Film and air travel

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by dmitry_kiyatkin, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. Small question that bothers me - I want to take a film camera to europe this summer (going from the USA). Would like to shoot TriX, bring it from home and develop back at home. What about film transport on the airplane? XRay exposure, packing, declaring? Any advice would help. Last time I had film on the plane was befopre 9/11 and I had to hassle the TSA people not to scan it and it was not so easy even back then. How is the best way to do this today???
  2. You have the right to have it hand inspected at All American airports but you don't have that right at airports in other countries. You will have to check international laws on this . And never put it in checked baggage as it is subject to x-rays that can kill cheese.
  3. Thank you, I guess I will have to do that in US. I will be in Poland/EU - Does anyone know rules there by chance?
  4. Don't do checked luggage. Not all checked luggage goes through luggage scanners, but most do and it it does it WILL fog the film to the point of unusabilty from a single pass.
    Carry on bag scanners deffinitely will not up to 5 passes on ISO400 film (personally tested this). Kodak claims it is perfectly safe for up to 5 passes. I'd say ISO400 deffinitely is, maybe even 6 or 7 passes, but you MAY start seeing the effect in the shadows at that point (might not, I have never had ISO400 film go through more than 5 times and I saw no impact after 5).
    Lower speed film such as 200, 100 or 50 can withstand more passes. Since 200 is half as sensitive as 400, it should in theory be able to withstand twice as many passes as 400, and 100 twice as many passes as 200.
    One of these days I actually want to test ISO800 film through xray scanners. I have them at work as all bags have to be scanned coming in to my office. I can run a roll through my brief case a few times and see what impact the scanner had.
    I digress, it is pretty darned safe for carry on scanners. Now if you are going to jet all over Europe with half a dozen trips on airplanes plus the flight in and out, I'd suggest you process film on location as you finish the rolls. If nothing else it'll tell you if you have an issue with the camera along the way. US airports the worst I have suffered asking for a hand check of my film was rolled eyes. Don't be that guy who asks for a hand check though when the security line is 2hrs long and you have 20 minutes to catch your flight.
    Oh and PS, I have never EVER gotten anyone in Europe to handcheck my film. Even when I have been at smaller airports at 6am and the only other person in the security check in line was my wife.
  5. Have done 16 passes through carry on scanners with 400 speed film and havent seen any noticeable effects.
  6. Just put it in carry on. It should be fine.
    The biggest thing I've noticed about traveling domestic and internationally is that the scanner people don't see a lot of old school film cameras anymore. So when you put it through the scanner, they just see this black object (all metal camera) and don't know what it is. So they run it through the scanner a couple more times. Last time I flew internationally, not only did they scan the camera, they swabbed it for explosives too.
    Save yourself some grief and put your camera in a separate tray from your film. That way they can scan your camera a bunch but only hit your film once.
  7. I will tell you my recent experience last month. I traveled to Spain from Ohio. Went through security at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, no re-check at JFK. Arrived in Barcelona. Flew out of Madrid to JFK. RE-check at JFK.
    All film went with me with checked luggage. 800 and higher speed was hand checked in Cleveland - they were very polite. 400 and lower went through carry-on scanner in Cleveland.
    In Madrid, some of all types of film, from KR64 through Ilford 3200 went through two x-ray machines at museum.s
    At Madrid airport, all film went through x-ray machine. At re-check in JFK, all film was hand inspected.
    My point in explaining all of this is to show (1) what my film went through and (2) you won't get hand inspection everywhere.
    After all of this, I got 26 rolls of film developed and noticed no problems. I'm not saying this will always be the case, just what I experienced on this trip.
  8. How is the best way to do this today???
    The best thing to do is put your film in your carry-on bag and not worry about it.
  9. Mike, that sound like the advice I will take. Thank you for tbhe answers. DK
  10. Film travels easily and safely in carry-on luggage even with multiple x-rays.
    I do a lot of overseas shoots, a lot of it on film. Over the past year I've taken around 400 rolls of film through airport scanners. Not a single one has been spoiled. Equally, not a single one was hand inspected. I understand you can get inspections by hand fairly easily in the USA, but it don't expect it in the UK or most major European airports.
