Renting Glass – It’s Easier Than You Think

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I took this picture (the Grand Tetons in Wyoming) with a wide-angle lens:

A wide-angle shot of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming

I took this picture (Upper Falls in Yellowstone National Park) with a telephoto lens:

A telephoto shot of the Upper Falls in Yellowstone National Park

I own neither a wide-angle lens, nor a telephoto lens.

In preparation for a 3026 mile road trip through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado this summer, I got to thinking about my camera gear. Specifically, what I owned versus what I knew I would need in order to capture the surroundings I would find myself in.

Wildlife = telephoto lens.
Landscapes = wide angle lens.

I was in a quandary, because the only lens I own that takes decent pictures is the 0.28m/0.9ft 18-55mm that came with my Canon Digital Rebel. I do have a 75-300mm telephoto, but it’s outdated and the picture quality is poor (plus, no image stabilization). Buying the lenses I wanted was out of the question, since the purchase would take up all of our vacation budget (and then some). Some day, certainly, but not in time for our vacation.

I checked with my local photography store, who has a lens rental program. The thing is, they wanted a $2000 deposit, which, again, was most of our vacation budget. I posted about my quandary on my personal blog, and within hours I was contacted by a representative from Pro Photo Rental.

The Internet sure comes in handy, sometimes.

The rep and I exchanged several e-mails throughout the course of the day. He helped me to determine which lenses were best for my needs, and explained all the details of the rental agreement. Essentially, you indicate the lens you want and the rental time-frame you need, which determines the cost of the rental. Additional insurance can be purchased for a nominal fee (recommended in case things go awry). The lenses are shipped to you via FedEx in time to arrive on or before the first day of your rental period. You are responsible for returning the lenses to FedEx on the last day of your rental period, using the same shipping container they came in, and the pre-paid return shipment label.

No holds are placed on your funds, no deposit is required, shipping is free both ways, you order on-line with an easy reservation system, and you are charged on the day that your lenses ship out.

I was extremely pleased with the lenses when they arrived – they were in great condition and met my needs exactly. For two weeks I used the heck out of them, and got an incredible amount of shots (912, to be exact) that I never would have been able to capture with my standard lens. The return process was hassle-free, though I was certainly sorry to have to give them back!

So, my point is this. Renting glass is a great way to equip yourself with the gear you need for a specific project, or vacation. It’s also a great way to try out a lens before you decide to buy it, which may save you a ton of money in the long run. Pro Photo Rental isn’t the only on-line rental gig out there, but in my humble opinion, they are the best. They supply lenses, camera bodies, and other types of gear for Canon, Nikon, and Olympus. Their customer service is unsurpassed, and the rental process is the easiest I’ve ever come across.

(Pro Photo Rental did not compensate me for this article. I was just so happy with them that I’m glad to sing their praises!)

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