Kentucky Derby Bans All Interchangeable Lens Cameras for ‘Security Purposes’


If you’re planning to attend the Kentucky Derby early next month, you might want to make sure you’ll be content with capturing your memories with a smartphone or point-and-shoot. Churchill Downs, the racetrack that hosts the famous horse race, has unveiled new security measures that will prevent attendees from bringing certain items onto the grounds. Among them: all interchangeable lens cameras.

In addition to interchangeable lens cameras (e.g. DSLRs, mirrorless cameras), the guidelines also prohibit any camera that has a lens longer than 6 inches, tripods, and camcorders.

Churchill Grounds says that the measures were developed after consulting with several law enforcement authorities following the Boston Marathon bombings last week.

The policy reflects a common prejudice against “professional” style cameras. It’s interesting that a $629 entry-level Canon Rebel (a crop-frame camera) with a 18-55mm kit lens will be banned under the new policy, but a professional $2,800 Sony RX1 full frame compact camera will be perfectly acceptable.

A Canon Rebel with an 18-55mm lens will be banned, while a Sony RX-1 full frame compact camera will be allowed

A Canon Rebel with an 18-55mm lens will be banned, while a Sony RX-1 full frame compact camera will be allowed

…and that a tiny Sony NEX mirrorless camera with a pancake lens will be banned, while a much larger bridge camera with a powerful zoom lens will be perfectly acceptable:


Churchill Downs says that permitted items include:

Small cameras, but none equipped with detachable lenses or lenses more than 6 inches;


Cellular telephones, smartphones and tablets

It looks like you might want to pick up a telephoto lens for your iPad after all. Oh wait… that lenses is nearly 8 inches long. Is that allowed?…

(via WBRB and USA Today)

Thanks for sending in the tip, Keith!

Image credit: Photo illustration based on standing up to watch the ponies by gavinrobinson

  • Fred

    Just another reason to “boycott” Churchill downs all season long. I can’t go on Derby Day with my camera, I won’t go the rest of the season either.

  • 10dier

    Sure, because I REALLY, really don’t understand what may be the reason for this decision. I think that, whatever security you have, as soon as you have human, it’s a risk, and they can act badly. If “they” want they can.. But, of course, it’s good to have maximum security, at least it will discourage the “amateurs” or insane people (not the “professionals”).
    Anyway, all that is very sad, discovering that as soon as you go out, you may don’t come back to your house alive or in total pieces… Very far from what I was imagining when I was young….
    (sorry btw for my Eng., not my mother tongue)
    Cheers all.

  • 10dier

    What about GoPro cams..? Wht do you think?

  • LarrYd

    Are you really that ignorant? Do a little research and open your eyes, ’cause you obviously have no clue what is going on…

  • bosh

    YOU don’t work in the horse industry, do you? I do and I can say that is a most ignorant & baseless comment.

  • John Cumisky

    I have one of these, can never get in anywhere.

  • Duke Shin

    Fotosniper? I use one for yearbook.

  • Not News

    Can someone point me to ANY event, where, terrorists used cameras to carry out their plot? If cameras are so dangerous, then, why are the police putting them up everywhere? Seems to me that they don’t want any high definition footage shot by civilians. Who stands to benefit from this? Banning cameras in the name of SAFTEY! Ridiculous, court rooms use camera footage to catch criminals all the time. Follow these draconian rules and you can be sure that the criminals will have an easier job. Truth exposes lies. Liers don’t want the truth getting out. Somebody wants to operate unseen here. I’d stay away from this event…

  • Not News

    Forget gun control. We need “Camera Control” laws in order to stay safe. Somebody tell Joe Biden, so, he can ban them for us. Unless your a bird watcher with a licensed camera. That would be ok

  • Not News

    I think you need a “background check” to posses a high definition camera

  • Not News

    This event is famous for women wearing large hats. I think you have more to worry about than iPads blocking your view. Besides, the iPad screen is so big, that, if someone in front of you is filming with one, then, you can just watch the event on “their” iPad. Try watching the race on the back of some woman’s head…

  • Not News

    Your arse has security? How’d you get that? I want to protect my arse too. Banning cameras WOULD do that. Now, I understand why they want to ban cameras. People don’t want their arse’s filmed in HD. It’s about arse safety. I get it now. Thanks for the post

  • Not News

    Some people have already have been arrested for taking pictures. Be careful, you, could wind up facing a felony… The new term for your camera is “tracking device”.

