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SLR cameras and pickpockets

I'll be traveling to Spain next month, and I hear many, many, many things about the pickpockets in Barcelona. Any suggestions about how to best carry my SLR camera? There's no way to hide it, and I refuse to travel with just a dinky point and shoot. When I was in Portugal a couple of years ago, I carried it in my backpack while I was wandering (and transiting) around the city, but I've been warned that backpacks are ill-advised because of the pickpockets. Do you think a messenger-style would be safer (it's not a comfortable, though)? A lock on the backpack? Any other suggestions?

Posted by
12040 posts

The street value of a used digital camera makes it not worth the trouble to steal. Thieves want your money and credit cards, most couldn't give a flip about your camera. A camera case is probably more tempting than the camera itself, in the hopes that there might be valuables stashed within.

Posted by
2818 posts

I suppose we have all heard stories about backpack slashers, but who knows how often it happens? They really are after your wallet, with credit cards and money, not the camera. You will see many people in Europe wearing backpacks on the front, probably for this reason. That idea may or may not work for you. It doesn't for me. I just carry my (small) camera in my day bag, a shoulder bag, with zippers secured.

Posted by
1820 posts

Take normal precautions as you would at home. Don't let all the cautionary tales make you overly paranoid. I prefer a messenger bag over a backpack. I prefer to travel light and carry a point and shoot. Before you talk them down check out the Cannon S95.

Posted by
4529 posts

A DSLR camera would certainly be a target if the picken's is easy. But they will not rip it from your body. So anytime you have it slung over your shoulders, it is safe. Putting it in your backpack when not in use has risk if they unzip it from behind or you set it down while doing something else or at a cafe. And do not leave it sitting on top of your cafe table or slung over the back of the chair. I've traveled exclusively with a DSLR and never had any issues. If you put it in your backpack or any other bag, I'd lock that compartment with a travel lock.

Posted by
12776 posts

Kia, I use a 35 mm camera on my trips, it's not a SLR but certainly no point and shoot, which I wouldn't use either. I don't carry a backpack or a messenger bag...that's way too obvious. Like you with the SLR, I have to carry rolls of 35 mm film for the camera when I'm out and about. Depending on the size of your SLR, use a backpack and wear it in the front. That way it's easier to guard and to access. Have all the zippers ending in one direction, either on the left or the right so that you know it was you who did it.

Posted by
112 posts

Richard, I'm not talking down point and shoot cameras in general (I have a nice one myself), but they're simply not capable of giving me what my SLR can give me.......they each have a purpose and that's why I will be taking both with me. Actually, I'm not even fully satisfied with digital over film, and I've been thinking about going back to film photographs. I am considering taking my film point-and-shoot and my digital SLR, or vice versa.

Posted by
1820 posts

Fred, 35mm really? What's next, you gonna tell me you shoot 400 ASA print film? Kia,
How many lenses do you carry?

Posted by
112 posts

Richard, I have 2 (one fixed and one zoom) for both my DSLR and one of my film SLRs.......I pack both on the trip, but don't always carry both every day.

Posted by
12776 posts

Since you asked I do shoot 400 ASA print film...you would be surprised how many places sell it cheaply in Germany, not just Agfa which is not available here any more.

Posted by
1820 posts

Fred,
Since you mention price as an issue......Why on earth would you use that when digital ends up being so much less expensive? If you liked Kodachrome I could understand but for price digital is the way to go.

Posted by
31435 posts

Kia, I also travel with a DSLR so am also concerned about theft. Based on my experience, keeping the Camera in a locked Backpack is a rather awkward and cumbersome solution. You'll miss a lot of good shots while fumbling to unlock and retrieve the Camera. I normally carry my Camera "in the open" but use the strap and also keep one hand firmly on the grip. Especially in crowded locations, I regularly turn and do a "scan" to see who's near me (thieves often approach from the "blind side"). I'm in Berlin at the moment and so far haven't had any issues, but I'm sure Prague is going to be more challenging. If you decide to leave the Camera in the Hotel room if you're just going out for a short time, be sure to remove the Memory Card to make sure your photos are safe (that's something you CAN'T do with Film). Happy travels!

Posted by
165 posts

Kia: my wife travels with a ton of camera gear, carried in a backpack style camera bag, slung over my shoulder. Her DSLR strap is always around her neck, with the camera to her eye, removed only to sleep, too hard to focus with her eyes closed, I'm told. We've never had a problem, as stated above there is no value , other than to photographers in used cameras. Use your neck strap and you'll be good.

