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

  • Likeyourhumour

    So, how did you get around using that brand name?

  • Skeptical

    Really? Why haven’t we heard this story before?

  • Duke Shin

    Canan Rabal? You mean like Pantecks, Lolympus, and Leykuh?

  • Leonardo Abreu

    haha lol

  • Adam Cross

    the reddit identification was completely false, the guy they identified is still missing and they put his family through complete hell by putting his name out there as a suspect

  • 13rex

    The lens could be disassembled and packed with explosives.

  • tttulio

    Do they have a deal with Sony?

  • Ivor Wilson

    This is clearly nothing to do with security.

  • Kestas Z

    yes exactly, consulted bombers – they was not happy with so many cameras around

  • Ivor Wilson

    Irrelevant. If security (due to a potential bomb being disguised as camera equipment) was the real reason for this ban, they might as well just ban humans altogether. There are countless ways to get all sorts of dangerous apparatus into events. This is clearly a smokescreen (sorry…) to limit photographic coverage of the event.

  • Richard Ford

    What has this got to do with Boston?

  • Richard Ford

    Hah! I love South Park too. I was going there – but you beat me to it.

  • Richard Ford

    I once got robbed by a jihadist that pointed a lens right at my head. I was so scared I decided to whip out and release my pepper spray all over the place.

  • Ivor Wilson

    So could a false limb. So could a more determined terrorist cell have explosives surgically inserted into someone’s abdomen. So could a particularly bouffant hairstyle hide a device. Let’s just ban people altogether! This is bull. It has nothing to do with security.

  • Sky

    left in Afghanistan.

  • Sky

    Cellphone could be disassembled and packed with explosives.
    Same with iPad or whatever else you put into your backpack.
    For example: Pressure cooker.
    Americans are more busy with laws and rules that give them fictional security while only limiting the freedom than protecting their citizens.

  • Sandra Chung

    Guess it’s time to break out the ‘toy’ cameras, like the OM-D or EP3. Still trying to figure out how a lens is a ‘security risk’. Citing the Boston Marathon bombing is the reason would make sense if they were banning pressure cookers.

  • AntonyShepherd

    Even the biggest DSLR won’t block other people’s view as much as someone holding up their iPad to film the event will, so I hope they’re banning those too.

  • Kaveh Moravej

    More like security theatre.

  • Chris

    Haha! NICE!

  • William

    I can assure you every horse to be running at Churchill Downs next week lives a better life than a majority of the American population… There’s a LOT of money in thoroughbred racing– owners of this caliber don’t treat their horses badly.

  • phoomp

    They *say* it’s all about security. But, really, that’s most likely just an excuse; most likely they just don’t wan’t regular folk taking better photos than their hired photogs.

  • Frank Smith

    You don’t work in the horse industry do you? the horse is ONLY treated decently well if it produces. Even then it’s a terrible existence.

  • Frank Smith

    so this is some top secret case that nobody else can talk about but you?

  • CrackerJacker

    Wait, you admit you have a camera? Have you ever thought of a photo essay of scenic Guantanamo Bay? This way please……

  • CrackerJacker

    I’m not excusing this *whatsoever*, but I’m betting the excuse will be, not the equipment itself, but the bags used to carry them. How many of us have large black backpacks/bags for our gear?

    Again, this is (as others have said) nothing but security theater.

  • wri7913

    There’s a joke in there, but it seems I can’t find it…. being shorter than 6 inches…. Just saying!

  • Fred Littell

    Security? Nice try at an excuse, more like greed. One can easily check the functionality of cameras with long lenses. More likely they don’t want anybody to sell photos or videos taken at the event.

  • Timothy Pham

    If anybody wonders why, here’s the reason: Professional camera with a long zoom lens could take a much better, close-up pictures that they wouldn’t be able to “cover up” if “something wrong” happened. Not only so, the Bird-In-Flight photographers are quick and fast in taking picture at a blink of an eye of any incidents. :0)

  • Patrick the fifth

    Or a big hat!

  • scooter

    Are they going to ban those giant hats too? Surely those could be a security risk as well.

