Lenstag: a World Without Camera Theft - Digital Photography School

Lenstag: a World Without Camera Theft

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. Thanks to Lenstag’s growing relationships with the pawn shop industry and law enforcement, the exchange of money for that stolen item becomes much more difficult akin to trying to sell a stolen vehicle. The idea behind this service is that if everyone gets into the habit of checking serials numbers online before purchasing used equipment, it will become harder and harder over time to peddle hot items and thieves will get arrested when they try to pawn them. Think of it like a DMV for camera equipment.  The more people who register their gear, the more effective the registry system becomes.

By locking down a particular serial as belonging to you, the reselling and pawning of that stolen item becomes discouraged. Serials on Lenstag marked as stolen are indexed online.

By locking down a particular serial number as belonging to you, the reselling and pawning of that stolen item becomes discouraged. Serial #s on Lenstag, marked as stolen, are indexed online.

There is currently no foolproof way to prevent potentially having all of your gear stolen, even if your equipment never leaves your home. Insurance can protect you financially, but you permanently lose your original items and any images or video stored on them. There is no guarantee Lenstag can get your original items back either, but with Lenstag there is a chance that only increases with time.

The more serials that get checked prior to purchase on the used market, the safer everyone’s gear becomes.

The more serial numbers that get checked prior to purchase on the used market, the safer everyone’s gear becomes.

With Lenstag, you have a centrally-located place to store all of your serial numbers. They can be easily transferred to another Lenstag user if you decide to sell your gear. Your serial logs are date marked. This is handy if you ever need, for whatever reason, to prove that you have owned a certain piece of gear for at least as long as it has been registered. You can make your gear lists public as well. This is handy for showing clients what you own or for resource planning with collaborators.

Transfer serials, share gear lists with others, or prove what you own via an clear-cut dashboard.

Transfer serials, share gear lists with others, or prove what you own via an clear-cut dashboard.

You should use Lenstag if?

  • You don’t have any insurance. This service is free and is better than having absolutely no protection at all.
  • You already have insurance but want just a little extra peace of mind.
  • You collaborate with other photographers a lot or work with clients who need to know what equipment you are using.
  • You, for whatever reason, need to prove you own something without having to carry around a bunch of receipts or registration cards.
  • You buy a lot of used gear. You don’t have to be a Lenstag user to check a serial # but having the app on-hand for checking makes the process very easy. You can also use Lenstag’s text-to-check feature by texting the serial number in question to +1-415-749-9808. This works regardless of whether or not you’re registered on Lenstag.
Text to check a serial in question, regardless of whether or not you are registered on Lenstag.

Text to check a serial in question, regardless of whether or not you are registered on Lenstag.

Lenstag is used by all three of the major rental houses in the United States: BorrowLenses.com, LensRentals.com, and LensProToGo.com. It is currently being used in over 150 countries worldwide. Uploading an image of your item is quick and helps discourage theft one indexed serial at a time. Be sure your serial # is visible on your item when taking its picture for inclusion in your personal registry.

Not every number on your lens is a serial. Be sure you are reading the right thing.

Not every number on your lens is a serial. Be sure you are reading the right thing.

Want to know how gear gets stolen the most? The results may surprise you. Lenstag took the stats of its reported serials to learn the most common ways gear got stolen in 2013, along with the most commonly stolen models.

Don’t leave it behind! You’re most likely to have items taken from your car.

Don’t leave it behind! You’re most likely to have items taken from your car.

How to use & find Lenstag
Lenstag can be download for iOS and Android. You can also use their service via their desktop site.

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Jim Goldstein is a San Francisco based professional photographer. An author as well as a photographer Jim has been published in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Popular Photography and has self-published a PDF eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension - Time covering numerous slow shutter techniques. His latest work and writing can be found on his JMG-Galleries blog and on 500px

  • Doug

    One that I have been using for ages is Immobilise, you can find it at
    http://www.immobilise.com
    It’s the uk national lost property register.

  • Greg Twemlow

    The Lenstag App is super-easy to use and I Iike that it is primarily, but not only, for photography enthusiasts. I had thought I might add my car to my registry and quite a few other things that I value. In fact I might call my insurer and ask them whether I could get a discount if all my valuables are listed in my Lenstag registry.

  • http://yngvethoresen.com Yngve Thoresen

    I’m not sure I get why I should install an app if I can get the same service from the website. I understand that there is a “we need an app for everything, and everyone must provide an app”-thing for the time being, but it’s not like I get new items to put in this database on a daily, or even weekly, basis.

    That being said, I like the concept a lot, and will be sure to add my items as I acquire them. I just switched system (from Nikon to mFT), so I have a few lenses I’m keen on getting soon.

  • Trevor Sehrer

    Glad you like the concept! I wrote the apps mainly to provide Lenstag users with additional convenience since they make use of the device’s camera to make the verification process faster. Additionally, having the ability to flag an item as stolen as soon as you notice it missing should greatly increase chances of recovery. If you have any thoughts/feedback/questions, please feel free to email me at trevor AT lenstag.com. Thanks!

  • Richy

    IVe been trying to upload images via the website for months and it always times out, I gave up. Just came back to it, installed the app and everything uploaded fine. The app was worth it just for that :) You can check for stolen items using the app though rather than having to use sms. Very handy if your out and about and wanting to check a second hand item.

  • vidaa

    Beautiful tripod I joined
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  • oila

    I use auto focus), and great low light performance at a price I could actually afford.
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  • Trent Carmichael

    I had about 10,000 worth of gear stolen out of my vehicle last week. If this works its worth downloading an app and taking the necessary precautions before hand.

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