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Camera lost or stolen? Stolen Camera Finder could help

12 Jul Posted by Matt in Guides, News, Reviews, Stuff We Like |
Camera lost or stolen? Stolen Camera Finder could help

We’ve covered Keeping your Digital Photos Safe in the past, but what about keeping your actual camera safe?  Short of following some obvious consumer advice about protecting your valuables you might think there’s not a lot you can do, but if you’ve ever lost or had your camera stolen, read on…

stolencamerafinder.comWhat is Stolen Camera Finder?

Stolen Camera Finder tries to reunite you with your lost or stolen digital camera by searching images on the internet to find photos that have been taken using your long lost device.  From what we can tell, the site predominantly relies on files that have been uploaded to photo sharing sites like Flickr.

We found the website to be very well designed, presenting a clean and simple user interface that makes it super quick to get started. There’s no registration and no filling in forms, which is a refreshing change these days.

How does Stolen Camera Finder work?

EXIF data on FlickrPhotos taken with a digital camera contain something called EXIF data. You can think of EXIF data as being like the DNA of your photographs, and it can give you all manner of information about your shots, from the mode the camera was in to the type of lens you used. With many digital cameras the EXIF data will also contain the serial number of the camera that took the photo, and it’s this that Stolen Camera Finder uses to find photos taken with your camera.

The way this slick website works is to allow you to extract this information from some photos taken on your lost camera, which it then compares to a database of known online photographs. Cleverly the site doesn’t upload the photographs you give it, rather it just uploads the EXIF data.  From both a privacy and speed point of view this is a good thing.

If no matches are found, handily the site allows you to enter an email address so it can contact you if it stumbles across some matching photos in the future.

In Practice…

Aside from the obvious issue about what you actually do if the site does give a positive match, the Stolen Camera Finder website isn’t flawless.

Canon EOS 550D DSLR HD VideoI lost a digital camera some time ago, so decided to give the website a try.  Sadly, the results were a bit disappointing.  Whilst the site successfully extracted the EXIF information from a photo I had on my hard drive, it was unable to find any matches.

The database of photos is growing all the time, and scanning every photo on the internet is not a task to be taken lightly, but as I’ve had numerous photos from this now lost camera on Flickr for over two years, I had strong hopes it would at least find some of my own uploads.

A similar search with my current digital cameras didn’t find anything either, again in spite of there being numerous images taken using them online.  Whilst the system may have great potential, clearly the database isn’t nearly big enough to be considered comprehensive yet.

There are ways you can help the project though, with a Chrome extension and a Flickr scraper both available from the website.

Stolen Camera Finder Do’s & Don’ts

You get the best results from Stolen Camera Finder if you take into account a few tips, and realise the limitations of what the site can do.

Tips…
  • Wherever possible, use an original JPEG straight from the camera you are trying to find.  This is because photo sharing sites and editing software like Adobe Photoshop sometimes alter the EXIF information within the images.
  • Use the drag and drop option if at all possible.  Even though the site will let you enter a serial number manually, what is printed on the box isn’t always exactly the same as what is stored in the EXIF information.
Things to bear in mind…
  • Stolen Camera Finder doesn’t scan Facebook, MySpace, and some other social networks. This is because these sites do not keep the necessary EXIF data when photos are uploaded.
  • Most camera phones don’t save EXIF data, so if you’ve lost your iPhone then you’re out of luck.
  • Not every camera is supported, though a reasonably thorough list of compatible models is available on the Stolen Camera Finder site.

Our Verdict

Whilst our experience of Stolen Camera Finder didn’t throw up any matches, even for cameras we knew had taken a sizeable number of photos that are now online, we still think it’s an exciting and potentially valuable site that will improve over time.

Sony Cyber-shot

The real reason we would definitely recommend this site to anyone who has ever lost a camera though is because it is so quick and easy to use.  The drag and drop interface is well thought out, and is near instant to read the EXIF data (the site doesn’t actually upload or store your images, it just uses them to extract the serial number from).

It might not be perfect yet, but by leaving an email address you can be sure that you will be informed if a match to your camera is made at a later date.  Of course, you can also help the project by using the previously mentioned Chrome extension or Flickr scraper.

Get started now at stolencamerafinder.com

 

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