or less...

however any x-ray exposure is bad on some theoretical point

and couple of days ago i spoke with an ex-kodak employee, and he told me of horror stories how somewhere like Kenya they got their small x-rays turned on full blast without realizing it, so really, it depends on the x-ray operator.

On my trip to europe, my film got hit with x-rays about 5 times in total, it seemed alright, i mean, i dont really have anything to compare to..

anyway

my question

Film that is sold in the states.. was it made in the states, or is it made somewhere in Thailand.

when it was shipped here, did it pass x-rays, is there quality control for that sort of thing, do they get a free pass?

When i buy film from a company in the states, what are the chances of it going through x-ray, USPS, UPS, Fedex, can you request specifically that it be not?

Is my paranoia out of place?

08-28-2009, 09:54 AM   #2
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I have though the same about how many times film will be x-rayed before it ends up in the store or arrives by mail/courier to your home. I know B&H sells film made in the USA and overseas, so you get the choice for the exact same film. The made in the USA costs more.

One would hope if film is being shipped to a store it’s marked clearly on the container and inspected by hand? Who knows when you by from an online store how many times a package gets x-rayed, if at all. I would guess that it would be less for packages sent via the Post Office than by Fedex or other couriers. They have their own planes so probably x-ray everything that gets loaded.

I try to get all my film hand scanned when I travel, 9 out of 10 times if you ask nicely and it’s not busy they will oblige. This is for 100ASA film which is supposed to be safe. I just think scanning is accumulative and the less the better. Yes beware of x-ray machines in second and third world countries.

Phil.

Last edited by gofour3; 08-28-2009 at 10:15 AM. Reason: typo
08-28-2009, 10:05 AM   #3
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Don't sweat it too much
horror stories are that.... in general nothing happens
08-28-2009, 10:14 AM   #4
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if you are paranoid, choose ground shipping and buy in bulk and test a roll before using it for something important

08-28-2009, 12:11 PM   #5
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QuoteQuote:
I just think scanning is accumulative and the less the better.
QuoteQuote:
however any x-ray exposure is bad on some theoretical point
It's not strictly true that scanning is accumulative, because exposure vs. density relationship is only approximately linear for photographically useful exposure amounts. Film has a certain threshold that has to be reached before any density will result on the negative, kind of an "activation energy" phenomenon. It's basically extreme reciprocity failure. If the xrays are below a certain point, the film will relax back to a ground state after a while and another trip through will NOT "double the exposure".

This is why pre-flashing film and paper works. Before your main exposure, you can evenly pre-expose film or paper to a degree that will result in NO density by itself, but it will help bring up the darkest shadows (film) or bring down the harshest highlights (paper). If you wait some amount of time after doing the preflashing, the effect goes away which is why these materials aren't sold "pre-preflashed".

If the airport Xray intensity is below this preflashing exposure then you could run it through thousands of times and get no density. I would expect a film's succeptibility to airport xrays to have as much to do with the film's reciprocity characteristics as its ISO speed, afterall Acros (iso100) is faster than Tri-X (iso400) in very low light on account of its reciprocity characteristics.

Last edited by BetterSense; 08-28-2009 at 12:16 PM.
08-28-2009, 12:23 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by BetterSense Quote
It's not strictly true that scanning is accumulative, because exposure vs. density relationship is only approximately linear for photographically useful exposure amounts. Film has a certain threshold that has to be reached before any density will result on the negative, kind of an "activation energy" phenomenon. It's basically extreme reciprocity failure. If the xrays are below a certain point, the film will relax back to a ground state after a while and another trip through will NOT "double the exposure".

This is why pre-flashing film and paper works. Before your main exposure, you can evenly pre-expose film or paper to a degree that will result in NO density by itself, but it will help bring up the darkest shadows (film) or bring down the harshest highlights (paper). If you wait some amount of time after doing the preflashing, the effect goes away which is why these materials aren't sold "pre-preflashed".

