Renting lenses and camera gear

DSLR and lensesRenting camera gear is a fantastic way to try expensive equipment before buying! I did so for the first time recently and am so glad I did!  For about $120 including two-way shipping and insurance, I rented an expensive, professional quality lens for two weeks.

Heck, if I had bought the lens and didn’t like or couldn’t handle it, I may have paid more than the rental cost in restocking fees. I visited two local camera shops and the lens wasn’t in stock and had to be special ordered. Neither shop rented the gear. The rental lens arrived at my front door, in only two days from when the order was first placed!

Renting a variety of camera gear

Rental companies typically rent equipment for single lens reflex camera users not compact digital camera users, though some accessories may be suitable for the latter. You can rent DSLR bodies and accessories such as batteries, battery grips, remotes, filters and data storage devices. Lenses are available in many ranges: wide angle, normal, telephoto, super telephoto and specialty lenses.

You can also rent external flashes and support accessories including tripods and tripod heads, monopods, Bush Hawk Shoulder Supports and portable background kits. The list goes on.

Why I rented

400mml lensI love photographing wildlife and often find that my current telephoto lens doesn’t have enough reach. A member of our digital camera club let me try his Canon 100-400mm IS L lens.

His lens is a thing of beauty but large, wide and very heavy (3.0 lbs). I personally had difficulty holding it steadying so ended up trying it on a tripod. I love photographing wildlife but, unfortunately, am not a fan of using a tripod.

So I rented the slightly lighter Canon 400mm L, which weighs in at 2.8 lbs and is a bit less with the tripod collar removed. My experience with this lens has been interesting.

Placing an order

There are a number of good rental companies. I happen to use Lens Rentals.com. My experience with them has been exceptional and their website is informative and very easy to navigate.

Placing an order is straightforward. Go to the site and click on the lens or other equipment you wish to rent. The page includes lens information such as filter size, length and weight, as well as lens availability. There are links to reviews about the lens. In addition Roger, the owner of Lens Rentals, includes his own comments and personal insights about a lens, which I found both informative and helpful.

Request the manual if you need it

To order, click on one of the rental options and place the order through the shopping cart. During the order process you’ll be given a field to make special requests such as if you want a manual. You won’t automatically receive a manual if you don’t request one.

You can rent equipment for a minimum of seven days and can opt to buy insurance, which I did. Items are shipped by FedEx 2-Day Air.

The lens arrived just as promised. It came in a padded lens bag and the shipping box included a reasonable amount of padding material. Instructions, invoice and pre-paid return shipping label come in the box, which is also used to return the lens.

Out of curiosity I called the company and asked if I would be able to return the lens early if I wanted it less than two weeks. The answer was yes and I was told that an appropriate refund would be given.

When calling the company, a real human being picks up the phone to answer any questions. What a delight in this day and age. However you can only order online.

Why renting is a good idea

Renting is a convenient and cost-effective way to learn if a piece of photo equipment and you are compatible. It doesn’t matter how much advice you get from others about a lens or other camera equipment, there is nothing like the experience of using it in the field to get a feel for it.

If a special lens or equipment is needed for an upcoming trip or special event, renting rather than buying may be a good option. But make sure you rent for a little longer than you’ll actually need it so you become familiar with the equipment .

It took me days to learn how to hold the 400mm L lens with a minimal camera shake, and to get a feel for the lens and its performance. Believe me, I trashed many shots but actually got a few decent ones too!

Here are a few sample images taken with the lens. To fully appreciate this lens, you have to understand that the subjects were quite far from where I stood.

Alternative to renting online

In some areas, there are local lens renting companies that offer local pickup and drop off. Lenses may be less expensive to rent because no shipping fees are involved. These companies also offer advice and tips on how to get the most out of a rented lens and other camera equipment.

Photos taken with the Canon 400mm L lens

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