Does Bringing a Camera onto an Airplane Damage Its Sensor?

Kodak uploaded a video to YouTube recently thats been causing quite a bit of controversy. It’s a talk by Rob Hummel at Cine Gear Expo 2011 in which he states that bringing your digital camera onto an airplane will damage its sensor and cause dead pixels (it’s about 8min into the video). The reasoning is that at altitudes of 20,000ft and higher, you would need 125ft of concrete to shield yourself from the gamma rays, which induce voltages in the sensors and fry the photo sites. He also claims that manufacturers only transport cameras by sea, and that they all keep quiet about this because they fear a class action lawsuit.

The comments on the YouTube video and the dpreview forums are filled with people who believe that this is simply an attempt by Kodak to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over digital cameras in an effort to lure more people to using film. So, which is it? Fact or FUD?

(via dpreview and Photo Rumors)

  • Michael Zhang

    Kodak has nothing to do with this site :)

  • Christian Pedersen

    No, you just think that.  I use 3200asa film and travel with it frequently and I have never had any fogging issues.  This may have been a problem in the past, but it isn’t today. 

  • Christian Pedersen

    You’ve never found a dead pixel?  I love my digital cameras, but I’ve definitely found dead pixels during editing.  It’s never been a problem for me.  From my other comments you know I shoot film and I sometimes intentionally scratch my negatives for effect.  I just don’t buy it that all of you are walking around with these perfect little sensors.  I think it’s more likely that you’re just unaware… because really it doesn’t matter.

  • Christian Pedersen

    Yes, but surely your cameras sensor is a little more precious than a roll of film?  Anyway, you can put all film through x-ray scanners.

  • Anonymous

    Kodak: First losing market share, now losing the plot entirely.

  • Commander Shren

    This not so well held presesentation gives good  info about ancient film but the Kodak-guy is
    more thasn abysmal when it comes to digital photography. He sells his half baked knowledge quite poorly. Sounds for me like a russian communist stuck 25 years in the past.
    Go home pops!!!

    I bombed my D90 with gamma-rays in a CT-scanner with a much higher dosage than applicated during a plane flight. It still working like a charm.
    Have a look:

  • Richard Sisk

    This is a really interesting discussion. Great comments. After seeing the video of the Rob Hummel talk, I noticed an article about how NASA is using DSLRs in space. The NASA representative was asked by the interviewer how they prepare a camera to go into space a second time. The response was: “Due to damage to the sensor from gamma rays, NASA rarely sends a digital camera into space a second time.” One trip and it’s pretty much fried! The reason we do not notice the dead pixels is that NASA has Photoshop. (Duh!) They have to process their images just like the rest of us, so those red spots get cloned out! 
    I for one shall refuse to take my 5D Mark II into outer space… And that’s that!

  • lsk

    apparently  it does damage cameras used in space .. mentions sometimes cameras are only good for one mission

  • lsk

    apparently  it does damage cameras used in space .. mentions sometimes cameras are only good for one mission

  • Handy Andy Buckley

    Very very bad science!!!!!


    in particular

    The 125ft of concrete is bullsh1t

    For example the biological shield (that was blown off) of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor was only 10ft thick and that reactor was a large source of gamma-rays (probably far greater than you would experience during a flight). Now if the man from Kodak was talking cosmic rays well that maybe a different story. As for NASA not sending a digital camera into space twice, well I was under the impression that it was usual for any cameras taken up were on a one-way trip

  • David

    Doesn’t Kodak make sensors for high-end cameras, including Leica and Hasselblad?

  • arkhunter

    How do you think your rental gear gets to you in a day or two from Lens Rentals/Barrow Lenses or even Canon Professional Services? They aren’t driving it one day delivery! This is BS.

  • Scott in Montana

    Fascinating project. I think you should write an article for PP about why and how you did this. Mr. Zhang?

  • Scott in Montana

    Thanks for the links. I think damage to our camera sensor may be the least of our problems. Our bodies are getting the same exposure that our cameras get! My cameras and I are wearing lead for our next flight!