Fans with high-end camera equipment are commonplace at F1 circuits around the world

Circuit of The Americas released the prohibited items list for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix which includes a strict ban on types of cameras owned by many racing fans.  Like many other large-scale events in America, an extensive list of banned items is part of the legal formalities a venue must publish. In most cases, the rules are completely reasonable (e.g. no fireworks), but for the USGP in November the regulation of camera equipment is a big surprise for seasoned racing fans.

COTA is not alone; five minutes of Googling and you'll find that many events err on the side of prohibition when it comes to items permitted through the gates.  For example, the 75,000+ Austin City Limits Music Festival attendees have to adhere to a list that is nearly identical to COTA's, showing that their requirements are in line with other large scale events. 

But racing is different, and the fans expect a bit more respect than a standardized list of banned items. Attending the 2011 Montreal GP was no exception, as I met many, many fellow fans with $5,000+ invested in quality camera equipment. Lenses longer than ten inches are common, including monopods and other accessories.

Small interchangeable lens cameras are the new standard for non-professionals in 2012No, it's not just the consumer Prosumer type who should be upset, chances are most people willing to shell out for race tickets and book a 4-night minimum hotel with airfare, aren't going to trust their memories to a $200 point-and-shoot or camera phone. Small DSLRs and hybrid cameras like Nikon's new J1 are now the standard for 'soccer-moms' around the country. The unilateral ban on interchangeable lens cameras means a majority of race attendees don't own an approved camera anymore. 

Finally, should you be turned down at the gates with a prohibited camera, you're not going to have time to ride the shuttle back to your car and leave it in an unprotected parking garage. Most attendees will therefore opt to leave their camera equipment in their hotel room and be stuck without a way to capture memories until they travel many miles away to retrieve it. 

This presents a problem that quickly goes beyond the track and effects the overall experience. Race attendees looking to travel to the Fan Fest street festival, visit the Capitol building, or just walk on the streets of Downtown Austin with their families and friends, will face a significant burden in order to have a record of, what is for many, a once in a lifetime experience.

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