View Full Version : TSA and View Cameras

Peter Lewin
18-Dec-2017, 14:41
Not the usual question about x-rays, film, and fogging. I'm looking for experiences with domestic flights and TSA scanning of equipment. I'm considering taking my folded Canham DLC^2 with a single lens, a small travel tripod, and the usual holders, a box of film (an open box, since I now buy film in 100 sheet boxes and will repack some in a used 25-sheet box), and a Pentax digital meter. I imagine almost everything will look unusual to the carry-on scanner, and that the TSA staff will be unfamiliar with what it is. Have any of you had experience? Do they ask you to unpack everything, is there a big hassle or a smooth boarding? (We did have a thread on tripods, it seemed the consensus was that they were OK, and as a travel tripod, mine is pretty compact). This is domestic USA only (Newark-Austin TX). Thanks.

Steve Goldstein
18-Dec-2017, 14:51
I've never traveled with my Canham MQC, also metal like your DLC, but have made several trips from Boston to Colorado and California with a Nagaoka or Shen-Hao 4x5, Pentax digital meter, several lenses, and boxed film and have never been asked to unpack anything, or even to run it through twice. In fact, a TSA screener at the Grand Junction, CO airport (5 gates) looked up from the X-ray machine and asked me "Is that one of those old-fashioned cameras?". I'm sure she was an outlier, just as I'm sure others have had different experiences.

One thing I always do is keep the film in a separate zip-closure bag and run it through in its own tray, just in case they decide to run the camera-laden pack through a second or third time.

18-Dec-2017, 14:57
A couple of summers ago I took a 3-1/4x4-1/4 Graflex SLR, two roll backs, a bunch of film holders and a couple of lenses on a flight. Going, the TSA didn't even notice. Coming back I got a very cursory search from an amused TSA guy who was more interested in the camera than anything else.

After having taken a long trip a while ago where I ran a hundred or two sheets of 4x5 Ektachrome 100 through six successive xray machines in Europe, and nothing at all happened to the images, I don't worry about the x-ray machines any more. Probably that will bite me some day.

Leszek Vogt
18-Dec-2017, 15:06
Peter, unless you arrive at ample time before the flight, I'd just let them look at it on the screen and be done with it. The camera contains no electronics, so that should go smoothly. They may ask about the light meter (?). If you do have time and want the film to bypass the scanner....you could ask for hand inspection....hoping you don't come across someone who'd want to open the film box or film holders. I'm assuming you should find someone knowledgeable-enough at a huge facility like Newark. Smaller airports may not have similar expertise. Good luck.


18-Dec-2017, 15:07
I took my 4x5, three lenses, film holders, light meter, tripod, etc. in a carry-on backpack with me on a recent trip. Ran it through the TSA scanner with no questions asked. I wouldn't expect you to have a problem

Peter Lewin
18-Dec-2017, 16:17
Thanks everyone! Looks like I will do this without over-thinking it.

Eric Woodbury
18-Dec-2017, 16:37
If they don't see wires and batteries, you'll be fine.

18-Dec-2017, 16:43
I've flown with a Canham MQC,the Canham 6x17 rollfilm back and all the usual stuff in a backpack, run it through their scanner and not the slightest issue. Never had to unpack or show it. I travel with my Gitzo in the checked baggage though.

Roger Thoms
18-Dec-2017, 18:13
If they don't see wires and batteries, you'll be fine.

Yep, between my 2 light meters with their 9v batteries and my Speed Graphic with all its mechanisms, that definitely got tsa's attention. Just meant a hand inspection and I was on my way. Also had the same thing happen with my Rolleiflex and a light meter with a 9v battery. Same thing, hand inspection and I was on my way. Just flew with my Fuji GW680iii, light meter with 9v battery, and FLM travel tripod, no hand inspection this time, just sailed right through.


