Let’s be honest — there are certain events for which photographers gather that are probably just as much about one-upping the next person’s gear as it is about the particular goings-on of the event itself. This is especially true of situations that require a telephoto lens such as major sporting events or wildlife happenings like the annual migration of birds along the Pacific Flyway (a migratory pathway extending from Alaska to the southern end of South America).
Snow Geese by eflon, on Flickr
Sure, everybody’s there to get beautiful shots of Great Blue Herons or Red-tailed Hawks or whatever birds are common to the region where they happen to be shooting. Not only are you guaranteed to see some impressive birds species, it’s just as likely you’ll see quite a few impressive lenses as well. No, I don’t mean the ubiquitous 70-200mm or even anything in the imposing 100-400mm range. I’m talking about something like the sheer grandiosity of an 800mm lens.
My, what a big lens you have by jfingas, on Flickr
I know some people, upon seeing such a lens in actual use, after moving past the initial awe are left alternating between feelings of self-pity because they’ll never own that lens and wondering, “How could this many people possibly own that lens?”
It’s a good question. Of course, you have to account for the few photographers who are indeed doing paid work; they are there in a professional capacity, perhaps working for National Geographic or the BBC. But what about everybody else? Well, maybe they don’t own the lens. And if they can get their hands on one, then you can too. Rent it!
NFL Photographer by Jeffrey Beall, on Flickr
There are actually several reasons why you should think about renting photography gear.
- Too Expensive to Own. Considering the price tag on something like the 800mm is more than $13,000USD, it’s well out of reach of the average consumer. Besides, how often will you even use such a long lens? Factoring in retail price and frequency of use, ownership isn’t really a cost effective option. But renting one will only set you back about $400USD (plus shipping and insurance) for a 5-day period.
- Back Up Plan. You should never go into an important event like a wedding carrying one camera. If, for any reason, that camera should fail, the day is going to end up being a disaster and you’ll get all the blame. If you only own one camera, that’s fine. But the availability of rental gear means there’s no excuse for not having a second one when the situation calls for it.
- Try Before You Buy. Smart shoppers don’t buy into marketing hype — do we? Buyer’s remorse is one of the worst feelings there is. So instead of spending hour upon hour researching something, yet still finding yourself unsure and too afraid to pull the trigger on the purchase, you can spend considerably less money renting a piece of gear and testing it out for a few days. A hands-on experience will probably serve you better than getting bogged down in reading reviews.
- A Temporary Replacement. Camera gear breaks down, it gets damaged, it needs maintenance. So whether your body is in for a sensor cleaning or your favorite lens is having its AF motor repaired, you can always bring in a rental substitute until your star performer is back in action.
Photography gear rentals are an excellent resource for both amateurs and professionals; it’s a quick, efficient, cost effective method for getting your hands on the equipment you need for a specific occasion. There are other benefits, of course. So don’t be too bummed about not being able to afford that 800mm lens — just rent one. Your bank account will thank you.
True for huge lenses, but the problem with rentals is they eat your profits significantly. The nikon rents for something like $800 for three days. There goes a giant chunk of your pay. Rent if you have to, buy if you can.
Great comment if you can get the shot without the long fast glass! 😉