  11. The carry-on scanner gives about the same radiation dose as a couple of hour flight -- there's more radiation up there. So long as you stick with carry-on for the film, you will have fogging results that could be measured technically, but will not be of any meaningful difference.
    Film in checked baggage is near-certain ruination.
  12. I heard some advise -- probably here on PN -- to carry a roll of 3200 ISO film with you (in addition to all the other film you actually plan to use). Keep it in the box for easy display to the security/inspections folks. Stick all of it in a lead-lined film bag and carry it on the plane with you.
    If they pull the bag and complain to you about it, tell them you have high speed film and use the film bag to protect it else "could they hand check it". Show them the 3200 ISO roll if they seem grumbly. I've never had push back. Over half the time, they never even pull out the film bag.
    I agree: never check it! I hadn't considered John's comment (above) about the greater amount of natural radiation in the higher altitudes but that makes a lot of sense. Another reason for the lead-lined film bag.
  13. I have had film, both exposed and un-exposed repeatedly scanned on any number of trips and never had a problem. Coming back from Copenhagen to Los Angeles about 18 months ago, I had ISO 1600 film exposed at my daughter's wedding. Because of the speed of the film and its unique importance, I did request a hand inspection. I explained and the authorities did hand inspect. But on the way to Copenhagen, the ISO 1600 went through the x-ray. No effects on the film. I no longer have any concerns. Dave
  14. Dmitry, a dissenting opinion, here.<br>
    Color me paranoid but I NEVER put my film through airline x-ray scannrers. The owner of the lab where I take my film for
    processing ordered me, "Don't let them x-ray your film." Lab technicians concur. Some people luck out and have no
    problems (see responses above).<br>
    The risk is not worth it. I Fed Ex my film to arrive before I do and Fed Ex it back directly to the photo lab for
    processing. Sure it costs more but the peace of mind is worth it.
  15. Color me paranoid but I NEVER put my film through airline x-ray scannrers.
    Outside the US, that would mean you either have to throw away your film or not board your flight. It's not a matter of luck that people don't have their film damaged by carry-on scanners. The film isn't significantly affected because the radiation levels they receive aren't sufficient to cause damage.
  16. Mike, you didn't read all of my post. I Fed Ex my film instead of flying with it. Lab technicians I've talked to disagree that
    "film isn't significantly affected" by x-ray scanners. I never put my film through airline x-ray scanners. Period.
  17. I would not be that sure that FedEx-ed is a safe way to send your films. I know for sure that international packages sent through any courier service here in Greece, get scanned at the departure airport. I do not know if they are scanned with the same scanners as the checked-in luggage or the hand-carry luggage, but they are scanned.
  18. Lab technicians I've talked to disagree that "film isn't significantly affected" by x-ray scanners.
    Controlled tests by film manufacturers and by independent sources show that film is not significantly affected by a reasonable number of passes through carry-on scanners. This is backed up by the experiences of millions of regular travelers who send their film through carry-on scanners.
    You are, of course, free to deal with your film as you see fit. But in the interest of providing objective, repeatedly-verified information about the safety of x-raying film, I'm pointing out that the overwhelming majority of evidence indicates that it's safe to send (non-ultra-high-speed) film though the carry-on scanners.
  19. I had an experience two years ago flying from Milan to Paris before returning to the States. I forgot that I had left exposed film (both fast and slow) in my checked luggage - which was then misplaced by the airline. Two weeks later it was found, and then shipped back to Los Angeles. I assume that unattended luggage like this was X-rayed multiple times on its way back to the States. I found no damage whatsoever to the film.
  20. A lot of good points covered here, but I will add my 2p anyway. I usually take 400 film with me when travelling as a do anything speed. I will also have a couple of slower speed films as well. I had lots of rolls with me when I went to China for the Olympics and the films were repeatedly scanned in ariports and at events as well as areas of cultrual interest. Some of the films must have been scanned at least 7 or 8 times by the time I got home and developed them. This plus the extended time in the air (exposure to radiation). I did not and have never used a film xray protection bag - though many people swear by them. I did not see any problems with the film once developed.
