Lens Rental Services Offer More Help Than You May Think
If you haven't used any lens rental services before, you may want to take a look to see what you're missing.
In this episode of The Photo Flunky Show, Lee and I discuss some of the benefits of lens rental services that may not be apparent, but could save you some hassle and frustration.
Why Rent Lenses?
There are some standard reasons to rent a lens:
- You want to try it out before you make a purchase decision
- You don't need it often enough to justify purchasing one
Other reasons to rent:
- Your lens is in for repair
- You need another copy of a lens for a job
- You don't want to travel with your own gear
While good reasons, those aren't the only ways you can take advantage of rental agencies. That's because they have more than just lenses for rent.
More Than Lenses
In addition to a large selection of lenses for popular cameras, many of these lens rental services also carry things like:
- Camera bodies
- Video cameras
- Lighting Equipment
- Underwater housings
- Tripods and support
- You can buy used gear
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THE PHOTO FLUNKY SHOW: Episode 63
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William: Hi there! Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show, episode number sixty-three. Today’s topic: we’re going to be talking about why you should rent lenses and gear before you just go out and buy something.
Thank you for joining us today. My name is William Beem.
Lee: My name is Lee Beem.
William: Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show. Before we get started on our topic I want to let you know that show notes for this episode are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode63
And you can get a free transcript of the show there.
I’m having a hard time with my words there, aren’t I?
Lee: It’s OK. It all came out.
William: Pretty much every show I think. And of course there are going to be links to subscribe. You can either visit the link that I just mentioned or you can go to photoflunky.com
Not only does it have links to subscribe to the show, but there’s a player there with all of our previous episodes. So if you want to check this out and check out a few other episodes, go to photoflunky.com
and enjoy yourself.
I also want to mention I’ve got a free ebook available for you and there’s a couple of ways that you can get your copy. This ebook is called Creative Portraiture and it’s not necessarily technical book. It is more about the compositional and creative aspects that go into portrait photography. So you can get a copy at williambeem.com/freebook or if you’re on the move and just not near a computer, it’s very easy. You can use your phone to send a text message and just text the code CPBOOK to 33444 and you’ll get a response back.
It will ask you to enter your email address and then it will send the ebook right to you.
And finally before I begin, I just want to let you know that I’ve got my code for Macphun Luminar. Luminar has an update to it. This is Macphun’s raw processing and this is only going to be good for Macintosh computers so if you’re a Windows user, I’m sorry that this one is not for you, but I’m really enjoying Luminar and you can save $10 off the purchase price if you use my code, which is just my last name: BEEM and go off to macphun.com and when you check out, use code BEEM. That also works to give you a discount on other products there, but Macphun Luminar has come out like I said with Version 1.1.1.
They’ve made some improvements, they’ve added a few more things, there are some more presets in there and it really is a very interesting raw processing engine so I know a lot of us use either Adobe Camera Raw or we use Lightroom and those are fine tools themselves. But there is just a little bit more to Luminar. You get many of the same kind of functions that you get there but also some of the creative things that you’d have from a plugin and you can kind of finish your photo in just one place in a way that you can’t do with the Adobe products.
So I really recommend checking it out. There’s a free trial if you want to check it out before you buy, but if you do buy, save yourself some money and use the code BEEM.
Alright, enough of the preamble announcements.
Today we’re going be talking about renting camera lenses and gear and some of the reasons why you may want to do this.
Lee, I know you’ve done this a number of times and so have I. It’s one of those things that I think people forget about, but it’s really available and easy to do.
There are a few reasons why you may want to do this. One of the easy ones is try it before you buy. A lot of the camera gear and lenses are extremely expensive, you know, depending on what your budget is. You may not know is this really worth your money? So getting a chance to rent it for a while and try it out is just a simple way of making sure that your cash that you work hard for is going for something that’s really going to do the job that you want to do.
Another reason is you won’t need it often enough really to justify buying it. And I think this is kind of what happened with you in some cases.
Lee: I’ve done it the wrong way first and then I did it the right way. I did it the wrong way based on advice, which was actually good advice, but I didn’t apply the advice very well.
William: What was the wrong way and what was the advice?
