If you are starting in photography or exploring new types of photography, you will likely need to invest in new lenses. Lenses are a big investment, and a quality lens can cost you several thousand dollars. One way to avoid the high costs of purchasing a lens is to rent one.
Renting is great if you only need to use the lens for a certain period or if you want to test out a lens for several days before making the purchase.
When renting a lens, there are a few different options you can choose from. In this article, I will be reviewing the best lens rental services, so that when you are ready to rent you will know exactly where to go.
What to Lookout For When Renting a Lens?
Cost Per Day
When renting a lens, you will typically be charged a price depending on the number of days you are renting. The shorter your rental period, the higher the cost will be per day. The longer your rental period, the lower the price per day will be.
For example, renting a Nikon 24-70 will cost you $176 for seven days, which is about $25 per day. If you extended that same rental to fourteen days, then the price goes down to $15 per day.
The rate will vary on the service you are using. It is important to use a rental service that offers a discount for longer rentals.
Most rental services will offer some insurance coverage on the product you are renting. This can range from coverage for damage or full-theft or loss.
The terms and conditions for each lens rental service vary, so it is essential to read the conditions before you rent.
I always recommend you purchase some coverage for your lens. The last thing you want is to pay full-price for a lens that you only use for several days.
You don’t need to purchase protection from your lens rental service. If you have insurance coverage on your camera equipment already, it may be easier to add coverage to your rental.
Remember to look up your insurance policies requirements for coverage on rental gear as well as how to add equipment to your coverage before deciding to pass on the insurance offered by a lens rental service. The requirements and policies on rental gear differ, and adding gear to your policy may take too long or be more expensive than the coverage offered.
One of the highest costs that drive up the price of a rental is the shipping cost. Depending on where you are located and how fast you need it delivered, this can cost you anywhere from $25 to $150.
Certain services offer free shipping for a monthly cost, such as Lens Rentals. Others offer free shipping after a particular cart value, such as $300. In most cases, services will only cover standard shipping and not expedited shipping.
So, the best way to minimize these costs is to plan your rental and settle on standard shipping.
Another way you can minimize cost is to have it shipped to a local store or nearby UPS/FedEx office. Be sure to check the delivery options offered and compare the price.
Most Trusted Services:
I am going to review several of the most trusted lens rental services. Your first choice will not always have the lens you want available, so it is good to have an alternative site that you can use.
Also, it is always good to compare prices for the lens you are interested in to make sure that you are paying the best price possible.
Before we begin I have created the table below to compare the price of renting a Nikon 14-24 mm lens for different rental periods from some of the most common online rental services. You can see that Borrow Lenses and Lens Rentals offer some of the best prices and are also nearly the only services that offer partial and full insurance coverage of your rental.
I will be reviewing Lens Rentals and Borrow Lenses because they offer the largest selection of lenses, have some of the best prices, offer full insurance coverage, and they are some of the most trusted and well known online lens rental agencies.
Lens Rentals is one of the largest and most trusted lens rental sites on the internet. They offer a massive selection of Nikon, Canon, and Sony lenses.
Here is a list of all the lens brands they offer and the total lenses in each category.
One of my favorite features about this site is that each lens has a concise and honest review.
Each lens also comes with a list of the specifications and recommended filters that you could rent and use with this lens.
In addition to lenses, you can also rent cameras and accessories such as camera bags, memory cards, filters, flash, and much more. Though, I recommend simply purchasing smaller accessories since they are much cheaper than a new lens.
If you like the lens or rental so much and don’t want to return it, you can buy it, and your rental cost is applied towards the purchase. All of Lens Rentals’ equipment is graded and listed on a separate site for sale.
You can get a quick estimate on each lens by clicking on interested in buying. For the Nikon 24-70 mm lens, the estimated price was $1,160 compared to the original price of $1,896.
Lens Rentals also offers insurance coverage for their rentals. They refer to it as Lenscap and Lenscap+.
Lenscap covers accidental damage to the lens as long as you can return it. You will pay a maximum of 10% of the replacement cost of the damaged lens.
Lenscap+ offers full protection of the lens even if it is lost or stolen. If you can not return the lens itself for any reason, then you are covered. You are responsible for 10% of the replacement cost of the lens.
Below is a table with the price of renting a lens with each of the respective insurance plans offered. Lenrenatls offers one of the more reasonably priced and protective plans of any rental service.
Lens Rentals offers delivery to your door and FedEx office pickup. It has two shipping options with two day and three-day shipping options.
The shipping cost does include return shipping, which you will receive with your initial lens delivery.
If you do rent often, lens rentals offer a yearly subscription for $99, which offers free standard shipping and 50% off expedited shipping.
This is a great option if you rent more than four times a year since it is doubtful that shipping will cost less than $25.
Customer service is great from Lens Rental. You can contact them over the phone or email. They are willing to work with their customers to solve any issues.
Recently, they extended my rental two days at no charge because I would be able to ship it back in time. Also, if you are unhappy with the quality of your lens rental, you can send it back and request a new one or a full refund.
Borrow lenses is one of the other most trusted lens rental sites.
They are most commonly known for their vast selection of Nikon and Canon lenses.
They do have a much smaller selection of lenses and gear compared to Lens Rentals, but they still have a great selection.
Borrow lenses also has a vast selection of other gear, including cameras, lighting, and accessories. This is great if you want to test out a new camera a lens combination. Or possibly need an additional battery or flash for a special event.
