Watch your Gear - Thieves in Russia Steal Photographer's Lens Off His Camera

Many of us travel, sometimes for work and sometimes as a tourist, but one thing I'm sure most of our readers have in common is that no matter where you travel, a camera is coming with you. This video serves as a sobering reminder that at any given time as a photographer in public you have hundreds if not thousands of dollars of equipment by your side, and as you can see this proves to be very temping for thieves with some skill in deception.

So how can a theft like this be avoided? I can think of a few ways.

1) Carry your camera by your side, not your neck. In the video we can clearly see that the photographer was distracted by the crowd and didn't notice/feel the lens being removed from his camera from a simple press of a button and turn. By holding the camera in such a way that someone can't do this as obviously, like by holding the grip in your hand by your side, you'll be able to tell when someone else is trying to mess with it.

2) Cover the lens lock button with electrical tape. This will make it less discoverable, and harder to press down all the way, giving you some time to realize what's going on.

3) When confronted by a large group at once, secure equipment. At this point it doesn't matter how paranoid you look, in a lot of tourist areas it's common practice for thieves to overwhelm a victim by quickly surrounding them in a group. If you find this happening, shield that camera like your own child and move to a safe location.

4) Get insured. These things will ultimately happen and sometimes it's unavoidable, making sure you're covered will take a lot of stress out of the situation.


Have any of your own theft stories or tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

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Previous comments

You won't be able to punch them if they steal your lens as smoothly as these guys. The guy who actually lifted it was already out of punching range by the time victim realized it.
If that happened to you, in that fashion, you'd need to be faster than him AND be chasing the correct guy.
Then you'd need to hope that his buddies don't help him by beating or restraining you or he doesn't smash your lens -- on you or the ground.

Derek Breitbeck's picture

smooth as it may have been, I certainly dont trust people enough to hold/touch my equipment. And I'm also willing to get into it a little even if in the end i have to take a beating for it. It would take more than one of these punks to stop me and at least then they would know they "earned" it. It just bothers me. I can't stand bullies/thieves/hoodlums that think they can get away with things.

Golden gloves is like saying serious amateur.

Derek Breitbeck's picture

That's exactly what it's saying and there is nothing wrong with it. I won major titles at the national level and never had the intention to take it further. Professional boxing isn't the lucrative thing Mayweather makes it out to be.

Oh these guys are smooth! I had to rewatch it a few times just to catch the moment they swiped that lens off his camera. These guys are experienced!

I got robbed of my camera at machete point in El Salvador a couple years ago. Replaced the camera but the trauma of it all still lingers today. I feel so bad for that guy, what an overwhelming situation.

If you can't keep your hand on it, don't carry it in public. I put my wallet and phone in one front pocket and keep my camera bag (zippers, taped latches on the strap) on the other shoulder. Then it's easy to just rest your hand on the camera bag and pull it to the front and put your other hand in your pocket if you're ever in a crowd.

A backpack with a reinforced outer lining and a back side access would be good too, I suspect.

Hey, sounds like a great idea, do you have pictures/video of the way you do it? I'm sure that it will help more than one. Thanks!

I don't, something I'll consider doing in the future though! I used a 5Dii and a 24-70 inside a Think Tank Digital Holster 20 for four months in Europe using this method though, didn't have any problems.

Realisticaly though, I would buy a Fuji X100(s) instead and just carry that around. Great photos and a quarter of the weight.

Nothing you can do about a hold up/getting mugged though.

Watching this really pisses me off, don't understand such cruelty. A stupid moment as such, even if insured, can ruin a beautiful vacation and leave you with bad memories like someone below. Hate things like this and makes me think twice about traveling with my expensive equipment.

Number 4 is the most important tip of all and hopefully this guy was insured.

lesson learnt : always have a backup

Nursultan Tulyakbay's picture

If you are on assignment - get insured/ have a backup in your bag or hotel room. If you are just on vacation - get a mirrorless. Lumix GX1 is under $250 new. If you can't make good vacation pictures with that then a bulky expensive DSLR ain't gonna help you anyways.

These gypsies/organized groups of thieves always try to first slow you down, second distract you. Classic example of pros at work. Never stop walking when you encounter a group like this, go faster in the opposite direction if necessary and never try to talk to them.

This was covered on "The Real Hustle" a couple of years ago, it's been happening for years.

not available in my country

Fucking Gypsies still use that same old cover trick.

Well. I would remove any lables on my camerabag so potential thieves have a harder time spotting potential victims. So I have sliced off the marking of my lowepro slingshot bag. And I would not use a bag that screams "Photo gear inside, come take me". Also use a small padlock on my back.

I'm actually semi tempted to get one of those ona shoulder canvas bags. That way I wil be able to keep a hand on my bag, and the bag wont look like a photobag. The back that I have now will be on my back which means people can get to it from behind.

I believe the three pretty girls walking across the road are in on it too. They are there to add extra distraction and arrive just as the lens is being pulled.

Milos Savkovic's picture

Well, old gentleman just acted stupid walking around with that big lens and even bigger Lowepro backpack that screams "free equipment here!"
When you're a tourist, try not to look like one. You should blend in with locals as much as you can. Even when it's obvious that you're stranger, you can always act like you live in that city for some time. Walk around like you know where you're going. If you see something interesting you want to shoot, play it smart -stop, make a false phone call or do anything that will give you time to look around without having a "tourist look" on your face and then take a photo and keep walking. And NEVER walk around with a big city map in your hands because that way you're a sitting duck!
I'm sorry this old man lost his lens, but we all can learn from him.

Bruno Inácio's picture

Yeah yeah! This is easy to say when you're at home! I live in Paris, and, I never had problems gear, but trying to doesn't look like a tourist it's impossible, you got tourists from everywhere, including french people, so, everybody looks tourist, it's impossible... And, with thousands of cameras in the streets, the gypsies don't want to know if you're local or not! There is only one way to don't look tourist, being with a crew recording a short film or something like that!

Milos Savkovic's picture

"Yeah yeah!" ??? O.o
I'm talking from my own experience. I traveled a lot around the world, including pretty unstable regions in Middle East, with expensive gear and it never happened to me that someone tried to steal my camera, lens or any other piece of equipment. Maybe I'm just really lucky, or my approach to this problem gives results.

Thanks for the tips. The same happened to me and it also was in Saint Petersburg down town... My Nikkor 24-70 was unmounted when the camera was on my neck... I spent another 2 hours in the local police to get some paper for insurance (they worked so slowly, they even said they just had no time for me because they got calls for two murders in their zone...).

I looked for some smart ready-for-use solution, but failed to find anything for lenses. Probably it's not common problem (yet?), but when we are going to Russia, we all have to be well prepared. Electrical tape seems to be a nice idea, at least for immediate use. However I still hope to find something more reliable and secure.

Anyway I think it's very important that you shared your experience!

One tip I have is to bring a printout with all the serial numbers and equipment list of everything you bring.

When you have to file the police report, you can include this information in the report. It will make the insurance claim a little easier.

I had a printout of the serial numbers in each bag of luggage, so when my camera was stolen in St Petersburg, I included this information in the police report.

jose pablo chavez's picture

stupid easy steps..." Cover the lens lock button with electrical tape"... you might as well cover your whole camera with electrical tape....

thats crazy... ok canon nikon 3rd party kickstarter guy.. make alock for our lenses or come up with a common sense pill.... tisk tisk...