Airport x-rays, film, and metal!

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Stephen Schoof, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Stephen Schoof

    Stephen Schoof Member

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    Here it is, the umpteen-millionth question about xrays...but thanks for reading anyway. Yesterday I almost missed a flight out of Milwaukee and put my 50 or so exposed rolls of 35mm Velvia 50 through the carry-on scanner instead of taking time for a hand check. When I got home I came to APUG to reassure myself that I have nothing to worry about and then found a couple old threads (such as http://www.apug.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-70427.html) where someone is mentioning the importance of keeping film away from metal (cable releases, etc) while being scanned. I hadn't considered this and sent my whole pack through with keys, cable releases, etc. Of course the film canisters themselves are also metal, right...? My head tells me I'm wasting everyone's time worrying about one pass of slow film through the carry on, but still, what's up with the metal, and is it that important to send film through separately? It'll be a week or so before I get these rolls processed to know for sure.
     
  2. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    I would believe that x-rays, because it being "light with a different wave lenght", behaves much like light.
    Meaning, the stuff it doesn't penetrate 100%, can cause reflections, which causes the rays to spread and hit other objects "several times", instead of just one straight burst of x-ray.

    Also, reflected x-rays may meet other reflected x-rays and create hotspots (much like waves meeting other waves in the sea, which can create "double-waves" with much more energy at that given point).

    You are safe, the carry on scan is too weak to fog even 1600 iso Neopan.

    - There have been incidents where small children have been playing on the airport and suddenly found themselves being scanned by the checked-baggage scanner. The reports in the media has always been that the scan isn't harmful to the child, so I doubt we are looking at a high-energy cobalt 60 source which will fry Superman. :smile: still, the checked baggage scan is no place for film.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2012
  3. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I wouldn't call it "wasting our time", but I can assure you that you have nothing to worry about.
     
  4. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    There's nothing you can do about it anyway at this point. You can't anti-xray the film after the fact, so process your film and tell us how it went.
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I suppose there is some validity in the metal thing. OTH, most cameras are metal, 35 canisters are, even most LF holders have some metal but problems are infrequent.
     
  6. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    It is more of a great THEORY than anything particularly valid. I can attest to the fact that carry-on bag scanners are not an issue in most cases... metal or no metal nearby. I've been carrying camera gear on airplanes since 1980, frequently, and have rarely asked for hand-check and have never experienced any problem associated with Xray. That experience includes 35mm, medium format, and large format.
     
  7. xenophon

    xenophon Member

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    JFK airport, NY, early last September, I was returning home with a set of exposed 120 film (Ektar and Portra). I asked for a hand check and the security ladies were very nice and complied. Apparently the hand-check procedure is to check for explosive materials using a spray of some sort.

    No film went through the scanner, and all came out very nice!

    Thanks, JFK Airport!
     
  8. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    True there's nothing you can do about it, but I really doubt any 50 speed film would get any detrimental effect unless that machine is truly far out of whack.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i know people who work for the tsa and they have told me
    there is really nothing to worry about ..
    even sending film fed ex, or ups or whatever
    it all gets xrayed before it gets freighted ...
    back in maybe 2008 around the time of theshoebomber
    i traveled to france via heathrow ..
    and must have passed my film through 10 or more
    scanners in heathrow airport alone between flights.
    it seemed like every 30feet we were scanned ...
    i had a bag filled with iso 200, 400 and even 800 speed
    film, color as well as b/w and in the end
    some of the 800 speed film was in my luggage, not
    carry on bags ... nothing happened to any of it ...
    the films were scanned probably 15 times each way,
    (pre and post exposure ). i wouldn't worry about it ...
     
  10. newtorf

    newtorf Member

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    This is assuring coz I will be travelling to China in November and was worried about X-ray. Now I can pack a lot of films in my luggage. :smile:


     
  11. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Yer joking, right?
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i wouldn't do that ...
    bring everything carry on
    to be honest, i kind of freaked when
    i realized i luggaged my film, and i wouldn't ever do it again ...
     
  13. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I've been advised not put film in checked luggage. I've had no problems with carry on, but one of my students said she checked her film and it was fogged with a wild zigzag pattern that looked like a laser hit it. it was color, processed at a lab, and I suspect the film processor, but we'll never know.
     
