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Nikon patent suggests password-based security system for lenses

By dpreview staff on Apr 15, 2013 at 18:53 GMT

Nikon has filed a patent covering the idea of a password-based security system for lenses. The patent lists the high value of lenses as a reason for the innovation - the camera would refuse to shoot with a lens unless the correct password was entered. This is an attempt by the the company to prevent resale of stolen gear. 

Nikon Rumors has extracted this (Google translated) passage from the patent:

'Conventionally, the imaging device provided with the security function is known. In such an imaging device, the technology which makes photography impossible until the password set up previously is entered, in order to prevent a theft and a mischief'.

Another line in the patent is intriguing, where Nikon states: 'provided that impossible for imaging the light shielding unit, blocking the light beam'. It's difficult to glean exactly what this might signify, but it seems to hint at a physical modification to lenses, as well as a software fix.

Nikon's patent suggests passcode protection for  lens-body combination, possibly involving a
physical means of blocking the light path from a stolen lens, making it impossible to use.

Putting aside complications regarding the buying and selling of used equipment, this is an interesting idea, and one that in principle makes sense - you register your lenses with your camera, and if someone steals your gear, they can't use it. What do you think?

Comments

Total comments: 146
12
psn
By psn (Apr 15, 2013)

Don't really care for this. While it might seem useful, this sort of stuff can easily be circumvented. And while there are laws to dissuade people from attempting to circumvent this password feature, the thieves will most likely disregard those laws.

But really the bigger question is how much more money will Nikon charge you for this feature? I think it's a bug, not a feature.

And the bigger worry is if the other manufacturers start doing something like this.

0 upvotes
Mark1952
By Mark1952 (Apr 15, 2013)

This is such a great high tech idea (directly from NCIS). To bad Nikon is not directing their affords towards fixing glitches in D800 and D600, just to name a few.

2 upvotes
Mark1952
By Mark1952 (Apr 15, 2013)

Here you go. We know that profit has nothing to do with this idea.
Grey market camera's, lenses will die natural death. All what you have here is control of the market.

0 upvotes
lenseye
By lenseye (Apr 16, 2013)

Absolutely true! Just more control freak behavior! So Japanese in thinking... no offense! I live in Japan and see this kind of thing everyday... they try to control and dictate every choice you have to make!

0 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (Apr 16, 2013)

It's not Japanese thinking.
It's the kind of boneheaded corporate dinosaur thinking that gets us all kinds of useless features that hurt legit customers.

It's the kind of desperate attempt at protecting something that is about to go extinct.

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Apr 15, 2013)

There is this new pistol safety that blocks it from firing if in the wrong hands (e.g. away from the wrist watch which sends enabling signals over a short distance). That could work with the whole camera, too, not just the lens. It could also silently start the GPS-readable signal... thus the camera becomes locatable via programs like Prey, which guards your phone, laptop or tablet (I hope - look it up!).
I guess camera manufacturers could sell some watches then, too... ;)

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Dinni Hazard
By Dinni Hazard (Apr 15, 2013)

Say goodbye to borrowed/rented lenses?
What about 3rd party lenses?
What about re-sellers who would like to upgrade lenses?

0 upvotes
Maxfield_photo
By Maxfield_photo (Apr 15, 2013)

Uhhh so... just put the stolen lens on an older body?

1 upvote
JaFO
By JaFO (Apr 16, 2013)

or reset to factory defaults ...
or threaten the user

0 upvotes
Trollshavethebestcandy
By Trollshavethebestcandy (Apr 15, 2013)

I see this having lots of potential for more bad than good. Integrated cameras that can be shut down is not good. If your camera can be remotely shut down by the state that can control it via wireless I see that as bad.

1 upvote
JaFO
By JaFO (Apr 16, 2013)

'the state' is the least of your worries mate.
Corporations have been doing far worse without fear of punishment for ages.
Google & co know more about you than the government ever will.

0 upvotes
falconeyes
By falconeyes (Apr 15, 2013)

That's just a patent, Nikon won't implement it.

As otherwise, they would already have done the simple and obvious: write lens serial no. into EXIFs and make NX crosscheck against a Nikon-supplied blacklist server.

0 upvotes
Roger Nordin
By Roger Nordin (Apr 16, 2013)

Just re-route that server address in ipconfig to a port on localhost, i.e. an agent program on your computer that runs silently in the background, imitating the Nikon server protocol, that says "yes OK" to every query by NX.
Exactly like how some Adobe Photoshop activation hacks and the iPhone jailbreak works (a local agent mimics the protocol of the supplier's server, allowing non-approved usage).
Well, at least the user of the camera would know it was stolen... but it wouldn't really prevent usage. Besides, maybe the user just resorts to using Lightroom, etc, anyways...