    In short - carry on and don't worry. If you are worried then use a film bag (cheap and easily available). Have a great trip.
  21. david_henderson


    Sally Mack. Does the thought occur that your lab technicians simply don't know what they're talking about, and that they are giving you the benefit of their unsubstantiated opinions rather than fact? They could be perfectly decent at processing film without understanding one bit about the reaction of film to X Ray or indeed very much about the technology of film. They may have little experience of international travel and no qualified basis for forming a view. You're paying handsomely for the peace of mind that most seasoned travellers get by putting the film through the hand-baggage scanners.
    Allen Gross. Yes something similar has happened to me with the same result on a flight starting from the USA. I don't however conclude that the hold baggage scanners are or can be safe. Sadly my thoughts were that even today, not all hold baggage is being scanned!
  22. I don't see why checked bags would need to be subjected to higher levels of radiation than carry on. Sure they are bigger, but does anyone REALLY know if this is true?
    I can add that I flew from Hamburg, Germany to Istanbul, last month, and in Hamburg they were willing to hand check my film. The problem was this meant going with security to the place where they do the swab tests for drugs or explosives, and waiting for the test to run. Not a big deal but kind of a hassle. After that I just let everything go through the the carry on scanner and didn't have any problems. The same film was scanned multiple times entering museums. Also, all cameras must go through the scanner, which means if you have film in the camera it must (in Hamburg) go through the scanner. I had 400 and 100 speed with me.
  23. Carl, if people follow your strategy here in the UK there will likely be one of 3 outcomes:
    (1) Your film will be binned
    (2) You will be denied boarding
    (3) You will be detained/arrested
    Leave the lead bag at home and put your films through the hand-baggage scanner, like everyone else leaving the country. Keep a log of total scans, if you want. I've put undeveloped ISO 1600 film through such scanners twice per film (out and back) without incident. Some slower films have gone through 8 or 10 times in total.
    They will often hand-search your photo bag in addition -and use chemical sniffers etc. Making special demands is a bad idea: just inform them that you have cameras, film, etc. when you get to the front of the line and it will be fine.
  24. Hi,
    For what it's worth....
    I was in Hamburg in January and ordered about 50 rolls of film from - which arrived at the hotel that same afternoon. When I took it home the staff at both Hamburg and Frankfurt were very obliging and did not seem too bothered really. A cursory poke was enough - no X-Rays.
    Last year I took film to Nigeria and although they grumbled a little in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Lagos all did hand inspections for me and it was a pain as they wanted to open all the cardboard boxes.
    2 weeks ago I went to Cairo. This time I all ll the films (35mm) out of both their cardboard boxes and their plastic canisters and bunged the lot in a clear ziploc bag.
    This worked very well indeed as they could see everything and it did not slow me down at all.
    On my way back they insisted on me taking a picture of the floor with my camera but that was all.
  25. i always carry a 35mm camera loaded with ilford fp-4+. i travel a lot, and the same roll of film has been x-rayed in my carry on as much as 30 times,probably more, and i have never seen a problem.
  26. Aside from the idiots at PHI that didnt know my Canon A1 was a camera, handled it in such a way i was getting ready to call someone over to witness it falling out of their careless hands, nearly getting arrested when i reached over to pull my backpack top (i only had the one camera, so just through it in my backpack along with some clothes/computer etc) incase my camera had moved to the top of the bag it wouldnt fall out of the bag and onto the floor - i have had no issues flying with film. I have in the past asked for hand inspections and have gotten them, but that film was approaching 15passes under the xray. If its new, it is definitely not worth the hassle.
  27. I've had more problems with security personnel handling my cameras. They're just not used to old film cameras anymore. Digitals they just ask you to power them up and see if they are in fact cameras, same they do with laptops, but they look genuinely perplexed with film cameras as they don't know what to inspect or what to look for in them.
    Remove the lens, carry them unloaded, some agents ask you to open the back door, if you have grips or power winders, take them off too. The simpler your camera looks, the less parts to check and/or remove, the faster you'll go through inspection and checkpoints.
