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July 15, 2008

SLR Cameras Only With Olympic Credentials

I’ve received several emails this past week asking whether or not individuals with general admission tickets will be allowed to bring professional camera equipment into the Olympic venues. I’ve confirmed with two senior BOCOG officials that SLR cameras and lenses will not be permitted beyond security checkpoints without Olympic credentials. Their reasoning is that SLR cameras will block the view of other fans, so they simply will not be allowed. You shouldn’t run into any problems bringing point & shoot cameras and using them in the venues as long as you do so from your own seat and don’t block the view of other spectators. Because of broadcast exclusivity, video cameras will also likely be prohibited. This seems obvious to me, but BOCOG suggested that I mention that photo positions in the arenas will be restricted to credentialed photographers as well.


I’ve held off on posting this information for a few days while searching the city for a “no camera” sign to serve as art for this post, but believe it or not, I haven’t run into a single sign yet. Photographers and their cameras are allowed virtually everywhere, including Beijing’s infamous counterfeit markets. I was yelled at by a salesperson in the Silk Market yesterday when trying to photograph a fake Omega watch, but only because officials are cracking down on fakes associated with the Olympics (Omega is a sponsor) -- that was the only time I’ve run into anyone refusing to be photographed. If you’re attending the Olympics without press credentials, be sure to leave the SLR at home and carry a small point & shoot camera to avoid refused entry.

Updated 7/19/08 10:19AM: It looks like BOCOG does in fact have some regulations in print banning professional camera equipment. Thanks for the link, Tom.

Updated 7/23/08 8:18PM: Tom's at it again, but this page appears to be even more relevant -- BOCOG lists "5.1.6 Any unauthorized professional photography equipment" under the heading "Restricted or Prohibited Items and Behaviours."

Updated 8/4/08 10:02AM: I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but it looks like "professional photography equipment" is not on the banned list at venues. BOCOG's website (see link above) has not been changed, but the signs at venues do not list professional photography equipment with prohibited items. More details here.

Updated 8/11/08 11:49AM: Great news -- SLR cameras are being allowed into the venues!


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alaskan cruises

This is not news. Professional cameras and DSLRS are not allowed in concert halls as well. This is why I prefer to purchase compact DSLRS.


this news that SLR cameras are not allowed is TOTALLY false. Tripods are not allowed but cameras even video ones are perfectly ok. I was there and I even carried a bag of lenses, including my tele lens

alan from manila

Ben Ciarns

I just did a quick google images search for no camera sign and got dozens of results


Methinks they put that DSLR/Lens rule in so that, if anything DO go wrong, they have a rule to enforce with.

So if some guy with an uber long lens DO cause problems with the other spectators, they are able to show that there was such a rule in place.

If you're nto one of those types, i doubt they'd bother you.

fair bit of them can't even speak english, you think they'd train them to spot DSLR and long lenses with certain focal lenses etc?


Zach Honig

I can't promise you'll be able to bring your SLR in... but it looks like there's at least a little hope. More info here: http://beijing2008.popphoto.com/2008/08/slr-cameras-not.html


I’m shocked at this restriction. We have a group of International Olympic attendees called Olympic Oneness Dream. www.olympiconenessdream.com We will be sharing our photos and stories. It looks like we will be shooting more of Chinas’ oppressiveness than we will shoot Sports from the stands. I feel this will backfire on them. I was planning to bring my Nikon D300 with me to all events, now what? I’ll turn my talents to focus on what the hell is there problem, should the prohibition prove true. This will be my fourth Olympics, I never had and restriction on the type of camera I could carry .I also hear that they will ban Blacks from the Bars and Clubs. How do you say “I have a Dream” in Mandarin? If you are going join with us we will have more strength together.

Zach Honig

Allen -- I haven't heard anything new yet, so I think we may have to wait to hear from spectators trying to bring equipment into the venues before any new information comes out.

Eddie -- That would be great if it ends up being true! Is there any mention of where the author heard that information?


I came across this post at dpreview saying DSLRs ok but no lenses 300/2.8 and bigger. http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1037&message=28659672


I'm leaving on the 11th as well for Beijing!

Zach, have you heard anything new about the SLR situation.

The pollution in Beijing doesn't look like it has improved since the shutdown of local factories and the restriction on personal cars.

Bob Camarena

I've been following this info with great interest. I'll be leaving for Beijing on 8/11, which is after the opening so I hope you let us know how this is actually implemented when the time comes.


I think China has enough VIPs coming (Bush, EU Head (the F President), and many many CEOs) and they really don't care if those who realy don't know what they are talking about will come or not. As a matter of fact, China will most likely reject your visa application even if you want to go.


seriously? that seems a bit harsh most DSLRs these days are borderline "professional photography equipment". like what about the Nikon D40?