Lee: OK the wrong way was actually good advice that, because I was taking a prolonged trip, I was looking at renting from a place at home. And then taking it with me, which meant I needed extra days for travel included in the rental. So I was renting it for a slightly longer time and when I looked at the cost of it, it was just extortionate with the damage waivers and things like that, that went on top of it which obviously I was going to take for traveling. And somebody said to me, “Well have you looked at buying it new, using it and selling it as soon as you get back?” Because the loss you would take on a pretty much new camera lens would be negligible.
I went and had a look and thought that’s actually true. I’d lose so little reselling it almost new in its original packaging if it was only x number of weeks old. So I bought it. The problem is I bought it and tried to justify why I would want it and want to keep it. Because it was a good lens; it just wasn’t the lens for me. And I waited and waited and waited and tried to make it work. Eighteen months, maybe two years, later a new version of that lens came out and the price plummeted. I ended up losing several hundred on it when I did eventually sell it, even though it was barely used.
William: See that’s something I hadn’t considered, but it’s like buy it and then resell it. First that seems like a lot of work to me and second, if you don’t stick to your plan, you’re right. You may lose value the longer you hold onto it and if a new version comes out, well nobody really wants to go out and buy the old one.
Lee: Well look, most of us who rent a lens that we want to buy pretty much have a good idea that we want to buy it. So for me buying it, I knew that I was going to want to keep it when I got it, but my initial feelings were I just couldn’t justify buying it because it was for a specific purpose. I was right. But as I say, the advice was good; I just didn’t apply it very well and then you know, these little things come into your mind so I think that only works if you are very disciplined and able to say, look I’m buying this now and selling it afterwards. I don’t think it’s a bad plan at all. Especially for the more expensive lenses. But in my case I lost some money on it.
William: And that can happen with that kind of plan. A couple of other reasons why you may want to go with renting is maybe you have already got the gear but it’s for some reason not working or it’s in for repair. Or maybe you just need more than one version of it.
For example I’ve got my 24-70 mm. You like using it, I like using it, but we’ve only got the one lens between us. So for a couple of bodies occasionally we might go do something where we say you know what? We both really need to use this same kind of lens.
Lee: That’s true, yeah.
William: And it’s not something we want to go off and buy because most of the time we are shooting with different lenses so to buy two copies of the same lens isn’t really feasible for us.
Lee: It’s not, no.
William: You might need it for a job, but this is one of my favorite ones: to avoid traveling with your gear.
Lee: OK that was a big one for me and that’s where I got smart after the first mess.
William: Locally we had some friends who did this. They are no longer in business for this, but their business was called Kingdom Camera Rentals.
Lee: Absolutely amazing. I am so sad that they are out of service.
William: They had a lot of fans at the Walt Disney World area and basically what happened was you’d fly in and they would deliver to you at a Walt Disney World resort or wherever you needed them to. So you didn’t have to go through the airplane and didn’t have to pack and travel with it. You didn’t have to worry about oh, I’m sorry the overhead bins are full. We have to put your camera gear inside of checked luggage!
Lee: Yes, because most of us have some kind of – even if it’s household or travel insurance – we have some kind of insurance on our gear. When you are traveling with somebody else there is a limit to what kind of insurance you can get. Because otherwise people just claim it’s damaged and keep it.
William: But the nice part about renting, and it’s not just this business that’s gone out. There are other places where you can have either pick up spots or shipped to your destination the gear that you want. It might be a less stressful travel experience to avoid traveling with your gear and just have a copy of what you are comfortable using sent to your destination.
Lee: Well it’s not only that. Also remember a lot of these you pay per week or per day. That’s generally how they work. So if you’ve got to fly out on Monday morning and you’re going to be traveling the whole day on Monday or if you’re going to drive down you’ve already lost a day where you’re not using the lens. But it doesn’t help for it to arrive on Monday. You need to make sure it arrives maybe on Friday so you can test it out, try it, make sure it works and then have it packed and ready to go. So there are a few days and the same thing happens when you get back. Then you’ve still got to get it into whatever mailing or return service you have or get there to drop it off. So you’ve got those extra wasted days. You are paying for days of that lens rental or camera rental when you are not getting any value out of it.
William: No, so having something that you can either pick up or have delivered to your hotel as soon as you get there really is kind of your best value for these things.
