Dumbest Camera Ban Ever

In London:

While photography bans are pretty common, the station has decided to only ban DSLRs due to "their combination of high quality sensor and high resolution". Other cameras are allowed in, as long as they don't look "big" enough to shoot amazing photos.

The iPhone 4S camera is pretty amazing.

Posted on December 12, 2011 at 12:08 PM • 38 Comments

Comments

rubin110December 12, 2011 12:20 PM

The "station" is actually retired and turned into more of a museum now. The ban is still stupid but I feel like it's a different context here, I imagine they're worried nicer photos might dig into their post card sales, which would save them enough money to buy that sign and stand.

HasufinDecember 12, 2011 12:29 PM

I've heard of other places that ban DLSRs. It seems like they're essentially trying to keep out journalists and professional photographers.

If you're legitimately worried about keeping such people out - for example, running an art exhibition and wanting to maintain control of the commercial rights to the images (I hope I phrased that right) then there are better ways to go about it.

monopoleDecember 12, 2011 12:39 PM

I'm always astounded by the belief that terrorists are going to be running around with DSLR's or even point and shoot's openly photographing targets. It's on par with trying to check an AK-47 with bayonet fixed as carry on luggage.

Particularly when you consider "808" cameras:
http://chucklohr.com/808/index.html

cronosDecember 12, 2011 12:41 PM

Some sports venues in the U.S. do the same thing to keep high-quality unapproved photos and/or videos from being released into the wild. Some of them ban based on the size of the lens, which doesn't make as much sense now as it did ten or so years ago. An acquaintance walked in with a small lens on his camera and once he got to his seat, his wife took a large telephoto lens out of the diaper bag she carried and he was in business.

With the small size of affordable consumer cameras available now, most 'no photography' bans are pretty much senseless. To add insult to injury, the quality of images from small cameras is getting better as well.

JohnstonDecember 12, 2011 12:57 PM

@monopole: has nothing to do with terrorists. this is first and foremost related to growing public awareness of police brutality.

Bruce StephensDecember 12, 2011 1:19 PM

Doesn't seem to be anything to do with security. They run tours of the station and like to keep people moving at a reasonable pace, and (perhaps) likely want to sell photos. Maybe it's also dark and they don't want to be responsible for people clanging their lenses against the walls?

PeterDecember 12, 2011 1:37 PM

They do this at our local sports arenas. It is a (largely pointless) attempt to keep photographers who haven't paid for the required press pass from getting marketable photographs. Nothing to do with security.

Loren CahlanderDecember 12, 2011 1:51 PM

Update: Apparently the ban was because DSLR users take longer to shoot photos, and they didn’t want the tours to be delayed. That makes sense. Wait…

Spaceman SpiffDecember 12, 2011 1:53 PM

This is what happens when people who aren't qualified to order lunch think they are qualified to decide what technology is "suitable" for other people to use.

stevekDecember 12, 2011 2:38 PM

There's another issue here.

Communications.

When rulemakers don't say why, those affected get to guess and then (always assuming their guesses are correct) complain or treat the rulemakers with disdain.

A statement that tripods are banned because they form a safety hazard in the dark corridors or the DSLRs are big and heavy and in a crowded area getting banged with one is uncomfortable so limiting photogs to cell phones and small point-and-shoots are less likely to cause injury. They could even say that they're trying to protect intellectual property, though that's a generally losing fight.

Simply saying why takes a lot of the anger away and defuses many situations before they begin. I've never understood the "security" mentality that says the reasons for the rules themselves are classified (for security, of course).

No OneDecember 12, 2011 3:30 PM

@threat: I read that and... BWAHAHAHAHA. Taking photos in a public place is anti-social behavior!? I think that Inspector is the anti-social one there.

Georgie BoyDecember 12, 2011 4:20 PM

The sign didn't say that tripods were banned. And it didn't say that DSLRs were banned because of safety concerns. It does very specifically state that the ban was due to the resolution. Seems to me that there is definitely miscommunication, and the real reason is that they want to sell souvenir books and postcards.

