Safe to bring film through security?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by per_pettersen, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. Hello! I?m flying to the south og Spain in a few days. The last years I have
    only travelled with a digital camera, but this time I would love to bring my old
    film camera instead.

    My questions are:

    1. Is it safe to bring film through security, or will x-rays ruin it?

    2. If it ruins new film, will it also ruin exposed film?
  2. Yes, maybe.


    Don't check the camera/film. Baggage scanners will destroy film. Carry on xray machines will destroy film if scanned enough times, but the number of times seems extremely high with the latest generation of xray scanners. I've past film up to iso400 through carry on xray scanners 6 times with zero noticable fogging or other damage to the film even in large blow ups of the film.

    That being said, in the US you can ask for a hand inspection of any film (don't leave anything loaded in the camera). Just keep it in a seperate ziplock bag from your carry on luggage and take it out when you get to security and ask for a hand inspection. The TSA is required to honor such a request. Overseas results vary in requesting hand inspection, most of the time it is denied.

    Exposed film is as vulnerable (or not, depending on your point of view) as unexposed film. Developed film is not affected. Once those negatives (or positives if slide) are developed they are no longer vulnerable to xrays in doses that are not also quickly fatal to humans.
  3. Before I really got into photog, I have taken film (Fuji Superia 200) in checked luggage and it was fine.

    When I got into photog, London had bomb scare so I was at Paris at the time and everything was put in checked luggage or no getting on flight. So all my stuff went incl my coins, I went onboard with just my passport. My Lowepro shoulder bag with the 12 rolls of film just went to checked luggage with no extra padding incl the filters and stuff. Nothing broke. But that was what was at the time. The film upon processed was fine. It has also gone via many hang luggage at airports cos overtime I just got sick of requesting for it and sometimes I tried and it was just denied including in New Zealand which is my home, on the way out I was given thou but its time consuming. Its got via many many galleries/museums/other attractions xray machines as well on the day/day basis. The film would of gone via 1 checked luggage and least 8 carry via x-ray machines.

    Yes, I have read reports and stuff and heard of others. But mine have all survived. I have my own scanner and at 100% view its fine.

    You may feel more comforable locating a pro store and get film there and process it there.
  4. The film I took was Fuji Superia 400 - correction. That was Japan. Checked luggage.

    The one to France/England was checked luggage and I had film from Velvia 50, negative film from ISO 100 to the NPZ 800. On the way to Europe and on the way out of Europe it was hand luggage xray.

    All been fine for myself.
  5. The machines that scan checked luggage are not x-ray machines, but something else
    that is more powerful. Every airport I've ever been in tells people that those machines
    will destroy film.

    Carryon scanners will not harm film at ISO 400 and below. Most airports don't seem to
    say they are safe for high-speed films, which to them means 800 and up.

    Anecdotely, I've seen any number of online posts from people who say their requests for
    handchecks were refused. Best bet is to hand the agent a bag of naked cannisters so
    he/she doesn't need to waste time fishing them out of those little boxes. You might also
    say you're prepared to wait until all the folks behind you have gone through.
  6. "The machines that scan checked luggage are not x-ray machines, but something else that is more powerful. Every airport I've ever been in tells people that those machines will destroy film."

    Where have you been? I am pretty sure not every airport in the world has those, more powerful, machines. I have seen signs saying that all luggage will be scanned, but I do not remember seeing a sign saying that film would be destroyed. I have seen signs that say the luggage scanners are film safe, in that particular airport. In many airports they scan check-in luggage before it is checked in, with you standing next to it. Did you ask or did you see signs saying so? I travelled 127 days last year, but not a single day in USA and only a few flights in Europe. I am sure that makes a big difference.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The machines that scan checked luggage are not x-ray machines, but something else that is more powerful.
    Where do you get the data on this? The standard luggage scanning equipment is the CTX series from GE, or the equivalent, which does include an x-ray chamber. Read the literature.
    I am pretty sure not every airport in the world has those, more powerful, machines.
    Most do, it's the requirement now.
    , in the US you can ask for a hand inspection of any film
    You can ask, but if you read the entire regulations carefully, you will find that they can arbitrarily decide not to allow hand inspection for a number of reasons. I have never been denied hand inspection in the US, but I have in England, France and Vietnam. Digital is a whole lot easier...
  8. "Most do, it's the requirement now."

