I am planning to travel with a few rolls of 35 mm film (unused on the way there and exposed but undeveloped on the way home), however, I have heard about how airport security scanners can completely destroy the film. Just wondering if this is true and what effect carry on luggage scanners will have on 200 to 400 ISO film?

  • And perhaps also relevant as it contains examples of developed film that has gone through the X-ray scanner: photo.stackexchange.com/q/92922/9161 Aug 31, 2021 at 11:11
  • @SaaruLindestøkke The linked question is ten years old -- airport scanners have changed just within the past year. I'm not sure this is a valid duplicate.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 31, 2021 at 13:23
  • 1
    I think the question is a dupe, but very well possible that existing answers are outdated. In that case, wouldn't it be better to update/add answers to the older question such that the newer situation is addressed instead of having one very similar question with older answers, and then one question with newer answers (and in 5 years another question with etc....)? Aug 31, 2021 at 13:26
  • @SaaruLindestøkke I've wondered about that -- if I'm searching Stack sites, I'm likely to completely skip over a question, even if it's a close match, if it's ten years old.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 31, 2021 at 13:30
  • @SaaruLindestøkke In theory, yes. But in practice there are so few active users here now that new answers seldom rise out of obscurity at the bottom of the page.
    – Michael C
    Sep 1, 2021 at 8:49

2 Answers 2


From the horse's mouth:

  • The checked baggage goes through some rather powerful scanner that can damage unprocessed film. Of course you can put them in protective bags, but these bags could look suspicious to inspection personnel.
  • The carry-on baggage is scanned with much lighter devices that shouldn't damage film, but you should avoid running through too many scanners in your trip...
  • The "Horses mouth" has not spoken since 2003. Airport scanners are probably a lot different now than they were 18 years ago.
    – Michael C
    Sep 1, 2021 at 8:51

The most reliable way to avoid problems is to buy film locally at your destination or have it shipped to your hotel (or wherever you're staying), then have it processed before you fly home. You can take along basic equipment (changing bag, daylight processing tank, negative sleeves/pages) in check bags, though I'd only take dry packaged chemicals, and then only if you know in advance that such are not available where you're going.

Once processed, the negatives can go back into your check bags, as they're then impervious to x-ray exposure.

Note that this can also work with color film; C-41 kits aren't all that difficult to come by in most places, and even E-6 chemistry is sold internationally in "press kits" and similar, sized for a small number of rolls. All are also available as dry chemical packs if you must bring the chemicals in check bags -- but doing so is very likely to result in bags being opened for inspection and chemical bags being at least punctured for testing, as a bag of dry fixer or developer looks exactly like a bag of cocaine on a bag scanner...

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.