Nikon’s patent reveals passcode protection of lens-body combination

Nikon password protection patent

In order to prevent the use and resale of stolen gear, Nikon filed patent 2013-61508 in Japan that will require the photographer to enter a passcode in order to make a certain lens-camera combination usable. The authentication process will most likely use the lens and camera serial numbers and link them to a pre-selected password. Unless the correct password is entered, the camera and lens will not be operational (Google translation):

"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."

I am actually surprised that no camera manufacturer has implemented a similar password protection yet.

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  • FredBear

    Now that’s an excellent idea from Nikon.
    Wonder how many body/lens combinations they’ll allow?

    • Anon

      On a D3300, D5300 and D6000, you can have 2 lenses. On a D7200, D600x and D400 you can have 3. D800x 4 and D4x as many as you like. Now you won’t want that D400.

      • desmo

        why would it be in Nikon’s best interest to limit the # of lens you could buy?

        • neversink

          I think everyone is being tongue and cheek, in a very cynical way…

  • Kino

    This is so fucked up that I would just prefer all my lenses stolen…

    DRM on the equipment? are we crazy or what?

  • LarrYd

    How is that supposed to prevent the theft of cameras?

  • Wondering what effect, if any, this will have on legitimate resale?

    • RC

      It will affect it because you don’t know if the lens you’re buying isn’t stolen. Unless you can test the lens before you pay, there’s no way to know.

  • n11

    Interesting idea, but I don’t think its too practical. Most dumb-dumb thieves will not know about this and steal the camera regardless, that’s the part you’re most likely to be pissed about.
    There’s questions like “can the thief reset the system? How will this help get the camera back?

  • DonD

    What’s next. You buy the rights to use a lens on three bodies? Also, imagine the headache for lens rental companies.

    • neversink

      Just another thing to go wrong. As far as rental companies go, when you rent a lens the scenario could go as follows: you rent the serial # with the lens and you can enter it and use it until you return it, Easy. Still don’t like this….

      • I am sure that you will be able to turn off this feature.

    • NLA

      The NLA (National Lens Association) is against of any form of device, feature, background checks, etc, that limit our right to freely own, buy, rent, and use lenses.

    • NightPro

      No worry, it might be Optional 🙂

  • AnthonyH

    Sounds like a horrible idea-will I miss a shot because I had to stop and enter a code?

  • Alan Fajardo

    Does it mean every time you change lens you have to enter a password? Wow, what a waste of time and missed shots

    • Morris

      i suppose the camera memorises the valid combinations, no pro in this world would accept to enter passcode every 5 mins every day

  • Hendog

    What a pain in the arse. I often swap lenses with fellow Nikon friends, rent lenses etc… Hopefully if Nikon do this it’ll just be a software option. Ie. “do you wish to lock such and such a lens to this body only”

  • If you enter the passcode incorrectly the camera doesn’t focus properly and sprays oil and dust over the sensor.

    • Morris

      and red hot chilli on the photographer

    • Mike

      Looks like the D600 was a pilot for this feature!

    • umeshrw

      This just shows that voting up should also be made possible by logging in like voting down.

  • RC

    This is a stupid idea Nikon! If I ever miss a shot because of this I will be very upset! You better give us the option to disable this! What if I have to quickly grab a lens from one of my friends to make the shot? What if I can’t get the password from them right away? This is going to cause more headaches than it’s worth. I have never had camera equipment stolen from me before, and I have been to many places. Besides, this won’t deter thieves. They’ll steal it anyway!

    • zeum

      how would you miss a shot? If the camera lens combination matches you don’t need a password. did no one read the article?

      • RC

        You’re assuming the system won’t fail. Also, what if I want to borrow my friend’s/assistant’s lens for a quick shot? What if he/she doesn’t remember the password? What if I need to borrow a body? Of course some would say that it’s the photographer’s fault for not being prepared but sometimes you can’t account for everything, and making things more complicated doesn’t always make things better. I am surprised at the negative votes. You people must not change lenses often or borrow your friends’ lenses…or use a computer! Or maybe your computer never locks up, blue screens, or gives you any problems.

