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How many X-ray scannings have you gone through without problems?
Old 11-28-2009   #1
zerobuttons
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How many X-ray scannings have you gone through without problems?

There are quite a few threads here about how careful or not one should be about bringing films through x-ray scanners. Because some people seem to get emotionally involved when this question comes up, I want to start a thread that tries to get hold of facts through experiences.

The question goes like this:
How many x-ray scans are the maximum you have experienced to take films through without seeing any kind of fogging or such?
Please let us know the following:
1) Places you went through
2) Which film(s)
3) Year

Let me know if anyone here can think of any other useful bits of information that should be there.
Oh - and please hold back all the answers regarding how many scannings you went through and then your films DID fog. They will not help, since it is impossible to tell at which point the problem ocurred.
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Old 11-28-2009   #2
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London-Goa-Bombay-Goa-Bahrein (or possibly Dubai, I forget). Then back to London. 1999 or so. No problems, even with a test roll of Delta 3200.

Cheers,

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Old 11-28-2009   #3
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Let me be the first to answer my own posting [EDIT: Roger beat me to it]:

1) Copenhagen Airport + Entrance at Palazzo Pitti (Firenze) + Peretola Airport (Firenze)
2) 20 pcs. of Kodak Ektar 100
3) September 2009

1) Entrance at Palazzo Pitti (Firenze) + Peretola Airport (Firenze)
2) 4 pcs. of Kodak Portra 160 VC
3) September 2009

Last edited by zerobuttons : 11-28-2009 at 12:33.
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Old 11-28-2009   #4
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Darn, you were quick there, Roger.
Oh - and I mean on the keyboard, not necessarily traveling.....
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Old 11-28-2009   #5
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I was wondering the same thing... I have been traveling in Europe and have around 60 exposed rolls of film. ISO 100+400 speed black and white and some slide film ISO 100-200. I pushed some of the ISO 400 BW film up to 1600. Should I be worried about one x-ray (paris to boston)? Can I check the film in the baggage?
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Old 11-28-2009   #6
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From Germany to New Zealand in 2009 (via Dubai, Bangkok and Sydney + Christchurch - guys at New Zealand are VERY careful what BIO stuff you bring in - they scan all the luggage again) and back - the films were scanned 9 times all together!!! I did not know I will be forced to get out of the plane at every stop and re-check even if we did not change the plane or company (Emirates)

Important part: my fastest film was Kodak Porta400VC and Provia 400X - and no problem.

EDIT: my film was of course in the CARRY-ON luggage.
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Old 11-28-2009   #7
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I think I had some ISO 100 and 400 X-rayed about 8-9 times with (i think) no ill effects.
Also had some Portra 160 and a couple of rolls of Velvia. June 2007


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Cruise ship entrance a couple of times
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Old 11-28-2009   #8
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Went to London on the Eurostar, from Brussels. A return trip a week later. No problems, negatives and scans clear as ever.

The English were VERY thorough and put my gear through the X-ray machine twice.

I carried:
Kodacolor 200
Kodacolor 400
Fomapan 200
Efke 100

Brought all these from home and took them back the same route. On the Eurostar, it's all carry-on luggage, but no hand held scanners.
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Old 11-28-2009   #9
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DO NOT put film in checked luggage.

I've put 800, 400 and 100 film through six carryon scans with no impact that I could see.
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Old 11-28-2009   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerobuttons View Post
How many x-ray scans are the maximum you have experienced to take films through without seeing any kind of fogging or such?
Please let us know the following:
1) Places you went through
2) Which film(s)
3) Year
I guess the maximum number of passes for a roll was: Berlin checkin, Moscow stopover, Tashkent customs control, Tashkent checkin, Andijan/Osh overland customs control, 7 passes through the bag scanner at the national archive in Almaty, Chernyaevka/G'isht-Ko'prik overland customs control, Tashkent checkin, Urgench checkin, Tashkent airport customs control, Tashkent checkin, Istanbul stopover, Berlin checkin again, Riga stopover, Tashkent customs control, an uncounted number of scans in the bag scanner at the national archive in Tashkent, Bukhara checkin, Tashkent checkin, Moscow stopover. All in 2007. I don't believe in fogging from hand-baggage scanners.