Now we mentioned Kingdom Camera Rentals is not longer in business. They were in the Orlando area and they had a lot of fans. The two biggest places I know that do lens and gear rental are lensprotogo.com and borrowlenses.com
And they will do more than just lenses. I mean for example they cover Nikon cameras and a number of other brands. They will also have cameras that you can rent and they have lighting that you can rent, they have video gear that you can rent. But it goes even beyond that. Like some of the things that I thought about whether I really wanted to buy or not (and Lee told me that I did not want to buy them).
Lee: I know I’m such a spoil sport.
William: Well, like the DJI Osmo. I looked at that and I saw the videos that the company was putting out and thought oh, this is magical. I want this. And you looked at the cost of it and said, “Are you kidding? You want to spend that much money for something that has no ability to zoom or you can’t even see what you’re recording at the time?”
And I thought OK, that makes sense. But now you can actually go to borrowlenses.com and for example they have a couple of versions of some of these gimbals that you can rent with the camera and they are very popular because some of them seem to be rented out for the next couple of weeks or so. And it’s a good way to try before you buy.
And fortunately for me I didn’t buy these things because I found so many problems and so many complaints with the DJI gimbals. They can have some really lovely video, but they also have a number of complaints and problems to go with them.
Lee: And a lot of limitations as well.
William: One of the other things I looked at is GoPro. You can rent a GoPro – like the current version of it – for like $45 for a week.
William: Yeah. And it’s like …
Lee: See that’s another thing. How much use and how often do you need to use it? How much use are you needing to get out of it? Because if you’re going out every couple of months or maybe once a month and shooting with it, it might still work out cheaper to be renting it. Because that way you can always rent the latest version of it.
William: Yeah, you don’t have to go through buying the upgrade cycle. You can just go rent whatever the latest version is.
In my world for video, I need to do a few projects and then I might not touch it for quite a long time. And we mentioned before that we’ve got another blog where we want to do some video around the Orlando area.
Well getting a GoPro and mounting it on the hood of my car or something like that, or on the dashboard and doing some travel between the airport and the theme parks, is something positive that we can do to put on YouTube, but other than that I don’t really have a lot of need for a GoPro.
And there may be some places around the city where I could use a gimbal but I only need it for a few shots and then I’m done. Renting makes a lot of sense in those cases
Lee: To me it really does. I mean the other thing is one of the things when we looked at the Osmo – and really any of these things – is just buying the camera is not your only purchase. There are extra things you need.
Now when you are renting, typically the rental companies have identified what is needed and they’ll put a bundle together, which is still more cost effective than having to go out and buy whatever supports or brackets you need for it, you’ve got memory cards … Now these are things that as a photographer you possibly have, but they might not be in the right format.
William: Well you might not have the support.
Lee: The spare battery. You’ve got like a carry case and all kinds of things. If you’re buying it the cost you see for whatever the product is, I can guarantee you is 99 per cent of the time not the only outlay you have to make it usable for you.
William: Absolutely not. I mean let’s take a look at the DJI gimbal that we were looking at. If you want to do more than just hold this in your hand they have an extendable stick, for lack of a better word, and then the tripod is just a base that the stick screws into. So like if you want to be able to extend this out, if you want to put it on a tripod and let it do its thing, well you need to get those extra items and trust me, none of them are inexpensive.
Lee: No and the other thing as well is that if you want to see what you’re doing you had to connect it to your phone, which means you needed to buy the phone bracket as well to hold the phone. Now when you buy the phone bracket you’re draining power out of your phone so you probably, if you don’t already have some, need to get some kind of power bank for this. You needed extra batteries because the battery life absolutely sucked in this thing.
William: That’s true and you know the DJI Osmo Mobile you can’t even replace the battery in that. You can use it for like 45 minutes to an hour and then you have got to stop whatever you’re doing and charge it up again.
These are some of the things I was talking about that I decided why it really wasn’t worth buying for us. But as a rental to use for a little bit? I think that’s a much more logical idea for my own needs rather than buying something and getting frustrated with it and then wondering, can I return it? Because that is the other end of what you were talking about. Buy it and then plan to return it? That’s not what I want to do.
Lee: I evaluate absolutely everything on every level.
William: But then there is also a chance that maybe you’re going on a trip and you think, you know what? I don’t want to use my camera. Maybe there is another one I’ve had my eye on or another lens. For example, fish eye lenses. I love fish eye lenses, but I don’t use them enough to warrant the price of buying one.
Lee: I rented one, but I also knew when I rented that if I’d bought it I would have found a way to use it.
