It’s probably a good guess that if you Google the term “how to find a stolen camera” you are not having a good day, as this is not something anyone wants to experience – especially if you are a professional photographer. Losing or having your camera stolen can really upset your travels, especially when it comes to the irreplaceable images that were still on the memory card. Ideally you want to safeguard against theft of the camera and gear in the first place, and there are a variety of anti-theft camera gear products on the market today that you can use to prevent this type of event from occurring, but again, that’s not probably why you ended up on this page – its because your camera is already gone. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
The website called stolencamerafinder is an open source project that was specifically made to help locate a missing camera by searching for photos on the web that have been taken by that camera. This can happen because every photo you take with your digital camera contains hidden information about both the image and the camera such as the make, model and date. This information, called exif data, can also include a unique serial number which identifies your camera. The website stolencamerafinder crawls the internet searching for photos, collecting the serial numbers of the cameras that took them. Take into consideration that only certain cameras can support this, and on the above website, they have a listing of supported cameras that you can check to see if yours has this unique camera security and recovery feature. Another idea might be to consider entering your camera’s digital information into certain online databases that may help find it after being stolen.
Recently a professional photographer recovered his stolen Nikon D3 camera using a new Stolen Camera Serial Search online database. The stolen camera was tracked down through images posted on Flickr after the device was stolen that were scanned and indexed by the stolen camera database found on GadgetTrak. Police acted on evidence provided and recovered the camera a year after it was stolen. More Important Information – A professional photographer experienced the unthinkable while on assignment for Getty Images. His prized possession, a Nikon D3 camera was stolen from him at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. It seemed the camera with lenses valued at over $9,000 was gone forever; gone that is, until just a few months ago when he did a search for his camera on a stolen Camera Serial Search database. The photographer entered the serial number of his stolen camera and found an exact match with several images that were recently posted to Flickr. With the help of police, the photographer was able to track the images to another professional photographer through Facebook, who had unknowingly purchased the stolen camera from an individual and even had the receipt to prove it. The camera was returned to Heller and the police are currently investigating the individual whom it was purchased from, the investigation is still ongoing. Here is a news video of this event. This is the first time stolen camera gear has been recovered by tracking the serial number embedded in images. The GadgetTrak’s Camera Serial Search tool is a free service that we developed that scans images posted online and extracts their embedded serial numbers into a searchable database. It allows people to enter the serial number of a camera and see all of the photos that we have discovered that were taken by that camera. To date the company has indexed more than 10 million camera serial numbers, making it the largest database of its kind. They have currently indexed all of the photos on professional photo sites like 500px.com as well as all images posted to Flickr from 2006 to the present, with plans to search additional sites in the works.
Another unique stolen camera product is CameraTrace, from GadgetTrak. This online product looks for a lost camera on the web by searching for its serial number in uploaded photos, this service comes at a fee of $10 per camera. If your serial number ever pops up in a photo uploaded to popular photo sharing services, you’ll get an email notification.
Lenstag is a recently-launched, free online service for iOS, Android, and the web that records the serial numbers of your lenses, cameras, flashes, laptops and anything else in a secure, private registry before they are stolen. If one or more of your items disappear, you can immediately flag the missing items as stolen which creates a public web page, quickly indexed by search engines. The serial number is then discoverable by a single Google search (example: ‘75165 lenstag’) or by checking the Lenstag apps. Think of it like a DMV for camera equipment. The more people who register their gear, the more effective the registry system becomes.
When you buy something, chances are pretty high the manufacturer gives you the option to register yourself as owner. It can’t hurt. It may help, especially if what your registering is an expensive piece of gear from a smaller company like Zeiss or RED. These usually have fairly personal relationships with their dealers and repair centers and will often send out the serial numbers of stolen gear to their networks. The more mass-market an item is, though, the less likely it is that this will be much help unless you need to actually prove ownership.
There are also online services that let you register your photo equipment by serial number and then make a report if it’s ever stolen (or check to see if that great Craigslist deal you’re about to pull the trigger on has been reported stolen). Stolenlostfound.org. has a simple serial number database that allows you to report your stolen gear and for potential buyers to check the list.
Hawaii News Now – Article on camera and memory card stolen which contained family’s funeral photos TechCrunch – Embedded Serial Number Helps Photographer Find His Stolen Camera Gizmodo – How This Pro Photographer Recovered $9k Worth of Stolen Gear Popular Photography Magazine – Website Helps Recover a Nikon D3 Using EXIF Data