Top 5 reasons to rent lenses and cameras

Camera equipment rental offers real advantages

Rent camera lenses

Renting a camera lens or body offers several advantages.

I had never considered renting a camera lens, but I recently dropped my Nikon 80-400mm and damaged the barrel. While the impact didn’t seem all that serious — it was in the protective case — the focus and zoom capabilities were shot. So I sent it off to Nikon to get it repaired.

The problem was that I had an upcoming photo shoot with fellow photographer Tom Hamilton, who was visiting Louisiana to shoot scenics and wildlife photos. I was left with the choice of renting a lens or simply sitting out any wildlife photography opportunities.

I had never rented a lens, so that avenue made me nervous. But I finally did some research and decided to give a try. In the process, I discovered the rates are incredibly low, and it offered me the opportunity to test out a zoom lens with some real horsepower.

The day before the scheduled shoot, I received a Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 VR and I was back in business. The rental allowed me to capture some really nice images at a bird rookery deep within Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge.

What did I discover? That renting photography equipment offers some distinct advantages. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should give equipment rental a try:

1) You can test a lens before buying it

great egret photography

Renting a Nikon 200-500mm lens allowed me to capture this image of a great egret.

OK, so I learned a very important lesson during my purchase: That 200-500mm is a LOT of lens to work with, and it’s not easy. Most of my images were out of focus, even though I used a tripod. While I managed to eke out a few nice photos, it was obvious my technique wasn’t nailed down.

I would have been really disappointed if I had shelled out the nearly $1,400 purchase price. But the small rental fee helped salve my photography wounds.

Sure, if had purchased it I would have worked with it long enough to learn the best camera settings and techniques to get quality images. But the rental allowed me to test it out and decide if it’s a lens worth spending the money to own. The answer was “maybe.”

I’m going to test out a Sigma 15mm soon to ensure it’s one I can put to regular use.

2) Rental offers a quick replacement to damaged cameras or lenses

As mentioned above, my entire experience was driven by the fact I had damaged a lens and needed a quick solution. Rental is perfect. And the rental houses offer both lenses and camera bodies, and they work with you to get a lens to you quickly. There are also a variety of options to cover a quick shoot or extended needs.

Let’s face it: Repair of a lens or camera is not an overnight process. So damage can cost you business if you can’t replace the equipment quickly.

Logging onto or one of the other online rental outfits is a quick and convenient solution. If you’re near one of the brick-and-mortar locations, you can even save the shipping cost.

3) Rental fills short-term needs

Unless I jump into wildlife photography in a serious way, I’m not going to use a 200-500mm lens that often. So if I purchased it, the lens would spend most of the time on a shelf in my studio.
I would have to rent that lens 10 times before I spent the cost of a new lens. So if I only shoot bird photos a couple of times a year, I would never be able to really justify spending money to actually own the lens. It’s just easier to rent it.

Renting the lens allowed me to capture a few great images and enjoy a shoot with a buddy for little investment.

I’ve already got my eye on renting a 10.5mm fisheye to play with, knowing it’s not a lens I would use often.

4) It’s inexpensive

That brings me to the rental cost. A seven-day rental of that Nikon 200-500mm lens was just $131. Including round-trip shipping and insurance. And that was for a seven-day rental, since I needed it over an extended weekend. If I our photo shoot had been on a weekday, I could have nabbed a three-day rental for a little more than $50.

Man, you just can’t beat that. I could have even extended the term for a very reasonable rate.

One note: I recommend purchasing the insurance policy with any rental. These policies cover any damage except for water damage (not sure why that’s not included).

5) You get to play with equipment out of your price range

If I really wanted to have some fun, I could have a Nikon 800mm f/5/6 dropped off. Man, I could really get up close to those nesting egrets with that monster.

The seven-day rental cost is $667 — not an insignificant cost for a week’s work. But owning that lens would set me back more than $16,000, so rental would definitely be the way to go.

Yeah, that’s a lens I likely will never be able to afford. Renting, however, makes it possible to work with equipment you’d otherwise never hold in your hands.

The bottom line

Is renting a camera body or lens right for you? I can think of 100 reasons how renting can fit into a photographer’s plan. It’s inexpensive and opens up windows of opportunities were once closed. So when you’re wanting to try something new, turn to the rental houses and make an order. You won’t be disappointed.

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About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.