0 upvotes
CIASpook
By CIASpook (Apr 15, 2013)

I like this idea considering I just had my D300 and 17-55 f/2.8 stolen.

0 upvotes
Mark1952
By Mark1952 (Apr 15, 2013)

This will not help you . You will have to buy a new camera however it will make you fill good knowing that your stolen camera will end up in trash because thief will be not able to use it either.

0 upvotes
plevyadophy
By plevyadophy (Apr 15, 2013)

Wow!! If this is true, it's GREAT news!
It's something I have been arguing for for years.
I think it outrageous that our expensive camera gear has zero anti-theft features.
When in the U.K. the Home Secretary (Interior Minister in other countries) threatened the mobile phone industry with a law to compel them to introduce anti-theft measures on their products, it was quite interesting to see (1) how quickly they came up with a solution when prior to the threat they were making out it couldn't be done and (2) how the number of thefts/muggings of mobile phones plummeted.
As for those whining about having to remember passwords, well I am sure they have passwords on their mobile phones, PIN numbers for their credit/debit cards, and hey they even have one if they are members of this site. It's no big deal having to remember a password (just make it the same as your DPReview password or your bank card).

Of course my joy at this news is dependent upon how well it is implemented.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Apr 16, 2013)

But would it really be a deterrent? Smart phones and laptops have password protection, but they still get stolen all the time. Leave a password-protected laptop or smart phone in the subway, and it'll get stolen in the blink of an eye. No deterrent! Besides, someone will probably come up with a firmware patch that allows the password protection on these cameras to be bypassed. Just apply the patch or install the patched firmware, and the password is disabled.

0 upvotes
plevyadophy
By plevyadophy (Apr 16, 2013)

@T3
Whilst such security measures aren't a guarantee, in the same way that wearing a seat belt doesn't mean you can't die in a car crash, I can assure you as someone who, erm shall we say, knows some alternative entrepreneurs, that these security measures do make a difference. For example, I know of someone who was pulling his hair out trying to overcome the security on an Apple device. This seems to me to send out the message that such a device is more trouble than it's worth for a thief. We now have "good Samaritans" handing in mobile phones that they find. My cynical view is that they do that not because they are good people but because they jolly well know that they can't just take the phone and use it as their own anymore,well not in the U.K. And I have also witnessed many a dodgy mobile phone transaction where the potential buyer first tries to ascertain whether or not the phone has been blocked; an enquiry that slows down the junkie looking to make a quick sale.

0 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (Apr 16, 2013)

(1) there are anti-theft measures on mobile phones ?
Got any proof for those statistics ?
Latest articles dating 2012 (using Google) still mention a rise in theft and no mention of any deterrent even working.

(2) want to guess how many of those passwords are set to default or easy-to-remember variants ?

0 upvotes
Gordon W
By Gordon W (Apr 15, 2013)

Wow, what genius came up with this idiotic concept? Just what we need...more passwords.

8 upvotes
Jahled
By Jahled (Apr 16, 2013)

Very much this, I am drowning in passwords in life

0 upvotes
QuarterToDoom
By QuarterToDoom (Apr 15, 2013)

So if I forget the password because I haven't use the camera for a while, then what? I have to enter the camera input my email address and click reset password, which is then emailed to me? I have to phone Nikon and get charged $50?

Sounds like a rights grab and lockout.

0 upvotes
Alexis D
By Alexis D (Apr 15, 2013)

I suppose you can choose not to use a password, or have a blank password.

0 upvotes
Vaards
By Vaards (Apr 15, 2013)

Nop, you need to use a piece of Scotch® to isolate some newly added contacts and make lens usable again! ;-)

0 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Apr 15, 2013)

They'll start releasing Regional lockout to stop people buying grey imports soon.....

4 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (Apr 16, 2013)

ssst ... don't give them any more idiotic ideas.

0 upvotes
57even
By 57even (Apr 15, 2013)

There's a hack for that (or there soon will be...)

0 upvotes
EssexAsh
By EssexAsh (Apr 15, 2013)

The nikon D5 will always have to be online for it to take a picture

3 upvotes
Jeff Keller
By Jeff Keller (Apr 15, 2013)

SimCity player, eh?

