close-to-elephants

Ever been this close to a herd of elephants? Neither have I. The lens I rented for my trip to Africa makes them look a lot closer than they were!

I’ve rented for a few reasons.

First, I want to make sure the reviews I read about equipment match up to my expectations. Reviews like the ones here at DigiCamReview.com are priceless. I would never consider buying equipment before checking it’s reviews first. But there’s a lot to be said for having equipment in your hands. Does that giant zoom lens make you feel extra conspicuous? Does Image Stabilization (Vibration Reduction if you’re a Nikon) make that much of a difference? I bought my favorite Lens (Canon’s 100mm f/2.8 IS L Macro) because I rented it first to make sure it was perfect. And it was.

I’ve also rented specialty equipment. I went to Africa this year and I knew my 17-40mm and 18-135mm lenses wouldn’t be enough to get good shots of far away animals. After reading tons of reviews and suggestions I knew the best lens for the trip would be Canon’s 100-400mm zoom lens. It’s the perfect safari lens. But at home in California I do food/product photography and landscapes. That lens would be a $1600 hunk of metal and glass gathering dust in the closet. So I rented it for a month. I spent just $250 USD including shipping and insurance. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

You can rent camera bodies and other equipment too. Want to try out a full frame pro-level camera for a trip to the Grand Canyon? Do it! Thinking of using some off camera fill flash for your cousins wedding? Rent a sweet flash for the weekend. Some places even rent out tripods and other support. Get a great monopod for a weekend of museum-ing or a killer tripod for a week at the beach.

Renting From your local Camera Store Vs Renting from an Online Rental Business.

I’ve rented online and locally. Both have their upsides and downsides. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Renting Locally:

Upsides-

  • You talk to a person face to face.
  • They can help you decide which lens is right for you.
  • No waiting for delivery, or confirmation of return.
  • No shipping costs.
  • No wondering if the item will get lost in the mail.

Downsides-

  • They’re often much more expensive than online stores.
  • They may require a deposit of the full retail cost of the item your renting (you get the deposit back when you return the item in good condition).
  • You may have to drive pretty far to pick up/drop off your equipment.

Renting Online:

Upsides-

  • Often very inexpensive.
  • Deposit of full retail price not usually required.
  • No driving, the equipment gets delivered to your door.

Downsides-

  • Doing business online is scary and gear rental is no exception.
  • Lots of lag time. You have to wait for confirmation of the rental reservation, wait for the equipment to be delivered, wait for them to receive it when you mail it back, wait for them to confirm it’s not damaged. All annoying.
  • Shipping costs money. The discounts you get from renting online can outweigh the shipping costs but they might not. Keep shipping in mind when you’re comparing prices.
Pink Salt Test Small

I rented a macro lens to get this extreme close up of salt and pepper. Now it's my favorite lens ever!

I prefer to rent online. It’s cheaper and more convenient for me. But I understand why some people don’t. No one wants to throw money at an online retailer they’ve never heard of. And what if the company claims you never returned the equipment, or that it was damaged when you return it? The bad news is, there are rental places that will take your money and run. The good news is there are lots of reputable businesses with great reviews that are a pleasure to do business with.

Just take these steps to protect yourself and you’ll be good to go.

  • Google the business first or ask a friend who’s done business with the rental place. When people have a bad experience with an online retailer, they’re often quick to let the online community know about it.
  • Always get insurance for rented equipment and understand the policy. If the rental place doesn’t offer insurance with the equipment, I would find another business that does. It’s not worth the risk of getting charged $1,000 for a scratched lens.
  • Stay in constant contact and keep records of email conversations. If they deliver the lens with a huge scuff on the side, write an email to let them know immediately. Keeping the paper trail will keep you from paying for damage that you didn’t cause.
  • Drop the gear off to your post office or shipping service in person, and make sure they give you a tracking number. If the gear gets lost in the mail you’ll have proof it’s the shippers error, not yours. Good businesses may even ask that you send the equipment via certified mail for your own protection.
  • When in doubt rent locally. It may cost more to rent from your local camera store. But when you hand over the equipment to a real person it seems a little less scary than mailing it in to a faceless business.

So, where do you go from here?

I can personally recommend LensRentals.com for renting online in The US. They have a good selection of equipment, they’re fast, reliable, and pretty inexpensive.

Folks I know have had good experiences with RentGlass.com (also US), but I haven’t used them myself.

For you guys and gals in The UK, I’ve heard great things about LensesForHire.co.uk.

Have you rented gear? I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know why you rent, where you rent, and what you rent.

Guest article by Katherine Landreth from PareandFocus.com

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One Response to Guide to Renting Cameras, Lenses and Accessories

  1. Laura says:

    I suggest LensLocker for UK. I have used their services two times and I am very pleased. You can hire up to 28 days!

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