New airport hand luggage scanners will destroy your unprocessed film

Oct 21, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

New airport hand luggage scanners will destroy your unprocessed film

Oct 21, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Here comes a warning for film photographers flying through US airports. Some airports are using new hand luggage scanners that will destroy your unprocessed film in just one scan. They have already been unveiled in 17 airports across the US, and there are likely more to come.

L.A. photography merchant Freestyle Photo Supplies has recently posted a photo to Instagram to warn all film photographers about the danger of these new scanners for their unprocessed film. They suggest that you should ask for a hand check rather than letting the film go through the scanner. “It’s a CAT Scan and will absolutely destroy any film in a second. The equivalent of putting your film through the old scanners about a thousand times,” the post reads, adding that “lead bags won’t save you.”

Kosmo Foto found Kodak’s warning about airport baggage scanning and its effect on the unprocessed film. Even though it was posted way back in 2003, it supports Freestyle Photo’s claim.

“There are two types of higher-dose scanners. The first type is similar to a hospital CAT scan and uses a low-dose scan followed by a higher-dose scan on specific areas of the baggage. The second type gives a high-dose, full bag scan on the first pass, damaging the film immediately.”

When damaged by the scanner, your unprocessed film will end up with a very prominent fog. Kodak explains that “the orientation of the fog stripe depends on the orientation of the film relative to the X-ray beam.” This is how they describe the fog in different types of film:

  • On black-and-white negative films – Dark areas in patterns as described above.
  • On color-negative films – Dark areas with neutral or brown patterns.
  • On color-reversal films (slides) – Minus-density area (light patches) with patterns as described above.

TSA notes that the new CT scanners have been installed at the following airports:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
  • Houston Hobby Airport (HOU)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
  • Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)

TSA recommends that you put undeveloped film (or cameras containing undeveloped film) in your carry-on luggage and take it to the checkpoint for a hand inspection. However, it’s worth noting that not all airports will provide you with the hand check!

It’s also worth mentioning that the new scanners won’t affect film that has already been processed (including developed medical X-rays). It also won’t destroy digital images, slides, and CDs. They only affect the undeveloped film. Considering that even the hand check is not guaranteed, the safest option is probably to process your film before flying, if you can.

[via Kosmo Foto]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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11 responses to “New airport hand luggage scanners will destroy your unprocessed film”

  1. Gary Sthland Avatar
    Gary Sthland

    I’ve still have my old lead pouch I used for xray scanners in the day wonder if it’ll be fine

    1. Robert Hicks Avatar
      Robert Hicks

      Well it’s mentioned twice in the article that lead bags do nothing to help so I am guessing no, no it will not be fine

    2. Robin Hubbard Avatar
      Robin Hubbard

      Gary Sthland, per the article, no

  2. Craig Johnson Avatar
    Craig Johnson

    Surely you can still ask for a hand search?

    1. Dunja Djudjic Avatar
      Dunja Djudjic

      Sure you can, I mentioned it in the article. But the airport security still has the right to reject it, so it’s good to keep that in mind too.

  3. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    On the positive side you don’t have to take out all your computer & camera gear from the bag, so it’s mostly a huge improvement except for the tiny number of people who take unprocessed film internationally.

  4. Joost Avatar
    Joost

    good to know, going to JFK next Wednesday.. i’ll carry my T5 on me then

  5. Dave Kee Avatar
    Dave Kee

    What is film?

  6. JOhn C Avatar
    JOhn C

    Looks like it’s nearly all of the major international hubs. If you’re traveling domestically, and you get your film past the scanner (hand inspection) before you shoot it, you could mail it for processing before flying back. Traveling overseas might be a bit tougher (expensive) mailing the film to be processed

  7. Matthias Avatar
    Matthias

    They also send the checked luggage through similar machines?
    Edit: Kodak link says it goes though X-Ray machines with stronger radiations…

  8. Seann Alexander Avatar
    Seann Alexander

    The three, oh wait sorry, Joanna just died, the two remaining film users are saddened.