Stolen LF equipment. Heart broken, to say the least : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My wife and I were house sitting for a family member up in San Francisco this past weekend. Off to a great start, I photographed the Golden Gate bridge from different viewpoints, capturing some great images on 4x5 Tri-X film.

Until I woke up.

We got into our car this morning, which was parked on the street behind the garage, only to find that it had been borken into. The thief obviosly didn't know what to think of a collapsed Canham 4x5 camera. Strange looking, he must have thought. Hmmm, now this Domke black satchel would look great, though. Gitzo? What is that? He left that, too.

I am sure he will never appreciate the differences between a 210mm Sironar-S and a Sironar-N, or my modified Pentax Zone VI spot meter. Absolutely not. And my assortment of filters, film holders, Leica 5X loupe and many others.

Anyway, not to make a sob story worse, it will take me a long time to accumulate these tools again. My wife and I were planning a month-ling trip in southern Utah / Arizona / New Mexico in May. I just don't have the energy to feel excited about photographing those places in 35mm. I anticipate that I will again get these items again. Not for a while, though.

I called the insurance company after filing a report with the police. All seemed to be going well, until the agent depressingly told me that they would only reimburse me up to $250, since the crime happened at another location other than our home. Ba humbug.

Thank you all for all of the wonderful information you have given me over the last 12 months since I purchased my first LF camera. I have learned a great deal. Hopefully I can return the favors when I get back into LF again.

Keep shooting.

-Andy Biggs

-- Andy Biggs (, February 24, 2002


That is a depressing story Andy,Im sorry for you.Lesson learned:dont leave anything of value in your car in a city,anywhere! Turning your back on camera gear is asking for trouble....

-- Edsel Adams (, February 24, 2002.

I was deeply disturbed to read your post. At the same time I am pleased that you and your wife are OK and did not have the thief break into the house. That could have been much worse. I can only hope that you hit the lottery or come into some money to get back to where you were with your equipment.

A thief can take your physical possessions and leave you feeling terribly violated, but he cannot take your knowledge and enthuisiasm for the art.

I believe that there is a lesson to be learned at many junctures in this think called life and your situation is no different. Verify that your insurance covers you wherever you are not just at your house and never leave your equipment in your car overnight if at all possible. Here is to a quick recovery.


-- Michael Kadillak (, February 24, 2002.

Andy: I suggest you write up a description of what was lost and fax it with serial numbers to the major camera stores in San Francisco. Does this sound far fetched? Thieves often go right to the major stores since they don't really know what the stuff is and Fox photo isn't going to help them out. It is too specialized for most pawn shops. They sell it with a sob story that explains why they don't know anything about it. At least in California, the stores are supposed to run the serial numbers of what they buy used to make sure the stuff isn't stolen. In reality they usually don't do this. When I got cleaned out back in 1991, the thief went to a MAJOR LA Camera store and the stuff was traded in with a story about how it belonged to his dad blah blah blah. The numbers were not run, in violation of the law. The next good faith purchaser of my Zone VI 8X10 camera called Zone VI to try to get the warranty transferred to him, Zone VI called me since I'd told them (and had ordered a replacement), and I called the MAJOR LA Camera store. On the phone they said they'd taken in a "bunch of stuff" from this guy [gee - what might that other stuff be?], but when the cops got there to reclaim all that stuff the story was they'd only taken in the one camera. Sadly, some stores don't seem to care too much about following the law on used equipment with serial numbers, and after they buy it and are going to be the ones out of pocket when the real owner comes, they won't help you out. (I almost had mixed feelings when that MAJOR store went up in flames during the so-called King riots.) But if you get the list to them now before its money out of their pocket, you never know. Make it a one page fax which gives instant notice that it is a list of stolen property, reference the Report # with SFPD or whoever you reported it to. Describe whatever bag it may be brought in when it comes time to fence it. Also, read your own insurance policy, don't take the agent's word on it. Check your auto policy for possible coverage of items stolen from the car. I know what a rotten feeling this is (even when insured) and I'm sorry you had this experience.

-- Kevin Crisp (, February 24, 2002.