        • RC

          Have you ever purchased a lens on eBay? There’s no way to know if it will work when you get it! Sure, eBay might cover your purchase but then you have to wait, and you’re without a lens!

          • desmo

            probably shouldn’t purchase lenses on ebay anyway
            sight unseen from someone you don’t know
            stolen gear is only one of the problems on ebay
            misrepresentation of equipment condition is
            more common scratched glass,hidden damage, etc

            • RC

              Oh, I’ve purchased hundreds of lenses on eBay. It is a great place to buy used gear.

              Scratched lens? No problem. Buyer protection’s got you covered. How do I know? It has happened to me before.

          • What if the seller of the lens on ebay took a snapshot of the lenses serial number and posted a link to an online register for stolen Nikon gear? You the buyer, would be told you are buying lens 123456789, in excellent condition, and it has never been stolen (go check yourself). Also, Nikon could tie in maintenance information about the gear they have serviced; that way, when the seller says it just came back from Nikon servicing, you would know it wasn’t BS. Nikon would benefit from such a model, as the used market prices for gear would remain high, thereby making new equipment prices seem reasonable.

            • RC

              I don’t know about you but of all the Nikon lenses I own, I have NEVER filled out a registration card for one, ever.

              Besides, whether it’s stolen or not doesn’t mean the code will work for the lens.

              The seller could post a video showing that the code works but even that can be faked.

            • I register my gear online with Nikon directly.
              If people had a way to look up lens serial numbers online, to determine if one was stolen, this would help deter theft and increase buyer confidence. Currently it is buyer beware on eBay and elsewhere. If Nikon put some serious thought into this, it could work. Just as I could register a lens, or report one stolen, I should be able to flag a lens for sale. Basically, a person selling their lens would go online and enter their passcode to the corresponding lens that was for sell, Nikon’s system would then validate the passcode and lens serial number combination and flag the lens as for sale. The seller would then include a link in their eBay/Craigslist advert taking potential buyers to the Nikon site showing the lens as validated for sale by owner with yet another link on Nikon’s system taking them back to the advert. That is an example of how a third party could add validity to a online sales system, like eBay.

            • RC

              To a computer savvy person, this might work but I see this GREATLY complicating things for people.

            • As a photographer you can comprehend inverse square law with respect to light fall off for exposure, but you fail to post your registered gear online? Really? 300 million people around the globe understand and use facebook, book online movie tickets, purchase their camera gear online through b&h and buy mom flowers on mother’s day via an online delivery company; but they will be GREATLY overwhelmed in creating an online Nikon account and registering their gear? Then those users should just elect to disable the optional feature and forgoe any added security that technology may offer!

            • stevos

              Like a lot of others I only joined facebook (not my real name) to see other peoples’ facebook!
              I never spent the time to understand any of its settings.

              I do agree a Nikon Register would be good, even to register 2nd hand lenses. Nikon could ‘data mine’ the register to attain many insights.

            • RC

              I can comprehend just fine but I don’t think the average person will put up with this. This is evident in the healthcare industry as people try to educate patients. There will always be those that will be confused, and this just raises the confusion up to a whole other level. I just don’t see how this can help. It will likely hinder photographers, and thieves won’t know any different.

  • 800mm f/2.8 DX VR

    Lol. This will only stop the honest criminals. Real criminals will know how to hack firmware.

  • Scott M

    Hopefully they’d like you take up to ~100 shots on a lens before you had to put in the password so that you can quickly loan/borrow a lens.

    • Fantastic idea, implement a counter in the camera for the non-registered (not to be confused with legacy gear) lenses to permit ~100 shots until you can get around to entering the pass code.

  • CJ

    This will create a mess beyond believe.

  • CJ

    Lens rental business is killed by this code protection.

  • CJ

    OMG, Nikon starts a nanny business now like our government.

