Don't send your analog film through the carry on baggage scanners!

Submitted by John on Thu, 01/30/2020 - 12:34

Kodak wants you to know that the TSA has some new CT scanners for screening carry on luggage that appear to be more destructive to analog film than the earlier X-ray based scanners were. This new article from dpreview has the details:

Kodak describes the results as 'not good,' saying: 'Just 1 scan shows significant film fogging, leading to smoky blacks and loss of shadow detail. This will be more significant for higher speed films. Although it’s possible that a roll of 100 speed film would show less degradation, we strongly recommend against putting any unexposed or exposed but unprocessed film through a CT Scanner.'


In order to avoid this, Kodak tells photographers to keep their film products in a carry-on bag and to request that TSA agents hand-check the film rather than sending it through the CT scanner. The TSA confirmed to Kodak that its agents are trained in hand-checking movie film, roll film and single-use film cameras.

So, I read this and thought, the TSA has trained their agents to hand check roll film, great. But what about sheet film!

First I tried to look up and find anything on the TSA website itself. Nothing. Then I did a google search or two and still didn't find much. There is a post on Michael E. Gordon's blog about flying with large format sheet film that has a horror story and some advice about what Michael does when he flys with the TSA. But that article was from 2012 so it doesn't deal with the new scanners. Also some of the resources he links to in that article are missing from the TSA site.

So I reached out to the TSA today to see if they have any recent guidance on traveling with sheet film. I'll let you know when/if I get a response. (UPDATE: They responded!)

(If you are curious about Kodak's previous research on flying with film and the effects of airport baggage scanners on film, both print film and movie film, check out their 2003 Technical Information Bulletin Baggage X-ray Scanning Effects on Film)