Also, I wanted to add something for the general enlightenment of anybody else who shivers when they read what happened here: Read your homeowners' policy and see if there is a cap on certain types of losses. Many policies, for example, will have a $200 cap on stolen coinage or cash. A limit on silverware. A limit for firearms. You get the idea -- insurance companies aren't dumb and they tend to put caps in there on the stuff most likely to be stolen. They think this stuff over drinks at the Actuary Bar. Is there a cap on camera equipment? Better find out now. Second point: Do you have replacement cost coverage? It doesn't cost that much more to get it and you don't get in a big fight with the adjuster over what is the depreciated value of a 6 year old meter, a 30 year old Symmar, etc. You get the price of a new one. Don't own a house? Get a renters' policy, they are available and if you assume your landlord or his/her/it's insurer is going to take care of you, you're wrong. And, if you're a pro, don't assume that your homeowners' will cover you for equipment you use in business. I guarantee you there's an exclusion for that, you need a business policy. Anyway, I've said enough, but just reading about this made me angry about what happened a decade ago.

-- Kevin Crisp (, February 24, 2002.

Although it won't solve your problem, use the $250 from your insurance company to rent a lens for your trip. Photomark in Phoenix, AZ rents a 210mm Sironar-N for $54/week and perhaps they will cut you a better deal still for a monthly rental. You can find them at

I also second Kevin's advice, as I once recovered a pair of expensive audio amplifiers that were stolen by contacting all of the dealers in the area and asking them to keep their eyes open.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, February 24, 2002.

A very sad story, my sympathies go out to you. That really sucks. I've dreaded that very scenario happening to me, but formtunately it hasnt. Several years ago I asked my agent if my gear would be covered if stolen from my car, and he said it would. This means I should revisit the subject with him, and you might want to read your policy to be absolutely sure it wasnt covered, because I had no special coverage.

But dont let the lowlife stop you from LF photography. Living well is your best revenge (other than strangling them;-). Use it as an opportunity to learn what you dont need (and where not leave it). $250 gets you either a clunky old wood field ( or maybe not so clunky, if you are lucky like I was), or a barrel lens or two. Another $100 bucks gets you a packard shutter. hey, you're almost back shooting again. Watch ebay for the homely deals that nobody else wants, and make them your interim outfit. You can be shooting again for $600-700 bucks if you really want, and $250 of that is paid for. or you can let the bastards ruin your plans. Uh-uh, dont let them do that.

-- Wayne (, February 24, 2002.

If possible, please post a detailed description, with serial numbers, of all your stolen equipment. If someone tries to sell your equipment on E-Bay, hopefully the members of this large format community will alert you.

-- (RJTRIFFIN@RCN.COM), February 24, 2002.

I can commiserate. It took me a long time to accumulate my equipment, and I would hate to lose it. As a result, I get paranoid everytime that I leave home with my gear, or for that matter, leave home without my gear!

You said that you checked with your insurance. Was that with your auto insurance or your homeowners (or renter's) insurance? Just a thought.

It's fortunate that you didn't lose everything. They were probably nervous about what they were doing and in a hurry. A lense, a light meter, and a few film holders, and you'll be in "gear" again.

-- neil poulsen (, February 25, 2002.

Andy, you have my sympathy, this is my worst fear too. Don't get discouraged. By the way, I have ben asking a quote to my insurance company recently. They ask 4% of the new value a year! I declined.


-- Paul Schilliger (, February 25, 2002.


Sorry to hear about your loss. You may wish to ask your insurance agent if you can purchase an all loss (not sure if these are the correct words) rider to cover your photographic gear. I have State Farm home owners insurance and have such a rider. They have one rate for people who do not use their gear commercially and another for those who do. They have replaced cameras and lenses that I have simply dropped and broken. I've never had any stolen. Keep in mind that they have the option to repair or replace, and that if your camera or lens is no longer in production, you may have to convince them that item x is a more appropriate replacement than item y.

This isn't meant to be a State Farm advertisement, as I suspect that other agencies have comparable policies. I would expect to pay 2-4% per year. If you can't afford to replace all or a significant portion of your gear in the event that it is stolen or lost, this is a small price to pay.

By the way, do the trip, cameras or not. You never know when something will make such a trip impossible for you.

Best of luck,

-- Bruce M. Herman (, February 25, 2002.

Sorry to hear about problem. Just one small suggestion, I picked up a Pinhole camera from Lensless Camera Mfg. Co in Santa Barbara. I had great fun with it shooting 4x5.

Regards Paul Mapstone

-- Paul mapstone (, February 25, 2002.

So sorry to hear that you have suffered at the hands of "petty" thieves - it isn't petty when you are the victim! I have had my equipment stolen a number of times, and sympathise with how empty it makes you feel. Difficult to be enthusiastic about anything creative when all you can think of is where your belongings are and what a waste it seems. After one theft I went into a store here in London and described the equipment (5x4 wooden field/limited edition lenses) which was all quite unusual. A half hour after I left the store, a guy came in with the equipment. His story was the familiar one about it being his Dad's old camera. The secondhand-dealer was clever enough to keep him waiting, saying he was really interested and would like to get the manager to have a look. He called the police while the man was waiting and he was arrested. Although I got some of my equipment back, it made my insurance claim for the rest of my gear much more complicated and slow, until I began to wish they hadn't caught him after all. It would have been easier to have just put it behind me and started again with new equipment. The best way to get over such a violation is to get back on the horse and make some new work! You have the sympathy and support of everyone here on the forum. All g

-- Stephen Vaughan (, February 25, 2002.