  • Rick

    Kinda reminds me of code protected radios and GPS in cars to prevent theft…as a result people steal the cars but not the radios and GPS anymore. But for a camera with multiple lenses? this is going to be a nightmare. I have 15 lenses 12 of which are purchased used.

  • Ireallyhatedust

    Nikon let’s work on make our dslr camera dust free. I am so sick of see it in the viewfinder and on sensors and have to clean it. I really think the whole dust thing should of been gone in the film days but dust must just be scam to make you up grade and frustrate user who over pay for equipment I am sorry but 6k for dust magnet with password lock sound like deal

  • DontLikeit

    What happens if I buy a lens on Craigslist or eBay?? Nikon is thinking about itself and selling new lenses, preventing the resell of lenses — they are NOT about the consumer or about preventing theft. Nikon loves theft — it means you have to buy a new lens.

    • zeum

      that’s why you take your camera with you and test it first. If the password doesn’t work you know its stolen you don’t buy it. Pretty simple

      • RC

        Most used lenses are sold on eBay. It could create a nightmare for their buyer protection.

    • zoetmb

      I think you’ve got this wrong. I think YOU setup the password and link between camera and lens. Hopefully, it will be a many to many relationship. If someone steals that lens and tries to use it on another camera, it will ask for the password. They won’t know it (unless you taped it to the lens so you would remember it) and the lens won’t work.

      But this whole process only works if the thief is knowledgeable. If the thief is an idiot, and most are, they’ll steal it anyway. Besides, all passwords are breakable and thieves will find a way to clear the password out of the system. Maybe the password is stored on a chip and they open the lens and replace the chip. Etc.

  • fjfjjj

    Giant pain in the butt. Hacked in 5… 4… 3…

    • Just like stolen cell phones get new IMEIs to avoid being blacklisted.

  • Calibrator

    The only reasons this nonsense is patented by Nikon:

    a) To bolster up their patent arsenal (not to produce goods based on it but use it for negotiations etc.).

    b) To prevent somebody else to patent it someday. The idea is so stupid that one would get the idea eventually and, well, Nikon was first…

    In other words: This won’t see the light of the day.

  • zeum

    the only problem I can foree is the fact that most stolen gear is bought by suspecting people aren’t now the criminal still makes money selling it but there are now two victims

    • Fry

      It’s a crime to buy something when you know it’s stolen.

      If the buyer is unaware that the gear is stolen, he will tip off the cops, I’m pretty sure of that.

      • RC

        And how is that going to help anything????

  • ShaoLynx

    Well, this is how it could work:
    – feature 1: remember password for lens on this body (just like my iPad remembers wifi pwds w/o me being able to retrieve them) — ideal for private use;
    – feature 2: allow time-limit for pwd — ideal for rental shops: when it expires you have to bring it back;
    – feature 3: disable pwd protection — ideal for the whiners on this site.

    • Tom

      That’s how i also think it would work, but a lot of people here are so miserable they all jump to negative assumptions.

      • RC

        This is another feature that could cause 100% failure of the lens. If Nikon doesn’t offer a lifetime warranty on this feature, what are we supposed to do? Give them a few hundred dollars to fix it? All electronic devices have a failure rate. Whether it’s low or high doesn’t matter. The fact of life is that some will fail. This will cause far more of a headache than it’s worth.

      • David K

        Really, some NR readers are miserable and always negative? I never noticed that.

  • Fry

    ..and this password scheme is cracked in 3….2….1….

  • Soap

    Thinking about this logically, the simplest method of operation would be to set a password on your camera then register a lens with the camera the first time it is connected. If you don’t know the password the lens can’t be registered. You wouldn’t need to put the password in every time you switch lenses, just the first time. It would reduce the functionality of a stolen camera but only if it were to be used with a lens that wasn’t part of the same theft. It wouldnt affect the use of s lens on other cameras at all, so rental, swapping etc. could continue unabated.
    If the password was entered on power up it would be fairly unobtrusive in day to day use, and the quick draw types would have it switched off as it would be an optional camera setting.
    All that aside, unless the camera changed colour to bright yellow and had password protected plastered across it, an opportunist thief is still going to see a camera like any other and will still pinch it.
    Plus Nikon servicing would need to be able to reset the password somehow for forgetful old farts like myself, and if they have a back door it wouldn’t be long before one is available to download.

