Whether you are pursuing photography as a hobby or career, one thing becomes apparent quickly: professional gear is pricey. Before you know it, a basic camera, special lenses, and several accessories will set you back a few thousand dollars. Then there’s insurance, maintenance, and potential repair costs to consider.
Thankfully, camera rentals offer an ideal solution for cash-strapped photographers who want the enjoyment of using top-notch gear without the hefty price tag. It’s also a perfect option for budding shutterbugs who want to test run specific pieces of photographic equipment before making an investment in new equipment. The only challenge is finding a reputable camera rental company that offers reasonably priced gear while providing excellent customer service. The following guidelines and company recommendations can help narrow down your search.
What to Look For In a Leading Camera Rental Company
1. A Good Range of Products
While it’s not necessary to offer every brand of photography equipment, the provider you choose should at least have a good selection of camera bodies, lenses, tripods, lighting options, bags, and other accessories. Most retailers deal primarily with Canon and Nikon equipment, but there are those with Sony, Olympus, Pentax, and other brands on their inventory list. A wide range of products not only ensures you can hire everything you need from one source, but it also ensures the company is more likely to have camera and lens rental options that are compatible with the equipment you already own.
2. Affordable Pricing
Generally, the rental rate decreases as the hire period increases. However, it’s crucial to ensure you’re aware of all costs involved before you make a choice. While some companies will ship equipment free of charge if you spend a certain amount or more, there may be shipping costs, insurance, and other fees for which you need to budget. You will also pay more for equipment with a higher retail price. Ultimately, you must ensure the final price you are quoted is worth the time you intend to spend on a shoot. You might find that extending the rental period for a few extra days lowers the overall daily rate and gives you more time to capture memorable moments.
3. Reasonable Rental Periods
The duration of camera and lens rentals will differ from company to company. Therefore, it’s crucial to determine whether there’s a minimum and maximum hire period, as well as whether rental periods are set or customizable. Ideally, you will want to choose a company with enough scheduling flexibility to suit your needs. You’ll also want to evaluate options for reserving equipment. While some providers allow bookings months or years in advance, others limit reservation abilities.
4. A Satisfactory Shipping, Returns, and Refunds Policy
Understanding a store’s shipping, returns, and refunds policy for rental items is essential for a positive experience. Many photographers fail to read the relevant documentation before making a purchase. This often leads to misunderstandings, late fees, unexpected processing fees, and an unfavorable user experience. Make sure the provider you choose clearly establishes delivery expectations, indicates how you should count rental days, delivers to your location if you can’t manage an in-store pickup, and offers a refund for photography gear you return early. You should also ensure you understand how the company’s cancellation policy works.
5. The Availability of Insurance, Damage Waivers, or Similar Protection
Although stores consider minor scuffs and scratches to be wear and tear, you need to ensure you protect yourself against major damage that leads to equipment repair or replacement. Many camera rental companies offer some form of insurance, but there are those that require customers to obtain their own. Be sure to assess the options available, as well the cost of coverage.
6. A Solid Reputation and Equipment that’s In Good Condition
Recommendations, online reviews, ratings, and testimonials provide excellent insight into how a company operates. Although you should never rely on one individual’s experience alone, you can use this type of social proof to help sift through your rental options. Besides considering service quality and credibility factors, you should look for a company that consistently delivers on time, delivers the right equipment, and delivers gear that’s in reasonably good condition. Pay special attention to reviews that include stories of equipment failure or other issues and then determine whether the company sorted out those problems in a timely manner. In addition, you should evaluate how companies respond to negative reviews. Their reaction is often a good indicator of the treatment and service you can expect.
Top 5 Lens Rental Companies to Consider
#1 – BorrowLenses
From camera bodies, lenses, and lighting to tripods, bags, and accessories, BorrowLenses is one of the best rental retailers for photographers. They offer a wide selection of gear and brands, their equipment arrives on time, and their staff members are knowledgeable and helpful. With customizable rental periods, competitive pricing, and several shipping options, including overnight delivery, you can rely on BorrowLenses when you’re searching for a camera lens rental company or other photographic paraphernalia.
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#2 – LensRentals
Another great option if you’re looking to rent outside of the Nikon and Canon brands is LensRentals. The site provides a detailed overview of each product with available rental periods and pricing. It’s ideal for first-timers who want to know a bit more about a particular item without making a commitment to purchase just yet. With LensRentals, shipping is quick, you get what you expect, and the damage waiver is affordable.
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#3 — LensProToGo
Although the website isn’t necessarily the easiest to use, their team is knowledgeable, the service is great, and their gear is top-notch. In comparison to other providers, LensProToGo‘s prices are on par with everyone else offering the same selection of products. The company exclusively uses UPS for their shipments and they offer a protection plan for accidental damage.
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#4 – RentGlass
While the selection is slightly smaller than some of the others in the top five, and they only offer Nikon and Canon products for rental, their prices are affordable and their service is great. RentGlass does require a seven-day minimum rental period, but there is a custom duration option if you don’t want to select from their set hire periods. The company also offers a weekly damage waiver—the cost of which is almost negligible in the grand scheme of things.
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#5 – ProPhotoRental
With Nikon, Canon, and Olympus products on offer, ProPhotoRental is definitely an option to consider. Even though the site could use a few design improvements, the rental calendar and user reviews are great. The minimum rental period is four days and with two-way free shipping, you don’t have to worry about organizing the return of equipment.
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The bottom line: do your due diligence before making a decision. Whether you want to rent lenses, a camera, lighting, or supporting equipment like tripods and brackets, you need to know what the rental agreement entails.