Hi Andy

Very bad for you and I know how you feel now because some years ago the same happend to me but only with my 35mm gear. I was living at thad time in Zürich and a drog guy had broken my door in my flat and stolen my hole 35mm gear. But I had a bit of luck because the police found my gear in the flat of thad drogy sick guy and I get not all but booth cameras back 1 lens and flash was gone! 2 Years leater the guy was dead because of AIDs and hes drugs! Sorry for him! I`m not anymore in Zürich because it was very dangerous at thad time, but now it is better but I live near Luzern it is much saver and cleaner! What I learned of it: You need a good insurance for ANY situation and anyway I never let my gear in my car over night NEVER!

This are lessons learnded the hard way, sorry for you!

Keep shooting!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, February 25, 2002.

Hi again

I forgotten to say thad I had the written papers of every gear part including numbers this was very helpfull for the police woman and man. Good luck!!!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, February 25, 2002.

DITTO, ABSOLUTELY, Get a description, serial numbers, ANYTHING and fax it around, walk in to any and all camera stores. Most reputable stores are very co operative in this area and have lists of serial numbers and check equipment they take in against them. I have heard stories of stolen equipment returned.

-- Rob Pietri (, February 25, 2002.

Dear Andy, in comparison to my very dubious recent choices in the ladies, your decision to park your uninsured Canham in Frisco seems perfectly reasonable.

I don't think there's anyone of us out there who is wise, but if so, would you please share with us your secret!

-- Andre Noble (, February 25, 2002.

Sorry about your gear, Andy. I guess it happens to a lot of us. Did to me. Look one the bright side...maybe he will sell your camera for a good sum, buy drugs with it, OD and take himself out of the gene pool. Cars seem to be an invitation to burglary. It got so bad at one point at a hospital parking lot near where I live that the nurses began putting notices on their cars that they were unlocked and to please not break the windows. They finally caught the scum who were responsible.


-- Doug Paramore (, February 25, 2002.

Andy, I sympathize with your plight, and share the hope that something poetic will happen to the thief. Everyone who's had similar experience knows exactly how it feels.

You might take care, though, not to give up too quickly on the insurance angle. You mention calling "the" insurance company, but there are perhaps three policies to check for coverage -- your homeowner's, your auto policy, and the homeowner's or renter's coverage of the friend whose house you were watching. Frankly, the "location other than our home" clause has a somewhat dubious ring to it. Check the policy, and be sure they're not playing fast and loose with the language.

-- Lyle Aldridge (, February 25, 2002.

Thank you, everyone, for all of the thoughts and ideas on what to do regarding getting this equipment back. And going forward with insurance companies.

Yes, I knew better than to leave it in the car overnight. What is done is done. I am just disappointed, because I have spent so many hours upon hours reading and learning as much as I can regarding LF photography, darkroom techniques, etc etc etc. I just feel that I have been slowly building up a system that would last for years to come. It certainly takes the wind out of one's sail.

I took inventory on what was stolen, and I can definitely recover. At least I left my 35mm gear at home! Here was my post to earlier this morning:

"To all who live in San Francisco area:

On Saturday evening, my vehicle was broken into in the Russian Hill area. Most of my large format equipment was stolen, and I am in the process of trying to do my due diligence to get something back. It is a long shot, but what the heck.

here are the items that were stolen:

Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S 210mm f5.6. Serial # 11558913 Schneider Symmar 150mm. No serial number recorded Pentax Zone VI modified digital spot meter Leica 5x loupe Fuji readyload holder with box of Velvia/Provia misc filters to fit Cokin P holder Domke black satchel

If anybody happens to see this equipment at a pawn shop or camera store, please let me know. I am heartbroken, and this will take a long time to build back up.

Kind regards,

Andy Biggs"

Thanks again, everybody.


-- Andy Biggs (, February 25, 2002.

Your safety is the most important thing, it is better to hear it was only the camera gear and that it was not taken physically from you. Here is a place you may wish to consider sending information about your loss:


John Bailey

-- John Bailey (, February 25, 2002.

Andy, so sorry to hear your tale. Take a few deep breaths, buy a used lens or two, and by all means take the trip you planned. You will feel better in a few days. Regards, Merg.