VarjohaltiaDecember 12, 2011 4:30 PM

My friend and I were stopped while taking pictures from the parking garage of a cruise terminal with an attached open-air mall. The parking staff refused to let us leave the facility, and called a sheriff, who informed us that the cruise terminal is a restricted area and photography was not allowed, but he would let us get away with a warning this time.
Since the explanation was patently ridiculous, I wonder how much of it had to do with us having "professional looking" cameras vs. point-and-shoots that all the other tourists had.
Overall, freedom to photograph has been under threat for a while now, both from security theater and intellectual property circles.

MirarDecember 12, 2011 4:36 PM

A lot of touristy places like that have general bans on cameras. I wonder why they didn't just go for that then?

CurmudgeonDecember 12, 2011 4:37 PM

The Aldwich DSLR ban is almost certainly for intellectual property (read: greed) rather than security theater. The owners won't want anyone taking high quality photos unless they pay through the nose for a commercial photography permit.

Dirk PraetDecember 12, 2011 4:52 PM

It would seem that BJP has filed a Freedom of Information request with Transport For London, asking for all information relating to the decision to ban DSLRs at Aldwych Underground Station.

I concure with @stevek that providing some (preferably) rational explanation would be most helpful in avoiding the anger and frustration this sort of actions typically generate. Last time I checked London is not in China, Syria or similar place people generally obey any stupid order whatsoever for fear of being arrested or shot. I'm also surprised no one has yet seen fit to place a second officially looking TFL-sign at the same station saying "Drop pants here".

Clive RobinsonDecember 12, 2011 5:22 PM

@ Dirk Praet,

I'm also surprised no one has yet seen fit to place a second officially looking TFL-sign at the same station saying "Drop pants here"

You obviously don't know how dangerous it is to make suggestions like that around somebody who lives fairly close to "the scene" of the crime to be ;)

Now wher's my tape measure as I figure the best way is to make a laminated sheet to just be the same size as the visable glass of the notice, and fix it in place with some double sided foam "adhesive dots" at the corners...

DavidDecember 12, 2011 8:39 PM

so if "tight schedule" is the real issue (who knows!)... perhaps we need group after group to go through the tour with scummy little happy-snappy cameras, taking an awfully long time to get photos... all the while muttering loudly that "this would be so much quicker if I had my DSLR instead"

Anonymous 1December 12, 2011 10:27 PM

Some bans on photography are actually just attempts to stop people from using a flash (especially important in operating train systems).

Given how many people can't seem to understand how to turn off the flash of their camera or even that it is sometimes a good idea to do so they probably decided that instead of asking people to turn their flash off that they'd just tell people not to take any photos whatsoever which the idiots who can't use their camera are more likely to be able to obey.

Dirk Praet:

Last time I checked London is not in China, Syria or similar place people generally obey any stupid order whatsoever for fear of being arrested or shot.
Isn't London the surveillance camera capital of the world?

zj09December 12, 2011 11:20 PM

you can buy a number of cheap compact mirrorless cameras (sony nex, already mentioned X100) with image sensors just as big as 95% of DSLR's you see around

rule makers tend to be pretty clueless

RobDecember 13, 2011 4:05 AM

Just to give a bit of context, Aldwych is a disused tube station in central london, and has only been opened for tours for a couple of weekends this year and last. The tickets are oversubscribed and therefore vanish amazingly quickly. I managed to go on one of the tours this year and was chatting to the staff there, who seemed as bemused as the rest of us at the DSLR ban. We were ushered around at very high speed, so I suspect the idea was that that they didn't want people setting up cameras/tripods, or spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get a good shot. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the whole tours seemed a bit officious, and health and safety mad, but at least we got to see the station! I worry that too much complaining will result in no more tours...

David LiljaDecember 13, 2011 7:09 AM

Lucky me then. I can leave the Canon 1D at home and bring my Micro Four Thirds camera instead. It's just a small camera. Nothing big, nothing fancy.

