I am now in St Petersburg , Russia. Our guides are telling us to be careful about pickpockets that steal camera lenses off of your cameras while you are walking. This is a new one for me.
That is questionable. Cameras are fair targets but removing lens while walking especially since my camera lens requires two hands -- one to depress the lock button and the other to twist it off - is a little much. That would require a lot of skill.
That is what I thought, but I had several people here tell me that the pickpockets have the skill to do it. I have carried an SLR/DSLR in many foreign countries and have only worried about protecting the camera-lens as a whole from being taken.
I long ago found a simple solution to this problem. After years of toting around an SLR with three interchangeable lenses I came across a Panasonic DMS-ZS40. It has a Leica lens that covers what would be 24-720 mm focal length in a 35 mm. format. The only thing it doesn't do is bounce flash which really doesn't matter much for travel pictures anyhow. I took one look at the results it delivers and put the SLR on the shelf where it sits today. I really like it because it is always with me and it always has the right lens mounted on it.
For me a 24mm lens would not be wide enough in many travel situations. I have converted to a much lighter interchangable lens, mirrorless camera.
I was in St. Petersburg in 2016. I took my DSLR and bag of lenses everywhere, even at midnight. I felt completely safe walking around with them. In fact, I felt more safe in St. Petersburg than in many other European cities I've visited. I know there are risks of theft anywhere I travel, so I try to keep an eye and often a hand or a foot on my stuff and use common sense.
Makes me glad I op for my Canon SX70 IS when traveling. My days of super creative travel shots are behind me. Severe arthritis made sure of that.
It would be so horrible to lose a beloved lens on a trip like that.
Where are people letting their camera hang?? Most people I’ve seen wear them around their necks hanging on their chest. I have a sling strap so mine is on my hip, but is towards my front, not the small of my back.
I see fewer and fewer cameras being used today since so many are using the cameras on their cell phones. And most using cameras are using smaller rangefinder cameras. The mirrorless DSLR cameras are just a little too large, heavy and expensive.
I recently bought a new Luminix camera and the attached lens has a ridiculous magnification range. And with a 315 page owner's manual, no mortal man will ever figure out all of the features available for use.
Yes, happened to my brother-in-law as he was focusing for a shot, camera up to his head. Suddenly he couldn’t see through it. BIL has traveled the world for work, had to live in the poorest countries on this planet, so rather than be shaken when this happened, he marveled at the thief’s chutzpah and skill because it was a two-step process. He laughed as he told us about it. So yes, your guide was correct to warn you. Ignorance can be bliss...until it happens.
Video of a tourist robbed of his camera lens in St Petersburg:
I’m not saying this isn’t a thing, I have only the collective experience here to attest to the fact. I just don’t see why thieves are targeting camera lenses when there are so many other things that are much easier to and much easier to fence. For this to have evolved into a real thing, you follow the money. There must be a tremendous market in used camera lenses. Which is just weird. There are dozens of types of lenses for DSLRs, phones, mirrorless rigs, point’n’shoots, and others. Auxiliary or interchangeable lenses are proprietary; they are not interchangeable or compatible with other brands or systems.
So somebody is telling their bands of thieves to steal, sometimes boldly, camera lenses that may or may not be easily fenceable. Why? There’s another motive here besides being able to make a few dollars on a wad of glass that no one can sell easily.
There are lots of people in this world who make only a fraction of the amount of income we "westerners" do. So there will always be a black market for any kind of high-ticket product. Also there are lots of counties out there where you will not find big box stores or access to Amazon to purchase niche gadgets. Often the only way to get them is out of the trunk of a goodfella at a weekend flea market.
Interesting video, Michael. Distraction, the thief put it under his clip board and then passed it to the guy with the crossbody bag. Those weren't Russians but looked...well I'm not going to pinpoint a group based on looks, but lets just say that these incidents were rare before the wall came down. And yes, interesting question: why specialize in camera lenses there? Large square, can run away?
My BIL didn't get a look at the thief--bandit was gone/zoom by the time he realized why he could no longer see through his camera.
..and if you look at the video again, another bloke is trying get to into his backpack while talking to his wife in full view. He never had a chance.
I've never subscribed to the "situational awareness" advice. If they target you they will succeed. Always take precautions and travel under the assumption you will get nabbed even if the odds are statistically low.
Situational awareness does help . It may not be a "cure all" but it helps. Last night on the way back to our hotel a man kept dropping something near us. He had friends close by. I did not bend over to help, I just stayed a distance away from him. Did I avoid a pickpocket? I am not sure but I still have my wallet, which did not contain a large amount of money.
When I travel I don't want to act like squirrel constantly scanning my surroundings for hawks/engage in ethnic profiling. Everything of value is in the hotel room safe or a money belt. If the bad guys want my wallet with fifty euros in it they can have it. It's the price I will happily pay to be able to enjoy my surrounding and act like a tourist; not a secret service agent trying to protect the president.
Michael well said. That is how I feel. I use a locking, slash proof purse across my body so I don't have to feel like I'm on a security detail. Easier to avoid being pickpocketed like this than have to be super vigilant in a strange city while jet lagged or tired after a long day. Works for me, hubby has the money belt hidden wallet with our passports and big money and my mom has a money belt and the same locking purse. It works.....we will keep doing it and enjoy ourselves.
A group of professional thieves who are hip enough to be surgically targeting camera lenses will not be fooled by dummy wallets or put off by products from outfits like PacSafe.
A group of professional thieves who are hip enough to be surgically
targeting camera lenses will not be fooled by dummy wallets or put off
by products from outfits like PacSafe.
But the much more common petty, non-professional thieves will be.