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

  • Jared Earle

    Security? My arse.

  • Alejandro Calori

    Because all those photos taken and all the websites finding the guilty guys THEY DONT WANT SO MUCH HIGH QUALITY PHOTOS.

  • Jack Donaghy

    Surely mid-to-high-end cameras are actually the kind of thing you want on site in the event of a terrorist attack? If I happened to catch a shot of a suspect with my 5D Mark III, I imagine it would be a lot more useful to law enforcement than a grainy shot off a CCTV camera.

  • Melo

    Idiocy at work once again. Just bring a Canon G12 or G”” whatever. “IT’S NOT THE CAMERA…”

  • Melo

    It must be because Beyonce is attending.

  • Silzter

    If things keep going this way one day I will get arrested just because I have a camera. This is ridiculous

  • Sarah Bugeja Kissaun

    Sounds absolutely ridiculous.

  • John B. Mueller

    What amazes me is that a company or organization can change any rule they want and say it’s for “security” reasons to sound legit.

  • John Farnan

    typical attacks on Photographers.
    Let me see Boston Marathon the suspects were identified because no one had a camera? Nah didn’t think so
    They were identified because so many people did
    But the default for someone with decent camera equipment is … is either a pervert or a terrorist.

  • Ralph Hightower

    She must be going to sing the National Anthem.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Idiots are running the show… Having more cameras would only help to make the event more secure and/or provide plenty of evidence if anything should go down. GET A BRAIN, MORANS!!! USA

  • Fred Nerks

    But official photographers will be exempt from the rule. It’s about money, not security. And there are some cops who hate having pictures taken when they’re dealing with with an issue, so it’s natural they’d advise the race officials to ban DSLRS, camcorders and tripods. It’s a well-known fact that terrorists carry those items around everywhere they go. Isn’t it?

  • Lu

    Sony RX1 / Fuji X100S – problem solved xD

  • Jay

    Because of terrorism, travelers and photographers are most affected.

  • Taos Gun Guy

    Fall into line…goose-step…do as the government bids…be afraid…the government will protect you…

  • Ralph Hightower

    WTF!? Last year, I attended a USC Gamecocks baseball game. For the major Carolina sporting events (football, baseball, and basketball), lenses longer than 6 inches are not allowed. Fortunately my 80-200mm was within the 6 inch limit.

    The KY Derby list is just Draconian, as is their policy of confiscating contraband items like cameras. What are they going to do with your Canon 1Dx? Sell it on EBay?
    The reporter mentioned about the electronics being a problem. What if someone brings a fully mechanical film camera to the KY Derby?

    Smartphones and cell phones are electronic. Cell phones have been known to trigger bombs.
    Their policy of what’s good and what’s not just does not make sense!

  • Tom

    Oh, but I bet you can carry a hand-gun.

  • Ralph Watkins

    I did security work in Iraq for the top 5 officials of the Iraqi govt. VP Shaways was at a function & the bomb dog alerted on a reporter. The handler thought it was a false alert since Iraq was loaded with explosive residue. When the 2nd dog closer to the VP alerted again a more serious search was conducted. The one lens he was carrying was packed with C4. It would have detonated by attaching it to the camera & taking a picture with it. Yes, the experts retained information from their experiences.

  • Dennis Warren

    If my camera is not welcome, I just don’t go…just a bunch of horse s**t anyway !!!

  • LarrYd

    Horse racing is pathetic enough already. One of the worst animal abusing ‘industries’ there is…disgusting.

  • photohounds

    Perverts and miscreants with concealed cameras, guns and bombs are JUST FINE!
    A pack of morons, not unlike many members of the easily scared sheep public.

  • Sebastian Harris

    I don’t understand to be honest. The photographs that came out of the Boston bombing scene were documentation of a horrific event and helped to resolve a crime with pictorial evidence, so banning cameras (and telephoto for that matter) is a ridiculous concept.

  • Sebastian Harris

    It’s about the security actually.
    “Churchill Grounds says that the measures were developed after consulting with several law enforcement authorities following the Boston Marathon bombings last week.”

  • Leonardo Abreu

    I love america, but this is just stupid!! Where’s your freedom, america…

  • Mansgame

    We all know what this is: They don’t want anybody selling a picture. The joke is on them though with all the new point and shoots being “good enough”

  • Burnin Biomass

    For security? I assume if its for security, that they are worried about something being smuggled in inside a fake lens. I dont see a security issue.

    I could see an issue as far as sitting and watching the race. I was at a race (auto, not horses) and had a very inconsiderate guy next to me with a huge 70-200ish 2.8, and it was hard to see around when looking up the track (he left the camera up at all times).

  • dickhead

    pathetic. I better make the bomb in my cooler instead. Oh! it’s bigger than a camera!

  • geeves

    If you don’t want cameras at the event, just say so. Don’t make up some BS “security” excuse. If they had said they prefer that large cameras are unwelcome as to deter people from god-forbid actually enjoying the race and not obstructing others’ view – just say that.

  • Ken Akiva Shapero

    Ignorance abounds in Kentucky

  • Ken Akiva Shapero

    A bunch of BS.

  • faloc

    A taped up Leica M9 might work…. this is totally pathetic… glad Im not living in USA xD

  • LarrYd

    What does this have to do with the government? Wait, I don’t want your crazy right-wing paranoid answer so just save the rhetoric…

  • Dane Hewitt

    Yeah, because everyone knows photographers were responsible for the bombing, right?

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    In what world does that make absolutely any sense at all? Two guys brought backpacks with bombs in them to the marathon. What does that have to do with cameras? Nothing.

  • MM

    Dumb policy especially as, in events such as Marathons these could NOT be precluded in any case.

  • MM

    And on what basis did the Boston Marathon people make this judgment? Did the boys smuggle a pressure cooker bomb in their 200mm telephoto lens?

    And, as you will work out, you can’t ban certain cameras from a street event such as a marathon as they’re held on public property.

  • Gummyrabbit

    You can bring a pressure cooker in, but a camera….no!

  • Duke Shin

    Just going to leave this here. I imagine the guy running the event bought babby’s first rabal and failed miserably at using it.

  • Duke Shin

    You mean Sarah Jessica Parker.

  • Christopher D Kesler

    please someone with access check to see if there will be any “military training exercises” going on the days or either races>?? both sandy hook and the boston marathon had them going on the day the terrorism happend

  • Christopher D Kesler


  • adam murphy

    Hey O!

  • Sumonelse

    Or, in lieu of the Boston bombing, they don’t want a bunch of photographs floating on the internet, causing mass hysteria and false accusations. I’m fairly certain that someone was able to correctly identify the bombers on redit; however how about the dozens who were false accused and had their lives turned upside down because of the false accusations.

  • Dikaiousne01

    Don’t forget,
    Sigma DP3M
    Nikon Coolpix A
    Ricoh GR

  • 3ric15

    Because it is obviously soooo easy and cheap to pack a $3000 DSLR with explosives….right….

  • 3ric15


  • Fuzztographer

    Right, so the question is: who stands to profit from this?

  • Bill

    What camera shop can I get this at? and does it require a background check?

  • gord skinner

    the article does not explain why,cameras with detachable lens are a security issue, and why the reference to the Boston bombing in a negative context when cameras helped solve the crime!

  • Greg Schmidt

    I think she is running, in the Kentucky Derby.