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Thread: Airports and 4x5 film

  1. #1
    If it works, it's out of date.
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Airports and 4x5 film

    In a few short weeks I'm off on a month long vacation. I'm bringing my 4x5 and as much film as I can muster together (six 50-sheet boxes and a large pile of 120 film) with me. The film is going in my carry on, NOT in my checked baggage.

    The question is: for those of you who have flown recently with boxes of 4x5 film, what have your experiences with the TSA been? I won't be asking for hand inspections, I have no problem with them using the passenger carry on x-ray machine--all the film is ISO 100--but if they pull my bag aside I can not have them open the sheet film boxes. Are the agents aware why these film boxes can't be opened?

    Further, would they have a reaction to large format lenses? I'll also have those in my carry on. Will they have a problem with the lenses on 5 1/2" Sinar-type metal lens boards?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    I'm sure the lenses won't be a problem. Might be best to travel with the apertures and shutter open, I've often had security folks try to look through my lenses to make sure there's nothing in there that's not supposed to be.

    I've never had a problem with rollfilm but will travel for the first time with 4x5 very soon. First on a domestic trip (in the U.S.) and later this year internationally.

    I'm curious to hear others respond to your question about film...anyone?

  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2006
    grand rapids

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    I've only had issues with film when I asked for a hand inspection, usually resulting in me saying fuck it and putting it through the machine because they want to open the boxes. Them checking your bag is so random now and you won't have a problem with your lenses. At least I never have. For hand inspections I've had them just swab the boxes (both sealed and unsealed) and I've had them make me set up my changing bag to open the boxes and put their fingerprints on the film.

  4. #4
    hacker extraordinaire
    Join Date
    May 2009
    North Carolina

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    I don't stress out about the xray machines, but I don't send sheet film through the airport at all, because I don't trust TSA not to open the boxes. There was a guy on APUG earlier this year complaining about dozens of sheets from his expensive trip that were ruined because TSA opened the box, even though he had the box clearly marked and clearly verbally told them not to open the boxes. When I travel with sheet film I mail any exposed sheets USPS.

    I don't really fly anymore anyway ever since they made it illegal for people with dignity, so really it's quite a relief.
    Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
    --A=B by Petkovšek et. al.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Carmel Valley, CA

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    Fuji Quickloads and hand inspection. Pat down and explosives sniffing, yes-- but my film isn't going to see the cumulative effects of getting X-rayed, either.

  6. #6
    Louie Powell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Saratoga Springs, NY

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    Wife and I travel to the West Coast once each year to visit our son, and I always take the LF kit. The camera, lenses, holders, etc are in a backpack (on my back), and I take a 50 sheet box of film and three empty film boxes to bring back the exposed film - this all goes in a small 'camera bag' that is my 'personal item' (in TSA terms). The tripod goes either into a checked suitcase, or else a canvas tripod bag that is checked.

    I always simply put the bags on the belt and let them go through the normal carry-on scanning process, and the TSA have simply waved me through with no hassle or question - with two exceptions. In one case, they opened the backpack for a 'wipe test'. The didn't take anything out - just wiped the wand across the holders. In the other case, the inspector asked to open the backpack, but then we had a long conversation about photography, so I don't know whether he had concern about what I was carrying, or that he simply was another photographer who wanted to chat.

    I always take a changing bag (in the 'personal item' bag) in case the inspectors want to open holders or the film boxes, but the only time I've actually had to use it has been when the hotel bathroom had a window and couldn't be converted to a makeshift darkroom for changing film.

    So my bottom line is that taking LF equipment and film is NOT a problem. Frankly, my fountain pen has wn more strange looks than my LF equipment and film.

    I have not taken my LF kit outside the US. The TSA runs the show domestically, but when are outside the US the rules often are different.

  7. #7
    Joshua Tree, California
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    I've had it with flying; if I can't drive it I'm not going.

    The Neo-Facist regime is becoming way too intrusive.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Asheville NC

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    If possible, do yourself the favor and have the film Fedex'ed to your hotel. Let the hotel know to expect the shipment and they will turn it over to you at check-in. (Yeah, Fedex might X-Ray it, but they will not open it). When you are ready to return, Fedex the film back to your home.

    For years I use to fly ever other week from the midwest to LA. I simply drive now as, like so many other posters, just do not want to subject myself to the TSA's "security."
    Bill McMannis

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Morristown, NJ USA

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kelsey View Post
    I've had it with flying; if I can't drive it I'm not going.

    The Neo-Facist regime is becoming way too intrusive.
    I agree 100% with Ed. But I have to fly a half-dozen times or so each year for business.

    The good news is I will be retiring before the cumulative x-rays they are now exposing us to will do me any serious harm... unless of course they pump the power levels up a few notches.

    After travelling several hundred business flights over the course of my career I am glad I am not starting out now. Just the increase in cosmic radiation exposure alone over the several thousand hours I've been at 30,000 feet is enough for me.

    But off the soap box and back to film: I have not had any trouble so far at American airports and I carry sheet film and 120 roll all the time. Have for many years.

    But in Canada I routinely have trouble. For details see my thread here from several months ago titled: Next Time to Quebec I Think I'm Gonna Drive. Quebec security is the only airport security I've ever been through where they wanted to pull darkslides on film holders with film in it and open 120 rolls. Unfortunately the 120 rolls I had were packaged in aluminum foil and they wanted to open them all up even though they had already gone through the x-ray scanner. I had to beg them not to do this and they finally agreed to open only one. Thankfully they did not insist on unrolling it once they saw what was inside. But who knows... that may be coming up on my next trip.

    Anyway my suggestion is to place all film in a separate plastic tub at the security checkpoint and send it through the carry-on x-ray machine. I have not had any damage to unexposed films with up to 4-scans. But I don't recommend putting the film in with your cameras. My MF/LF cameras always get multiple scans and sometimes they even pick up the pack and carry it back to the input conveyor and send it through again. Then they always make me open it up and take everything out anyway. Such a routine now that I'm used to it and expect it.

    And never, absolutely never, put any film in with checked baggage. These bags often get x-rayed with seriously high doses.

    Someone else suggested mailing exposed films back to yourself and this is probably a good idea. I did this from Toronto last year and sent it UPS Ground. If you need to fill out a declaration form be sure to label it "Personal Effects" otherwise you will get charged import duty. And I label the outside "Photography Film: Do Not X-Ray." Whether this helps or not I can't really say but so far I've not had any damage.

    All I have to offer. Check the other thread I mentioned and there are several additional threads here from last year that cover the same topic.

    Cheers and best of luck with your trip.

    Bob G.
    All natural images are analog. But the retina converts them to digital on their way to the brain.

  10. #10

    Re: Airports and 4x5 film

    Last year I had film come back from the lab with what I *think* was x-ray damage. Since then, I have requested hand check for all my film, including sheet-film boxes and loaded film holders. I have not had any problems with TSA. I always have a printout from TSA's website that advises hand check for sheet film and large format film; sometimes the printout is helpful, and other times it is unnecessary.

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