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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Recover Stolen Camera Gear with Lenstag

Have you ever been the victim of camera theft? Thankfully I haven't, but ever since a colleague of mine recounted his months-long journey to recover his DSLR and lenses, I've been giving the topic a lot of thought. His story involved many calls to the the police, and hours spent scouring the Internet to find his camera's serial number embedded in EXIF data on Flickr. He then painstakingly followed the activities of the thieves on social media until he had enough evidence for the police to approach them. Luckily for the rest of us, there's a potentially useful (and free) service that aims to make the processes of locating stolen camera gear a little easier:

The way it works is quite simple. You enter the serial numbers for your gear via the website, or via mobile apps for iOS and Android. Lenstag then asks you to submit a photo of your gear with the serial number visible to ensure that you actually posses it (I find the mobile apps easiest for this). Once they review the image, your gear is then listed in your account and can easily be marked as stolen. Here is an FAQ that helps explain how the service works once you mark an item as stolen. 

The service is of course only useful if as many people as possible know about it and check it before agreeing to buy used camera gear. That includes camera stores that purchase used equipment, pawn shops, and even everyday people buying used gear online. I'm writing this post to get the word out, and I implore you to do the same. Many kudos to the people behind Lenstag for this great idea!

Some other interesting features are a shareable gear list (optional), a feature that estimates the new vs. used replacement cost of your gear, as well as a voluntary extension for the Google Chrome web browser. The extension, if I understand it correctly, periodically scours the Internet for serial numbers embedded in EXIF data and attempts to crowd-source this data in a way that might locate images taken with stolen cameras faster than Google's search indexing.

If you are curious, here is the list of stolen gear that they openly publish. I put the chart below together based on the data for gear marked as stolen on February 15, 2014. I found it interesting to see the brand stolen most often. Not sure if this is indicative of what is used more or what is more desirable to thieves:

Finally here is a great infographic from Lenstag that breaks this down a little further and depicts the top ways your gear can get stolen: 

If you're into photography, check out some of my other photography-related posts. Also check out my photography work at: