View Full Version : Shipping 4x5 kit on ahead of me

David G. Gagnon
12-Nov-2005, 10:38
I'll soon be travelling from central FL to Southern CA for a week and I don't want the hassle of going through the questions around film holders and why they can't look at the film to inspect it, or the possible problems with X-rays. I'm considering using USPS Priority Mail to send my 4x5 field camera kit on ahead of me. My question is this..

Has anyone ever shipped their kit and loaded holders on ahead to their destination? What were the problems? Would you do it again today?

Thanks in advance.


Donald Qualls
12-Nov-2005, 11:13
Carry the holders unloaded, buy the film at the destination or carry it in the factory sealed box. LA and San Diego both have large camera stores that carry 4x5, and both places have professional labs that can process the negatives (B&W or color, even E-6).

There's no guarantee that USPS won't x-ray your package, even if it's marked as film, and you won't know if they did or didn't until you get it processed. At least if you buy it at site and have it processed there, you only have to protect negatives instead of sensitive materials.

Bruce Watson
12-Nov-2005, 11:48
Ship the film. I've used both UPS and FedEx for this duty with good results. I ship the exposed film back to the house before I get to the airport for the trip back. With FedEx/Kinkos stores and UPS stores all over the place, this is easy to do.

Ship the holders it you want. But don't ship your camera kit. Read the fine print from UPS and FedEx (especially FedEx). You can spend a lot on insurance, but that doesn't mean that anything much is covered. For instance, equipment that is no longer in production isn't covered well at all. This includes your collectible cameras and lenses. Even if you can document what you paid for them.

So... ship the film. Carry-on the camera equipment.

Alan Barton
12-Nov-2005, 11:57
I have good results shipping film, film holders, camera kit etc with both Fedex and UPS. I generally fly to the location, pick up rental car and ship stuff to a UPS Store or Fedex location where I can pick it up on the way (way back for return) to final destination.

Ground is OK price wise and Ive used the insurance for replacement value.

Alan Barton

12-Nov-2005, 13:33
I've found that FedEx is reliable and has reasonably good customer service.

FWIW, don't assume that a (new) sealed box of film won't be opened by overzealous security types. Twice in large Southern Cal airports I've been forced to open new film boxes- including ALL packaging (foil bags on the Readyloads, individual foil envelopes on the roll film).

I don't know what I'd do if I had unloaded sheet film and were asked to open it. I have found that the more one protests (in a respectful manner, of course), the longer the "inspection process" takes. I had one character wipe down each (Lee resin) filter in my bag to check for explosive residue. After setting them down unprotected on the table, I pointed out they were delicate- in a condescending tone, he snapped "I know what I'm doing. I deal with professional photographers every day." Thirty minutes later I was on my way.

Travel light, and avoid one-way tickets.

John Kasaian
12-Nov-2005, 14:14
If it were me, I'd hand carry the kit and either ship the film ahead or buy it in Southern CA and load my holders in a changing bag.

FWIW I took a 4x5 kit to Hawaii with a factory sealed box of film which I carried in my carry on. When I got to the xray machine I took it out and put it in the tray with my keys and change and said "Its sheet film." The Security Guy wiped the box and waved my though---no trouble at all.

I hope your experience is as benign.

12-Nov-2005, 14:24
In case this matters to anyone shipping and for those that may not know, FedEx has the air contract for the USPS Priority Mail services. I am in the Key Largo area and through our business we ship a bunch of orders to the west coast. It generally takes only two (2) business days when shipping Priority Mail from Miami to Sacramento. If I was about to ship my gear to the west coast, I would seriously consider Priority Mail or FedEx over UPS. UPS does not deliver the quality of service we have grown to appreciate from the other services. Just my two cents. ;0)

Henry Ambrose
12-Nov-2005, 16:33
Ship the whole thing on Fedex. You can probably pick it up at or near the airport where you land as Fedex usually has offices at airports. Call them or go by your local office and ask about this. They will look up the proper address for you to send to where you are going. If insurance through Fedex is a problem add your gear to your homeowners on a rider. My business insurance to covers my stuff. In my opinion, this is the most painless and secure way to move your camera and gear. Next day, two day, three day - your choice based on price and availability of service to your destination.

Robert Ley
12-Nov-2005, 19:17
Last winter I shipped all my film, 4x5 & 120, and loaded holders and grafmatics to Puerto Rico by Fedex without a problem. I carried my cameras and lenses as carry-on and put tripod et al in the checked baggage. The day I left I shipped it back home and it arrived safe and sound the day after I returned. Hard to beat that service!

Scott Davis
12-Nov-2005, 21:19
Frankly, unless your kit is just too unwieldy to carry on, I'd just carry the whole lot in my carryon gear - I went from DC to Oakland in October, and had about 300 sheets of film with me, mix of E-6, C-41, and B/W. All of it stayed in my carryon bag, and came through hunky dory. I wasn't even asked to show the boxes - the x-ray guys just scanned the bag once and I was on my way. A single (or even two) passes through the carryon x-ray machine will do absolutely no harm to your film, since the dosage your film gets from cosmic ray exposure while actually in the plane is higher than what the carryon bag xray machine generates. I also feel much more secure with my 4x5 kit in my eyesight the whole time.

David G. Gagnon
13-Nov-2005, 12:17
Thanks to all who gave many varied answers from which I will glean info and make a decision.