    • RC

      The lens would carry the password. You’d have to know the lens’ password in order to use it, so it would affect the use of the lens on other bodies. If you didn’t know the password, no one else could use the lens. That’s the only way it can deter theft.

      You consider having to enter the password on power up to be unobtrusive????
      Maybe the “backdoor” would involve replacing the chip. This would cost money, and other people would not be able to replace it.

      • Soap

        The way I described its hypothetical operation, the password would be used only on the body, lenses wouldn’t store a password as you could end up having different passwords for different lenses, that would be unworkable.
        Instead, the body would hold the password and a list of “registered” lenses. If it isn’t a registered lens then it won’t work, there is no need for the lens to remember anything as all authentication takes place on/in the body.
        And yes, a power on password would be “fairly” unobtrusive, I put a PIN into my phone every time I want to use it so I don’t see it being much different on another portable device.

        • RC

          How would this stop someone else from using your lenses?

          A camera should be ready to use the instant you pick it up. Having to enter a passcode before being able to use it is ridiculous.

          • Soap

            Like I said in my first post, the password would be in body so lenses would be unaffected and work anywhere and also the password would be an optional setting so people like yourself who dislike the idea would have it switched off.

            All I’ve done is state my assumptions of how it could work, if my assumptions don’t work for you then I suggest you pin your hopes on it being implemented in some other way. Or maybe come up with your own theory instead of moaning about everyone else’s.

            That being said this could just as easily be Nikon registering the idea so that if any other manufacturer tries to implement it they’d have to license it from them.

  • Motschekiepchen


  • jake

    I think this is their way to reject Sigma lenses , it is very bad and stupid policy.

    • desmo

      I agree buying Sigma lenses for your Nikon is a very bad and stupid policy.

    • bossa

      A scheme to kill off the 3rd party lens manufacturers?. I guess they want those of us with a few Sigma and/or Tamron lenses to have to sell them to get access to their new bodies. I can’t imagine this catching on.

  • Andre Gerling

    And the next step is you need to register before shooting via an internet connection….

  • Ivana

    Passwords can be circumvented by boiling the lens.

  • Marc

    After the Nikon truck with gear in Ireland disappeared now the patent answer to prevent such theft in the future:-)
    However interesting approach.

    • fred

      Aha!…The truck should of had password protection…

  • Anon

    This reminds me of when Sony said the PS3 games would be locked to one console. Is this Nikon trying to control 3rd party and second hand markets? What if all those Sigma lenses need to be upgraded to work on your new body, just like when they removed the AF motor from everything below the D200…

  • Nice. This means my stingy friends will not be able to borrow my lenses. 😉

  • beedogs

    Something tells me this is more being done to kill the used lens market.

    • desmo

      no i think they are sincere in trying to protect you from theft.
      there’s no reason you couldn’t reassign the pass combination if you first entered the existing password

    • bernard

      Very doubtful. The used lens market benefits manufacturers lots of ways.

      Not least, killing the used lens market is going to turn a lot of people away from buying bodies. Also, having a used market available makes it cheaper to buy new, in effect, because if you don’t like the product you can sell it and recover a reasonable share of what you paid.

    • stevos

      The drive screw in the body (for lens focusing) will eventually disappear. That will force people to buy new AF-S lenses or go manual focus. Would nikon do that eventually?

  • C_QQ_C

    OW, that will be fun when you want to change lenses quickl, or use old primes… 🙂

  • Jwaldman

    Bravo! It’s about time. I hope other companies follow suit.

  • RC

    Over on one of the Apple sites, it is already being discussed that Apple is talking with Nikon for the exclusive rights to this patent. In the future, all Apple accessories will be password keyed to just one other Apple device.

    • RC

      What kind of accessories would these include?