  28. If I plan to shoot Tri-X at ASA 1600/3200 I mail the film to my location. Post service does not X-ray small packages.
    Otherwise, you just carry it in your carry on. Scanners are legally safe up to 400 in USA; 800 in Japan. Europe - depends.
    Typically, you need not worry about fog unless you plan to push your film.
  29. If you are concerned about x-rays, you need to place your film in an x-ray bag made for transporting film.
    I work with the air transport industry and with the TSA occasionally. The level of x-ray radiation that you and your film will receive while in flight is quite a bit more than what you will receive going through the airport security screening. You can find the specific levels online from some of the universities and from a company that makes the x-ray equipment (Smith's Detection). I've had to deal with this very issue concerning product that I ship around the world.
    As far as dealing with the depends on the airport and the particular personnel that you deal with. Some are very understanding and will be glad to help. Some are knuckle-dragging thugs whose only purpose in life is to bully people. I've been lucky not to have crossed paths with the thugs.
    I'm sure some other people here have specific experience with film and can tell you which one's are more susceptible to x-rays.
    That's my 2 cents.
  30. Rob,
    Yes it is true. I've seen the results. Many airports rely on automated scanners for checked bagage. they start with a low power scan and then zero in on "interesting" areas according to their programming. The high power scans on selected area have destroyed many images on film.
    Carry-on scanners are another matter. They are limited to 1 milli-Roentgen for each scan. The film will get that much radiation in 3-5 days in most areas of the world. I have yet to see a confirmed case of radiation damage from carry-on scanners.
    I had a hand in designing two different generations of 800 speed film. We ran may radiation sensitivity tests. It takes about 35 milli-Roentgens (at least 35 trips through the airport) to cause an effect big enough that a very critical observer might be able to find.
  31. I've never had any problems with color or b&w film being scanned as carry on. Mexico and Europe require it to go through the scanner. I've never had any problems with film up to 800iso. Keep in mind some countries like Mexico do limit how many rolls of film you may bring into the country. Most of the time they don't enforce it but sometimes you get the magic red light at customs and they do enforce it. Trying to explain that 30 rolls of 120 film isn't a lot of film compared to 35mm is pretty much useless.
  32. Hi
    I have travelled with and without a lead lined bag for my films and I alway have them in my carry-on luggage as most of the others have mentioned I have never experienced any problems (damaged or deteriorated film) with my films being x-rayed while travelling. A few members have mentioned that you might have problems in some airports if you have your films in a lead lined bag, I personally never been questioned or had the luggage hand checked and I travelled trough Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Austria, just to name a few. However as Emilio mentioned I encountered an airport staff member once that was a little bit perplexed on why I was still carrying a film camera around and asked if he can have a look at it. I found that in most cases if anything like this happens the best thing to do is be polite and courteous explain your situation and you should be fine. Keep in mind that every time you travel might be different, if in doubt you can always contact the airports you plan to travel trough regarding any restrictions.
  33. I Fed Ex my film to arrive before I do and Fed Ex it back directly to the photo lab for processing. Sure it costs more but the peace of mind is worth it.​
    A brilliant strategy, with one fatal flaw.
    Airfreight despatches are scanned at point of international embarkation and again on transfer through customs at the destination. (Otherwise smugglers would just ship firearms, drugs and explosives around the world disguised as ordinary packages). The only difference being — your film is probably getting scanned with a lot more power than if you took it with you as carry on luggage.
  34. My last flight home from Denver, I jammed about 7 rolls of developed 120 film in my cargo short pockets and walked right on the plane.
    They rejoined my camera once I was on the plane as that was placed in my carry-on.
  35. Not too long ago I flew from Kansas to Los Angeles and back, I had about 6 rolls of 400 (loose) and 1 roll of 1600 in a little Olympus XA-4. The 400 looked fine; the 1600 was clearly fogged to the point of unusability. The XA and all the film was in a plastic baggie so it could easily be hand-checked, but in LA they wouldn't do it -- said they didn't have time.

    Tomorrow I'm leaving for South Carolina; all the film is gonna be in a lead bag.

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