0 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Apr 15, 2013)

And when the new model comes out the D5 will stop working!

5 upvotes
Mxyzpltk
By Mxyzpltk (Apr 15, 2013)

What this is, ladies and gentlemen, is the perfect way to enforce DMCA and similar worldwide laws into third party lens makers, the security protocol will be "secret" and copyrighted to nikon, so whoever does use it must have a license from them, so bye bye sigma, and whoever brakes it will be against the law, reverse engineering is not a valid excuse anymore.

I guess they don't like the success of sigma's 35mm, 85mm, 50mm and many other great lenses. I will surely switch to a camera system that gives me the option of third party lenses if this happens.

5 upvotes
justmeMN
By justmeMN (Apr 15, 2013)

On the bright side, companies frequently patent things that they end up never using. This sounds like a good candidate for that. :-)

2 upvotes
hindesite
By hindesite (Apr 15, 2013)

Great, DRM applied to hardware.

Won't stop theft, people will just have their camera body and lenses stolen together.

But seriously impacts second hand resale of the hardware, and will probably inconvenience more rightful owners of the gear than it benefits them.

5 upvotes
TOM SKY
By TOM SKY (Apr 15, 2013)

Very immature and poor direction of prevention to take on and such a shallow minded concept!

0 upvotes
EssexAsh
By EssexAsh (Apr 15, 2013)

aaaaand Nikon jump the shark

second hand market? if you can reset it then it can still be stolen and used.

Comment edited 11 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Apr 15, 2013)

Eventually, there will be a better solution than passwords. I really want passwords to go away. I'd much rather have a wrist band or smart watch or smart phone that automatically transmits a low powered wireless signal that can automatically submit an electronic "password" any time I want to use something that is password protected. But frankly, I don't think we really need passwords to allow lenses to work with cameras. Yes, I want cameras to become more connected (wifi, gps, cellular, bluetooth), which can potentially offer their own systems of theft protection, theft detection, and location detection in case equipment is stolen. But to have to have a password so a particular lens works with a particular body seems unnecessary and annoying.

1 upvote
Low Battery
By Low Battery (Apr 15, 2013)

Or Fingerprint Recognition.....

2 upvotes
Roberto Giaccio
By Roberto Giaccio (Apr 15, 2013)

With internal focus lenses you could leave clear fingerprints on the lens front element, and the camera would recognize them.
This could be easily extended to to protect the camera body by leaving fingerprints directly on the sensor.

2 upvotes
Biological_Viewfinder
By Biological_Viewfinder (Apr 15, 2013)

Unfortunately, this is really just a marketing ploy for security-conscious buyers. The reality is that there will be a work-around for any password-protected lenses, and the thieves will find it just by googling it. For those who actually own the lenses, it will just be another step to take a picture after changing a lens.

0 upvotes
Lan
By Lan (Apr 15, 2013)

Yes; because that's what the world needs, even more passwords...

5 upvotes
it photo
By it photo (Apr 15, 2013)

Welcome to the beginning of the end of photography. Cameras will merge with videocameras and phones and PC's. Buying a Nikon you will first need to install Windows (with a code of course), then login with your username (or if you let your wife use it she will login with her own password and have her own personalized menus) . Then you will install your lenses, then the filters and finally the... camera strap (because it will also have something proprietary built-in). Built-in GPS and WiFi will transmit photos to the cloud. This is not photography, this is COMPUTING!

3 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Apr 15, 2013)

You sound like a technophobic, out-of-touch, fear-mongering old man that is blowing things out of proportion. You probably still think that "photography" is a roll of film and a wet dark room with the smell of chemicals. It's not. Those days are past. Relax. Stop with the "end of photography" histeria. People like yourself were saying the same non-sense when digital photography was first becoming popular. "It's the end of photography!" Well, photography is alive and well, flourishing, and more people are taking pictures than ever before in the history of mankind. So much for "the end of photography!" LOL.

5 upvotes
Nexguy
By Nexguy (Apr 15, 2013)

"It photo" doesn't sound like a technophobe. Instead you sound naive regarding the appropriate application of technology. In addition, your attack of someone you nothing about weakens your argument considerably.

