by Bart Arondson

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I had a business trip with some free time in the evening, so I took my photo gear with me, but on the last moment, decided to leave my film camera at home because I did not want to ruin the film with X-ray scans in airports. I wasn't going to stay long enough to buy, shoot and develop a film during my stay, which seems to be the best way of avoiding X-ray scans.

I want to be better prepared next time, so what would the best practice to travel with undeveloped film?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted
  • The scanners for checked baggage are a lot more powerful, so take it through in your carry-on.
  • If you've only got slower films (ISO 100 or so), there's not really a concern.
  • If you have faster films, ask to have them hand-inspected. With anything ISO 400 and below you should be fine but you can have issues if they go through the scanner too many times or decide to blast your bag with more juice because all your big metal cameras look suspicious.
  • If you're going to have them hand-inspected, put all your film in a zip-loc bag, and put that on an outside pocket or something so you can yank it out easily (i.e., like your 3oz bottles of liquid).
  • Keep your camera(s) un-loaded in case the agent wants to open them. I've never had that happen, but you never know these days...
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Kodak claims that the x-ray scanners for carry-on baggage (as opposed to bags that are checked) shouldn't damage your film. So if you take all your film in your carry-on, you should be all right.

If you really don't want it scanned with the x-ray machines at all, you can request a hand inspection.

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Bring your film in your carry-on bag and ask to have it hand inspected instead of put through the X-ray machines. It's a common practice and you shouldn't encounter any objections.

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Keeping the film in minimum packaging and all together helps a lot. You might want the box ends to show the film type on the body/magazine, but you can carry those, pre-trimmed, separately. A clear zip-lock bag works, as does transferring any non-IR 35mm film to clear canisters (they used to be the Fuji default) will make the inspectors happy. –  user2719 Sep 21 '11 at 17:37
I don't think film use is common practice anymore, so I can't imagine it is common to hand inspect film either ;) –  dpollitt Sep 21 '11 at 19:22

I haven't shot film for a long time, but when I did, the way I countered the objections (some smart*$$ always seems to know better) is to have one roll of ISO 1600 film at the top of the bag. Then they have to hand inspect. Cheesy trick, but it always worked for me.

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We all love a cheesy trick from time to time ;) –  AJ Finch Sep 22 '11 at 11:33

Modern scanners used for hand baggage these days don't tend to cause problems for film. Back in the day it was a problem but the old scanners used then used much higher energy levels and produced a lot more radiation. By comparison today's scanners are very safe for film but if you still don't want your films scanned make sure you put them all together in a transparent bag so they can easily be visually inspected, airport security staff are well used to this and it won't be a problem.

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Unfortunately there's no info available on how modern a scanner is in different airports, so getting a visual inspection should still be primary goal. –  Imre Sep 27 '11 at 18:20

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