18-Dec-2017, 19:46
I traveled with my Busch Pressman and spot meter and assorted film holders and a Canon 5Ds with a couple of lenses and odds and ends this past summer, not even a second glance. Traveled with my 5Ds and two lenses and a flash over Thanksgiving and had to have a hand inspection on the return trip.

Drew Wiley
18-Dec-2017, 20:08
I go thru the TSA lines with both view camera and MF gear, no problem. You're more likely to get delayed carrying a laptop.

18-Dec-2017, 20:55
Just to add to the chorus: I usually fly a couple of times a year with a (metal) LF camera, lenses, meter and film in my carry-on items, and have never once had anyone in TSA say anything about it.

18-Dec-2017, 23:44
Tachihara 4x5 + some holders + light meter + tripod + two lenses
sometimes a digital camera next to it
in backpack or in a Shoulder camera bag.

never had a search
(except that one time I put peanut butter in the side pouch: PB=liquid to some).

Jim Andrada
19-Dec-2017, 01:21
I took a Technika and Mamiya 645 and other stuff (grafmatics, film, tripod etc) to Japan last year - no issues at all either in the US or in Japan. I've taken the Technika a lot of places in the US as well as a Mamiya RB67 - no problems. Come to think of it I took a bunch of stuff to LA over Thanksgivin - not even a secon look.

Renato Tonelli
19-Dec-2017, 07:09
I have had to unpack from my carry-on bag and set up my 4x5 camera and lens after the scan at airports in Paris, Bruxelles, Berlin, Munich. They didn't know what the gear was; very courteous in all cases and very amused by the 'very old' Ebony and Linhof master Tech. Invariably, one agent would call over another for assistance in identifying the items; attracted lots of attention... In Munich I got smiles from the agents when they noticed "Made in Germany" on the Linhof and lenses - we all had a good-natured laugh.

John Layton
19-Dec-2017, 09:57
I always travel with holders empty (have a changing bag for field and good supply of black tape for hotel bathrooms) and carry rolls/LF boxes in a clear plastic bag, tell TSA that I'm pushing everything to ISO 2000, and need it hand checked. I've found that having things go smoothly is mostly related to how "convenient" I can make things for TSA. Usually works.

John Layton
19-Dec-2017, 09:59
...oh, yeah - the gear does sometimes get a bit of extra attention on the X-Ray belt!

Bob Salomon
19-Dec-2017, 11:59
...oh, yeah - the gear does sometimes get a bit of extra attention on the X-Ray belt!

Quite a few years ago we introduced to the USA market the waterproof Rimowa Tropicana camera cases.
The first time they were shown at a photo show in the USA was at the PPA show in Chicago.
It was a little tricky figuring out how to demonstrate that the cases were truly waterproof while they were on a table. So we went to a store and bought a bag of goldfish. We half filled one case with water and put the fish in it. Then we closed that case and stood it on end and, after demonstrating the modular interior and how you could stand on them and how i5 could hold 50% more equipment then a foam filled case of the same size we took the case of fish, laid it flat on the table and asked the customer to open it! This sold a lot of photographers on the case. It was so effective that we decided to bring it back to the office with the fish inside it.
Then we got to the airport and had to put the case through inspection. I put the closed case on the belt and saw the agent stare at the screen, very intently! He then told another agent to put it through again, and again! He then called another agent over to look at the screen and called over a supervisor. They then put it through again and finally the supervisor asked me what was in the case? I replied goldfish! They asked me to open the case and they exclaimed loudly, look! Goldfish!

Tin Can
19-Dec-2017, 12:09
Good one Bob!

19-Dec-2017, 12:31
No problem with a 4x5 Zone VI. In Manchester NH, they could not figure out what my C330 was.

Mike Lewis
19-Dec-2017, 17:07
I used to travel a lot on business, flying out of Baltimore's busy BWI Airport. I took my Linhof Technika with me as often as I could. In general, the TSA agents at large airports have seen everything and usually will send you on through. The agents at the smaller airports might pay more attention to an unusual camera. I would ship my film ahead of time to my destination to avoid film problems at the airport.

