Photography is an enjoyable activity for both professionals and hobbyists. It can also be an expensive hobby. The more our photographic experience grows, the more we want to create better and better images. This leads us to owning better equipment; the tools that will help our photography be a little sharper, a little faster, a little easier or just a little different from what we’ve created before. The precision and technology that brings us this betterment comes at an ever increasing cost. Camera lenses are expensive things, easily costing more than the SLR body they are attached to. The expense of lenses is a reflection of their complexity and of their importance to do their job well. It is the image that exits the back of the lens which enters the camera and ultimately becomes the image we capture.
The design of lenses is a compromise of performance, size and cost. Lenses that are included with SLR camera packages, often known as “kit” lenses, give a wide range of capability in a small package and moderate price. Professional level lenses are designed for higher performance with fewer compromises. This high performance design creates lenses that are more specialized, physically larger and more expensive.
Professional level lenses - those with desirable attributes such as wide maximum apertures, exceptional sharpness and fast autofocus speed - come with particularly high price tags. Working professional photographers can justify ownership of highly expensive lenses as important tools of their trade. But even working photographers cannot own all the lenses they might like.
Hobby photographers grow in experience and skill, eventually reaching the limits of their equipment. The costs of higher performance lenses can be prohibitive for amateur photographers wanting to grow into more challenging subjects.
Photographers love to use professional quality lenses, but if a lens would only be used for a few occasions a year, it’s hard to justify a purchase.
"There are so many great reasons to rent: try before you buy, you don’t have $1,000 to spend on a lens, you want to mix up your routine, you’re shooting something specific that needs a certain lens… just to name a few."
- Ester, Soapboxphoto.wordpress.com
Events like weddings, sports and performances are very popular occasions for photographers to rent a lens for their camera. Weddings are difficult events to photograph; crowds, large venues, awkward lighting and busy activity are a challenge for even experienced professional photographers. The chaos and speed of sports requires a lens that can focus quickly and provide high camera shutter speeds. High contrast and dramatic stage light necessitates a lens with as much light-gathering ability as possible. Lenses with the capabilities for these events come with large price tags and might not be a practical purchase for a photographer who is only going to use them occasionally. Renting a lens for a special occasion makes financial sense.
"Renting makes even more sense with esoteric lenses which are useful for certain projects or for producing a novel effect, but which it doesn’t make that much sense to buy."
- Milan Ilnyckyj, Sindark.com
SLR camera lenses are expensive and require thought and planning before buying. Do you need a lens with better long-distance range or wider angle views? Do you need a single lens that can work for many subjects or do you need the quality and performance of a more specialized lens? Even after determining your needs, you still need to determine which lens is best for you. Should you choose the f/2.8 version or save money and weight with the f/4 model? Do you need optical stabilization? Is zoom necessary or will a fixed focal length be all that you need?
"This is also a great way to evaluate a lens you’ve been lusting for. Rent it for a week, see if you like it, and make your decision after. This way, you won’t end up having a thousand-dollar dust collector."
- Luis Cruz, Popular Photography
Self-employed, working photographers who earn income by providing photography services, such as wedding or sports photographers, may be able to claim an expense on their income tax returns for rental fees paid for equipment used at a paying job. This can be a savvy alternative to owning lenses. Photographers don't need to spend large amounts of money to buy all the equipment they need, helping with their monthly cash flow and possibly saving on interest charges if a loan is the only means to afford the purchase. Not having large amounts of equipment in their studio could save insurance costs and protect from from large losses. Plus the photographer only needs to rent when they have paying work, saving them from having expensive equipment sitting idle between jobs.
Photographers should always consult their tax advisor to get advise specific to them before making tax related decisions.
Online companies like Lens Lenders offer an easy way for Canadian photographers to rent SLR camera lenses and have them delivered to their home. Local rentals are also possible if you have a camera store in your area that offers a rental service. Camera equipment is expensive, so expect a high level of identity and security verification to be needed before being allowed to rent.
Many lens rental companies rent on a reservation basis. This helps them to organize their inventory and avoid customer disappointment. Same-day rentals are sometimes possible, but you may need to pay extra fees for a rush order. Whether you rent from a local store or from an online provider may depend on how long you plan to rent. Because an online renter will need to ship the lens to you and back again, short-term rentals aren't practical; the lens will be out of their inventory for a week or longer but they will only get paid for a few days of renting. Short-term rentals are best served by local stores. For rental durations of one week or longer, online providers become a strong option.
When planning to rent a lens, reserve as far ahead as possible. The Summer months are the Canadian rental industry's busiest and popular lenses sell-out quickly.