Flying with film : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Hi, I am flying to Maui at the end of this month for two weeks of well deserved bliss. Of course I plan on taking tons of pictures but I am concerned with the secutity measures etc. on whether there are any restrictions on carry on bags with camera equiptment in them and then how to protect my film from x-rays etc. So far Delta has been little help and I was hoping that someone out there has traveled recently and could clear things up for me. Thanks!

-- Justin Fullmer (, October 03, 2001


I flew last week on Delta from Seattle to Atlanta (and other connecting flights) and carried a Tamrac camera bag with a bunch of my Hasselblad equipment in it. Security didn't even open it, but did X ray it. So I don't think there are any restrictions on camera equipment any more than the normal amount allowed for carry-on. If the current state of things keeps up, I would predict the banning of any carry-on just to enable getting through security quicker. I don't know what I will do then, as I certainly will not entrust my Hasselblad equipment to a bunch of sadistic baggage handlers ;). I did pack my film in checked baggage, which may or may not be smart as I have heard that it gets heavier doses of X ray. This is second- hand, unverified, and probably anecdotal. Frankly, I travel a lot and have never seen any X ray problems with film, but I have not been everywhere! Maybe others can address the techniques of wrapping film in foil, etc. Enjoy your bliss!

-- Greg Jones (, October 03, 2001.

If you are using film that comes in a metal cassette (35mm ?) then I would consider buying the film in Maui and then ship the exposed film back to your home. If you think this is too costly, get to the security area very early (on both ends) and ask for a hand check of your film.

If you are using 120 (or any film in a plastic cassette or spool), you should be able to carry it in your pockets (take it out of the box to lesson the bulk) and pass through the metal detector (which will not harm film). Don't put it in your coat pockets because they will want your coat to go through the x-ray machine.

Since this is a B&W forum, and you did not state otherwise, I assume you do not have color film. However if you do, you might consider getting any C-41 processing done in Maui, and then worry about getting decent prints when you get home.

-- Michael Feldman (, October 03, 2001.

Greg, checked baggage is randomly subjected to stronger x-rays that will ruin film. This is verified and not anecdotal. In fact, when airlines started this procedure, Kodak's professional division sent out letters to many pro photographers, rental houses and labs. Never put film in checked baggage, not even in lead bags.

-- Steve Wiley (, October 04, 2001.

I just recently got back from a trip to Canada. These are the things I have learned:

Don't put film in your checked luggage. X-Ray for checked luggage is much stronger than carry-on.

Don't put film in lead bags. If the X-Ray machine can't penetrate it initially, they crank up the dosage until they can. I am also told that anything slower than ISO 1600 is safe to be put through. Be careful of multiple exposures to X-Rays, they are apparently culmulative.

Ask for film to be hand checked. I believe in the US, they have to comply. Outside the US, you are subject to local customs. The best method I have found so far is to take 35mm film out of the plastic canisters and put them all in a large ziplock baggie. They are safe from dirt, dust and grime and security can see everything at once. Being that they can fish around the bag without opening it, you can get though faster. If you bring your film in plastic canisters, expect them to go through each and every can.

Be prepared to get searched. Arrive with plenty of time for a thorough search routine. Make sure everything can be powered on and checked. Palm pilots, cameras, cell phones, portable CD players included. If it is electronic and can't be powered on to prove it is what it is, it won't go. Expect lenses to be scrutinized (remove end caps so they can see through them), filters, film, etc.

As far as equipment restrictions, I brought a fair amount of gear in my hiking backpack and didn't have a problem.

Hope this helps!

-- Johnny Motown (, October 04, 2001.

Just yesterday, I saw a press release from Kodak saying that you shouldn't take film by air at all, as some of the carry-on scanners in use since Sep 11 were using high dosage X-rays. Today's press release from Kodak has toned down a bit. Read for yourself at

-- Richard Cochran (, October 04, 2001.