  • Deep_Lurker

    Horrible idea; this won’t slow a real-world thief down more than marginally, but can be expected to “steal” the use of a lens from the legitimate user more often than that real-world thief. It’s a cure that’s worse than the disease, only without the “cure” part.

  • LightBoy

    What happens when you try and use a legacy lens, say a Nikon 35mm F2 from the late 1970’s, with a current Nikon body??? Are you SOL?????

  • cascapedia

    When was this written? 1.April? Great idea, but believe me; In lees than a day, someone has published a crack!

    • I’m sure security experts (and I mean experts) could figure out a way to use certificates and encryption to make it VERY difficult to crack. Just think about websites which use SSL to make online trasactions secure. You don’t hear of people cracking 1024 bit SSL certificates every day, because it is very difficult if not impossible. Again, it comes back to how much effort and money you want to invest in a security technology vs the value of the item you are protecting. If Nikon does this half-ass, then yes, the results will be half-ass.

  • Nikon SME

    Interesting concept with lots of positives and negatives. Of course, the reviews below are mostly negative. Actually some very good negatives. Got to think about this one for a while. The professional will know who has hacked the system and send stolen equipment to them so they can resell it. To the casual thief it will stop them.

    • Unfortunately, I doubt it will stop a casual thief. But, if there was an easily recognizeable international symbol that could be used to brand electronic devices to indicate they are protected by anti-theft codes, that might be enough to make most thieves think twice. I think something like the yellow tricolor used for radioactivity might work. 🙂

  • French Fries

    What if I want to use lets say a Sigma 35mm on my new Nikon camera? Will it say that the Sigma is not authentic and thus I am unable to use 3rd party lenses in the future?

    • No longer Pablo Ricasso

      Then you would be shooting a Canon

    • Sigma glass would behave just like legacy glass, i.e. it doesn’t have the technology. Or Sigma pays Nikon a licensing fee, and we get protection on the Sigma glass anyway. Besides, why worry, I doubt thieves are interested in Sigma glass anyway. (sarcasm…)

  • desmo

    The NRA will never allow this.
    what if you remembered you needed to shoot somebody…
    but couldn’t remember your password

  • lorenzo

    Unless the owner can remove the password that means [s]he cannot even sell that item as used.

  • fred

    OK everyone, your gear just got stolen.

    How many of you have written down the serial number of your lenses and body and strobes? I bet only about 10% have….

    What Nikon should have is a Lens Register where when you buy a lens the serial number is recorded against your name. Also have a Stolen Gear Register inc. serial number.

    To be sold on eBay the serial number must be shown in photo. Buyer cannot be scammed.

    • Exactly!

    • The serial number is printed on every warranty card, plus you can get it from the EXIF data.

    • Nikon Canada does have a place to register your gear – under Service & Support>My Nikon you have the option to sign in/create account and add gear to “My Camera Bag” – mind you, knowing what gear you own is pretty good marketing data for Nikon. The only thing is that I can’t remember my password to get into it … : )

    • bernard

      I have my equipment insured, and the policy lists the serial #’s.

  • I find it amazing how quickly you all (most of you anyway) dismiss this as a horrible idea! As another poster pointed out, Nikon is just locking in the patent; makes sense really. As for the idea itself, it has merrit if implemented correctly.

    1.) The buyer of the equipment should be able to decide how the technology gets implemented.

    a.) Complete disabled

    b.) permitted on cameras with serial numbers x,y,z

    c.) valid with any camera for x number of days (lens rental companies)

    d.) locked out on any camera (lens has been stolen)

    2.) Nikon needs to get the serial numbers of their lens and embed the information with the EXIF data. Then companies which specialize in recovering stolen cameras, by parsing the EXIF data from millions of images posted on social media sites, can now offer lens recovery too.

    3.) Nikon needs to partner with insurance companies to offer them the ability to purchase replacement lenses at cost for stolen equipment. That way, working pros (serious am who insure their gear with this new technology enabled will get discounted rates.

