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Should you buy a leaded film bag?


A travel photographers nightmare and fantasy. How do you avoid the dreaded xray fogging?

If you own a didgital camera, go away! Airport scanners will not damage your camera or memory cards. This article is about the effect on film.

Leaded film bags can be purchased at photo stores. They are fairly expensive and they don't protect your film. Should you use one, the security staff ( who are only doing their job ) will just bump up the X-Ray power on the scanner until they can see what is inside the bag. The film inside the bag experiences a higher dose of X-Ray inside a leaded pouch than if it goes straight through the scanner unprotected. Kodak have performed tests which show that Kodak films below 100 ASA can pass through X-ray scanners unprotected at least five times and only register minor density changes. Most people ( even professionals) would be hard pressed noticing the differences unless they are trying to reproduce colours and tones (for example in commercial product photography), very accurately. Films above 1000 ASA should be checked by hand inspection.

Checked luggage is X-Rayed in most of the world. The X-Ray scanners used for checked luggage are very powerful because they have to penetrate much thicker luggage. The newer scanners use soft xrays to detect semtex plastic explosive. This soft high intensity xray emission fogs film more than the old hard X-Ray. NEVER send your film in checked baggage. If you do send it by mistake, take one roll shoot it and get it processed immediately to see if there is any damage. If you are unable to do so, don't risk using it. The best way to avoid fogging is by asking for a hand inspection. If you are in a long line and you turn up with 50 rolls of boxed film, you will not be granted a hand inspection in any airport. To minimise X-Ray fogging try a combination of the following :

I've travelled extensively with lots of film and never experienced any problems with X-Ray fogging even in third world countries.


Good luck and happy shooting!

Joe Cali