about film and airplanes

i am going on a trip to italy in a week, and am planning on taking about a million pictures while i’m there. i was warned not to bring undeveloped film on the plane, which would mean i’d have to buy and develop all my film while in italy, which would cost me quite a bit. i’ve never heard of that anywhere else, and i’ve gone on planes with undeveloped film before.

i’m assuming that it has something to do with the x-ray machine at the airport… i’m travelling on alitalia, so i decided to go on the website to see if they said anything on the issue, but they didn’t have much to say. i’m wondering if anyone knows the story behind this, and whether or not i really can bring film with me?

Who warned you ?

Whoever warned you about airport x rays and unexposed film is probably quoting rather outdated information; modern airport equipment uses such low dosage that you’d have to put your films through it loads(probably hundreds) of times before there was any noticeable degradation.

This is going back many years, but a “checker” told me years ago that 400 ASA or lower would not generally be affected. However, that might no longer be the case (and maybe he was FOS).

However, you can purchase lead pouches for film, and leave them in the checked baggage. I’ve done that before when I didn’t want to take a chance.

Many photography sites reccommend you put your film in clear bags and request a hand inspection of the bag it’s in.

You may be able to put your films in a separate bag and ask that they check it by hand.

I seem to recall that any attempts to shield the films will cause them to crank up the output of the x ray machine until it penetrates the shielding, if this is the case then you don’t gain anything and possibly risk over-exposure of anything that you didn’t put inside the shielded container.

This Kodak site has good information about handling of unexposed film with regard to baggage screening.

Do not, I repeat, do not put any film, exposed or unexposed, into your checked baggage. The machines they use to xray the checked bags crank out a much higher dose of nasty radiation, and it will fog the film. Take your film in your carry-on bag; the xrays they use for those bags won’t damage your film (I’ve taken ISO 200 and ISO 400 film through the security checkpoints all over the place, sometimes going through half a dozen on the way to and from someplace, without any problems).

Last year I took some pics of the NY nightime skyline with ISO 3200 TMAX film, then carried it on my flight to be developed back in Dallas. They refused to hand check it and made me put it thru the machine…but it was fine.

I work for an airline here in Denver. NEVER put undeveloped film in your checked luggage. Bags will be screened with a CTX machine. It’s more or less a cat scan. It will destroy film. We had a photographer who works for National Geographic as a passenger come out here and shoot for a month. He, needless to say had quite a bit of film checked in his luggage. His whole trips work was ruined. If your film is 400 iso or lower it’ll be fine to pass through the checkpoint screening x-ray. You can still request a hand inspection. Hope this helps. Any other questions, I am at your disposal. Have a fun trip!

Almost forgot, same goes for a camera with film inside. if anything has any photographic film in it, carry it on. Video tape and digital cameras, any thing electronic is ok to be CTX’ed, just no chemically processed film of any speed.