Anti-Theft Options for Cameras?

A sign warning people to lock their cars to prevent theft. Theft from parked cars is common enough to warrant warning signs.
Theft from parked cars is common enough to warrant warning signs.

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

You might have seen photographers tweeting about it, your favorite YouTubers talking about it, or maybe read about it online. It’s the Change.org petition, started by Louis Chan, asking camera manufacturers to build in anti-theft technologies into camera systems, especially the high-end cameras and lenses used by pros. Chan started the petition after being robbed of his gear at gunpoint. As I write this, more than 3,000 people have signed the petition. So what does it actually mean?

The petition asks manufacturers to include several features that are common in other technologies we use every day, such as our smartphones. As it is, there’s nothing to prevent someone stealing and using camera gear or reselling it to others who will use it. That makes gear a tempting target for thieves. And there have been a number of cases recently where increasingly brazen thieves have broken into cars to get gear. Those pushing the petition believe most of what they’re asking could be done with software and should be designed into new gear but could possibly be added to existing gear via updates. Here’s what the petition urges manufacturers to do.

Passcode

Your smartphone requires a passcode to operate. OK, some work with fingerprints or face identification but the principle is that you have to prove it’s you in order to operate the device. If you had to logon to your camera before it became fully operational, would that deter thieves? Or would it be a giant pain in the neck for photographers who need to use their gear at a moment’s notice? That snow leopard isn’t going to wait for you to sign in or for your camera to recognize your face.

Find my camera

Apple added the “find my iphone” function in 2013. Imagine if your expensive cameras had a “find my camera” function. You could pull out your phone and find where your camera was, even if it was stolen. Many cameras already have some kind of GPS capability. Would that make it less attractive to crooks?

Remote disabling

For several years, users have been able to remotely lock their phone if it was lost or stolen. Maybe owners could disable their missing cameras or maybe they’d have to contact the manufacturer to do it. Would that make a difference?

Lens recognition

Some cameras, for instance those with auto focus micro adjustment, already recognize specific lenses. If you paired your lenses with your cameras, could manufacturers design a way to prevent them from working on a different camera? If it’s stolen and isn’t going to work on someone else’s camera, your 600mm f/4 turns into a heavy bookend. Would that deter thieves or would it create more problems with buying and selling used gear than the thefts it prevents?

The petition and its backers feel that there’s a significant business opportunity for whichever manufacturer is the first to add security features to their camera gear.

Whether any of these ideas come to market or not, photographers should still exercise common sense and stay alert to the possibility of theft. And make sure your gear is insured. NANPA member benefits provider Rand offers gear insurance to members through Chubb in the U.S and Front Row Insurance Brokers in Canada.

 Frank Gallagher headshotFrank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photography services to nonprofit organizations. He manages NANPA’s blog.

Two female members in the field looking at images