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Unfortunately I've been robbed this week, and the thief stole my Nikon DSLR + Optics. I am considering registering in Stolen camera finder or CameraTrace, which browse the metadata of web pictures. But, as both accounts are charging a few bucks for the service I was wondering if this was a working solution or just some artificial searches.

Has anyone ever used it? Was it a good buy?

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As the author of StolenCameraFinder, I am somewhat biased ;)

Both sites have published success stories. Here are my success stories, and here is one from CameraTrace. I actually have more stories in my email, I'm just pretty rubbish at typing them up ;)

With both sites, you can run searches for free manually, just try them out and see what results you get. You should at least get results showing photos you've taken. The more photos you have online, the more likely our web crawlers will have found some. We don't have the resources of Google so we haven't crawled the entire internet (yet!). Instead we optimise our searching to be wide and shallow rather than deep and narrow. That's a good thing because you only need to find one photo that was uploaded by whoever now has your camera to be useful in recovering it.

You can help the search for stolen cameras by installing the Chrome extension along with >20k other people.

I suggest you just use the site for free and only pay for the Pro features if you see photo results that you didn't take, or you want the email notification feature. (I'm a rubbish businessman!).

Good luck and please let me know how you get on. -Matt

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    None of this answers the question, which is how well these kinds of sites work. Anecdotes are not data. Examples of real data include what fraction of paying customers ever get their cameras back. – Olin Lathrop Jul 13 '15 at 21:09
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    @OlinLathrop We let people find their cameras themselves (and anonymously if they like) without ever telling me so I don't have reliable stats. For example, I only found out about one of those recoveries after the camera was back in the owners hand via a tweet twitter.com/xanderis/status/202454460004446208. Currently, ~10% of searches with an image get results on StolenCameraFinder. What I don't know is whether or not those results are pictures they took, or pictures that were taken by the new owner. I'm currently just focussed on improving that by increasing my crawlers ;) – matt burns Jul 14 '15 at 9:06
  • it doesn't find the serial number of my EOS 300D jpegs, even though it is listed as supported camera, and the number is definitely in the EXIF. (Which means the crawler won't find the photos either, i guess) – ths Jul 15 '15 at 14:49
  • @ths it depends on the site the photos are. Some platform delete the metadatas of the pictures before displaying its. 4Matt, I'll wait a few and see if the police find something, then I'll consider taking an account ;) – Thomas Ayoub Jul 17 '15 at 13:18
  • Oupsi doupsi. I live in France :/ – Thomas Ayoub Jul 18 '15 at 10:27
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Another service to check out is lenstag. It's free, and there is an app for your iOS or Android phone. Apparently it works... here is a story about a camera being recovered.

As an extra added bonus, Lenstag will give you an estimated value for your used gear.

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  1. CameraTrace only searches for serial numbers on Flickr, 500px, Panoromio, Twitter and Twitpic according to the FAQ, but internet is much larger.

  2. StolenCamera only says that their software "crawls the internet searching for photos, collecting the serial numbers of the cameras that took them" - no more information. 2 weeks after reporting, they haven't found anything, not even the photos I posted myself.

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