Air travel with sheet film : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Carrying sheet film when travelling by air involves getting the film past the inspection stations. While the inspectors are usually agreeable about allowing unopened boxes of sheet film past without being x-rayed, they have usually insisted on x-raying opened boxes containing exposed film. While I have found that one passage thorough the x-ray machine has no noticiable effect on ASA 100 film, I am concerned about extended trips involving repeated x-rays. How do you deal with this problem? Thanks!

-- Rob Gertler (, December 14, 2000


Rob: When possible, I 1) buy and process film at the destination, 2) stuff film boxes in my coat and carry them through the metal detector since they contain no metal, 3) at larger airports, ask if they will use the chemical detector they use on laptops or 4) use Quick/ReadyLoad packets which they can fondle.

-- Glenn Kroeger (, December 14, 2000.

A friend said he once offered to setup his changing tent and let them open his film boxes inside of it (wearing gloves, of course) but they passed and let him through without X-raying his film.

Of course, this was a few years ago and things are different now. It still might be worth a try, though...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, December 14, 2000.

In 1994 I flew from O'Hare to Newark to Orly to Tunis to Rome to Venice and back the same way. The Italians were wearing submachine guns, the French were worried about someone bombing the Metro and the Americans were none to happy about Oklahoma City. I didn't bother, but had all my film passed through the carry-on luggage X-Ray. This included Fuji 64Y, Hp5+, XP2 and Tmax 100 I believe. I had no difficulties that I could see when I had the film processed.

Recently on another l.f. shooter posted that they insisted on hand inspection of his un-opened film boxes (in his changing bag, with the gloves) as well as the film holders at O'Hare. That prompted me to write to an Austrian l.f. acquiantance who has gone through more and tougher airports than I of late. Here's what he wrote:

"I been flying with film several times the last years on Airports like Newark,JFK,Los Angeles,San Francisco, Frankfurt,Paris, Capetown, Johannesburg and several more.

I had never any damages on my films from x ray. I always take my films in the hand baggage and don't put the in a bag or bagpack.I take the in here boxes wrapped with some old black plastic bags from printing paper. The important thing is there should be no metal or zipper or anything else like this on the films when they go through x ray!! I have got friends they got damages on Leiffur Erikson airport in Iceland but they have they film in the bag and you can see on the film zippers, parts of a lens and something more. In Europe there is no law like in the US for hand control the films. There is only one question: yes the film will be x rayed or no and you don't get into your plane! Never do film in checked baggage They will be definitively damaged.

I have used several films on my journeys starting with Tri-X, HP5+, Fuji Velvia or at the last journey Arista 400 (because my journey started in LA. When I stay in the USA I buy my film there because it is cheaper for me and I don't have to x ray the on the way from Europe to the USA.But I mad journey like the one to South Africa where my film from beginning to end had been x rayed 5 times.

Hope this helps! Achim "

-- Sean yates (, December 14, 2000.

If you have no more than four 25 sheet 4x5 boxes, you should be able to fit them in your pants pockets. If they don't include metallized foil envelopes (like Kodak's; use Ilford's or Fuji's plastic versions instead), they won't set off the magnetometer, and you'll breeze right through.

-- Sal Santamaura (, December 14, 2000.

I posted the following a couple of weeks ago on this forum. I have since developed the other roll that went through the X-ray for carry on luggage. It showed no fogging either. I quess the main flaw in my experiment is that the film was not exposed before hand.

A previous posters comments about keeping film away from metal while being X-rayed is something I have never heard before. The physics of that excape me. However, if it is important, then sending readyload through would be a disater. Has anyone sent readyloads through?

"PREVIOUS POST" I just recently returned from a month long trip to India and Nepal and went through airport checks at least 10 times. I took 200 Kodak Readyloads (ASA 100) and carryed them in one bag with nothing else. I never had a problem with getting a visual inspection, because it was obviously something different than they were used to seeing. I would simply tell them that it was professional and very sensitive. I also had a sheet that I would put into the holder to show how it worked.

As an experiement I put a 120 roll of tmax 400 in a suitcase and put another through the carry on luggage at each airport. They each went through at least 10 times. I have not developed the carry on luggage roll yet, but the roll that was in my checked bag is not fogged at all.

I guess this is encouraging. However, it will not change my behavior at airports. I will still carry my film on. It will make me more comfortable about my film if I happen to lose an argument at a gate and my film does go through.

-- Paul Mongillo (, December 14, 2000.

Buying on-site is a good idea. Priority Mail is so inexpensive and reliable, the post office even provides fantastic boxes. Why not mail your film home, to a friend or your lab. Great also for lightening the load of all the brochures, souvenirs, clothes we no longer need on the trip.

-- David Stein (, December 14, 2000.

I carry film on, but have left an 8x10" sheet of TMX 100 in a holder in checked baggage as a test and noticed no ill effects.

-- David Goldfarb (, December 14, 2000.

I travel extensively w/ 8 X 10 film in the US, Asia and Africa. I must have run some boxes thru the x-ray nearly a dozen times on a recent trip to India. Using film as fast as ASA 400, I have never noticed a problem with carry-on x-rays anywhere that I have been, even w/ multiple exposures. As long as you don't check it in, I think you are safe, and I just don't even think about it anymore.


-- Nathan Congdon (, December 14, 2000.

Just because some put their film in the baggage & suffer no harm doesn't mean it is safe. Most of my friends have never been hit by drunk drivers either, but that is no indication it won't happen next time they are on the road. Every film maker has warned us of the real danger of film damage from the luggage scanners. Their tests show it happens. So why take the chance & lose your images?

-- Dan Smith (, December 14, 2000.

I have carried sheet film in my carry on bag and have had no problems. Don't put your film in baggage since the x rays can be much stronger.

-- Brian Legere (, December 14, 2000.

I second the idea of carrying a many readyloads with you as you can. I remove them from the foil before the x-ray, ave them hand checked and put them back in the boxes later. The older Mido holders are quite useful here also, and their use frees you to use any type of 4x5 film. For domestic travel, I UPS/Fed Ex a large Zone VI case to my first destination with holders, extra readyload boxes, tools, polaroid and back, etc. When I am ready to return home, I find a UPS or similar carrier and ship the stuff home. I have done this for 10 years with no problems. Bob

-- Bob Moulton (, December 15, 2000.

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