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Thread: Radioactive Lenses at Airports

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Radioactive Lenses at Airports

    Transiting through the Capital Airport in Beijing, China on my flight from Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City, I had the wonderful experience of meeting the Chinese anti-terror police. I had a lens, an old lens, a 7" Aero Ektar lens in fact. There was absolutely no problem getting through the airport to leave Los Angeles.

    In Beijing they have a marked health check-point that all travellers are required to pass through. It has a thermal camera that screens body temperatures. (I will avoid discussing security details in this discussion) flags anyone with an abnormally high temperature, and they are escorted for further screening. Been through it many times. 10 years ago they were using the infrared laser thermometers -- nice improvement. This time, an alarm went off as I went though and a very polite officer materialized and suggested I come with her. She had two others backing her up. She said the word nuclear. I was completely clueless (clearly).

    They were quite professional and spoke excellent English which is good as my Chinese can be spotty. Then as they escorted me to a detention room they said I was radioactive. That was when it dawned on me that the Aero Ektar was the problem. I explained that I was a photographer and that I had an old lens. They kindly assisted me in taking it out of the bag and examining the lens. They had what I believe was a hand-held geiger counter which they pointed at my bags and me and then at the lens inside the bag. After going through all my carry on items and having me walk back through the sensors I was declared safe and allowed to continue to my connecting flight. With the Aero Ektar Lens. No problem whatsoever.

    At Ho Chi Minh City they did not have such sophistication and I sailed right through. They did not have such sophistication at Los Angeles, either.

    In China, on my way back, I was told by a man I met there that he had similar trouble at an American airport with a Leica Summicron. But as it was just a lens he was allowed to pass through with the lens.

    I suppose that it is nice to know that someone in the US is occasionally looking out for radioactive shipments at airports. But I can report that there is excellent tech that is in use in China. They have health and radioactivity scans at airports for transit travelers and in coming travelers as well.

    USA gotta step up its game.

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Re: Radioactive Lenses at Airports

    For anyone wanting to travel with a great soft-focus portrait lens which is not highly radioactive, might I suggest the Tri Tran Signature Pictorial Lens. https://www.tritranphotography.com/tt-signature-lens I had two of these elements in my carry-on bag and they did not raise the slightest bit of concern going through airport security on any of my outbound or return flights through China, or anywhere else.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Beijing
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    Re: Radioactive Lenses at Airports

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Stage View Post
    For anyone wanting to travel with a great soft-focus portrait lens which is not highly radioactive, might I suggest the Tri Tran Signature Pictorial Lens. https://www.tritranphotography.com/tt-signature-lens I had two of these elements in my carry-on bag and they did not raise the slightest bit of concern going through airport security on any of my outbound or return flights through China, or anywhere else.
    Interesting, I've never had that issue in China with my radioactive lenses. How long was the interrogation?

  4. #4

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    Re: Radioactive Lenses at Airports

    Of course I do not want to discuss specific security protocols. It was quickly determined that I did not represent any kind of threat whatsoever and I was given time to repack my bags then wished a pleasant trip. It was all surprisingly brief. Again, they were polite and professional.

    Still, I would suggest that taking radioactive lenses on commercial flights is a bad idea and will become more of an issue in the future.

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