Old 03-29-2009, 07:00 AM   #1
Arne H. B.
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Default Flying with your digital camera

I'm planning a visit to Taiwan in May and I'd like to know how some of you frequently flying railfans do it. Should your camera be in checked luggage or carry on? I've heard all kinds of conflicting advice from people, some say your camera will be fine but your memory card can be wiped by something magnetic in the x-ray machines. I've heard they should be handed to the security guard for inspection rather than passing through the machine as well. I'm bringing a Nikon D80 and several memory cards. How do some of you fellow travelers do it? Have you had any negative experiences with your equipment as far as not operating properly after the flight?
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Old 03-29-2009, 07:32 AM   #2
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I was on 271 flights last year with the camera gear and never had a problem. I use a Trekker backpack with two DSLR bodies and a handful of lenses, including a 300 f2.8. I only had the bag hand searched once by the TSA.

Do NOT check it. Have you seen how the handle bags?

Everything must go through the X-ray machines. Don't worry about memory cards. I still have my first CF card from 5 years ago and it has probably been through security at least 1,000 times. Never had a problem and it still works fine.
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Old 03-29-2009, 11:46 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Arne H. B. View Post
I'm planning a visit to Taiwan in May and I'd like to know how some of you frequently flying railfans do it. Should your camera be in checked luggage or carry on? I've heard all kinds of conflicting advice from people, some say your camera will be fine but your memory card can be wiped by something magnetic in the x-ray machines. I've heard they should be handed to the security guard for inspection rather than passing through the machine as well. I'm bringing a Nikon D80 and several memory cards. How do some of you fellow travelers do it? Have you had any negative experiences with your equipment as far as not operating properly after the flight?
Sending a digital camera (or other electronics) through the carry-on x-ray machines doesn't harm it in any way. The machines used to x-ray checked luggage are more powerful, but I've never heard of them doing anything to electronics (film is another matter).

Don't ever check your camera gear or other electronics, especially on long flights. Someone who worked for me mistakenly checked his laptop on a flight from Europe, the liquid in the LCD screen froze up and destroyed his screen.

Not to mention the possibility of a baggage handler walking off with your gear: http://ma.tt/2008/05/dont-check-your-valuables/


When packing for your trip, keep your toiletries, first change of clothes, etc., with you, so that you won't be inconvenienced if your checked luggage is delayed. And plenty to read - that's a long flight.
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Old 03-29-2009, 12:57 PM   #4
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Hi Arne,

The advice that the other guys have offered is very sound. Don't even consider checking any of your camera gear, with the possible exception of a tripod....more on that in a minute. And no, the X-Rays don't harm digital cameras or memory cards.

The greatest danger that exists with checked bags is handling damage. A few minutes spent watching airline baggage handlers will tell you they basically exercise no care at all with your luggage....none!! The second greatest danger is loss...either due to misrouting of the bag, or through theft....and yeah, there is a lot of it around. Don't check your gear.....ever.

On most airlines, you are allowed one small carry-on bag and one "personal item". That "personal item" can be a lap-top case or camera bag. It has to be reasonable size, so choose your equipment carefully. In the carry-on bag, you can pack a change or two of clothing and your RON (Remain Overnight) kit. With these carry-on items, you're ready to live normally for a while and take pictures even if your checked baggage gets lost. Don't ever let these carry-on bags leave your sight. I use a wheeled carry-on and my camera bag physically attaches to it.

Now for the tripod. Unless I'm shooting indoors or at night, I try to avoid bringing one. If you must bring one, anything big and heavy like my Manfrotto will probably have to be checked. The padded bag that mine came in is not sufficient to protect it from the impacts it might receive during shipment. I put the tripod into its bag, then place that into my largest checked bag, with clothing packed all around it. So far at least, it has survived airline travel. Tripods are not usually a big theft risk.

I also have a small travel tripod that weighs about 2 lbs. In a couple of cases, the TSA has allowed me to carry that on the airplane securely stowed in my carry-on bag. Your experience may vary. Getting a ruling from the TSA is a bit like dealing with the IRS. What one agent tells you may not "fly" with another.