If the airport Xray intensity is below this preflashing exposure then you could run it through thousands of times and get no density. I would expect a film's succeptibility to airport xrays to have as much to do with the film's reciprocity characteristics as its ISO speed, afterall Acros (iso100) is faster than Tri-X (iso400) in very low light on account of its reciprocity characteristics.
excellent!


also, are you then saying that there might be merrit to, if using a tripod, shoot a dark scene at 1/2000 or 1/4000, then shoot the same frame again using normal exposure, to bring out some shaddow detail?
08-28-2009, 04:05 PM   #7
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Thankfully some airports are upgrading to the latest generation x-ray machines, like the one I encountered earlier this year in Melbourne. The security staff gave me a quick tour when I ask my film be hand scanned. Their new machine was ok for IOS speeds up to something like 2000. Unfortunately not all airports have the newest technology, so you do have to be cautious in some parts of the world.

Other scanners to watch out for are the obvious ones, like the ones they use on checked luggage. They apparently will kill any film. The other one is the portable scanners they use on cruise ships. A guy I work with went on a cruise a couple years ago and every time he got back on the ship his hand luggage was x-rayed. End result was all his film was fogged.

So the best precaution for me is still no scanning at all.

Phil.
08-28-2009, 06:18 PM   #8
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Airport x-rays and film

I haven't carried any film through an airport in a couple of years, but I'm pretty sure that you can still ask the TSA screener to inspect your film by hand. Put all your film in a plastic baggie, not in the cannisters, and definitely not in the box it came in. They will grumble and may try to talk you out of it, but they will do it.

Don't even think of putting film, exposed or unexposed, in your checked luggage. The x-rays used to scan checked luggage are much more powerful than the ones used for carry-on bags.

You can get lead-lined bags to put your film in, put some people believe that this raises more suspicion, when an opaque black rectangle shows up on the x-ray screen.

08-29-2009, 07:16 AM   #9
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I've travelled a couple of times recently (with b&w film) and had no problem even after it went through multiple x-ray machines.

Lately though, I have been asking the people by the detector if I can pass it around, and they've all obliged without problem. They might give you a little bit of a hard time if the speed is under 800, but telling them you don't want to risk it seems to do the trick. Takes a few extra minutes because they go through them and sometimes do a little swab chemical test.

A related funny story: I was traveling with an old russian medium format folder camera, and I got stopped during the security check point. They pulled the camera out of my bag, in it's leather case and were telling me that I was supposed to take all electronics out of my bag, etc. I tried to explain that there was nothing electronic about it, but they still insisted on doing a full check out of it. The puzzled looks on their faces as they tried to figure out how it operated were with the price of the time.
08-29-2009, 09:51 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gooshin Quote
Film that is sold in the states.. was it made in the states, or is it made somewhere in Thailand.

when it was shipped here, did it pass x-rays, is there quality control for that sort of thing, do they get a free pass?

When i buy film from a company in the states, what are the chances of it going through x-ray, USPS, UPS, Fedex, can you request specifically that it be not?
Since I am retired now from an airline, I can't tell you anything about the new generation x-rays for the airport. However, for cargo purposes, the airlines, UPS, FedEx, etc. usually have a list of "known shippers." In other words, if I ship 10 boxes a day, every day, five days a week, then the chances that I'm going to tender something illegal or dangerous is very slim and the carrier doesn't have to inspect it because I'm known to them. I'm sure Freestyle, B&H, Adorama and others do at least that much business. The same goes for companies importing large quantities of film or widgets or whatever by ship. My understanding is that (for the US anyway) cargo entering the ports is scanned for radiation, trace vapors from explosives and several other things but no x-ray except for spot checks or something suspicious. However if Kodak or Fuji or whoever has several huge containers coming off a ship, most likely Customs isn't going to worry that much about it.

CW
08-29-2009, 10:01 AM   #11
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QuoteQuote:
also, are you then saying that there might be merrit to, if using a tripod, shoot a dark scene at 1/2000 or 1/4000, then shoot the same frame again using normal exposure, to bring out some shaddow detail?
It's a technique of desperation/obsession, but it can help bring up shadows, especially for long night exposures.

What I do is meter a gray card, then shoot the gray card giving 5 stops less exposure than the meter indicated. This won't put any density on the neg but will provide the preflashing effect, depending on the film.
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