Renting camera equipment


I know I keep going on about this, but there’s no denying that photography can be an insanely expensive hobby: Especially if you’re curious about why people start shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars/pounds/euros on glass with a little red L on it… Once you’ve shot a couple of hundred photos with professional equipment, it’s too easy to reach for your credit card and let ‘er rip: The sheer sharpness of the photos and the vastly superior results than you get from average-grade consumer lenses is staggering.

The solution, many people find, is renting camera equipment for a weekend or so. But how do you go about choosing what you rent? And what are the benefits of renting over buying? What are the downsides?

My good friend Andrew over at Golden God has taken a closer look, exploring the topic in greater detail in this guest writer article.  


cabbit-renting-01.jpgOne of the things that put a lot of people off from photography is the exorbitant cost of absolutely everything. Equipment and camera rental can be an affordable way to get the shots you want without sacrificing quality.

See, the thing is, I’m poor. Not ridiculously so, but I’ve made some mistakes and have had some misfortunes in my life, and as a result a large portion of my income is going towards paying off old credit card debts. I can’t afford fancy lenses, but I want them. In other words: renting lenses is a way for me to be able to play with fancy equipment on a limited budget.

cabbit-renting-03.jpgI currently use a local outfit here in Vancouver called Leo’s Camera Supply for all my camera rental needs. These guys are, to use the parlance of our times, mad sexy. If I were the kind of gentleman who’d attempt to court a store as if it were a lady, this would be the first place to receive chocolate, roses and an invite for a RomCom in the local cinema. I have only ever had one problem with them, and somehow, they managed to turn it around into one of my best customer service experiences ever: They accidentally double-booked a Canon EF 24-105mm F4 ‘L’ IS USM lens I wanted for a single day. I couldn’t get my lens because they technically promised it to the other guy first. I understood, but was frustrated because I still had to shoot an event that day. They set me up with a Sigma EX 24-70mm f2.8 DG Macro for three days, at no charge, and I didn’t even ask for a deal. That’s service.

Obviously, if you’re outside of Vancouver, Leo’s is a lot less helpful. If you’re in Canada, my advice is to check your local photography shops and pray for the best. If you’re in America, options expand somewhat. For one thing, there are a pair of mail-order optics rental companies: Ziplens and RentGlass. Sadly, I know nothing about either company beyond what’s in their FAQs. In addition, there’s Calumet, who have 11 stores dotted around the US, along with 14 stores in the UK, and half a dozen stores scattered around the rest of the EU. Haje tells me he’s had some experience with Calumet Liverpool and Bristol, and that he has never had anything but the highest levels of service from them.

cabbit-renting-04.jpgRenting equipment is a choice I’ve made because it works for me, for now. I know I won’t be doing it forever, and I know it’s not the best choice for everyone.

Lens Rental Pros:

  • This is an excellent way to save money on equipment costs when you’re starting out, particularly if you schedule multiple shoots during the same rental period.
  • No need to buy accessories. Most rentals come with a good UV filter, lens hood, and carrying case.
  • Let’s be honest, how often are you going to need that 400mm fixed lens? That’s what I thought.
  • Less risk of damage if you have kids/pets/roommates. It’s easy to be vigilant about a $2,000 lens when you’ve only got it for two days. It’s a lot harder when you own it.
  • Stuff always works: Lenses are checked after every rental, and if something does break, you’re not liable (you did sign up for that extra insurance that most rental shops offer, right?) for it.

cabbit-renting-02.jpgLens Rental Cons:

  • You can’t always get what you want (Hey, didn’t they write a song about that?). You are at the whim of what they have in stock, unless you reserve well in advance.
  • The cost on frequent lens or camera rental can add up fast. This will start to dig into the money you were saving to purchase equipment.
  • You can’t be as spontaneous as you’d like to be. I run into situations all the time, sometimes right after I return my rental, where that lens would be useful.
  • It’s cool to own things! There is a distinct happiness that comes from owning your own equipment.
  • Sometimes, photographic equipment has quirks and niggles: Think about your own photography equipment. That one lens that works fine as long as you do X, and the flash that works fine, if you do Y? That happens to rental equipment, too, and re-learning the strengths, weaknesses of a particular lens every time is a pain.

Ultimately, it’s up to everyone to evaluate the idea of camera equipment rental and make the decision themselves. Those of you who use special camera equipment and lenses, do you rent? Why or why not?

All text and photos by Andrew Ferguson, edited for Photocritic by Haje. If you like Andrew’s stuff, check out his photo gallery as well!

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