    Whose requirement? I would agree that most in Europe and North America do, but you will not convince me that even most, let alone all, in the rest of the world do.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Sorry, "standards" set by the ICAO. Flights in or out of the US has to meet the standards. The exceptions are for small local airports, so if you are flying from Tuscaloosa to Springfield, it may not be there.
  10. As I said, I travelled 127 days last year, but not a single flight in or out of USA. I am sure that makes all the difference.

    Couple of years ago I still took domestic flights in some countries with no security whatsoever. No scanning of any bags, no metal detector gates before boarding the plane. I think those have now disappeared but I am sure there are still many places where check in luggage is not scanned at all.
  11. You ought to be able to buy the film there and develop the film there. Use the Web to search for sources at your destination.

    The last time I carried film on a flight it was to Italy. Hand inspection was very lengthy. I'm sticking with digital fdor air trips from now on.
  12. I can't remember anyone in threads about this question reporting fogged film. There seems to be a gap between theory and fear on one hand and experience on the other hand. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
  13. When I was much younger (IE a teenager) I did have film destroyed in checked baggage. That was probably about 10 years ago or a little more. I've never had a carry on scanner destroyer or fog film.
  14. Here's what TSA says. In certain situations they recommend hand inspection-- these are listed. They warn that the machines they use for checked luggage "will damage" film.
  15. I run a a radiation dosimetry program and many of the people we monitor travel with our dosimeters. Checked luggage is subject to CT scan, a sophisticated computerized x-ray imaging system, and the hundreds of millirem we measure from these machines when a worker puts his dosimeter in his suitcase will most certainly fog film, even slow film. These haven't been used at gate security because they are so slow. The gate security x-rays operate like a flash, a short burst of x-rays generates an image on a CRT, using very little x-ray to do this. This isn't done to be kind to our stuff - with so many x-ray machines in airports now, it got to be important to use less radiation to reduce the amount of shielding required for the machines - the weight became a floor loading problem.

    I can't say whether the CT scans (CTX 5000 and 5500) are used outside the US, but I expect they are. And there are new hazards being tested as gate security machines. At the Baltimore airport, they are testing a new high speed CT scan device that uses computer evaluation of the image (no operator decisions at all) and delivers as high a dose as the checked luggage systems (I have measurements that confirm this). The good news (at the moment) is that the machine is labeled with a warning to not put your film thru the machine, and they are doing hand inspections because of this.

    England is testing a new, multi x-ray machine for gate security - it x-rays the bag from above and from the side, each with several different energy x-rays. The computer's interpretation of the image data allows very sophisticated analysis of the bag contents. I'm told that it, too, is labeled to not put your film thru. How they handle film inspection, given their reputation for refusing hand inspections, is unknown.

    The only approach where the traveler has complete control is to buy the film in the destination country and have it processed before returning. Even shipping it back by overnight air is risky - they carry shipments of radioactive materials, and there's no telling whether your film might sit on top on one all the way. It's even worse if your shipment sits in an air freight warehouse over a weekend.
  16. Availability of professional film abroad can be a problem since you might not be able to easily locate stores that carry them.
  17. You might want to use the search tool. I count 900 posts in this site on the topic of x- rays and film. The answers are pretty much always the same. Everything you want to know has been asked and answered already.
  18. For many people who are not in the North America shooting film can be v expensive. I buy my film from B+H and import them into my country in small quantity so I escape import tax. Because a roll of 35mm Provia/Velvia cost like $15US here, a roll of professional negative film cost $8US and a roll of consumer film cost like $4US.

    Maybe I am lucky that the film are not affected.

    For people who are in the USA and buy from B+H and get them shipped to them .. are they safe?

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