PetaPixel

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)


 
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  • http://www.purveyorofdifferent.com Scott M

    As an international wedding shooter (and domestic destinations) I have flown countless times with my MKIIs.  Never had a problem.  Also, think about all the sensors in cell phones that are not damaged.

  • http://www.purveyorofdifferent.com Scott M

    As an international wedding shooter (and domestic destinations) I have flown countless times with my MKIIs.  Never had a problem.  Also, think about all the sensors in cell phones that are not damaged.

  • Anonymous

    Astronauts take their camera’s on spacewalks, and I’ve never seen a dead pixel on any of their pictures :P

  • Anonymous

    Astronauts take their camera’s on spacewalks, and I’ve never seen a dead pixel on any of their pictures :P

  • http://twitter.com/focalmatter mike ricca

    I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a single dead pixel in a 12mp (or larger) image, so it’s entirely likely.

    Meanwhile, of all the ways to try and scare people into using film, “Flying with your digicam  could cause dead pixels” seems a mite specific. There are better, more plausible lies to come up with.

    I think it’s more likely true than false, but it’s hardly something to be concerned about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rekanize Donovan Rekanize Fannon

    The astronaut argument is a pretty good counterpoint, but I don’t know what’s true in this case. I’m leaning towards heavy skepticism unless Mr. Hummel can expand and prove his claim.

  • http://profiles.google.com/slimspidey Spider- Man

    SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!! 

  • Jc

    Air freight is astronomically more expensive then sea freight.  Air freight is also astronomically faster (days).  Getting a container on a boat, over the ocean, and into a retail channel is on the order of several weeks.  I would expect this also plays a large part in their decision to boat ship.  Most consumer electronics companies boat ship unless they have an immediate need for product on stores shelves ( in the situation their fiscal quarter might be impacted if delayed several weeks).  My 2 cents.  I don’t doubt the gamma ray thing, I just have no data on that :)

  • http://walstonphoto.com Royce

    I can imagine the film sales skyrocketing any second now……nope not yet……waiting……any second……there may still be time to buy stock before the spike.

  • Dave

    Is butter good or bad for you this week, I forget.

  • http://sljonesdigital.com SLJonesDigital

    Are these guys headed for a Kodak moment? …. “Europe to Launch Massive Gigapixel Camera into Space” 

  • Mike

    It’s most certainly FUD of the highest magnitude. What about journalist flying around the world? The kind of mileage they do, even a 1D3 would show big blobs of dead pixels.
    But I’m sure thousands of gearfreaks will drag this into endless debates, while common sense can dismiss these kind of daft statements easily.
    They guy is ranting the whole time about the superiority of film vs digital. The guy needs to wake up and accept that his precious film will be dead and gone in a while…

  • http://twitter.com/PlasticWig Joshua K

    Superman returns came out in 2006. They probably were shipping those cameras long before that when they started filming. So who knows if technology in a modern camera has improved since then. DSLR at the time wasn’t shooting video, especially not at 1080p. For all I know it could be true in that specific case, but not apply to other devices.

  • http://twitter.com/Hal_Lee Hal Lee

    While his dead pixel argument was obviously casuistic, he does have a point with the lateral light problem. Wide-angle lenses are much easier to design for film sensors, and perform worse on digital, because of their nature. The light from a super-wide lens usually hits the sensor at extreme angles on the frame edges. So for a well-performing wide-angle to work on digital sensors, it has to be corrected so that the light hits the sensor more straight-on.

  • http://twitter.com/Hal_Lee Hal Lee

    While his dead pixel argument was obviously casuistic, he does have a point with the lateral light problem. Wide-angle lenses are much easier to design for film sensors, and perform worse on digital, because of their nature. The light from a super-wide lens usually hits the sensor at extreme angles on the frame edges. So for a well-performing wide-angle to work on digital sensors, it has to be corrected so that the light hits the sensor more straight-on.

  • Jovan

    My 1Dmk2N travelled around 90k miles on a plane in last 3 years. My 20D and 40D another ~30k miles before then. No dead pixels to report…

  • Jovan

    My 1Dmk2N travelled around 90k miles on a plane in last 3 years. My 20D and 40D another ~30k miles before then. No dead pixels to report…

  • http://siteezy.com Ashley

    This is so interesting. A little bit worrying as well
    considering I am a photographer & Filmmaker. Thanks

  • http://siteezy.com Ashley

    This is so interesting. A little bit worrying as well
    considering I am a photographer & Filmmaker. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    I don’t claim to be an expert in gamma radiation, but my company have produced digital sensors for satellite imaging (granted they’re a bit more involved than your normal DSLR) but these sensors have been in space for decades without 125ft of concrete surrounding them.

    Also, looking at his Linkedin profile I noticed he worked at a division of my previous company, yet I don’t remember him being involved in any engineering, research or scientific development. Seems like he’s one of folks who were in management and marketing regurgitating information he heard from real scientists.

    It’s also interesting how he was involved in digital archiving and storage, so I’m sure some of this comes from the marketing scares that these companies tend to throw out there.

  • http://twitter.com/craigd Craig Damlo

    This guy’s big problem is that film isn’t immune to gamma rays. If it was, then you could put all film through the x-ray scanners at the airport (they have much less energy than gamma rays). I would have put more weight in his argument if he had sited cosmic rays, or even particle showers.

  • http://twitter.com/AndysPhotoz Andy Herbon

    I’m more worried about Gammaray attacking Tokyo again, then my SLR’s sensor.

  • http://twitter.com/AndysPhotoz Andy Herbon

    I’m more worried about Gammaray attacking Tokyo again, then my SLR’s sensor.