I've had exactly one roll of fogged film so far, and that was one I forgot in my luggage that went through a check-in baggage scanner in Tashkent in 2001. All other rolls from that year were fine.
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Old 11-28-2009   #11
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I've put one roll of Tri-X developed at 1600 in my check in baggage, had a white band through the middle. Also had two rolls of Neopan 1600 go through carry on scanners in Melbourne and then in Taiwan, can't see any fogging there.
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Old 11-28-2009   #12
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Anecdotal evidence proves nothing. I used to travel for a living, I took film through domestic airports twice a week every week for seven years. So what?

The research has been done (for the US) and it is online and available. Don't want to believe it? Then don't.

http://www.i3a.org/advocacy/itip/
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Old 11-28-2009   #13
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Fuji Neopan 1600, four times scanned Melbourne-Christchurch-Melbourne. No problem, of course. Agree with bmattock. And see this:

http://www.underwaterphotos.com/Filmsafe.htm
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My Little Nightmare Story
Old 11-28-2009   #14
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My Little Nightmare Story

Last May, I flew down to photograph my Nephew's college graduation (Florida State). Did the usual JFK shuffle (in my case: F Train to Jay Street-Boro Hall; A Train to Far Rockaway; AirTrain to my Delta flight. Except this time there was a crazy long line going through Security, and suddenly my time-cushion started bleeding air badly.

Normally, I have all film hand-inspected, and I've had no problem with TSA personnel in the past with this. My big nemesis this time was the clock. At precisely the moment when I decide to roll the dice in the name of saving time by letting my film go through The Machine, the airport P.A. rings out, calling my mane for my about-to-depart flight. Mild external panic, crazy-all-hands-on-deck internal panic. Can I jump the queue? Can anyone tell me yes/no? No help from anyone, but finally a TSA guy shows a bit of pity and tries to hurry things up. I struggle getting my belt and shoes back on, grab film, camera bag and duffel and beat a mad path to a disturbingly-quiet boarding gate.

Missed it.

I've been late for school, late for dinner, late for my second date with galfriend (oddly, she was upset for reasons having nothing to do with my lateness that afternoon...), but I've never missed an intercity train or any flight. I was livid for all of three minutes, then pulled myself together and went to the Delta desk, where I was instructed to head upstairs to see if someone else might help out. Lucky me: while one woman informed me that the only alternate flight she could book me on was leaving within an houre from LaGuardia ("Good luck with that" I muttered to myself...any exec chopper on standby to whisk me there?), her colleague, obviously a Delta veteran, worked the computer quickly to hook me up for a direct flight to Orlando (my original flight was connecting in Memphis), but I had to hurry. I had enough time to catch a quick bite, then dash to the gate. This obviously meant that I only had time to have my film subjected to a second X-ray pass, which I wasn't crazy about at all, but I felt I had no choice. The dice I was rolling looked a lot bigger now, Snake Eyes a distinct possibility.

Got to Orlando (late), Nephew picked me up, tired but cheerful, even though we had a 125-mile drive. Somehow woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, took a lot of snaps, partied a lot with family that night, awoke sometime before noon the next day, showered, shaved, and got shoved off to the airport (with enough time to have the exposed film hand-inspected), and got home with relatively little drama.

Film got processed (tally: two rolls Portra 160; three rolls Portra 400; one roll Ektar 100; eight rolls BW400NC; one roll Kodachrome 64 [MIA before I even got to shoot it ]) I have to say that I think the double-dose X-ray did something that might have screwed with the contrast of the color film just a little, but I can't swear by it, and it might just be latent paranoia on my part. But I still believe that the less exposure film has to this stuff the better.

At least people liked the prints.


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Old 11-29-2009   #15
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I put my film in Hakuba x-ray bags, doubled up, and have had them x-rayed this way up to six times without any damage to the negatives whatsoever.
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Old 11-29-2009   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amateriat View Post
Film got processed (tally: two rolls Portra 160; three rolls Portra 400; one roll Ektar 100; eight rolls BW400NC; one roll Kodachrome 64 [MIA before I even got to shoot it ]) I have to say that I think the double-dose X-ray did something that might have screwed with the contrast of the color film just a little, but I can't swear by it, and it might just be latent paranoia on my part. But I still believe that the less exposure film has to this stuff the better.