    Look on google for these headlines..,


    Mother of 3 Arrested for Taking Pictures of Tourist Attraction at Airport

  • ME

    Unfounded and stupid. It a continuation of total control by the state over every aspect of its citizens. People should boycott the event (by not attending, betting or even watching it on tv). This way the organizers will reconsider this unjustified determination. The sad thing is that nobody will do anything about it. I could care less, I never pay attention to horse races and never bet on them. It a sad and abusing business on these animals.

  • Chui Tey

    Tamerlan would have agreed with this move. If cameras were banned at the Boston Marathon, he could be still alive.

  • dafoink

    This is a smokescreen to protect major TV networks and ESPN so that they can have exclusive content and not get constantly “scooped” by bloggers on youtube. Yet another use of security as an excuse to limit us.

  • Joe Dutra

    Cameras of any type enhance security. This is just a load of crup to protect the profession photogs and their employers.

  • Dan

    Difference is that nobody ever used a camera to mow down 20 first graders in five minutes. And most mass murders are committed by law-abiding citizens with no previous criminal history until one day they just flip out.

  • picards0071

    Posting at the Derby. I’ve seen at least 10-12 Rebels and consumer level Nikons – total failure by security and Churchill Downs with this inane security policy.

  • Phillip Pahl

    You don’t want the americans to know about the government conspiracies…

  • Timmmeeeee

    I guess they brought these rules simply to ensure you dont click any pro grade pics or video footage and sell it or upload it to a video sharing site

  • Thomas Casey

    The same rules applied at the London Olympics. It’s about copyright, any picture taken on the property belongs to the owners of the event.

  • ka1axy

    You’re not trying to imply that the US military had something to do with the Boston bombing, are you?

    There’s probably a military training exercise going on *somewhere* every day. Now, at the Marathon bombing, the story I heard was that the service personnel, with their knowledge of basic first aid, were helpful in keeping the wounded alive long enough to get the first class medical care we are famous for here. Boston pulled together on that day, many lives were saved thanks to regular people helping others, and that includes members of the military. For you to imply anything else is just wrong, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Isphoto

    I can see this from a commercial aspect, accredited media are less inclined to cover events where they cannot get unique shots, the media want unique shots of events. The problem at the moment is the blurring of lines between the accredited media fighting for images from normally controlled areas, against non accredited togs in uncontrolled areas who post event flood the web with “free” images. Add to this punters not wanting a camera pointed at them in every corner of an event. I think controls need to be put in place, but not under the tag of “security”. I was at an event recently as a guest and the number of people with large cameras playing at being press was frankly crazy along with spoiling the event for guests. I spoke with one of the accredited press togs that I knew at the event and he said it was near impossible to get decent images of the crowd that did not show someone without a camera. So is it any wonder these types of control are coming in?

    Let’s not forget these events are “owned” by organisations who can set whatever rules they like for attending, you can go as a paying guest under the rules, if your only reason for going is to take pictures to syndicate or flood the web with then become accredited and work within the guidelines that pro togs have had to work under for years, ie no flash, not from this side of a barrier etc etc.

  • James

    Bingo, if you can carry a shotgun somewhere, i don’t see why you shouldn’t be allowed to carry a AR. Don’t even try to tell me my T4i can take a better picture than a DP2.

  • James

    Every time you ban something benign like ILC’s and ask security to enforce it you create a dangerous loop hole yeah camera’s are banned, but 20 bucks in some guards pocket and that “not a DSLR bag” doesn’t even get checked.