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12-15-2009, 02:54 PM   #1
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Film and airport security?

Having gotten back into film this year and about to fly for the first time in the next couple of weeks, I'm wondering what people have encountered with United States airport security and film in carry-on baggage. Specifically:

1- Are x-ray machines still considered unsafe for film, and what do you do about it if so?

2- Should I leave film in the factory box? My tendency is to throw away the box and carry just the inner plastic container with film inside. Will security insist on opening each container to confirm what is inside?

3- Exposed film- loose rolls in carry-on? Is no x-ray even an option? Better to just mail to myself before going to the airport?

Specific experiences and suggestions welcome!

Anyone who wants to add information about other countries, feel free.

12-15-2009, 03:01 PM   #2
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My understanding is that you should do the following:
  • Never put film in checked baggage
  • Carry your camera empty in your carry-on
  • Have your film loose in a clear ziplock bag in your carry-on
  • Request hand inspection in advance to avoid sending your film through the x-ray machine
While some Web sites offering advice make a distinction between exposed and unexposed film, I don't think I would take the chance with either, especially slide film.

Steve

P.S. The above is for the U.S.A.. Hard to say what is best in the rest of the world.
12-15-2009, 03:04 PM   #3
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I just found Kodak's official blurb on this:
Baggage X-ray Scanning Effects on Film
And from the TSA site:
TSA: Traveling with Film
Steve
12-15-2009, 03:07 PM   #4
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When i went to Vegas earlier this year, I mentioned I had a camera in my bag and I was asked if it was film (in this case it was not). I'm not entirely sure what would have happened if it had been my SLR but the mere question indicates that they are still not safe for 35mm

12-15-2009, 06:01 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
My understanding is that you should do the following:
  • Never put film in checked baggage
  • Carry your camera empty in your carry-on
  • Have your film loose in a clear ziplock bag in your carry-on
  • Request hand inspection in advance to avoid sending your film through the x-ray machine
While some Web sites offering advice make a distinction between exposed and unexposed film, I don't think I would take the chance with either, especially slide film.

Steve

P.S. The above is for the U.S.A.. Hard to say what is best in the rest of the world.
Good points to follow!

If I have time at the end of a trip I will get my E6 slides processed at a local lab, so I do not have to go through the X-Ray hassle on my way home. If I'm shooting B&W slides they have to be mailed out for processing anyways, so I also do that before I fly home.

Also watch out for the scanners they use on cruise ships, they are not so nice to your film. A fellow I work with had all his film fogged, due to the repeated scans that were done with his hand luggage every time he got back on the ship from an excursion.

Phil
12-16-2009, 09:56 AM   #6
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It's been a while since I've last flown anywhere, plus Canada's policies will be different.
However the last time that I did fly I saw a few people put their camera / film into the plastic container most people place their change in before going through the metal detector.
So although it goes beside the metal detector it doesn't pass through.
12-16-2009, 10:10 AM   #7
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I've been refused hand inspection in France (they offered me a full check at the customs...). My Neopan 1600 had no damage but I still don't like much the idea of putting my film through x-ray.
12-16-2009, 12:17 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by little laker Quote
It's been a while since I've last flown anywhere, plus Canada's policies will be different.
However the last time that I did fly I saw a few people put their camera / film into the plastic container most people place their change in before going through the metal detector.
So although it goes beside the metal detector it doesn't pass through.
Yeah, that all goes through the detector too these days... along with your belt and your shoes! In Vegas they even have a machine to 'make you naked'. There's no escaping the X-Rays in this post 9/11 world we live in.

12-16-2009, 01:23 PM   #9
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i went to japan, san francisco, las vegas, hand inspection no problem. like steve, i put all the canisters in a big zip loc bag so it's easy to see what it is. try to make their job easy.

but just in case they didn't allow it, i also have a big lead bag for my film as well.
12-16-2009, 03:52 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Zav Quote
I've been refused hand inspection in France (they offered me a full check at the customs...). My Neopan 1600 had no damage but I still don't like much the idea of putting my film through x-ray.

I've had Neopan 1600 that's gone through the X ray machines 3 or 4 times and it's been fine.
12-16-2009, 03:57 PM   #11
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Almost all the anecdotal evidence (and the statements from film companies) indicates that film should be OK if it goes through X ray machines, even if it goes through several times.

Certainly IME, I've never had any film affected by X rays, and some of it has been done half a dozen, or more, times. But putting it in your checked luggage is definitely asking for trouble.

In short, I wouldn't worry about it unless you're going to some place where the scanners are really, really old
12-16-2009, 04:12 PM   #12
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I've read that even if an x-ray scanner is film safe, it's not best to have it scanned too many times, especially high iso films, though I've had film scanned several times, and they appear to be alright, but I didn't like risking it.

B&W films are not effected anywhere nears as badly as colour films.

X-ray scanning has the same effect on the film whether scanned before or after the film is exposed.

I don't know about if security will insist on checking each canister. I flew 2 days ago, and I had about 10 rolls of film on me and the Chinese security checked them all. If you have more, maybe they won't bother.

If you shoot alot of film, it would be a good idea to post it home, maybe mid trip. But make sure to write on the box that it contains film and must not be scanned.
12-17-2009, 06:41 AM   #13
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I think it might be more safe to go trough an airport scanner than just send it home.
I've told that in most countries all mail that is being sent with airmail goes trough an x-ray machine anyway.

Such x-ray machine is probably located away from direct contact with people, and most likely is more powerful that the one at which personnel has to operate the whole day, since more powerful machine would allow for better (cleaner) exposures and cheaper sensor.

It could even be some sort of CAT scan type machine, that does not only take image from two angles, but beams the packages from all angles to reconstruct 3d image for better evaluation, increasing the exposure even further.

Last edited by ytterbium; 12-17-2009 at 07:47 AM.
12-17-2009, 07:04 AM   #14
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when I shot film, I regularly shot ISO 400 both slide and print and often pushed ektachrome to either 800 or 1600ISO, I also shot Tri-X at 1600 to 3200 ISO.

I never had an issue with film and x-rays. But always carried film in carry on. Maybe things have changed since I went digital, but if anything I would expect newer equipment to be less problem (i.e. radiation) not more
12-17-2009, 07:07 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I just found Kodak's official blurb on this:
Baggage X-ray Scanning Effects on Film
And from the TSA site:
TSA: Traveling with Film
Steve
These infos are very old and refer to the then latest generation of X-ray scanners (the first infamous Heimann scanners), which ruined film easily. Kodak even removed these infos from their website for a couple of years and it takes me by surprise this resurfaced now.

My own experience is:
  • in many countries, officials simply deny manual control. I have had that in the USA, Spain and even Great Britain. The security people simply told me to put the film through the scanner and fly or to insist on manual control and stay grounded...
  • in some countries, security personal needs a strong and determined reminder, to do a manual control
  • standard sensitivity film (ISO 100-400) is less likely to be affected by the X-rays, high ISO film (ISO 800 and above) is at risk
  • exposed film is more at risk, due to the latent image. Film needs a certain minimum exposure to record information. Obviously taking images, will have exceeded that lower limit. In many cases the X-raying will be not strong enough to show any exposition on virgin film, wheras the already exposed film might show the traces of the X-rays. (known as "latensification")
  • the risk of damage increases with the number of X-ray passes. In my own experience one or two passes don't leave any visible traces, but on an extended trip with several more scans, the damage can get visible. In that case it is wise to develop film locally and take the processed ngs or slide with you.

Ben
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