-- (, February 25, 2002.

Here is a pleasant update to my depressing posts last night.

After speaking with the insurance company yesterday, they indicated a maximum of $250 would be reimbursed. They indicated that it was because my vehicle was not at our own home location at the time of the theft. After an agent called back this morning for some more information regarding the listed items that were stolen, I heard something that puzzled me. I inquired further.

It appears that the person I spoke with yesterday assumed, through a series of wishy washy questions, that these items were used in a business of photography. Not the case. Would I like to make $$$ with these items? You bet. Not the right time, though.

Anyway, because I asked more questions, they re-opened the case, and have sent out the paperwork to get the whole reimburesement process started.

Word to the wise: always ask questions. These people cannot read your mind, even though they have no clue on how to ask direct questions.

-- Andy Biggs (, February 25, 2002.

Andy, glad to hear that your insurance may pay for the loss. But I am surprised that you left the gear (especially the lens) in your car overnight, because this makes it susceptible to moisture condensation as the temperature falls overnight. I never leave my gear in the car, even when it is parked in my garage.

-- Michael Feldman (, February 25, 2002.

Andy - This is indeed a depressing story. As someone who has had some prized posessions stolen in the past, I sympathize with your anger and loss. Whatever happens, let's not let the bastards win - you should definitely take that Southwest trip with your wife and your 4x5 in May. (We did the same territory last summer and it was absolutely wonderful.)

If necesary, I have a mint Schneider 210 Apo-Symmar (w/filters) and 15 or so clean film holders which I will lend you for the trip. I don't have a replacement for your 150mm lens, but I do have a very nice 90mm Super Angulon which I can also send you. (Can't see doing the S.W. w/o a wide angle!) All I ask is that you treat them as you would your own gear (and I'm sure you would). Look at it this way - it's a chance for us to stir up that tired old "Schneider vs. Rodenstock" debate once again. :-)

Best wishes, and let me know. I'm in CA, and from your post, you are too?


-- Mark Parsons (, February 25, 2002.

My sympathies, Andy. Glad to hear your insurance may be able to do better for you. When I was a teenager our home was burglarized. I lost a couple of cameras in the deal, but insurance paid for a better one that I use to this day. I hope things work out that way for you in the end.

-- David Goldfarb (, February 25, 2002.

You are being way to understanding of your insurance company. Its nice that they are going to reimburse you, but thats THEIR JOB and its what YOU PAY THEM to do! They didnt do it properly and it nearly cost you big. Good for you for asking more questions!

-- Wayne (, February 25, 2002.

When my wife left her Canon EOS Rebel and Canon S-20 digital cameras on an airplane in Amsterdam last year, her insurance company reimbursed her with enough money to buy upgraded replacements--about $1100. You might consider changing insurance carriers, because hers was just a standard homeowners policy.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, February 26, 2002.

Register your serial numbers with

Then if it is recovered ANYWHERE the police will know its yours before it gets auctioned off.

-- Joe Nagy (, February 26, 2002.

There is no way to protect against theft entirely, so comments recommending that the equipment should not have been left in the car aren't going to help. Equipment can be stolen from the home, from a friends' home, from the car, from your person while you shoot... I parked in a municipal lot across the front door from the police station in Bridgeport, CT for a matter of two hours in order to do some research some years ago. I had a van with tow Knaack boxes bolted to it's floor, and anything not inside was locked to the bax handles with bike locks and chains. When I returned to my van one window was shattered and everything moderately quickly stolen with the help of bolt cutters was gone. I saved my lenses and camera because the boxes can only be opened with a carbide drill bit big enough to drill out the cylinder, but everything else was gone. My power pack and heads in locked box chained to the Knaacks, my tripod, and various other odds and ends worth a pretty penny. Whoever did this got my credit cards (in my stolen suitcase inside my Filofax, along with all of my clothes) and had charged $100-$150 on each before I even reported the theft.

I did ok because I have $$$ professional insurance, itemize EVERYTHING I take with me on every trip, have a detailed item list with serial numbers filed with my insurance company, and got a police report.

-- Rob Tucher (, February 28, 2002.

Andy, sorry about your loss, put the pressure on the insurance company about getting a claim settled before May and you may be under the darkcloth on your trip. If it isn't settled before then don't forego your trip, 35mm may not be LF but it is still better than nothing at all. You and your wife are alive and well and that is the important thing. The trip will still be a great sight seeing adventure and now turn it into a second honeymoon. Happy shooting, Pat.

-- Pat Kearns (, March 02, 2002.

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