William: Well that’s the thing. If you have it, do you want to make yourself use it just because you have it? There are times I want it, but I kind of would rather plan it out. For me it’s much more cost effective because if I look back at what I’ve done over the past few years and what I’ve done with a fish eye, it’s not been that much fish eye work. So if I’m going to do portraits, which is kind of what I really want to concentrate on these days …
Lee: Yeah, not for a fish eye.
William: Yeah I’m not going to get a lot of fish eye portraits.
Lee: But you see if you look at my kind of weird photos, a lot of the stuff that I did … I had great fun with a fish eye.
William: In my case I’ve got that 14-24 mm so it’s not a fish eye but I can still get some of that exaggeration. So there are times where there are specialty lenses or gear that you say, you know, I just want to try it. And maybe it is before a purchase decision or maybe it’s just to satisfy your curiosity.
But I think renting lenses and gear and going for things that maybe just isn’t wise for a purchase decision is actually a pretty good thing to do. So the two places I’ve done business with are lensprotogo.com and borrowlenses.com
I don’t have any hesitation to recommend either one. I don’t have an affiliate relationship with either one, but I think that you’re going to find that they are both reputable companies.
One of the reasons that I kind of favour lensprotogo.com is that they have a business relationship with UPS. And both of them can ship it to you whatever your location is. But Borrow Lenses has like five places in the USA where you can do a drop off and pick up. Lensprotogo.com has 4,000!
Lee: OK that changes things quite a lot. They are obviously bigger.
William: If there is a UPS store nearby and you are able to travel, then yes, you can do that.
But you know if you’re going to a town and you don’t know where the UPS store is, either one can really help you out. They can ship directly to your hotel and schedule it to arrive the day that you are going to be there.
Lee: You know I think that renting a lens that you don’t have and you are contemplating buying it also gives you a completely different perspective on its value.
When you’re looking at something that looks really nice it always seems worth the cost. And then you start using it and it might be worth the cost for you, but it kind of falls into a different perspective. Because after you’ve had the opportunity it’s not so elusively exclusive to you because you’ve had it in your hands. And you may still love it. But you may not still love it £2,000 worth or whatever it costs. And I think it does – once you’ve had a chance to play with it – give you an opportunity to get over the hype and look at things a little bit more realistically in terms of practical use.
William: Well, for example, look at my prime lenses. I’ve got the 24 mm F1.4, the 35 mm F1.4, I’ve got a 50 mm F1.8 and an 85 mm F1.4.
Of those, I probably use the 85 mm the most. And that’s got a very shallow depth of field with 85 mm at F1.4. I love the 24 mm and the 35 mm, but I don’t take them with me and use them that often.
Lee: Yes. I’ve used them quite a lot.
William: You’ve used them quite a lot. I’m glad somebody is getting some use out of them.
Some of my favorite shots were taken with the 24 mm and the 35 mm. But as a practical matter, I find that if I’m going off to someplace else I don’t bring those lenses as much. I usually bring the zoom lenses.
Lee: I love the 35 mm.
William: Those might have been some things that in hindsight, I might have been better off to rent because they were expensive. They were near a couple of thousand dollars each.
Lee: Yeah. I’ll make them worth your while.
William: OK. That’s good to know that they won’t go to waste.
So that’s our advice for today. Check out some of the rental options that you have before you. And if you don’t, lensprotogo.com and borrowlenses.com are really good national chains. But there may be some local options that you have as well.
Like we said, we mentioned one that was local in Orlando that people really adored. It’s no longer in business, but you may have some other options for rentals.
Check them out and see if it’s really worth your while and maybe it will give you a different perspective on how to do some of your photography because you can try out gear without having to save up thousands of dollars to buy it.
Thank you so much for listening to the Photo Flunky Show. As I said before show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode63 and you can get a free transcript of the show there.
We are on iTunes, Google Play Music and Blubrry, Stitcher and maybe a couple of other things that I can’t remember. You’ll find links on that page that I mentioned and also at photoflunky.com
And finally don’t forget to claim your free copy of Creative Portraiture. Just go to williambeem.com/freebook. Or use your mobile phone and text the phrase CPBOOK to the number 33444
It will ask you for your email address and send it to you right away. You don’t even have to be at home on your computer.
Thank you so much! We’ll see you next week.