5 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Apr 15, 2013)

@Nexguy - no, "it photo" clearly sounds like someone blowing things out of proportion with is "the beginning of the end of photography" nonsense. Look around you. People are taking more pictures than ever before. And they are being shared and reaching greater audiences, more quickly, then ever before. Cameras now (or soon will) allow us to shoot images, review images, process and edit images, tag exactly when and where the images were taken, then send these images anywhere in the world within minutes of them being captured. Many of us photographers see this as an enhancement and advancement in the field of photography (not only for amateurs, but also for photojournalists, and the new breed of citizen photojournalists)...whereas narrow-minded curmudgeons like "it photo" only see this as "the end of photography." Clearly, advancements in technology and integration of this technology into cameras has not ended photography!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
T3
By T3 (Apr 15, 2013)

BTW, re: it photo's comment "This is not photography, this is COMPUTING!", back in the film days of film processing involving all kinds of chemicals and timers and temperatures, one could just as easily look back at those days and say, "That is not photography, that is CHEMISTRY!" And that statement would be just as absurd as his assertion that today's photography is not photography, it's COMPUTING! Ultimately, whether you're in the days of CHEMICAL-based photography or COMPUTER-based photography, it's still photography.

2 upvotes
it photo
By it photo (Apr 15, 2013)

This is getting interesting... I use digital cameras since 1999 (Sony DSC-S70 3.3m), digital videocameras (Sony HDR-SR1E, the first HD Sony camera with HDD) and a number of DSLRs and compacts I can't even remember). I also have 3 PCs & notebooks for digital image processing. In the past (yes, I admit that...) was shooting film (mainly B&W). So, I consider myself as photo-enthusiast as well as a technology literate person. However, I do not wish to see ourselves someday entering a password to being allowed to shoot a damn photo!
BTW, if I liked chemistry I would be still shooting film... If I liked computing I would use an iPad camera, so I can have the pleasure of tapping passwords and see in large screens what I'm shooting. Instead, I love my (Nikon) DSLR, WITHOUT passwords or whatever else the future is going to impose to us. Oops, I need to log-off now.

0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Apr 16, 2013)

@it photo- I don't think you really understand what "computing" is. Heck, I'm not even sure you understand what "photography" is, LOL. The reality is that your DSLR is already a fairly powerful little computer, and DSLRs are only going to become more powerful as time goes on. Take the "computer" part out of a DSLR and you won't have much left. A "computer" is not defined by whether it uses a password or not. Without "computing" power, digital photography could not even exist. Your arguments are just incoherent. At any rate, I can assure you that "the end of photography" is not near, or even "beginning", contrary to your misguided predictions. You'll be dead long before photography is dead. Unlike you, photography will continue to evolve for many years to come.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Turbguy1
By Turbguy1 (Apr 16, 2013)

Lenses ARE computers...OPTICAL computers...always have been.

0 upvotes
it photo
By it photo (Apr 16, 2013)

Ok then, passwords in cameras! And also tracking devices in your shoes because they may be stolen as well. Or better have passwords for the shoes, no? This is getting ridicoulous.

0 upvotes
Ahender
By Ahender (Apr 15, 2013)

Is lens theft that big of a problem to implement something like this?

3 upvotes
Nexguy
By Nexguy (Apr 15, 2013)

Worst idea ever.

10 upvotes
Essai
By Essai (Apr 15, 2013)

why ?

0 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (Apr 16, 2013)

Because photographers have not asked to spend an additional ten seconds to switch lenses to punch in a password. You would be surprised at the number of shooting opportunities that do not pause so the photographer can enter a number of digits or characters on his keyboard-less device.

This would only benefit Nikon since it would make it harder to rent or buy second-hand lenses, making you buy new lenses instead.

1 upvote
hjaeger
By hjaeger (Apr 15, 2013)

Does this mean you have to enter a password every time you change the lens? Or will the passwords be stored in the camera (in which case there is no protection if the camera is stolen together with the lens)? How can the password be entered (are we going to have cameras with fold out keyboards :)?

Also, how will lens rental work with a system like this?

I can see the advantage from the camera manufacturer:
- control which lenses can be used with which camera bodies
- be able to charge more for a lens if it's to be used on a pro body
- be able to limit the number of bodies that can be used with a lens (e.g. you'll need to pay to use it on a second body)
- click charge, so that the lens only includes 100 shutter clicks per month, and you'll pay per click if you exceed this

Endless possibilities :S

11 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Apr 15, 2013)

My combination is:

Right to 35mm, Left to 50mm, Right to 24mm, Focus to infinity, and then switch to MF to enter.

