How to prevent camera gear theft with new Lenstag tracking website


posted Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:01 AM EST


Photo gear theft is a very real problem. Ask any photographer who's had their gear stolen from a parked car, or who wants a camera bag that doesn't "look like a camera bag" so it doesn't get pulled off their shoulders. A Google engineer has set his sites on preventing this problem by creating a new, easy-to-use database where photographers can register their gear, and report it stolen.

The site, called Lenstag, has you set up an account, and then enter your cameras and lenses into the system as well as their serial numbers. To make double sure the gear is actually yours, you're required to upload a photograph of the serial number on the gear itself, so Lenstag can confirm you have the real thing in your possession.

Once your gear is loaded in the system, you can either transfer ownership to another person (should you sell it), or if things go awry, you can can mark it "stolen" — and that's where the interesting stuff happens. Anyone searching the database for a serial number of a stolen item will, of course, be informed  it's been marked, but the service will also generate a unique, publicly searchable page for each such stolen item, one that will be indexed by search engines. Which means that if someone starts Googling around the serial number of a lens that they're looking to buy, it'll pop up pretty prominently that it's not being sold by its real owner.

Talking to PetaPixel, Developer Trevor Sehrer said:

“Cameras and lenses are just like jewelry right now. You can just pick up a lens, take it to a pawn shop, and then sell it.”

In order to combat that, Lenstag is “designed to obliterate the ability of thieves to resell stolen gear,” and will hopefully “reduce the likelihood that gear will be stolen altogether.”

Both LensRentals and BorrowLenses are both on board with the site in order to keep better track of their rented gear, in case it goes missing.

This isn't the first site we've seen devoted to helping you track down stolen gear. StolenCameraFinder, for example, takes advantage of the fact that most cameras embed their serial number in the EXIF metadata. It will trawl through publicly available photos to hunt down images with your serial number in them, and find if someone's been shooting with your stolen gear.

But Lenstag's plan to make the stolen item pop up in search results could do a lot on its own to help you figure out if that second hand gear you're buying from Craigslist is problematic or not.

(via PetaPixel)