SLR lens-thieves steal pricey optics from around your neck

This video from the BBC's "The Real Hustle" show a re-enactment of what is purportedly a real con whereby a fingersmith pretending to be a tourist approaches a mark with a large-lensed SLR around his neck and asks for directions, brandishing a map. While they pore over the map together -- and under its cover -- the crook unscrews the lens and spirits it away.

(via Consumerist)


  1. I suppose these are the same people who seem to have a limited sense of perception.  You know like those people who can’t seem to drive in their own lane.  How do you not realize the camera just got +60% lighter? 

    If we talking about a fixed 50mm here I get it, but a telephoto lens puts a good bit of downward torque on the camera.  I usually notice it hanging at an angle, so I’d certainly notice it pop back up and become lighter….

    1. I have no doubt that the average person would notice the weight change
      if they were standing quietly with no distractions, but that’s not
      what’s happening. Such con-men will use a variety of techniques
      specifically designed to distract you and they have considerably more
      practice at this than you do detecting such behaviour. 

    2. I have watched a demonstration by a con artist. He was at my job doing a comedy show and a live act.

      Our boss went up to the stage. Everyone, including my boss knew that he was going to try to pick something off of him. 

      So they started to chat and joke around a bit on stage. After a few minutes, the artist acted like they were done and asked for the next participant to come up. My boss thought it was done and he went back to sit down. We all thought it was a lame act.

      Then a few seconds later, while my boss was almost at his seat, the artist walks up to him and hands him back his WALLET and his WRIST WATCH !!!

      No one saw him take it. No one noticed. He unbuckled the watch off of my boss wrist and pocketed it without anyone seeing or noticing !!

      My boss was flabbergasted and visibly peeved.

      It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

      Everyone thinks they can’t get picked until they do.

  2. A few years back I realized that if I carry my camera on my shoulder with the lens towards my body it’s less likely to stick out awkwardly and smash into something.  This also puts the lens in contact with me and more likely to be noticed that someone’s getting ready to get a beatdown.

    Putting it around your neck in the first place marks you for a mook who likes neck pain.

  3. These guys are pros and I would give them a benefit of a doubt that they could probably con a great portion of who they con out of their lenses.

  4. One more reason to use a crappy point-and-shoot.  

    That reminds me, I have three 126 cartridges to pick up from the developer today.

  5. Those people don’t seem to have as much of a sense of personal space as I do. I also usually hold my camera with my hand under the body and partially supporting the lens, so I think I would notice if someone was messing with it.

  6. All my lens are about the same weight as of my camera body if not more. I’d probably notice the weight difference right away. Plus I just don’t trust locking system of camera so I end up holding from lens as well when I have it strap around my neck.

  7. This is why my slr is mostly only used for studio work, I’m too nice and dumb to preserve the safety of my property.

  8. As much as I would like to believe that I, too, would notice – some of my lenses are quite heavy – I also am a sucker for helping people with directions.

    People fairly often ask me for directions, even when I too am a tourist (I take pains to not look like a tourist, especially when I have a large camera with me). This is convenient for them, as I have a very good sense of direction and understanding of maps (I am a geologist). So, I tend to get excited about maps – letting my guard down.

  9. In reality of course the “gentlest of touches” actually means two hands, an awful crunching noise, and a few seconds of wiggling. But then again, who would want to steal a Tamron lens?

  10. Since I read Bruce Lee’s fighting method when I was a kid I don’t let anyone inside my kill zone when I’m doing street-photography.  And I do a great deal of street photo work too.  

  11. Must not be much of a lens if he can’t feel the difference.  What’s he out?  $20.00 for a replacement?  Seriously, my favorite lens weighs more than the camera.  On top of that, I have a hand on it at all times, just to keep it from slamming into me with every step and if you think I’m letting anyone that close to me OR allowing some chowderhead to put anything ON my camera, you are sorely mistaken.

  12. Both times I’ve been in England, people were constantly stopping me and asking for directions — British, American, and people from various European countries.   Then they’d be surprised I had an American accent, but, most of the time, I could tell them where they needed to go.

    But I wondered what it was that gave me that sense of “this guy knows where he is and may know where you need to be.”

    Of course, this post makes me wonder if they were a stream of con-men, but, in some bumbling Inspector Closeau-like way, I was unknowingly thwarting their pickpocket attempts (I’ve never had any items go missing), probably to their frustration.

  13. Almost seems staged, but who knows.  I was targeted once in the main train station in Brussels. Two almost elderly, well dressed gentlemen approached me and started asking me something in French and pointing up to the departure board.  As I was looking up at the board, it occured to me that I was being distracted and I looked down to find one of them gently removing my camera bag from my luggage trolley.  I screamed “fuck off” and they appeared to be offering some lame excuse.  Always be on your toes abroad.

    1. This story is IDENTICAL to something that happened to be me in Barcelona this past summer. Identical. Except I shouted ‘HEY’ at the guy who was dragging my bag away. And then he put the bag down, said, ‘Sorry’ and casually walked away. And when I turned back to the guy asking for directions, he finished his question like he was still expecting me to answer. Whotta buncha jerks.

  14. I never would walk around with the camera hanging off my neck and the lens pointing away from my body.  That’s a surefire way to smash your lens into something.

    I used to wear the strap on my shoulder, but turn the camera around so the lens was pointing back and thus hugging my body.  When picked up to shoot, the strap wraps around your arm, acting like a brace.

    It would probably make no difference for this maneuver.  I guess the only thing you can do to mitigate it is dress like the locals.

  15. I think there’s also an element of the victim feeling it but disregarding it.  Clothing shifts.  Sometimes we just “feel” stuff.  If we addressed each and every anomaly as if it were a malicious criminal we’d spend our entire day chasing shadows.  We don’t like confrontation.  We don’t want to believe we’ve been wronged.

    Just for kicks I once stole a pen out of my friend’s pocket during a conversation.  Later that day I needed to write something down and he said he had a pen I could use, then was very surprised to see me already using it (and refused to believe it was his until he checked his pocket).  It’s surprisingly easy.

    1. I would never have a pen stolen from  my pocket, because I’m always aware of people reaching out to take things from my pocket.

    2. I’ve done this to people, and I’ve no formal training at all in theiving (watching movies where they steal all the bells of a mannequin under the cover of a smoke bomb notwithstanding). Don’t look at the person, or look intently at something else, distract them, and move either very gently or very quickly.

      This may sound weird, but it’s actually a Great way to flirt with someone. Simply remove something from their desk or pocket (pen, id card, etc, avoid things that are actually expensive), and casually flourish them a moment later, they’ll be intrigued and interested. This only works if they otherwise trust you and don’t have a notion that you’re creepy, it helps avoid the “nice guy” image by making you a touch dark/dangerous.

Comments are closed.