- Barrett
Dear Barrett,

Yes, it is. X-ray damage, when you see it, is quite recognizable (I've only seen it very seldom, and then, normally as a result of deliberate damage inflicted to provide a reference). Poor storage, poor processing and light strike account for most of the things most people claim as 'X-ray damage' -- which is indeed the disadvantage of anecdotal information.

As for 'the research has been done', I didn't see much in the way of methodology in the linked information, and 'all black and white' doesn't tie in with Ilford's research.

Oh: and commiserations with the horror story!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 11-29-2009   #18
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Bill, this is just a conversation thread, an invitation to participate.

However, thanks for the link.

BTW, en route to Barcelona, Spain, my film got scanned in Chicago and London. And on the way back, since it was shortly after the March 11, 2004 bombings, it got scanned twice in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid) and once again in London.

Film was mostly Ektachrome 100, 200 and 400, with some K64 and one Kodak ISO 1600 that I had hand-checked at all times (BTW, never had any trouble with it). Also, two rolls of Scala ISO 200. There was no problem whatsoever with the film.

I also had a T-Max ISO 3200 accidentally X-rayed in Austin, TX (I mistook it for a roll of T-Max ISO 400). Neither the prints nor the negatives showed any damage, though I must admit to a certain loss of contrast (the film looked like overexposed). I may have lost some detail in the midtones, but nothing that couldn't be corrected with professional printing or Photoshop.

There goes my anecdotal evidence! Have a nice day!
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Old 11-29-2009   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottwallick View Post
I put my film in Hakuba x-ray bags, doubled up, and have had them x-rayed this way up to six times without any damage to the negatives whatsoever.
Scott, do you know if security staffers have ever opened the x-ray bags? I mentioned in an earlier thread that I'm really dubious that they let a bag that's opaque to scanning pass through without opening and checking the contents, for obvious reasons. So, if they don't open x-ray bags, maybe the bags aren't that opaque.

Roger: I'm curious, too, about that reference to b&w. I've had the piece Bill cited stashed away for some time here and agree that some words about their methodology would be useful. Perhaps revealing the methodology veers into touchy security areas. I dunno. I don't think we know, for a fact, if airport personnel can increase or decrease the power or a scan. Or the impact of variances due to age, condition, operator skills, or the placement of the film in relation to other items in the luggage.

We're not going to learn any of this from security personnel since presumably they've signed a security agreement.
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Old 11-29-2009   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
As for 'the research has been done', I didn't see much in the way of methodology in the linked information, and 'all black and white' doesn't tie in with Ilford's research.
The International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) is a non-profit organization whose members include virtually all of the major photographic film manufacturers. Members include Kodak, Fuji, and Agfa-Gevaert, among others. As far as I know, Ilford is not a member.

I3A says this about their standards:

Quote:
I3A’s status as an accredited Standards Developing Organization enables us to take the formal approach when it’s called for. As secretariat for the International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee 42 (ISO/TC42) on Photography and administrator for the USA Technical Advisory Group for this committee, I3A is well qualified in the world of formal international standardization.
The I3A's methodology is online and available. The I3A did the testing at TSA facilities, using TSA equipment, at the request of the TSA. The TSA used the results to formulate their own recommendations:

http://www.i3a.org/advocacy/itip/

Quote:
Rapiscan devices are the machines used to x-ray your carry on baggage. The purpose of the I3A test was to determine the maximum x-ray exposure high-speed photographic film products can tolerate before functional damage occurs. This information was requested by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in an effort to determine the optimum dosage to minimize damage to film products yet maintain the ability to recognize the contents and provide an adequate level of security.