Posted by
11798 posts

I think losing your DSLR calls for the same precautions as your other valuables. Not keeping it in your moneybelt :) but keeping track of it, not setting it down while you look at your map or eat a meal, etc. As others have said, it's unlikely anyone will forcibly take it from you. If it's easy to grab without you noticing, however, it may disappear.

Posted by
8064 posts

The easiest thing to do is just to wear it around your neck, always ready to use. That is what lots of photographers do while walking around, and I don't mean tourists. This way, you always know where it is, and you won't have to dig around in a bag for it, or worry about someone taking it out of your bag.

Posted by
11 posts

A few years back I had similar concerns. I had a friend who's camera strap was cut and grabbed by a thief in Rome. I made myself a camera strap out of aviation cable with a loop on one end. I made the loop with a suage fitting(all available at the hardware store). I ran my heavy leather belt through the loop and the other end I attached to my camera with a small clip. I made the cable short enough that if I ped the camera it would not hit the ground with a 17mm-80mm zoom lens. A longer lense would hit the ground. That was plently long enough to allw me to handle the camera in ever situation. It was also long enough to set on a table. A lot of people asked me about it and one photgrapher even took pictures of it. You may also want to look at camera bachpack bags that are specificaly designed to prevent cutting. I believe Lowepro makes one with a wire mesh lining so that it cannot be cut open wuth a razor.
You might also check with your insurance company about getting a rider on your homeowners policy to cover theft of the camera or photgraphers insurance.

Posted by
96 posts

I always bring two cameras with me on trips: one is a 35mm rangefinder and the other is a tlr, both film cameras. I either go out and about with them in my camera bag, or a backpack. I've never had any problems at all, and I've been to a number of European cities with them. SO, I don;t think that you should be worried. Besides, most people these days aren't looking for film cameras, so if that's what you have, than you really shouldn't worry. Film rules!

Posted by
177 posts

i just carry the SLR around my neck. yes i look like a tourist. but serious, everyone looks like a tourist. and no matter how hard you try to blend in, you are a tourist. so I just carry it around my neck and constantly be aware of my surroundings and my wallet. you do get approach more often when you have a camera around your neck, but once they see and feel the protective energy you have on you, they back off and rather continue their quest on some other easier prays.

Posted by
5668 posts

I carry my SLR not just around my neck, but across my chest like messenger bag. This puts it always in front of me and if I'm in a crowded area I can easily put my hand on it. I used to shoot film - stopped about 5 years ago - I haven't looked back. I have a nice big lens 35-200 so I have a smaller point and shoot that I use in the evening when going out to dinner. Another bag I used for a while was a small bag that just barely had room for the camera. I wore this bag also across my chest. Now, when I'm in the UK I need a bigger bag as you have to carry a rain coat a lot of the time. I've a baggalini bag that is one of those save your should single strap bags, that can be converted to a backpack when it gets heavy. I can fit rain coat, camera, guide book and more in that bag. ; ) I wear it a variety of ways. Pam

Posted by
56 posts

I've taken my Canon eos 5d....I just put a plain black strap on it....If I feel like I need to... I carry it under a purse type bag. but I believe in using my camera ....that's what they make insurance for.....:) JW

Posted by
988 posts

When we went to Italy last year, my friend used a camera bag and carried it messenger style. She also used the Pacsafe camera strap for her SLR. She actually had the straps crisscrossed, one over each shoulder, yes she looked like a tourist but she didn't care. When she had her camera in the bag, she ended up just kind of supporting it by having her hand under the bag because it did get kind of heavy. The upside of this was it was alot easier for her to take it out when she wanted to versus using a backpack. I must say there were quite a few times she just grabbed the point and shoot out of my hands when she wanted to get a shot quickly!!

Posted by
112 posts

I've found a camera bag I really like - it can be worn comfortably messenger-bag style across my chest and still has good padding to protect the camera from being banged a little. And it has a little extra room for my wallet, water bottle, iPhone etc. It's the Passport Sling from Lowepro, and it's one of the few with a protective box for my camera that isn't really boxy.

Posted by
28 posts

We have been over here for about 4 months and I carry my DSLR just about everywhere...I usually have it across my body (messenger style) or around my neck. Haven't had any issues, if I'm in crowds, metro, whatever, I keep my hand on it. Hubby and I both have Pacsafes that we've used for it, too, but honestly, I feel better having it right where I can keep a hand and an eye on it. I was really worried about all this stuff when I came over here, but, so far it has been very safe.