Nikon Patent Shows Password Protection for Lens/Body Combinations


Having your camera stolen is not a fun experience. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a camera that catches its own theft in progress, your recovery options are limited to services like Stolen Camera Finder, CameraTrace and, the most likely fix, a good insurance policy.

According to a recent patent, however, Nikon may have another method in the works that will try to prevent and deter theft. Nikon Rumors reports that the camera giant has filed a new patent in Japan (number 2013-61508) that locks certain lens/body combinations using a password.


The translated text is a bit difficult to piece together, but it seems like the tech would link the lens and camera serials to a passcode. If you can’t enter the password, the lens/body combo won’t work. The idea was inspired by smartphones that have been implementing passwords and locking down to prevent resale for years.

The patent was only released last week, but it’s been filed since September of 2011, so there’s a chance the overdue addition of serious security functions into DSLRs may not be that many generations away.

(via Nikon Rumors)

Image credit: Photo illustration based on Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D by n3rraD

  • bob cooley

    I don’t see this deterring theft – most camera thieves won’t even know about this feature when stealing the gear – and passwords on smart-phones aren’t to keep someone from stealing your device, its to keep them from getting to your data (contacts, secure info, etc.) most thieves simple to a hard reset on the phone, and its set back to factory specs.

    it would get someone in trouble if they tried to sell the equipment back to a camera store, but that’s an unlikely scenario as well.

    It’s laudable that they are trying to make systems more theft-proof, I just don’t see this working.

  • Peter Grifoni

    It will severely restrict the resale options for the would be thief, but like most things electronic, they will eventually find a way around the system.

  • Jeremy Lawrence

    If it becomes known that cameras can be locked then it may well be a deterrent.

    So they’ll nick a Canon instead.

  • lidocaineus

    Did you just ignore what @bobcooley:disqus said? It won’t deter anything – phones are locked all the time and still stolen, because a thief doesn’t care what’s on the phone or that he can’t get to it – he’ll just factory reset it and sell it.

  • Ken Elliott

    And this will happen when some of us call Nikon USA:

    Customer: “Hi. I just bought a Nikon lens on eBay and need a passcode. The serial number is………”
    NikonUSA: “Sorry, that’s a gray market lens. We don’t provide passcodes for gray market lenses.”

    They won’t even fix non-US lenses for a fee, so you know how this will all turn out.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    It may be a good ideia…

  • bob cooley

    Unfortunately its a constant game of cat and mouse. Look at the software world; a company spends a fortune and creates a security system (DRM, CSS on DVDs, etc.) and a 15 yr. old figures out a way to decode it within the first month.

    Every new iteration of the iPhone operating system has new security on it, and within weeks a new jailbreak comes out.

    And whatever solution they come out with will be a software-based one (even firmware can be hacked).

  • bob cooley

    Buying grey market professional goods is generally foolish. Yeah, it saves you a few dollars, but you are assuming all the risk if the product breaks. Its easy to tell a US serial number on Nikon products, because the serial number starts with US…

    I’ve bought a couple of grey market items in the past, but I always got a Mack or other international warranty with it (for a cost).

  • Burnin Biomass

    I assume they mean you have to put the password in once, and the camera and lens remembers… because putting in a password every time I change a lens would suck.

  • A. Jansen

    Keep this away from my Pentax.

  • aa

    Just change the lens to another one and there the problem is gone! This idea is just plain!

  • Andreas

    And then you have to enter the password just in that grat moment… and… ups, the moment is gone… missed shot! again! Would be better with a fingerprint scanner… ;D

  • Ken Elliott

    My D700 bodies do NOT have “US” in the serial number, and my TC20eIII doesn’t either. I’d check my D800’s but the number is blocked by a Arca-Swiss style plate.

    My point is: 1) not everyone knows Nikon’s won’t-fix-gray-market policy. 2) not everyone knows to check for “us” on the lens. 3) Nikon’s “World Wide Warranty” is not honored at Nikon USA. Plenty of people have purchased from authorized dealers when overseas (trip, vacation or actual home) and can’t get it fixed when in the USA by Nikon USA.

    BTW – I don’t buy gray market (knowingly) for this exact reason. But let’s face it – sometimes you need a lens for a job, and everyone is out of the USA version. At that point, you have little choice but to buy gray.

  • bob cooley

    Sorry, but if someone is spending that much on a piece of kit, they should know what they are getting into, otherwise it’s just poor judgement on the part of the purchaser. If they don’t know what grey market is, all you have to do is ask the salesman; or the internet – the information is readily available.

    If you need a lens for a specific job, you can always rent. No need to buy grey,…

  • Ken Elliott

    I guess we have to disagree. I don’t care for Nikon USA’s policy. I feel it is anti-customer. If I understand you (and I may not), you suggest it is “buyer beware”, and “too bad if you didn’t know before you spent your money”. Please correct me if I’ve got that wrong.

  • bob cooley

    Your initial concern was that people were unaware of Nikon’s policies.

    When someone is making capital investments in equipment, it should be part or their purchasing process to have an understanding of what they are buying. We live in an age of Google and easy access to information.

    I would completely agree with your stance if this information were hidden from the public, or not readily available, but

    Ignorance of policies or information before purchasing, especially when it’s a purchase that will strain the buyers’ pocketbook is just poor practice. Everything in today’s marketplace is ‘buyer be educated’, and this isn’t a case of poor ethics by Nikon, its a widely known policy that has been in place for years, and is easy to reference.

  • Ken Elliott

    In theory, you are correct – in a perfect world we would all educate ourselves before making a capital investment. But most people are really busy, and lack the time to study every purchase so deeply. Also, there are cases where customers did not know they were buying a gray market product, and other cases where they purchased a Nikon product outside the USA for reasonable reasons. Here’s an example of a pro photographer who got bit by Nikon’s policy.

    I suggest a reasonable policy for Nikon USA would be to offer paid-for repairs for items they did not import. The current policy benefits Nikon USA at the expense of customers. In some cases the pain is needlessly severe.

    Your position seems to be “they were stupid, thus deserve to suffer”. There are other options that would gain customer loyalty rather than pissing them off needlessly.

  • bob cooley

    “But most people are really busy, and lack the time to study every purchase so deeply.”

    This isn’t rocket science – its simply researching your capital investments, and its not even difficult information to find.

    Would you purchase a car without having it fully checked out first? Without having full knowledge of the warranty and payment terms?

    Why would you treat equipment you use professionally any differently?

    It unlikely that Nikon even CAN service grey market products, due to trade restrictions. While grey market items aren’t technically ‘illegal’ they are in violation of trade agreements, and servicing products out of region could cause trade sanctions for Nikon if they willingly serviced items they knew were not purchased via authorized channels.