Lifehacker recently reported on a handy little web app called StolenCameraFinder.  The concept is relatively simple although I think the “results may vary” disclaimer needs to be strong on this one.

Stolen Camera Finder uses EXIF data that most digital cameras embed in your digital image files.  EXIF stands for EXchangeable Image Format and it essentially hold the information about the camera and settings used to take the photograph.  In many cameras (although not all – my Sony Alpha 850 is not among them – see a full list of supported cameras here) the serial number of the camera is part of the EXIF data.  So StolenCameraFinder uses that bit of information to attempt to track down your camera.  Simply drag a photo taken with the camera in question into their app and it extracts out that serial number and tries to find other photos across the internet that match it.  If it finds a match to your camera you may have gotten one step closer to finding the thief, or the person who bought the camera from the pawn shop that the thief sold it to.  I’m not sure what you are exactly supposed to do after that, but it could make you feel better knowing you have tracked down the little thieves.

A few caveats:

  • Not all camera makes and models write the serial number to the EXIF data
  • This only works with JPEG files.  If you shot all your images in RAW and then converted them to JPEG, that doesn’t work.
  • The new “owner” of the camera can delete the EXIF data or with one click of a button in Flickr chose not to share it.
  • What do you do once you find an image taken with your camera?  I’d speculate chances of getting it back are still pretty slim.

However, the concept is still pretty interesting.  And maybe there are other uses for it.  Like see what the that camera you bought at the Goodwill was up to in its previous life.

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