The Yellow Godfather saying don't take film at all.. Now they can get onto the business of pixelography full time & quit making any traditional film products. Just what they seem to be trying to do with the shell game of 'what products are going away this month".

-- Dan Smith (, October 04, 2001.

They want you to buy a disposable camera/film at your destination. Ever since the instamatic and disc film died, they have been struggling to get back into the camera business.

-- Michael Feldman (, October 04, 2001.

Interesting that Kodak would say don't fly with film. Don't they ship a lot of their film products to stores around the world via air? Or does it go UPS ground and sit baking in a truck for a week in the summer? Is air cargo x-rayed as well or would this be a feasible method - to ship film to your destination for pick-up when you get there. Ship your cameras to yourself too-well insured, of course.

-- Al Seyle (, October 05, 2001.

Whatever you do, don't put your film in checked luggage. Many airports use the new CTX5000 scanners. These machines will give a low dosage scan to the entire piece of luggage. If there is any suspicious object, they will then rescan that object with a high intensity beam. It is this beam that does the damage, and generally shows up as a strip about 1cm wide. A few rolls of film will not usually attract attention, but a large quantity, such as a brick, will have enough metal (the silver in the emulsion), that it attracts the high intensity beam. This beam is strong enough to damage even slow films and papers.

David Carper ILFORD Technical Service

-- David Carper (, October 05, 2001.

Shipping film via air is OK. Or at least it was OK. Shipping companies' cargo was not x-rated. I've been mail-ordering all my film for the past 6 years and never had a problem. This may or may not change. We have to see new regulations being imposed, whether carry- laggage machines will be as safe for a film as used to, and whether had inspection will still be allowed.

-- Boris Krivoruk (, October 05, 2001.

I usually have my film handchecked, especially since I usually carry at least one roll of 3200 for extreme circumstances which is very sensitive to x-rays. When I flew from Seattle to Dc (Dulles): no problem with a hand check. When I flew back from Baltimore (BWI) to Seattle: a supervisor had to do it, security was not pleased, and I got lots of dirty looks (!) during my hand check.

Foreign X-ray machines are notorious for using high dosages of x-rays.

I think that I'll carry bulk film, empty plastic canisters, and special film (like 3200 and 1600) in plastic bags for easy hand searches.

-- Thatcher Collins (, October 05, 2001.

Use your computer & print up a batch of "private label 3200 and 6400" labels to put on the film canisters, 120 rolls and sheet film boxes. This might help a bit on getting the hand check you are entitled to. If the airport security jokers would just do the job they are paid to do they wouldn't have to complain so much nor work so hard trying to keep from working.

-- Dan Smith (, October 08, 2001.

i haven't flown since 9-11 but will soon, i found a link to this in the federal code which i printed out and plan to show if needed, maybe it could help others here:




108.17 Use of X-ray systems

(e) No certificate holder may use an X-ray system to inspect carry-on or checked articles unless a sign is posted in a conspicuous place at the screening station and on the X-ray system which notifies passengers that such items are being inspected by an X-ray and advises them to remove all X-ray, scientific, and high-speed film from carry-on and checked articles before inspection. This sign shall also advise passengers that they may request that an inspection be made of their photographic equipment and film packages without exposure to an X-ray system. If the X-ray system exposes any carry-on or checked articles to more than 1 milliroentgen during the inspection, the certificate holder shall post a sign which advises passengers to remove film of all kinds from their articles before inspection. If requested by passengers, their photographic equipment and film packages shall be inspected without exposure to an X-ray system.


-- Joe Holcombe (, October 09, 2001.

I have just gotten some new news regarding X-ray equipment in Reagan National Airport. Previous to the 9-11 incedent, only some checked luggage was being x-rayed with the CTX5000 series machines. Now, every single piece of checked luggage is being scanned. So even if you have been lucky in the past with putting film in checked luggage, chances are that now you would run into problems.

David Carper ILFORD Technical Service

-- David Carper (, October 11, 2001.

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