Based on the testing completed at the TSA Training Center in Atlantic City, I3A recommends a limit of five passes through the carry-on baggage security checkpoint systems for all color negative and reversal film, including single-use cameras, up to and including ISO 800 speed film. While in some cases it may take a greater number of passes to cause damage to film, we believe that a five-pass limit allows an appropriate margin for safety. If lower-speed film, ISO 100 through 800, is being carried on extended trips, and it is necessary to submit the film through security screeners more than five times, travelers should request hand inspection of their film. I3A further recommends that all film with an ISO rating greater than 800, black and white films, motion picture films, and films used for medical imaging ALWAYS be hand inspected. FAA regulations support the request by passengers for hand inspection of film.
Here is the methodology used:

Quote:
Testing procedures:
1) All films were placed in trays and transported through the scanner for 1, 5, 10, 25, 50
and 100 passes. Films were placed on trays in a manner indicative of how a typical
traveler might pack their carry-on bags.
2) One roll from each category was held out as a reference.
3) After scanning was complete film samples were taken by, or sent to their respective
companies for processing and evaluation.
Evaluation procedures.
Each company processed, examined, and in some cases printed the test film. Examination
included the following criteria.
1) Dmin (base fog) increase for negative film.
a) Measured by transmission densitometer as well as visually inspected
2) Dmax decrease for reversal film.
a) Measured by transmission densitometer as well as visually inspected
3) Midtone gray density change.
4) Banding, and/or other uneven density deviations.
Selected films were printed to determine at what Dmin increase a functional and
unacceptable degradation of the image would occur.
Now, I have no doubt that the results others may have in other nations may well be different. I have no information on that. The information above applies only to x-ray scanners located at airports in the USA to the best of my knowledge.

I have suggested in the past, and continue to state, that the research has indeed been done - by the industry itself, and for the benefit of consumers as well as the US government (to aid them in developing their own recommended best practices and at their request). This represents the best data available.

It it in any case superior to anecdotal evidence.

Last couple of points:

As to lead bags (mentioned in several posts above), the TSA does not recommend their use in carry-on bags, and the high-energy scanners used in checked bags won't stop the utter destruction of any film they touch. Feel free to believe anecdotal reports of non-damage as desired. Note that those who encourage their use will not reimburse you for any film damaged if you follow their advice, now will they?

Regarding x-ray damage; x-rays damage undeveloped film. Period. The only question is how much they damage the film. If the damage is undetectable by the human eye, then one may well choose to accept the results. It is for all intents and purposes undamaged. However, this is not the same as saying that x-rays do not damage film; they do.

Regarding film in checked bags; not every single checked bag is scanned. Those that are may still miss things in the bag itself, and thus checked undeveloped film may escape damage. However, if the scanner hits the film, it is toast.

I do not know how else to provide the information. I fail to understand why anyone would continue to solicit anecdotal advice when the research has, indeed, been done and made available in a completely transparent manner.

However, people should feel free to do just as they wish, as always.
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Old 11-29-2009   #21
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Bill, thanks for the methodology info.

Some folks are just wired to give equal weight to anecdotal evidence as well as the results of a well-crafted objective study.
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Old 11-29-2009   #22
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I go into Ft Bragg quite often. They have an X Ray machine that scans vehicles; mainly trucks. It's like a drive through, you pull up to a line, stop, get out & go sit in a secure location. I've lost two rolls of film forgetting to take them out of my truck. The last roll I lost was a cheap roll of drugstore type film so not a huge loss. The 1st was a roll still in camera. When I remembered I left the film in the truck I took it out to look at the film leader being it was an unshot roll, & the emulsion was completely gone. I pulled out the whole roll and the light brown emulsion was gone all the way through. I could see clearly through the whole roll of film. One of the guards told us that x ray device can scan through 15 inch thick metal. They scan all the U-hauls going in so if you have someone in your family thats in the service ever get stationed at Ft. Bragg if they shoot film tell them to pack it in a carry on & remember to take it out of the truck.
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Old 11-29-2009   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wgerrard View Post
Bill, thanks for the methodology info.

