GadgetTrak Blog

Photographer Recovers $9K Stolen Camera & Equipment Thanks to GadgetTrak
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Professional photographer recovers stolen Nikon D3 camera using GadgetTrak Camera Serial Search. The stolen camera was tracked down through images posted on Flickr after the device was stolen that were scanned and indexed by GadgetTrak. Police acted on evidence provided and recovered the camera a year after it was stolen.

Professional photographer John Heller experienced the unthinkable while on assignment for Getty Images. His prized possession, a Nikon D3 camera was stolen from him at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. It seemed the camera with lenses valued at over $9,000 was gone forever; gone that is, until just a few months ago when he did a search for his camera on GadgetTrak’s Camera Serial Search. Heller entered the serial number of his stolen camera and found an exact match with several images that were recently posted to Flickr.

Photo from Facebook profile of the stolen camera’s new owner after theft

With the help of police, Heller was able to track the images to another professional photographer through Facebook, who had unknowingly purchased the stolen camera from an individual and even had the receipt to prove it. The camera was returned to Heller and the police are currently investigating the individual whom it was purchased from, the investigation is still ongoing.

This is the first time stolen property has been recovered by tracking the serial number embedded in images. We have also learned that thanks to this recovery, the LAPD is now recommending our tool to detectives and officers in the field.

GadgetTrak’s Camera Serial Search tool is a free service that we developed that scans images posted online and extracts their embedded serial numbers into a searchable database. It allows people to enter the serial number of a camera and see all of the photos that we have discovered that were taken by that camera. To date we have indexed more than 10 million camera serial numbers, making it the largest database of its kind. We have currently indexed all of the photos on professional photo sites like as well as all images posted to Flickr from 2006 to the present, with plans to search additional sites in the works.

If you are a reporter and would like more information regarding this recovery, or any of our recoveries, contact us directly at 503-799-8610


TechCrunch – Embedded Serial Number Helps Photographer Find His Stolen Camera
Gizmodo – How This Pro Photographer Recovered $9k Worth of Stolen Gear
BoingBoing – Photographer gets $9K worth of stolen camera gear back with GadgetTrak
Washington Post – Embedded Serial Number Helps Photographer Find His Stolen Camera
Popular Photography Magazine – Website Helps Recover a Nikon D3 Using EXIF Data
Tecca – $9,000 in stolen camera equipment recovered through Flickr search

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