  • John B. Mueller

    “consulting with several law enforcement…”
    They could say anything is a risk. If they were serious about security, then they wouldn’t allow spectators. Everything and everyone is a security risk. But they’re obviously pushing an agenda. But I’m all for keeping pro cameras out to protect the livelihood of the pro photographers covering the event, just don’t mask it as a security threat.

  • dallasphotogman

    People still go to horse races? Oh well, this place is making a horses arse of out themselves :)

  • Joe Cushing

    They just want people’s photos to be small and grainy so they can charge for better photos. My brother almost got stopped going to a basketball game with his DSLR once. The funny thing is that my compact camera has a lens about as powerful as his DSLR. The small cams are getting better and better lenses. The new version of mine is even more powerful.

  • duddelduddeldum

    “For security reasons we ban backpacks, hats, clothing in general, shoes, drinking cups, …” its just getting more ridiculous every day…

  • Matus Kalisky

    I did not know that the marathon bombings were executed with an interchangeable-lens camera :-/

    This is just another complete failure to bring some actual security to this kind of event that just bugs thousands of visitors. Or maybe Fuji is lobbying to boos sale of their gazzilion-X zoom bridge cameras …

  • socialdiscard

    The Boston connection? Maybe high quality captures of govt operatives is undesirable.

  • Kevin

    Relevant: Psych episode “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder” (S2. Ep5).

  • Paul M

    Every time some tragic thing happens in the US the first thing thats taken away are more freedoms. What was learned from the Boston Marathon regarding cameras? Didnt they ask everyone who took pictures to turn them in for examination? If there were no photos taken the two nuts would still be walking around.

  • Robert Weissman

    I Hope everyone is ready to pay a fee to be officially permitted to take pictures using a pr or mid range camera. Of course you will have to submit to a background check for a fee first. Maybe they can get better pictures with the drones that will be flying overhead in the near future too. “Those who give up freedom for security deserve neither” Benjamin Franklin.

  • DragonFlames

    This is the same kind of mentality that bans certain firearms simply because they “look scary”.

  • Mike Burchard

    I think you folks are getting a small sense of how law-abiding (read: most) gun owners feel, being adversely – and unfairly – impacted due to the actions of a lawless and barbaric minority.

  • Dov Hechtman

    WOW!!!!! what crap so the only thing i could think of is that people with cameras may have bags. But then people carry Bags so why not either search all bags entering the area a standard security procedure or just ban bags.

    Lets be more to the point I want to see how much they try to charge anyone with a so called pro camera a special Lic to shoot at the event

  • VancouverDoug42

    Exactly. The downside to playing the security card for corporate gain, which this is and sadly happens more and more often these days, is that it’s like the old story of the kid who cried wolf once to often. Eventually society just gets numb to the fear the boogie man message and then, when genuine security issues appear most are in the “Yeah whatever.” camp. Bottom line, horrific events have been going on for millennium and overall, even in the US, we are considerably safer than we once were. Playing the security card is disingenuous more often than not.

  • VancouverDoug42

    Well, if the organizers are that concerned about people bringing in WMDs to the event why not embrace the obvious solution – a totally nude Kentucky Derby.

    Now, I realize that the idea has certain drawbacks, not the least of which being that the expected demographic at the event may not be that … err … attractive in the buff. However this is for security reasons and when it comes to the big four societal security worries (alien invasion, comet impact, gamma ray flux from an exploding neutron star and poorly composed images of horses) we simply can’t be too safe. People please. Think of the kittens.

  • VancouverDoug42

    Trying Mike but I can’t connect the dots. Yes photographers are evil in that first they frame you, then they shoot you and then they hang you on their wall but a gun is a stand off weapon and a camera is not.

  • alias

    This has nothing to do with terrorism, they only want designated photographers shooting the event so no one can make a lowsy $100 on an image they take there. Assholes.

  • kadajawi

    Nah, they are right. It IS for security purposes. The security of the attackers/terrorists. I’m not saying the organizers of the Kentucky Derby are linked to Al-Qaeda, but maybe someone should run some checks…

  • logical

    Why not just ask them which law enforcement authorities they consulted with, what was said, and what reasoning did they apply to that to arrive at their decision. That would be fun.

  • 10dier

    It’s NOT 1st April? Yes?