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  15. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    Cargo and luggage scanners are very powerful and will wreck film. I know this from painful personal experience. Carry on scanners in first world counties won't. I know this from paranoid personal experience, as in I could detect no b+f increase, after no less than six scans on film 100-1600 iso. Now you could insist that the carry on scanner does something, and I couldn't argue that, but I couldn't find it with my densitometer, and I'm pretty anal about negs.
     
  16. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    A sine or zigzag pattern is typical of X-ray damage.
     
  17. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    I beieve that the warning against metal objects concerrns the fact that such objects can leave a shadow. A shadow can be more troblesome than an overall amount of fog.

    Remember that X-ray damage is cumulative. While a single exposure may not cause any noticeable fog, several exposures may cause trouble. It may better to buy film on location rather than bring it with you. You half the cumulative exposure this way.
     
  18. Peter Simpson

    Peter Simpson Member

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    The last time I flew out of Boston Logan (April 2012), there was a small sign (which I almost didn't read) warning that the X-ray scanners at *this* checkpoint (sadly, I can't remember which terminal) *were* powerful enough to fog film, and that NO film should be sent through them. I asked for and received a hand inspection of the four rolls I had in a zip-lock. Mailed the exposed rolls home from Key West.
     
  19. Ambar

    Ambar Member

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    I'm about to travel to the US and buy some film, chemistry and paper to bring over to Brazil. I always get worried about these things because it's my 6-months-worth of photography stash.
    Haven't had a problem with any yet film yet, but I started to worry about paper. I understand the sensitivity of paper is far below that of film but then again it is a lot harder to carry paper as a carry-on item (anything 11x14 or bigger really won't fit a typical carry-on with out potentially damaging the paper inside).
    Should I worry about sending it through checked luggage? Also, in a airport related question, has anybody had any problem checking luggage (not carry-on) with sealed B&W chemistry inside?
     
  20. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    I did a lap of half the globe that involved 14 xrayings (carry-on) of my film, including once to get into Tiananmen Square. No effect whatsoever.

    Reportedly the checked luggage scanners are higher power and I deliberately left a blank roll of Ektar in my checked luggage for a couple of flights to test that. No effect there either, but it was only Guangzhou-Melbourne-Adelaide and the both Melbourne and Guangzhou have very modern facilities and therefore probably low-power imaging scanners.
     
  21. BardParker

    BardParker Member

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    I just returned from a 2 week trip to London, Paris, and Rome. The only place I was denied a hand check for film was at St Pancras Train station in London for the Eurostar to Paris. On the other hand the airports all nicely agreed to hand check the film in my carry on bag; DFW, Paris-De Gaulle, Rome-Fiumicino, and Chicago-Ohare. :smile:

    I had all the 120 rolls unboxed and in ziplock bags....

    Kent
     
  22. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    For the CT scanners in use in most of the world it is not really a matter of "reportedly" but more of IF USED. The modern CT scanners are two-stage. First scan is a regular x-ray about the same as that used for the carryon bags. If there is reason for additional scanning, the CT is used and that is what ruins the film. So film in carryon bags is OK, but film in checked baggage is a crap shoot.
     
  23. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    iirc you need about 5+ passes to have visible xray fogging start to show up from normal carry on scanners from film. Each pass obviously does damage, otherwise no amount of passes would ever affect it.

    As for checked baggage scan.. every roll with a sine wave on it I've gotten from others has gone through checked baggage.
     
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    More than that, I think. If I recall the research correctly, 5 passes results in the most miniscule, barely measurable effect on fast film. I think the number for visually noticable fogging was closer to 14 passes.
     
  25. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Well, I got nothing visible at all on Portra 400 after 14 passes. Maybe you could measure it with a densitometer compared to a control roll but I cannot spot any difference in a side-by-side comparison.
     
  26. Stephen Schoof

    Stephen Schoof Member

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    Thanks for the input, everyone. I was fairly convinced there was nothing to worry about, then I read about the 'metal' aspect, and got to wondering. Now I again feel better about it all. I'll report the final outcome next week.