PetaPixel

Lenstag: A Free Online Gear Registry that Aims to End Camera and Lens Theft

lenstag-welcome

Camera equipment has long been attractive to the eyes of thieves. After all, it’s generally portable, pricey, and a piece of cake to sell through channels such as Craigslist. In Northern California, robbers have begun targeting photojournalists at gunpoint in order to snatch their gear.

Developer Trevor Sehrer, a Google engineer by day, has been working on a website that aims to help combat the theft of photography gear. It’s called Lenstag, and is an online equipment registry that makes it easier to report and track stolen cameras and lenses.

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

Lenstag is his attempt to solve this growing problem. It’s “designed to obliterate the ability of thieves to resell stolen gear.” By making it more difficult to sell stolen gear, Sehrer hopes it will eventually “reduce the likelihood that gear will be stolen altogether.”

Let’s take a look at how the service works. It starts with a simple one step sign in/up form. Enter your email and password, and you’ll soon find yourself looking at a main registry in which you can list out all the gear you own.

lenstag-mainlist

Adding gear to the list is simple and is done through a small form that pops up.

lenstag_addgear

Claiming that the gear is yours isn’t enough, though. You’ll need to go further and verify that you actually own that piece of equipment. This is done by providing a photograph of that gear — an image that includes a clear view of the serial number.

lenstag-verifygear

A human on the other end of the service will examine the photograph and make a judgement as to whether or not you actually own what you claim to. Once you get a green light, the equipment will be listed as “Verified” on your registry.

At this point, you’ll see two new options for what you can do. One is “Transfer,” which allows you to officially transfer the gear to another photographer’s Lenstag account.

lenstag-transfergear

The other is a button you hopefully won’t ever have to click: “Report stolen gear.” In the event that your camera or lens IS stolen, you’ll be using this form in order to report that particular serial number as “stolen”:

lenstag-reportstolen

Once this report is filed, your gear will be marked as stolen in the Lenstag system. This database of stolen gear will be useful to those who need to verify the legitimacy of equipment they’re buying secondhand.

For example, a photographer buying a lens on Craigslist will now have an easy database to query for figuring out whether they’re buying stolen wares. Police departments and pawn shops can also use the Lenstag registry for easy lookups.

In addition to providing the information through a Lenstag search, the site attempts to make the stolen gear report show up in Internet searches. Each stolen piece of gear has its own public web page that lists it as a stolen item.

lenstag-stolenreport

This page is indexed by search engines such as Google. What this means is that you won’t need to do any special searches on the Lenstag website — a simple search on Google for a serial number and a keyword (e.g. “stolen,” “lenstag”) will do.

Sehrer tells us that he doesn’t have any plans to monetize this service (as of yet), and is simply on a mission to disrupt the stolen gear market. “The first few hours after a theft are absolutely critical for recovery,” he tells us. “Lenstag can get a record of a stolen item out on the web faster than anyone can file a police report.”

Larger businesses have already begun partnering with Lenstag in order to keep a handle on their gear. These include two large equipment rental companies, LensRentals and BorrowLenses, who are now utilizing the system to reduce theft and speed up equipment recovery.

Want to get started with keeping track of your equipment? Head on over to the newly launched Lenstag website to get started.


 
  • David Liang

    This is fantastic, especially since he’s not monetizing the service. Well worth the extra time to input all the information.

  • Rolento Ong

    they should have a similar service for cellphones

  • Valerie

    Sorry to be a pessimist but what are the assurances that this database won’t be hacked and serve as a menu for would-be thieves?

  • Hurr

    What’re they gonna do, sell your serial numbers?

  • http://grimard.daportfolio.com/ Julien

    Great! Not let’s just hope enough people use it, because it’s useless unless a lot of people us it. I already added all my gear to the site, awaiting approvals.

    My only complaint is that they only have a Google+ and a Twitter page. I know the guy is a Google employee, but come on, only Google employees use Google+. If you want to make sure your website gets enough people to make it useful please create a Facebook page so normal people can follow you.

  • http://grimard.daportfolio.com/ Julien

    The good thing about this site is that it doesn’t ask for your real name, or your address. So if they get hacked all they get is your email address. Some people have their full name in their email address, but then the hackers would need to figure out which of the 200 people with the same name as you you are, and then find your address. So unless you have a website with your email and address on the same page that someone can easily Google or your Facebook account has all that info and your safety settings are set to “I don’t believe in bad people and so everyone can see everything I do” you shouldn’t have a problem.
    But yeah, I see your point. My main concern is that there is a page with our equipment that we can share with friends, and we can give that page whatever name we want, so some people will be stupid enough to name that page with their real name or with they deviantArt username, making it easy for their fake friends to know how much money’s worth of equipment they have. But… we can’t make a website 100% stupid proof…

  • Bill

    Very Nice idea, will definitely be checking this site out and registering my gear.

    Just hope that if anything is stolen, that it provides a way for that person who may be buying it to report it and not just say nice lens for 1/2 the price, who cares if it is stolen?
    The site is a great idea, but basically it relies on the morals pf people to do the right thing in the end.

  • Thomas

    But how many people buying a lens thorough craig’s list or other like venues are really interested whether it is stolen?
    It sounds like a good idea, but it will only work if
    1. Enough owners register using this program, as Julien wrote
    2. Buyers know about this service to use it
    I have to confess that I had never heard of lenstag if it were not mentioned on a forum I just read.
    LIke Valerie, my rat-like paranoia wonders how this can be misused.
    If the site does not ask for your name and address, how exactly is a prosepective buyer supposed to contact the legitimate owner?
    It sounds like lenstag only serves to inform a prospective buyer, before the sale, that the lens might be stolen. Handy, but hardly an effective way to cut down theft.
    What is to prevent a thief from just trying to register the stuff in his or her name and just claiming that the original owner (the legitimate owner) forgot to transfer ownership? How can Lenstag contact the legitimate owner?
    What if the legitimate owner sells their lens and truly forgets to transfer ownership, what is the second, also legitimate owner supposed to do? Are they out of luck?
    How will lenstag tell the difference?
    Many many questions remain to be answered.
    I hope it works out for people who choose to use it.