Xray Bags and the new screening procedures

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by fusionrx, Jan 24, 2004.

  1. I was told by camera store owners that the new procedures that the
    security screeners use to x-ray bags exposes film to alot more
    radiation and thus tends to fog films. I use standard KodakMax 400,
    and B/W 400CN (i think thats the brand).

    Are the x-ray bags (US$9.00) any good?
    Does x-ray screening nowadays fog film still??

    As an additional comment, I do alot of world travel including China,
    Malaysia, and countries where the x-ray technology has a better
    chance of being older...
  2. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There's a lot of information on this in the archives if you take the time to use the search function.

    The machines used for carry-on luggage have not changed. Checked bags do go through a much stronger x-ray. Don't put your film in checked luggage. Camera store owners should know better.

    Regarding your additional comment, my experience is that the equipment in some "third world" countries is far more modern than in the US. I was amazed, for example, at how much better the baggage handling equipment was in Hanoi relative to the new international terminal in San Francisco.
  3. "Are the x-ray bags (US$9.00) any good?"

    Sure. There's nothing like seeing a large and completely opaque block of something or the other in your luggage for reassuring a security type as to your intentions.
  4. Good one Will. Hopefully you can have them hand checked. I hope the air port screeners are pretty good about that I'll be traveling soon and don't want them to X-ray my undevoloped film.
  5. The reason I asked was this idea that they are using 'new technology' to fight the war on terrorism... Stuff the archives may not be 'up to date' on...
  6. I've not heard of any reports of film being fogged by hand baggage x-ray scanners. You might have a problem if you are doing a couple of dozen or more passes. Lead bags will only ensure that the operator stops the machine and turns up the power to have a look inside your lead bag. This means the x-rays will have to be strong enougth to pass through one side of the lead, through your film and then back through the other side of the lead. Great way to really get your films roasted.
  7. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    If you want a hand check, take the film out of the boxes, out of the plastic canisters and put them all in a clear baggy. The security people are not inclined to waste time opening several dozen boxes of film to check it.
  8. As Will said: X-ray bags are total nonsense. The modern X-ray scanners are programmed in a way that they automatically increase the X-ray intensity if there is something opaque until they can identify it clearly. That's exactely what you don't want. If the x-ray bag is lead shielded and the intensity of the scanner is therefore not sufficient they have to open your luggage and search it.

    I usually put films into the bag I take with me into the cabin. I never had a problem with films up to ISO 400. I'm a bit nervous about fast films like Ilford Delta 3200 or even Fuji Superia 1600 and 800. Those I usually put in my shirt pocket. Surprisingly often the sensitivity of the metal detectors is not high enough to trigger them and they go through unnoticed. If they trigger I show them (without the plastic cannister) to the security person and explain why I don't want them X-rayed. Up to now they always understood.
  9. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    That is another reason why one should shoot MF. Carry the 120 plastic reels in your pant's pocket and you have no trouble with the metal detector. Newer 4×5 and 8×10 film holders would also go through the metal detectors but you would have a hard time jamming them into your pants.
  10. I second the others' advice about X-ray bags. The films you've mentioned in your post will not be harmed by carry-on baggage X-ray scanners. I have yet to see any real evidence of film of this speed (400 ASA and below) being fogged by carry-on baggage scanners -- a lot of worry, but no evidence. Put the film in your carry-on bags and have a fun trip!
  11. According to the websites of manufacturers such as Siemens, an X ray scanner for hand luggage gives a dose of about 1uSv. This is a very small amount. For example, a roll of film will obtain a similar dose of background radiation every 8 hours in London, every 3 hours in Denver, and about every 20 minutes when travelling in an aircraft cabin at typical cruising altitude.

    I've also taken a Geiger counter on numerous flights and passed it through numerous X ray machines, with results very close to the above figures. Interestingly, when I put the Geiger counter in a lead photo pouch, the reduction was negligible. Although it can't be assumed that a Geiger Mueller tube and a film emulsion will be affected the same way, it does tend to suggest that the lead photo pouches are a waste of time.

    I've not had any significantly higher readings from X ray machines in other countries (including a number of the former Soviet Republics, which all had modern equipment). And most countries outside the US seem not to take kindly to requests for hand inspections of film. This was true even before 9/11.

    As long as you take your film in your hand luggage, I would suggest that there is nothing to worry about from X ray machines even with 3200 ISO film.
  12. Last year I went through airport security with about 10 CD's bundled together in my back pack. It makes a black box mark on the x-ray terminal similar to an x-ray bag, similar to plastic explosives. I had to unpack my whole bag (luckily the cubans were not found) and was sent on my way. However, I was flagged at the terminal gate and before boarding my fiance and I were subject to a very strict search (though once again, the cubans made it through). If you have the x-ray bag and they see this "black box" in your bag you may have to submitt to extra searches and delays.
  13. From what I understand the machines used for carry-on do not turn up the power. About the only thing the operator can do is put your bag back into the machine, just turned differently in hopes of getting a better view. The machines used for check bags DO turn up the power if something blocks the xray image.

    That being said, I have use an Xray bag, it was less than a year after 9/11 and no one knew for sure what type of insecption you would get from one day to the next. I was also going out of the U.S, didn't know what to expect in other countries. My feelings were that it couldn't hurt to use the bag.

    I got two Xrays out and four on the way back. The only time anyone cared was on the way back in Paris, the man running the Xray wanted me to open a carry-on, I did, and then handed him the Xray big right away, he just smiled and waved me on, didn't even care to look inside it.

    Even back in the U.S. I had to put shoes in the machine, I was also the one of every four that got the extra hand held metal detector scan, but nothing said of the Xray bag.
  14. I've just returned from a round trip between London and Miami. Upon returning to London and having my film processed, I discovered significant banding and fogging, consistent with the type of damage caused by airport x-rays as described on Kodak's website. The film was T-Max 100, so it appears that even slow speed film is not immune from damage. The film was kept inside an "x-ray bag", which probably only caused the machine operator to increase the scanning intensity.

    The film probably got scanned a total of three times, including once on arrival at MIA, by the USDA. This is the first time I've experienced such a check on an inbound flight.

    I agree with previous posters who've recommended that those concerned with such potential damage should buy film at their destination, and process it if possible before returning home.
  15. While this doesn't help very much on international flights (where my understanding is that the provision of a hand inspection is a lot less mandated), I've noticed that not only have I not had a problem getting a hand inspection on domestic flights, but there are actually signs at the security gate saying that such inspections can be requested (wow, that was a horribly painful sentence. sorry).

    The signs also specifically mention that film faster than 800, or film to be pushed, should not be sent through the carry-on machine.

  16. Was your film in your checked luggage? If so, the x-ray for that is powerful.

    I've never had a problem in many, many trips with my carry-on film. I do the "take it our of the cannister, put it in a clear zip-lock and all is fine.


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