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29/03/2008 – Myth : X-Rays Will Damage Your Image Cards
It seems like once a week I receive an e-mail asking me about the safety of having one’s image card x-rayed at the airport. More often that I receive e-mails with this question I will read similar questions, with similar fears, on various internet photography forums. Rest assured your photographs and data on your image cards will NOT be affected in any way by the x-ray machine.
I am not sure where this myth started that x-rays would affect image cards, however you should not be fearful of the airport’s x-ray machines and your image cards. Image cards are not film. Image cards do not have the same properties as film. Image cards are not affected by light in any way shape or form.
The reason we all used to have our film hand checked was because of film’s sensitivity to light. When we would pass our film through an x-ray machine, especially the higher ISO film, the films sensitivity to light could have adverse results from the x-ray machine’s “beam.” Most modern airport x-ray machines won’t harm even high ISO film with a dozen passes through the machine, but having your film hand checked is still a good idea with film over ISO 800.
Image cards are solid state electronic devices (except Microdrives, which I doubt anyone uses any more). Your image cards can go through an x-ray machine thousands of times and your images and data would be perfectly safe. Your photographs on an image card are bits of data that are made up of millions of “ones and zeros” not light sensitive emulsions as found in film.
Do I miss pulling out a dozen rolls of Ilford HP 5+ that has “ISO 400” printed on the canister and explaining to airport security that I pushed the film two stops to ISO 1600 when requesting a hand check at the airport? No, I certainly don’t. I also don’t miss the extra size and weight traveling with film added to my bag. (I do however miss shooting Ilford HP 5+)
Next time you’re traveling through the airport leave your CF cards in your bag, they are fine!