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Renting Camera Gear
Jim Doty, Jr.



It was a desperate phone call from a good friend.

"Help! I am in Hawaii and my lens just quit working."

He was also getting error 99 messages from his camera, a good sign his camera and lens weren't communicating. I gave him all of the usual advice to revive his lens, but none of the usual things worked.

He had already tried to find a camera store that could rent him a lens that would fit on his Canon camera, but he was in too remote a location to find what he needed. That's when he called me. He had a phone signal where he was at, but no internet access.

You don't want to be on a trip of a lifetime and have your lens quit working!

Saving Your Photo Trip

Fortunately, I found a solution. I searched online and found two highly rated lens rental companies that had the kind of lens he needed and they could get it in his hands the very next day, even at his remote location. The overnight FedEx charge would be about $38, and the lens rental would be another $25 - $45 for a week, but that is a small amount of money to pay to be able to take pictures in Hawaii, especially compared to all the other costs of getting to Hawaii, and spending a week there. Either company could handle everything with him by phone. I was impressed by the customer service from both companies. I called my friend back, gave him the phone numbers and rental information for both companies, and left the rest to him.

Renting gear is a way to save the photography part of your trip if something quits, breaks, or is stolen. It helps if you already have a prior relationship with a rental company, or at least pick one out ahead of time and have the contact info in case of an emergency.

I should also add that if you are going on the trip of a lifetime, its a good idea to have enough backup gear to get you by if something quits. I wrote a blog article recently about how to choose your gear to maximize its backup potential.

Try Before You Buy

There are other reasons to rent camera gear. One is to try before you buy.  If you aren't on some camera manufacturers preferred list and can't try out gear for free, renting is the way to go.  If you are looking at two lenses and can't decide which you would like best, rent them both for a week and try them. Then you will know.

I visited with a photographer who was read to take the plunge and spend about $1500 to buy his first digital Nikon or Canon camera body (and more money for lenses). He just couldn't decide on which brand. Holding two cameras in a store isn't anywhere near the same as working with them for a week. I told him to rent one body for a week (along with a lens) and then the other body the next week (plus a lens). After a week with each, he would know which one he liked to work with best. And that is a lot less expensive than dropping $1500 for a camera plus several hundred dollars for a lens, only to discover later he made the wrong choice.

Gear You Rarely Need

The third reason to rent gear is to use something you only need on a very rare basis. If you almost never shoot wildlife, and you decide to go shoot polar bear in Churchill, Manitoba, or elk in Yellowstone, Wyoming, or wild birds at Point Pelee, Ontario, go ahead and rent a Canon 100-400mm lens for a week (or whatever long lens you think you will need).  If you are going to Alaska and don't have a backup camera body (except for a little point and shoot camera), rent a camera body for a week as a backup. If you are asked to do your first paid architectural photography job, rent a tilt-shift lens, and send it back when you are done. Some lenses are just too expensive to own if you don't need them on a regular basis. Rent them. It's a lot less expensive than buying a lens you rarely need. As for the backup camera body, well, you can rent one for now but buy one as soon as you can afford one.

Finding a Good Rental Company

You can check our photo rental places online, and there are a number of highly rated companies out there. As I said before, its a good idea to find one before you need them.

The two companies I found for my friend who was on vacation in Hawaii were (who has since merged with and Both companies had very high customer reviews at, which is the reason I chose them. For example, here's RentGlass at ResellerRatings.

You can check out more rental companies in these three articles at Digital Photography School, Photodo, and Be sure and check out a companies online reviews at


March 13, 2011

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