9 upvotes
hjaeger
By hjaeger (Apr 16, 2013)

Good point, didn't think along those lines - however, I guess it would have to be the focus ring rather than the zoom ring, otherwise primes are somewhat disadvantaged

0 upvotes
JurijTurnsek
By JurijTurnsek (Apr 15, 2013)

A simple optional(!) 4 digit PIN protection sounds nice.

0 upvotes
MightyMike
By MightyMike (Apr 15, 2013)

Would you have to enter the password every freaken time you switch lenses? that would be asinine for anyone who needs to switch lenses and get the next shot immediately... give them credit for thinking outside the box but maybe this one needs some more thinking.

4 upvotes
Essai
By Essai (Apr 15, 2013)

that would be unlikely. First time on the body, you enter the PIN and voilà, you can use the lens for lets say, a year until you need to enter it again. I think its a great idea.

0 upvotes
Michael de Ruijter
By Michael de Ruijter (Apr 15, 2013)

A jet does a flypast... 5 minutes later, you get the shot!
I'd understand an automated bio-sensor, or use the microphone to do a voice match.

0 upvotes
JEROME NOLAS
By JEROME NOLAS (Apr 15, 2013)

Dopes at work. Is this all they can do?

0 upvotes
Framer
By Framer (Apr 15, 2013)

This doesn't stop thieves from stealing your equipment. What are they going to do, ask "is this lens password protected, 'cause if it is I will just not bother stealing it"...

7 upvotes
Essai
By Essai (Apr 15, 2013)

wow, that was a clueless comment.

1 upvote
Michael de Ruijter
By Michael de Ruijter (Apr 15, 2013)

You are correct. In my former country of residence, theft is so rampant that most thieves take it first, then try to figure it out later. If it doesn't work for them, they trash it and/or dump it. It's not a deterrent. Do passwords prevent laptops from being stolen?

3 upvotes
Framer
By Framer (Apr 15, 2013)

Right back at 'ya "Essai". ;-)

1 upvote
viking79
By viking79 (Apr 15, 2013)

This also scares me as it could easily be a way to prevent 3rd party companies from making lenses for their cameras.

To me, there is too much hassle involved in this, i.e. do you want security or freedom and I would rather have freedom. Sure, it sucks to have a lens stolen, but when it prevents you from shooting it is even worse.

Has anyone here ever had a Honda? Ever unplugged the negative cable and not been able to find your radio code? Really sucks.

8 upvotes
Rickard Hansson
By Rickard Hansson (Apr 15, 2013)

It does not mean that you NEED to enter a password for the lens.
It might be an system that gives you the possibility to password protect the lens, probably with an turn on/off function for the feature.

Example: you are travelling and shipping your lenses in a box, you do not wish to box to be stolen and sold, so while travelling you enter passwords for the lenses and if all goes well, when you arrive at destination you can "unlock" them again.
Just an example.

3 upvotes
Essai
By Essai (Apr 15, 2013)

a little bit paranoid IMO. Are you also a member of the NRA ?

2 upvotes
cruser2469
By cruser2469 (Apr 15, 2013)

Hansson- So your thinking is if someone steals your lens they will return it to you because it's password protected? When it's stolen, no password can help bring it back. By the time this technology hits the market, somebody will be waiting to hack it.

2 upvotes
OldDigiman
By OldDigiman (Apr 15, 2013)

Hmmm. Sounds like DRM to me. Your lens will only work while connected to the internet.... Oh, and you don't actually own the lens, you only have a license to use it....

13 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Apr 15, 2013)

This is like the stupid car keys. $100-300 for a replacement key instead of $2.99 at the hardware store. I often wonder if the total combined cost of anti-theft measures to the consumer exceeds the total theft losses.

5 upvotes
Kinematic Digit
By Kinematic Digit (Apr 15, 2013)

An interesting idea...I certainly hope they open this up to licensing. Would be nice if it could be added via firmware to those lenses that are currently out there.

I always appreciate the ability to disable technology via countermeasures like this when lost or stolen.

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
ARShutterbug
By ARShutterbug (Apr 15, 2013)

I wonder if Nikon will guarantee fail-safe operation, and accept liability if its lens-lockout "feature" prevents the legitimate use of the lens for an important job.

8 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (Apr 16, 2013)

No, the first time you mount the lens it will probably trigger a standard EULA on the display with a disclaim of any liability...

1 upvote
capelyons
By capelyons (Apr 21, 2013)

I don't know why they don't come out with a "GPS" chip that will locate a stolen lens. That would certainly put a damper on stolen Nikon equipment. It could be serial number sensitive.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 146
12