  • http://profiles.google.com/slimspidey Spider- Man

    I exposed my dslr to high doses of Gamma rays and now, well let’s say. You wouldn’t like it when it’s angry!

  • Anonymous

    Also, while one can argue that the gigapixel satellite telescope is designed for the harsh environment of space, space programs often use ordinary SLRs.  If a camera can stand two weeks of being in low earth orbit without significant damage, I don’t think a plane flight is a big deal.

  • http://profiles.google.com/slimspidey Spider- Man

    LOL I just finished watching the whole vid. If Kodak was so entrusting of film why did they get rid of Kodachrome? 
    I love film, I have quite a collection of vintage stuff that I still use and I shoot DSLR but man this vid is very propaganda-ish…

  • http://sljonesdigital.com SLJonesDigital

    125 feet of concrete?  A Delta exec somewhere is gettin’ a stiffy over the extra baggage fees.

  • Steve

    Some photographers spend nearly every day in the air and I have never heard of this phenomenon, so I presume it was a joke.  And almost everything is transported by the sea because it’s a lot cheaper than air transportation.  Or perhaps the wheels fall off of cars at 20,000 feet :)

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    It’s like a business opportunity waiting to happen

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    It’s like a business opportunity waiting to happen

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    It’s like a business opportunity waiting to happen

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    It’s like a business opportunity waiting to happen

  • http://twitter.com/morozgrafix morozgrafix

    Gotta send those claims to Mythbusters!

  • http://twitter.com/zak Zak Henry

    Knowing Mythbusters they will do a small scale test and send up a cellphone camera in an RC plane, and declare it from those findings.

  • Anonymous

    I think he’s got his gamma rays and cosmic rays mixed up… 

  • Anonymous

    Kodak did NOT just say film is gone…

  • Draws With Light

    1. Being known in the photographic community does not automatically, in and of itself, make Hummel an expert. What are his actual credentials and how are they related to what he is claiming?

    2. Has there been any scientific testing in which only gamma rays can affect pixels?

    3. I’m wondering if Kodak has jumped the shark.

  • http://twitter.com/goocy Marvin Macportain

    “gamma rays [...] induce voltages in the sensors” – sounds dangerous, but it’s something that ordinary light does all the time!During normal use, this light-induced voltage is then amplified in a micro-circuit and read out by the image processing chip. When the camera is shut off, nothing gets amplified, so the voltages are infinitesimally tiny. Worst case, the pixel receives all the charge it can handle (which can happen in normal light conditions too, e.g., by taking a picture of the sun) and every additional electric charge flows over into the ground line. We’re speaking of subatomic particles here, and the associated charges are in the region of nanovolts. No potential whatsoever to destroy electronic circuitry.

  • Johnk26

    SEU is commonly a concern in computers and is exacerbated somewhat at high altitudes.  It is a result of alpha and gamma particles impinging on silicon surfaces proximal to a charge storage structure, like a memory cell.  These particles inject a large amount of energy in the semiconductor that can upset or annihilate the charge overwhelming junction barriers.  As many modern cameras use CMOS structures that look like memory cells, a naive conclusion might be that SEU could damage a CMOS location.  This is not likely as SEU generally will upset the electrical charge on a structure and not the structure itself.  See wikipedia or such as: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/login.jsp?url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fiel5%2F23%2F27200%2F01208578.pdf%3Farnumber%3D1208578&authDecision=-203 .  Worst case is that you might see a transitory pixel anomaly if you take a picture at altitude but your laptop is much more sensitive to it than is your camera: you might have to restart your movie or game… 8-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Plus, while there may be a chance of your sensor being damaged in an airplane, we all *know* that high ISO film is damaged by the x-ray machine at the airport.

  • Edwaste

    Olympus addressed the wide angle problem with their 4:3 design. They developed the 4:3 format so that all lenses for the system would fall on the sensor at 90°.
    If i recall correctly the wide angle problem only occured on CCD sensors…not on CMOS.

  • http://silodrome.com/ James McBride

    This comment should be at the top.

  • Joe

    I fly every week.  I’m a lot more worried about frying my testicles than my camera sensors.  And I really like my cameras.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=833394625 Jarek Predki

    I think Kodak should exit the 20th century and enter the 21st. As in… start working on their own digital cameras and join the rest of the world in the digital revolution. No disrespect to Kodak, as I’ve used their products for years and love the quality of them… but come on… if this is a hoax… it’s just bad rep that will back fire and cause them more bad than good.

  • http://twitter.com/beeveedee Beth VanDyke

    Truth be told, it’s a whole lot easier to fly with a digital camera now than with a film camera, risking fogged film in these days of increased scanning and security. Forget about getting TSA to hand inspect your ziplock bag of film cannisters!!!

    I’ll stick to my digital camera when flying, thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/beeveedee Beth VanDyke

    Truth be told, it’s a whole lot easier to fly with a digital camera now
    than with a film camera, risking fogged film in these days of increased
    scanning and security. Forget about getting TSA to hand inspect your
    ziplock bag of film cannisters!!!

    I’ll stick to my digital camera when flying, thank you.

  • Mtgrannie04

    butter … just not sure, now what about the ‘salt’ ??

  • http://brianpowell.info Brian Powell

    If you have used a decent DLSR for any amount of time, you would notice a dead pixel.   At least on my 5Dmk2, it’s bright red and visible on the monitor at less than 50% view. 

  • http://brianpowell.info Brian Powell

    If you have used a decent DLSR for any amount of time, you would notice a dead pixel.   At least on my 5Dmk2, it’s bright red and visible on the monitor at less than 50% view. 

  • Aus_Guy

    I find it quite amusing that Kodak ‘runs’ this site, yet dishes the dirt about the company at the same time.