19-Dec-2017, 18:21
A buddy of mine travels a lot for business and usually brings along his 4x5. This past time on his way back he was having a hand inspection of a box of his exposed 4x5 film and they opened it up to the light fogging most of his sheets.

I would just send everything through the scanner. Iíve traveled enough domestically and internationally to know that 4 or 5 scans (in carry on scanners, never put film in checked baggage) will not harm the film whatsoever.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

DG 3313
19-Dec-2017, 21:38

Just to add to the chorus: I usually fly a couple of times a year with a (metal) LF camera, lenses, meter and film in my carry-on items, and have never once had anyone in TSA say anything about it.

20-Dec-2017, 18:44
I was taken aside after they scanned my Wista 4x5 in a carry-on backpack at the Kona, HI airport. They asked for instructions as to how to unpack the backpack, but then asked me to unfold the camera. Very polite, no real issues.

20-Dec-2017, 21:33
Big airports, usually not a problem. Small rinkydink airports they've had me take everything out of the bag and lay it in the plastic tray like a laptop. I'll see if they do it again a few days from now.

21-Dec-2017, 03:29
What would happen if you were traveling with a camera that you sometimes used for wet plate collodion which might have silver nitrate stains on the back? Do you think TSA would stop you when inspecting your gear? Only reason I ask is because I recently heard on a Joe Rogan Podcast that a guest (can't remember who at the moment) was stopped at the airport and questioned because whatever he had with him tested positive for nitrates. I have no clue if silver nitrate stains would throw up any flags but it would be nice to know just to avoid any hassle.

Peter Lewin
22-Dec-2017, 05:27
My flight to Austin went smoothly. The carry-on bag with the tripod went through without comment. TSA flagged the backpack with the Canham, film holders, etc. The agent swabbed the padded Canham case, unzipped the top, merely looked at the folded camera from the top, and sent me on my way, maybe 5 minutes.

Drew Wiley
22-Dec-2017, 11:51
By now, you've probably heard that TSA is slowly going to phase-in 3d scanners for carry-ons. So this whole topic will need to be revised at some point.

Tin Can
22-Dec-2017, 12:04
I'm on the Won't Fly List.

I want to keep my memories of the 60's and 70's when flying was fun.

Maybe a Gulfstream G650 if I get to take a paddle.

Bob Salomon
22-Dec-2017, 12:42
I had to go to Germany on a business/holiday trip with my wife. Had a very complete MF system, a similar 35mm system, a prototype, non functioning Linhof 612 and a Linhof Kardan 810 Master TL that had to go back to the factory in Munich for service.

Absolutely no problem at EWR but I did register the equipment with Customs so I would not have any unexpected surprises with Customs upon returning since all of the cameras and lenses were German.

As the Linhof cameras were going back to Linhof either, for the 612, to return it or for repair for the 810. As we were the Linhof importer I was carrying the proper paperwork to show to the inspectors at the airport in Frankfurt that all German tariffs and taxes had been properly been paid.
After reclaiming our luggage we got into the nothing to declare line and that is where the fun began. My wife went through with no problem and exited the restricted area. I was directly behind her with the suitcases and a cardboard box with the Linhof TL inside.
I was pulled out of line and taken to a separate room where they proceeded to open and examin everything. Even though I had the proper paperwork to carry the 810 back into Germany for repair and all of the paperwork needed to prove that it had been properly exported to us by Linhof and that it would be sent back to us after repair and would not stay in Germany the inspectors still wanted me to pay duty and value added tax.
In the meantime my wife could not find me and could not re-enter the Customs area and the people on duty at the exit would not help her. It took well over an hour of Q&A and phone calls to the factory before they finally let me out.
Then I had to answer to a very upset wife!

But no problems getting it through the airport in the USA.