A hustler from BBC's The Real Hustle demonstrates how easy it is to steal a lens off a camera body.
If you're anything like me, you'll walk around merrily with your camera slung over your shoulder. After all; you can feel the lens strap against you, right, so you'd know if someone was trying to steal your camera. Right? Right? Well... Yes.
I have heard about a few people who have had their lenses go missing off the front of their SLR cameras, however; The thieves know exactly what to look for, too: If there's a golden plaque and the word "Nikon" on the lens, it's worth money. Canon make it even easier: If the lens is white, or if it's got a red ring on it, it's an L-series lens, meaning that the lens is likely to be worth a significant proportion of the camera lens.
The great thing about a quick-release button and a bayonet fitting, of course, is that it's quick and easy to swap lenses. But a would-be thief could use the exact same technology against you, by stealing the lens straight off your camera. If you think it can't be done, take a closer look at the September 26 episode of BBC's The Real Hustle.
In the episode, they show one of the main characters distracting the 'mark', whilst the other carefully presses the lens release button on the camera, and turns to take it off the camera body. The victims frequently haven't got the faintest idea that their lenses are being stolen straight off their cameras!
When I first saw this, I thought "there's no way I wouldn't notice that", and I suppose if I'm carrying a 70-200mm, that's true (there's no way you wouldn't notice several KGs of lens vanishing off your shoulder), but my 50mm f/1.4 is light-weight, and could conceivably be stolen off the camera without me noticing.
It does take a little bit of practice to remove a camera lens like that, but it's not extremely difficult, and it's easy to see how, with appropriate distraction and a little bit of a crowded street, it would be very hard to notice - until it is too late, of course.
So, what can you do?
Well, the obvious starting point is to make absolutely sure that you keep a close eye on your belongings. If you can feel anybody near you, be sure that you know where your wallet, your phone, and your camera gear is.
And... Despite the ease-of-use of having the camera slung over your shoulder, perhaps it's a good idea to get a quick-access camera bag, like the LowePro Slingshot or similar...
Oh, and whilst we're on the topic of keeping your gear safe; if you do use a camera bag, make sure you put a carabiner or similar over the zippers; it's too easy to open them up in a crowd, and you wouldn't know where or how your bag was opened when the time comes to check...