John Krill

Stupid is that stupid does. No DSLR? Really, really stupid. I was at the '84 games and carried a Nikon F everywhere. Never once did someone say 'Put that thing down I can't see.' Anyway it's just stupid. Wait until the games and thousands show up with their DSLRs. It will not be a pretty site.


I don´t think you have the chance to get anything through the security that is not allowed. They advice spectators to arrive 1-2 hours before the competitions begin, even in smaller venues. Security measures in Beijing are really strict at the moment. If you visit a public swimming pool these days, they even check your shampoo bottle, because it could contain liquid explosives. To be honest, I have never heard of a "shampoo bomber" :) .

I hope they allow at least some additional batteries for my little consumer cam.

Ben Hicks

I guess I'll have to bring my TLR


It's ridiculous! A P&S camera disturbs more than an eyelevel viewfinder. With P&S cameras you must put your arms out of your eyes to see the LCD display, disturbing with you arms! They may be bigger than most telephoto lenses.

Zach Honig

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I just want to point out that this is not a political blog so please avoid politically charged comments -- BOCOG has several reasons for requiring credentials for DSLRs but as far as I can tell they're not intended to restrict the freedoms of ticket holders. As far as using DSLRs in other parts of the city -- you shouldn't have a problem as long as cameras in general are not prohibited.

Zach Honig

@Calif-photog: Please email me at beijing@popphoto.com -- you didn't leave your full name so I'm not sure which email to search for. Thanks :)


Dear Zach,
Thanks Zach for your wonderful blog (is totally great!).
Whew, am kinda devastated by the no-pro-SLR news for spectators. Just is hard to take.

To explain, there are a few of us that cover very small non-mainstream Olympic sports professionally and in our lifetimes, may never have the luck or honor to receive an EPs credential.

Am especially dashed by this news. Because at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 (plus an earlier OG)...bringing 300mm or 400mm lens and a major pro body was a "no worries" entry thru security at every venue. Yes, you have to have courtesy for your fellow spectators (always!) and NEVER BLOCK THEIR VIEW. That is a 'no brainer', with or without a credential at any world class championship. Every photographer knows this.

The Aussies (2000) and Greeks (2004) were so cool with spectators bringing major photo gear. All the earlier Olympic volunteers were just so helpful and understanding. I was hoping Beijing would be the same...we know the Chinese want to be welcoming, polite and show visitors a nice experience.
Well, I guess Beijing is what it is. I will have to sell my spectator tickets, cancel my hotel res etc.

Zach, will write you again offline. Thanks so much mate for your earlier advice. -T


This is in response to Peter McM saying, "You couldn't PAY ME to go to Beijing, camera or no camera." He doesn't know what he's missing. My husband and I spent 2 1/2 weeks touring China and Lhasa, Tibet. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed getting to know more about the country. The food in China isn't like the Chinese food here. Of all of the trips we've made (Caribben islands; the Inland Passage of Alaska; England, Scotland and Wales; Portugal and Spain; Italy; Israel and Egypt; various US states), the trip to China and Tibet was one of the best we've taken. We enjoyed seeing the architecture, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors and sailing down the Yangtze River through the 3 Gorges to the dam. I enjoyed the trip to China and Tibet much more than our recent trip to Kauai and Honolulu. I have a friend who has been to China several times and enjoyed it each time. Don't know a country just because you don't like it or know much about it. It's good to keep an open mind and learn from the experience of being in another culture.

Zach Honig

The concept of banning SLR cameras doesn't seem all that foreign to me -- like I said, I think this will vary from venue to venue, guard to guard. I haven't seen anything in print on BOCOG's web site so this rule is probably open to interpretation. If you try to bring in a Nikon D3 with a 400mm lens and a monopod, you're not going to have much luck, but carrying a small SLR or EVF camera will probably be less of an issue. My point is that you should be prepared to be denied entry with an SLR, and plan accordingly.

Mike J

But, what's an SLR these days?
I own a high mega pixel "point and shoot" that views through the large Zeiss zoom lens that also takes the picture!
Like all idiotic laws set up by radical or totalitarian ruling party leaderships (China, USA, Britain, Iran, Taliban, etc. take your pick), they oversimplify what is out there, the reality of complexity, and the fact that, people are diverse in many many ways. They adhere to arbitrary dogmatic policies and rules.
History has proven again and again that trying to control that human diversity and with it, creativity, will ultimately fail.


I guess it has too be P&S, otherwise the Chnese Government get's confused. The point and shoot is a very well known method in China so it's not very suprising, ist it?


Block the view of others? I guess the person that holds up the point & shoot won't be blocking or annoying anyone. Neither will the flash that goes off for that "perfect shot" a hundred yards away.

Jason L.

Do they allow SUPMYLO cameras like in the picture?

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