Myth : X-Rays Will Damage Your Image Cards

Web: — E-Mail:

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!

Happy Flying!


  1. Just discovered your blog (thanks to Scott Kelby’s blog.

    I say the same thing to people who take my Travel Photography workshop, and have done so for years. I go one stop further, however, and caution them to put their CF cards through the X-ray machine and not to carry them on their person, since if they are selected for wanding, those wands (as I understand it) involve a magnetic field (howsoever weak), and anytime you have a magnetic field you have the chance of an induced electric current, which could damage a CF card. Any wisdom on this? (See this.)

  2. X-Rays will on NO WAY have any affect on your digital camera. An image sensor when switched off is not light sensitive in the way we think of film.

    You’re fine, put your camera through the x-ray machine and you’re all set

    Happy Flying


  3. Hi, I was just referred to your site…which is awsome by the way. I’m flying next weekend and this will be my first flight with my camera gear…what can I bring and cannot bring in a carry-on. Should anything be shipped ahead of time?

    Savannah, GA.

  4. Magnetic fields don’t damage CF cards. I’ve tried rubbing a CF card up against the magnet of an NMR spectrometer (this is strong enough to drag a tripod off the ground from 2m away). No data loss at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.