Some folks are just wired to give equal weight to anecdotal evidence as well as the results of a well-crafted objective study.
Understood. Or more precisely, I get it but I do not understand it. The temptation is high to refer to such people's intelligence in terms unkind.
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Old 11-29-2009   #24
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Baggage x ray is 100 times stronger and is guaranteed to ruin your film.
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Old 11-29-2009   #25
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December 2007/January 2008 trip to Thailand/Laos

Dozen rolls of Provia 100F, dozen rolls of Provia 400X, three rolls of Fuji Superia 1600, all carried in hand luggage.

x-ray check 1 (departure @ Narita Airport, Tokyo) -> x-ray check 2 (arrival @ Bangkok airport) -> x-ray check 3 (departure @ Bangkok Airport) - x-ray check 4 & 5 (departure @ Vientiane Domestic Airport), x-ray check 6 (departure @ Vientiane International Airport), x-ray check 7 (arrival @ Bangkok Airport), x-ray check 8 (departure @ Bangkok Airport).

The Fuji Superia 1600 got fried, but the Provia 400X and 100F was fine. I suspect the ancient x-ray equipment at the Vientiane Domestic Airport caused the damage. These days I don't carry anything faster than ISO 400.
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Old 11-29-2009   #26
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June/July 2007 trip, Sydney -> Auckland -> Cook Islands -> Tahiti -> Easter Island -> Santiago -> Buenos Aires -> Salta and return... 14 scans (carry-on) and no film showed any problems.

The damage may well be there, but I didn't see it.

Films astia 100, fortia 50, provia 400, natura 1600.

Last edited by fergus : 11-29-2009 at 20:26. Reason: typo
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Old 11-29-2009   #27
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I took Arista Premium 100 and 400 and Delta 3200 through these airports in August-September 2009 and the films got scanned as follows:

Adelaide
Sydney
Johannesburg
Victoria Falls
Johannesburg
Zurich (scanned on arrival)
Zurich
Vienna
Zurich
Hong Kong
Sydney

The negatives look fine to me - but I have not sensitometrically tested the speed or base fog, nor did I shoot and retain a test roll from the batches at home to examine grain size and pattern. I have had medium and slow films scanned a lot more times than this too, without problems.

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Old 12-02-2009   #28
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Thank you to all who participated so far in this thread. It is nice to hear something other than the usual horror stories - and Barret´s wasn´t one of the usual ones...
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Old 12-02-2009   #29
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I've lost track of the number of scans I've put film through on trips. I don't worry about it any more.
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Old 12-02-2009   #30
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I did eleven flights ( and scans on each one ) in the space of six weeks before returning home and had no issues with any of my Delta 100, TriX and CN400....but then I didn't have any high ISO stuff.

I may have been lucky?
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Old 12-02-2009   #31
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Never had a problem in many years travel ( as carry on board ) I still sometimes take a few films, but now its so much more convenient to us CF cards - on foreign trips.
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Old 12-02-2009   #32
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I did a trip on 2007 where my film got scanned at least 8 times. Twice on the same machine leaving Beijing Airport, because something caught the inspector's eye the first time. No damage to film, mostly Fujicolor 200, but also Fujicolor 1600 and some Kodak 400 CN. No problems with any of the rolls.
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Old 06-04-2010   #33
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Since I´m the thread starter I ought to post my own latest observations:
Travelling in China in May 2010, Copenhagen->Beijing->Xi´an->Guilin->Yangshuo/Hangzhou/Suzhou->Shanghai.

20 pcs. of Kodak Ektar 100 were scanned at least 6 times - a few of them 9 times, 2 pcs. of Fuji Superia 400 were scanned 2 times.
I don´t find any loss of contrast in any of the films.

In China there are X-ray scanners in all kinds of places where you wouldn´t expect to find them in Europe. That is probably worth taking into consideration if you plan on travelling in China with very sensitive film.....
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Old 06-04-2010   #34
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I had some film frosted in Peru. The women scanning was stopped by her co-worker fliting with her while I watched my camera get cooked for 3 minutes.
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Old 06-04-2010   #35
craygc
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Most so far is 16x with 400 speed B&W film. This has happened because Ive moved a freezer full of film from Beijing to Bangkok then later to Singapore, all as carry on, as a starting point. Then Ive carried a spare roll and a loaded Fuji Klasse W on business trips without using it. Haven't seen a problem
  1. Beijing
  2. Shanghai
  3. Bangkok (x2)
  4. Singapore (4x)
  5. Penang (Malaysia)
  6. LAX
  7. Las Vegas
  8. San Fransisco
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Macau
  11. Jakarta (2x)
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Old 06-04-2010   #36
Mr. Charlie
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My film hasn't had any problem, but then I've got a 43 pound tumor growing on my neck and I just sprouted a vestigial tail.
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Old 06-04-2010   #37
jpberger
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I could be mistaken, but doesn't riding in an airplane expose your film to more x-ray/gamma radiation than the carry on baggage scanner?