And I thought "amazing photos" were shot by brilliant photographers. Guess I was wrong there.

ytDecember 13, 2011 7:45 AM

@varjohaltia: if this was the new shopping center at the Länsiterminaali in Helsinki, I'm going to be seriously worried. I thought Finns were more sensible than that. I've seen media students filming with professional video and still cameras all around Helsinki, and usually nobody even looks twice at them. I really hope Finland is not headed toward nonsensical photography bans.

Samsam von VirginiaDecember 13, 2011 9:17 AM

Ultimate terrorist weapon:

First, some background.

1) BMW car keys have the usual RFID feature, but keep the inductive power signal going continuously to recharge the battery for the remote lock feature.

2) Current camera technology can certainly fit a usable camera into a sphere 1 inch diameter (human eyeball). Power and I/O are a problem, so we use same power and data transfer technique as car keys.

3) Multiple still images of same scene (with minor displacement due to jiggle) can be processed into a higher resolution image. Your optical mouse already does this (in a way, and for a different purpose).

4) Eyeglasses frames are excellent size/location for inductive coil to power an eye-cam.

5) Bad guys are often missing an eye (evidence: ultra-cool eye-patches in movies).

Ta-daaa! Terrorists with Eye-Cams!

Now I'll sit back and wait for someone to post a link to the company that's been making these for a year. Downloading the images after a mission would be tedious; maybe the bad guy can learn to sleep with his glasses on.

karrdeDecember 13, 2011 10:37 AM

This reminds me of something.

The pattern is:

(1) a government agency (or legislature) proposes a ban on Scary Devices
(2) the Scary Device is defined by features unrelated to the core functionality
(3) the Scary Device ban is confusing to those knowledgeable about the technology, because the ban doesn't appear to fix the problem that the proponents claim they are trying to solve

Are we talking about High Resolution DSLR's in London Tube stations? Or weapons law in the US during the 1990s?

Or the proposed SOPA law that is currently in the US Congress? (Said law will make it very easy for government agents to shut down websites hosted in the US...but cannot harm sites registered with alternate-DNS sources, running on overseas servers...)

ZingusDecember 13, 2011 11:05 AM

I wonder what better ways there are to control pictures being done in museums.

Everyone pictures everything everywhere and seizing phone at the entrance con only lead to people preferring not to visit your museum.

Then again UK has extremely strict-to-the-point-of-stupid laws regarding photos done to works of art.

(practically you end up having more rights on the photo than the actual author pof the work of art — there is a rationale behind that, but it ends up being just unfair in most cases)

Kelly StevensDecember 13, 2011 6:49 PM

This is a rights and reproductions issue. For decades most us museums banned " professional" but not consumer cameras to limit quality to keep others from making competing catalogs and products. This is not always economic and attempts to also control academic content in these catalogs.

Anonymous 1December 13, 2011 10:52 PM

Samsam von Virginia:

Power and I/O are a problem, so we use same power and data transfer technique as car keys.
Nope, car keys don't transmit anywhere near as much data as digital cameras do.

karrde:

People who wish to not have photos taken of them while they are drunk and partying now have an option which may protect them.

Can organizations, museums, or locations that want to limit photos do something similar?
It'll only work if the photographer uses a flash (which most would, I can't see a consumer camera getting good results without one in the kind of lighting conditions normal in those places).

A camera optimised for taking photos in low light conditions and which didn't need a flash could still take a usable photo (of course such a thing would probably be rather obvious given it's likely to have a pretty decent aperture).

ThomasDecember 14, 2011 4:48 PM

@karrde
"People who wish to not have photos taken of them while they are drunk and partying now have an option which may protect them."

How fast does that thing recharge (i.e. can it spoil 2 pictures taken in quick succession? 3? N?)

Can I fake it out with a laser pointer from across the room? Either false-trigger it until it goes flat or gets removed, or dazzle it so it can't detect flashes.

What happens if you put 2 of these things next to each other?

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