Did you get a shiny new camera for Christmas? A new lens or piece of expensive photo gear? If so do yourself a favor and start using the lenstag.com service.
Recently a photographer friend of mine had his camera bag stolen from his vehicle with all his gear in it. Luckily the bag and all gear was found the next day dumped by a neighbors house. In this case he was very lucky but it could have been worse with his Nikon D800 going missing as well as several lenses and memory cards.
Lenstag is a free service with a web site and both Android and IOS apps. It is basically a free inventory or registry for all of you photo gear and more. But it does more than just the spreadsheet of gear and serial numbers that you may have.
To get started with Lenstag, you sign up for a free account and then you start adding your photo gear including the serial number. After each piece of gear is entered, you take a picture of the item’s serial number (this is where using the smart phone app really comes in handy). The picture is required to verify that you actually own the item and you have the serial number that is correct. Once the item is verified it shows up in your app with a green verified check mark. Verification can take a couple of days and you will get a email notification so be patient. I have also verified some gear that doesn’t have a serial number by just taking a picture of the item and specifying no serial number visible. I had to do this for my Lensbaby Composer Pro and the sweet 35 and Edge 80 optics.
Once your gear is verified, if it is ever lost or stolen, you report it as such on the lenstag service. Their rescue feature scans the web and reports images taken with your cameras serial number if that data is still in the exif data of photos posted. This is accomplished by users using the free lenstag Chrome extension.
In addition you can also help lenstag look for stolen gear. By installing the lenstag rescue extension in your Google Chrome browser when you view an image, it looks at the meta data in the image and compares it to the stolen gear database. If it detects an image taken with a stolen camera it alerts the service and helps in tracking down the stolen gear easier. Installation only takes a few seconds and is free. Doing this helps other users if their gear is lost.
If you are looking at purchasing used equipment, you can also protect yourself by doing a search on Google using the name of the gear and the serial number and you can add lenstag to the search string, like so, “lenstag stolen 1234569” or you can use the app and search the serial number directly.
If you are selling a piece of gear to another lenstag member you can actually create a transfer link to the new owner and they don’t have to go through the verification process again.
Another cool feature of the site is they give you an approximation of the replacement value of your gear. They include a replacement cost for used gear and the new replacement cost in USD. I was really quite surprised to see how much gear I own and there are some items (Light modifiers, bags, filters etc.) that are not listed there.
One thing though, for this service to really work well, it needs as many photographers as possible to list their gear on the site. Even if you don’t worry about theft, it it a good idea to list and verify your gear just in case. Getting the gear tagged as stolen as soon as possible helps with a speedier recovery of the gear. If you don’t want or need the service at least install the Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store so that you can help photographers that have gear stolen recover it or check the serial number on the web site for any used gear you might be purchasing.