Most places out side of north America will not hand inspect film-- they don't have the machines to read nitrate swabs or the extra staff to run it. One issue I ran into in Mexico city was that my backpack with 200 rolls of 35mm looked a lot like a bag of blasting caps or something to the poor woman who was running the customs scanner solo at 5am. The look on her face was something else again -- so make sure you have your film in clear bags and show it to the folks before you stick it in the scanner.
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Old 06-04-2010   #38
Rob-F
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My experiences:

Trip A: Tri-X, Delta 400, Delta 100, Plus-X, FP-4

0. St. Louis to Atlanta--hand inspection, doesn't count.
1. Atlanta to Paris. Can't remember if hand inspected or X-rayed.
2. Paris (CDG) to Marseilles. X-rayed.
(We drove back to Paris--no X-rays.)
3. Paris to Helsinki. X-Rayed.
4. Helsinki to Paris. X-rayed.
5. Paris to Atlanta. X-rayed.
6. Atlanta to St. Louis. X-Rayed because we were in a rush.

So, 5 or 6 X-rays exposures, no visible damage.

Trip B:

St. Louis to Houston, forget to get hand inspection; one roll of Delta 3200 was in with the Tri-X. Houston to St. Louis, forgot again!

No visible Damage.

St. Louis to ?: Film in Domke X-ray bag triggered a hand inspection. Return trip: I had put the X-Ray bag packed against the bottom of the bag, where it fit best. It was against the frame and roller parts, and thus was presented edge-on to the X-ray. This did not trigger a hand inspection. The bag may have looked to the X-ray person like it was part of the bag frame or mechanism. Or else they saw what it was and were not concerned with it. No damage.

A museum of Judaism on the right bank in Paris wanted to X-ray my camera bag, a Domke F-5XB. Knowing I was going to exceed the five exposure limit, I asked for and got a hand inspection.

These are the experiences I remember.

The advice of the organization in the link that was provided, the i3??, to limit to five exposures, is consistent with information I found on a Kodak website. Looks like five is a good number to go by.
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Old 06-21-2010   #39
Leigh Youdale
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This thread's a bit old now, but this last week I did a trip in Oz and while at security at Sydney Domestic Airport found myself standing near a Security Supervisor. Although this might not hold true for all airports I asked him if they could adjust the intensity of the scan for carry on luggage as is often alleged in RFF. He said no, they couldn't. They would do two or three passes if something attracted their attention and if still not satisfied would ask the traveller to open their bags. But he did tell me something I didn't know before. He said some of the machines were up to 20 years old. Technicians from the government department that handles air safety come periodically to calibrate the machines. They, and only they, can adjust the machines. Then he told me that these techies do, on a random basis, tweak the intensity of some of the scanners. They never tell the security staff which ones and it's a strategy to increase the surveillance periodically on random machines so that a careful observer (read "threat") would have difficulty in detecting which were the less sensitive machines over any given time period. How much "extra" they give the scanner, he claimed not to know. FWIW.
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Old 06-21-2010   #40
cnphoto
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2008 - Sydney, Singapore, Malaysia, Malaysia, Singapore, Darwin, Sydney

ISO 100-400 slide and B&W film, hand checked 50% of the time - had no issues for the 4 or 5 times they where scanned.

Delta 3200 and Neopan 1600 had 1 or 2 scans (i hand checked except for once or twice on the final leg home - too tired to be bothered at 3AM in the morning) - also, no issues there.

Interesting about scanners and increasing the intensity Leigh.
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Last edited by cnphoto : 06-21-2010 at 17:38.
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