    4.) If a lens is stolen, the user should be able to go to a Nikon registration site (where they registered the lens to begin with), and request the lens be “locked out” as described in 1. d. above, using their passcode from day 1 registration.
    5.) Include stolen lens list in firmware. Basically, the next time the firmware in any Nikon camera is updated, a list of stolen lens serial numbers is included. That way, those lens refuses to work with any camera which has had the firmware update. This feature will get easier to implement in the future, when all Nikon DSLRs finally have WiFi built in.
    6.) Permit anyone, especially pawn shops, law enforcement, camera shops, and potential buyers access to a central, world wide register for Nikon gear that has been stolen.
    7.) Publicize the hell out of the new theft deterent technology world wide. Criminals should know that if they steal Nikon gear, they will have a harder time selling it, and are more likely to get caught. Buyers of Nikon gear will have much greater faith when buying used gear, and greater confidence about recovering their equipment should it get stolen.
    8.) Offer a system where either the insurance company, or the owner of the stolen equipment can offer a reward for the return of stolen gear, no questions asked, no prosecution. I know that is like adding insult to injury for the person who got robbed, but I would gladly pay 5% of original purchase price to get my gear back and I am sure insurance companies would too.
    All of this would require Nikon to build a complete anti-theft deterent system. Although Nikon could easily implement the pass code system in their lens offerings, I doubt they are capable of tying the rest of the pieces together. I strongly suspect it is more likely they will screw up its impementation and piss off their customers in the process.

    • And how would that be implemented?

      • Lists of stolen equipment are easy to keep and quite small in comparison to evrything else in the world being maintained online. It would be hard to say your lens AND its passcode was stolen. A simple bill of sale should cover any purchase. No need to put used camera gear under the same scrutiny as weapons sales. Nikon doesn’t need to be involved in dispute resolution. They just maintain a datbase for their customers. I’m sure we could discuss all day why it would or wouldn’t work, reality is it could, IF DONE RIGHT.

        • A lens ID is easily 32 bits. Every million stolen lenses make a 4MB. Do you have any data on how many lenses are being stolen every year?
          [Well, the only reason a patent was suggested is the rate is high.

          A simple bill of sale would NOT cover any purchase, e.g.

          A. Bill of sale might be fake.

          B. In Israel, if the price is too low, the lens would be confiscated and returned to original owner based on the claim the buyer knew the deal is too good to be true.
          You could discuss it until your face turns blue, there is no way such mechanism would be done right.

          • So if EVERY Nikkor lens on the planet was stolen today, we could capture every serial number and model number on a single CD-ROM! When a lens is sold with its passcode, it would be like selling a car with its title. Bill of sales could be validated by a Notar for the overly concearned. As for legal requirements in the various countries around the world, they are going to be there anyway, your point is mut. Nikon doesn’t need to be a sales mediator, companies like eBay do that. Nikon only needs to track lens/camera registrations (which they do already), reported lens/camera thefts, customers who flag their lenses/cameras for sale and ownership transfer. Additionally, they would permit new owners of used gear, the ability to generate new pass codes to prevent abuse from previous owners. The database would track the transfer of equipment from one owner to the next. Nikon could then offer extended warranty on used gear purchases (once the gear has been evaluated by a Nikon service center), creating yet another revenue source for Nikon and service for Nikon’s customers. Again, it has to be done right, but Nikon has proven itself to be inept to such undertakings.

  • whmitty

    At this rate we’ll be able to do our income taxes on the D4-1040.
    Rise’n’shine it’s whine time; perhaps Nikon should pay a bit more attention to their QC instead of this blarney. Must be the same gang that came up with the LED to help you mount your camera in the dark. I remain unimpressed.

  • what happens when you rent a lens/body from places like

  • will it self-destruct if you don’t enter the proper passcode after x number of attempts?

    • stevos

      User Option: After x number of incorrect attempts, route capacitor charge in flash to discharge to metal shutter button for high voltage shock….
      Extreme User option:
      Get x number attempts wrong, battery +- is shorted, battery explodes, camera ‘disabled’.

  • Stu S.

    Could this be used to shut out 3rd party vendors?

  • …This is cool

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