Good luck sir. When I was a younger man, airline trips were something one looked forward to. Now, they are a royal pain in the butt. The only airline I really like is the one where I get to sit in the left front seat. I don't have to take my shoes off, my bags are always handled carefully, they arrive when I do, and the plane leaves when I'm good and ready.
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Old 03-29-2009, 02:22 PM   #5
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Don't ever check your camera gear or other electronics, especially on long flights. Someone who worked for me mistakenly checked his laptop on a flight from Europe, the liquid in the LCD screen froze up and destroyed his screen.
How'd that happen??
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Old 03-29-2009, 02:55 PM   #6
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How'd that happen??
Probably a particular set of circumstances - bags loaded by hand instead of in cargo bins, close to the hull, etc. Some cargo/luggage holds aren't heated at all, and most are only heated to keep them above freezing, so it gets pretty cold in there after 10 hours (the air temp at 30,000+ ft. is about -30F).

A checked bag is noticeably cold, including the contents, when you pick it up after a long flight. There have been times when I arrived in Europe, worked all day, then opened my bag at the hotel that night - and the contents were still well below room temperature.
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:24 PM   #7
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As a baggage handler, I'd strongly advise packing anything of value in your carry-on. When we're offloading 5000 lbs and uploading another 5k every hour for 10 hours, we tend to revert to the "soft toss" method of handling

My 30D goes through the x-ray nearly every day with no problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Craft
Probably a particular set of circumstances - bags loaded by hand instead of in cargo bins, close to the hull, etc. Some cargo/luggage holds aren't heated at all, and most are only heated to keep them above freezing, so it gets pretty cold in there after 10 hours (the air temp at 30,000+ ft. is about -30F).

A checked bag is noticeably cold, including the contents, when you pick it up after a long flight. There have been times when I arrived in Europe, worked all day, then opened my bag at the hotel that night - and the contents were still well below room temperature.
There was a contract handler in Reno that was notorious for sending 'dogsicles' to us. Apparently the big signs that indicated which bin was heated in each aircraft were not a big enough clue.
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Old 03-29-2009, 05:39 PM   #8
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Ahah, we have a live actual baggage handler on board. Good opportunity to ask about some of the great mysteries of life.

John Craft's comment about the frozen LCD screen was interesting, since I have thought about burying my lap top in my checked luggage as a way to minimize my carry on crap. But more generally there are other kinds of stuff that might go into checked luggage (wine?) that I'd rather not see frozen. I thought baggage compartments were all heated to some degree (maybe not a cozy 70 degrees, but kept above freezing). Given the "dogsicle" comment, I wondering what the real facts are. I certainly have had the same experience as John in finding my checked underwear a bit chilly when I got to the hotel for a change of clothes. And I hate frozen toothpaste.

FWIW, my tripod goes into checked baggage, all my other camera stuff goes on board with me.
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Old 03-29-2009, 06:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
As a baggage handler, I'd strongly advise packing anything of value in your carry-on.
Wait...that's backward. I think you meant checked baggage, not carry-on...

EDIT: I am dumb. Read the quote wrong...
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Old 03-29-2009, 07:15 PM   #10
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No, you definitely want that stuff your carry-on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
But more generally there are other kinds of stuff that might go into checked luggage (wine?) that I'd rather not see frozen. I thought baggage compartments were all heated to some degree (maybe not a cozy 70 degrees, but kept above freezing). Given the "dogsicle" comment, I wondering what the real facts are.
Typically only one bin is heated. Some of the larger aircraft have the option to heat selected bins depending on the contents loaded. If the flight is long enough, the unheated bins will fall below freezing. Sometimes guys will take advantage of this and send us poor Arizona folk small piles of snow.
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Old 03-30-2009, 05:07 PM   #11
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Typically only one bin is heated. Some of the larger aircraft have the option to heat selected bins depending on the contents loaded. If the flight is long enough, the unheated bins will fall below freezing. Sometimes guys will take advantage of this and send us poor Arizona folk small piles of snow.
Any pics of the dogsicles? Yes, I have a morbid sense of curiosity.
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Old 03-30-2009, 06:45 PM   #12
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Last year I carried a DSLR body + grip/battery pack, and 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 180mm, 300mm lens. The tripod went into the checked bag. I would never put camera equipment in checked. Ever! I've seen too many people with two large pieces of carry on on several flights and nothing is said to them, so bringing one camera bag should no cause a problem. This year, I'll be bringing my new camera bag with the above items plus a second DSLR body + grip/battery pack, and additional 28mm and 200mm lenses. I anticipate no problems and we'll also have my GF's carry on plus up to eight boxes of cerial on the flight home (you can't get Boo-Berry or Franken-Berry in Canada).
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