There’s an ongoing debate about whether airport security X-ray scanners can actually harm your rolls of film. Some people believe it’s essential to hand-check film to prevent damage, while others are less concerned.
But what happens when you expose ISO 3200 film to 19 X-ray scans during travel? Does it get ruined? In this video, Bry Hong investigates just how damaged his film got after his extensive travels through multiple airports.
Bry had two rolls of ISO 3200 film, even though it wasn’t his favourite due to its graininess. With two big trips ahead involving ten flights through seven airports in five countries, he decided to put this film to the test.
What Happened to the Film?
After enduring 19 X-ray scans during his travels, the ISO 3200 film wasn’t completely destroyed. It showed only a bit of fogging and some streaks or light leaks. In simple terms, it was still usable.
This challenges the common belief that X-rays would completely ruin the film. While this experiment isn’t recommended for important projects, it demonstrates that 19 X-ray scans on ISO 3200 film during regular travel didn’t result in a total disaster.
Concerns About CT Scanners
There’s been talk about new CT scanners at airports, with claims that even one scan could destroy film. However, Bry didn’t encounter a CT scanner during his travels. He carried an extra roll of film to test the CT scanner’s impact while hand-checking the rest, but in the end, he never got to try it out. The jury then is still out on CT scanners.
This experiment stemmed from frustration with the fear-mongering surrounding X-rays and the lack of solid evidence to support these claims. Despite extensive research and exposure to X-rays, Bry says he had never seen real X-ray damage from carry-on luggage scanners.
Altitude vs. X-Rays
Some people think that flying at high altitudes exposes film to more radiation than security X-rays. This idea could explain the extra fog observed in the ISO 3200 film, which travelled the equivalent of almost two round-the-world flights.
Bry also travelled with ISO 400 film. After this, he stands by his previous advice: you don’t need to hand-check ISO 400 film through airport security. He successfully took ISO 400 film through multiple X-ray scans without any visible damage. The experiment also included other film types, like Fuji Superia X-TRA 400, Portra 160, and Ektachrome E100, which showed no signs of X-ray damage, even after multiple scans.
Travel with Film Without Worrying
In summary, this experiment shows that excessive fear of X-ray scanners and film is unfounded. While extensive X-ray exposure may cause some damage, it’s unlikely to completely ruin your film during typical travel. Bry encourages others not to worry when travelling with film and to follow the evidence instead of believing fears based on old wives’ tales.
So, load up your film, capture your travel adventures, and enjoy analogue photography without unnecessary concerns.
Have you ever had your film ruined by airport security X-rays?