An Alternative to Buying Expensive Camera Gear | Lensrentals Review
What is LensRentals.com?
Lensrentals is an American company that allows photographers to rent camera gear online. It’s convenient because it gets delivered straight to your home and when you’re done you drop it at the closest FedEx or UPS.
Lensrentals doesn’t make camera gear, they simply rent out brands that photographers know and love.
I was offered a credit by Lensrentals towards the rental fee of my lens. As always, my article only contains my honest opinions and recommendations.
Why Would I rent Gear?
1. If You don’t have the budget to buy
Good camera gear is expensive, that’s a fact.
Like any passion it’s easy to get swept up buying all types of camera bodies, lenses and accessories in the pursuit of “better photography”. It’s what photographers playfully refer to as “GAS” or “gear acquisition syndrome”.
This can result in spending money on gear that’s not often used which is a waste.
2. If you’re still trying to figure out your style
As a beginner it was hard for me to decide what lenses to buy because I simply didn’t know the effects they would produce.
On top of that, I was (and still am) finding my own style. As a photographer, there are many changing factors (skill level and creativity) so renting allows you to get field experience without the commitment.
3. If You don’t trust Camera Reviews
It’s easy to get caught up reading online camera reviews and for the most part, this is the best way to inform purchase decisions. But it can be tricky, because reviews can be subjective (like this article).
Renting equipment allows you to try it out for yourself and see if it fits your needs and benchmarks.
4. If You want to get over a Creative Slump
There was a period of time where I was letting my camera collect dust but I remember going to Japan with my new FujiFilm XF 35mm f/2 lens and I was inspired all over again.
If you shoot landscapes maybe try a macro lens? Are you a die-hard Canon fan but curious about the new Nikon cameras? All these creative reasons are enough to try renting without the long-term commitment of buying the new gear.
5. If your Gear is out for Repair
It happens, camera gear breaks. But the show must go on! A few weeks before a big trip, my primary lens had an aperture blade issue so I sent it out for repair. I was able to sleep at night knowing I could rent if it didn’t get it back in time. Luckily, it did.
My Experience with lensrentals.com
Choosing My Gear - Ordering
Lensrentals’ website is pretty straightforward. You can browse through an array of gear; ranging from cameras, lenses, drones, accessories and video. You can also search by brand which is handy if you already know what you’re looking to rent.
They also offer packages which can be a set of cameras, lenses and accessories that lend themselves to certain styles or events (e.g. wedding). This is a great option if you’re starting a career or want to test out different brands.
I had a trip to Italy coming up and I wanted to test a lens that I had been eying for for a long time, the FujiFilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens. I was drawn to this lens because my current travel lens starts at 16mm and although it can capture almost everything I shoot, I was going to Italy and I thought I’d have the opportunity to get some super-wide landscapes.
After selecting the lens, I filled in my rental period and shipping address to get the rates.
Lensrentals delivery is currently only available in the USA
Ding dong! I signed for my package and was so excited to open it up. First impression was “omg, this is so heavy!”, I started to panic. Was this lens going to be a monster and I wouldn’t even be able to carry it in my bag? Luckily, the majority of the weight came from the protective case.
The unboxing process is really dummy proof. The box even tells you which side to open, so you’re able to pull the case out by the handle.
You have to sign for the delivery, so make sure that the scheduled delivery time is when you’ll be home. If you’re not home, you can have it held at a FedEx location for pickup.
The return process was equally straight forward. Just package everything back up and put it back in the same box. Lensrentals gives you the shipping label with the lens, so just stick it overtop of the initial label.
Once that’s done, drop it off at a local FedEx or UPS and keep the tracking number for your records.
I loved that the package came with tape so that the box could be sealed back up before returning it. The tape itself is sassy too, read it for a chuckle.
So how was the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm?
I’m not going to do a technical review of the FujiFilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens but I can say that even though I enjoyed trying it, I didn’t use it nearly as much as I thought I would have.
When it comes to travel lenses I’m a stickler for weight. My primary lens (FujiFilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens) is bulky enough and adding this second, even bigger, lens to my photography kit just isn’t realistic.
I didn’t use it for landscapes as much as I would have thought. My landscapes were already quite wide and the 16mm worked perfectly in most cases.
Where I did really enjoy the lens was when I was shooting large monuments. In Rome I used it to capture the breadth of the Colosseum and the spectacular ceilings of the Vatican. You can look at some shots below. Note: They are edited, with transformations, so you won’t get a full sense of the distortion from the lens.
If you’re really into architecture photography this might be a great lens for you but in the end, I don’t think I’d buy it. It’s just not something I would use often or want to carry in my bag. So for that, I’m happy I was able to test it out and not have buyers remorse.
Things to know about Lensrentals.com
The gear that Lensrentals uses has a two-year rental life before it’s sold. This means that at any given time your gear is no more than 2-years old.
This is a personal preference but when it comes to travel, I feel better with insurance. Especially in places like Italy, which has pickpocket issues. I didn’t want to be on the hook for a stolen $2,000 lens.
Lensrentals offers two insurance plans. The first will cover damage whilst the more expensive one also covers theft. Read the details here.
The Keeper Program
One of the nice benefits to renting the lenses through Lensrentals is that you may be able to purchase it at the end of your rental period.
If your gear is part of the “Keeper Program” then you’ll receive a quote when you place your order. This quote will be the sale price, minus a portion of your rental fee. If your rental is shorter than 7 days it’s 100% of that fee, if it’s longer than 7 days it’s 100% of the 7-day period and 30% of the remaining time. It doesn’t cover any insurance and shipping costs.
Knowing if this is beneficial really depends on your gear and rental fee. For example, my lens was quoted at a higher price than a sale price I found online for a brand new version however with the rental fee subtracted it came out to about $100 cheaper.
The question then becomes “for an extra $100 would I prefer a new lens” and the answer for me is - yes, simply because of the warranty.
What Brands do They carry
Lensrentals carry an array of camera and accessory brands. The most recent list is:
Paul C. Buff
As you can see they’ve got a lot of great brands. Here’s a list of some of my travel photography essentials.
Since I was gone for a full three weeks and leaving on a Monday, I ordered my gear for the prior Friday.
If you’re ordering for an event, Lensrentals suggests ordering your gear at least 3 days prior incase there are shipping or repair issues. This gives them enough time to get you new gear.
Would I use Lensrentals again? For sure! It’s nice to know if my owned gear has issues I can always rent a backup and I like the idea of testing new things to spark my creativity.
Of course I would always do cost assessments because renting the same gear over and over will eventually start to get close to the purchase price.