Borrow lenses do offer different membership levels starting at $99 and going all the way up to $399.
In my opinion, the only worthwhile option is the $399 Elite membership. The key benefits of the Elite membership are:
- Free standard shipping on orders over $99.
- 3% rebate on all orders which can be used on all future orders.
- 10% off all used gear purchases.
Borrow lenses does not offer any purchasing options for rentals. Although, they do have an entire used gear section.
Borrow lenses offer two protection plans for rentals: Gear Guard and Gear Guard Pro.
Gear Guard only covers you from unintentional damage to the lens. If you do damage the lens, you are responsible for 12% of the value of the lens or the cost of the repair, whichever is cheaper. This will cost around $3 per day but will vary based on the product.
Gear Guard Pro covers you from unintentional damage, water damage, accidental loss. If any of these situations do occur, you are required to pay 12% of the value of the item or the repair, whichever is cheaper. This will cost around $4 per day but will vary based on the product.
Borrow lenses offers several shipping options, including home delivery, store or partner location pickup, UPS office delivery, and same-day delivery if you are in San Francisco or New York.
Borrow lenses only delivers to the U.S, so if you are looking for international shipping, this is not the option for you.
Also, borrow lenses tends to have promotions that offer free shipping after a specific cart value. This is a pretty common occurrence, so keep an eye out.
Community-Based Rental Service:
If you are looking to save a few bucks and quickly drive to pick up your gear, you can join a local network. One of the most popular local photographer networks such as Share Grid or Skit Split.
Share Gird is a community of individuals or companies who have agreed to rent their gear out. This is a much different approach than our previous two options, but it is a great choice if you want to pick-up your items the same day or even the next day.
The selection of lenses will vary based on your location and what the community around you is offering. If you are looking to rent popular lenses, then this is an excellent place to check.
Length Of Rental
One of the benefits of Share Grid is that they have a unique and generous rental day calculation policy.
To start the days you pick-up and drop-off your gear are not included in the total rental days. Also, weekends are only treated as one rental day.
So if you start your rental on Thursday and plan to return in on Tuesday, you are only charged for 3 Days (Friday, Saturday-Sunday, and Monday).
There is a minimum of 1-day rental, so you can’t get away with pick-up on Thursday and drop-off on Friday for free.
Share Grid is a bit unique in that all rental pick-ups and drop-offs occur in person. If you are busy, this can be a deal-breaker if you have to drive out of your way to pick up your rental. On the other hand, if you need a lens in a rush and will be traveling for your shot, then this might be an ideal option.
The pick-up and drop-off locations are agreed to between you and the owner of the gear. In my experience, most are willing to come to a place that is a reasonable distance for both you and him.
I also find that you can convince some of the renal owners to deliver to you for an additional tip.
Their policy also states that pick-ups need to occur after 2 PM and drop-offs before noon. Although this is the website policy, I find that the individual renters are more flexible, and most are more than willing to set-up a pick-up and drop-off times that work for you.
Below is a list of cities where Share Grid has the most rental options.
Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Diego, CA
New York, NY
Share Grid is available in all cities; to check the availability of gear in your city, simply go to the website and search for your city.
One of the down-sides of Share Grid is that the availability of gear will depend on where you are located. As a result, you may not always be able to find the gear you need. It is a good place to start before going to a bigger, more expensive rental agency.
Share Grid also offers insurance covers similar to other agencys. They offer damage and damage plus theft coverage, which results in a repair or replacement cost of 12% of the value of the rental.
For more information on the insurance coverage offered by Share Grid, check out the table here.
Subscription Rental Service:
Parachute is a subscription rental service. The service has three levels; each level gives you access to more gear.
Level one ($249/Month) includes very minimal and basic access to lenses and other cheaper equipment. Level two ($399/Month) offers access to more expensive lenses, drones, and some cameras.
Finally, level three ($499/Month) gives you full access to every piece of equipment in the Parachute warehouse.
Length of Rental
The beauty of Parachute is that there are no defined rental periods or late fees. You can keep items as long as you want and as long as you are subscribed to the service.
You can have a maximum of three pieces of equipment rented out at once. If you do have three parts rented out, you can rent another item once Parachute receives and approves the return of a part.
The subscription fee itself does include free two-day shipping as well as a pre-paid return label for all deliveries.
One thing I dislike a bit about their shipping is that someone needs to be present to sign for the pacakge. This can be a bit difficult if you are not always home.
There are a few ways around this; it just takes a bit more planning.
Parachute does offer insurance coverage for an additional $50 per month, which covers drops/spills, fire, animal attacks, flood or water damage, wind or hail, falls from aircraft, or earthquake.
Unfortunately, their coverage does not cover the event that your rental gets lost or stolen. In this event, you are responsible for the full retail price of the product.
If you are often renting or traveling with your rentals, it may be a good idea to get coverage from a third party to avoid liability.
There are many options to choose from when trying to rent a lens or other camera gear as well. If you have the time and patience for delivery going with a trusted rental agency such as Borrow Lenses or Camera Rentals is a great choice. They have a huge selection of lenses and they offer full insurance coverage to limit any potential risk when you rent. On the other hand, if you are looking to get your rental relatively quick and at a cheaper price, you may be better off using a community-based rental service such as Share Grid. A subscription service is a great way to save money if you plan on renting lots of equipment or renting equipment for a long period.
If you do decide to rent equipment it is important that you understand a few key things from whichever rental service you are using. First, understand the price and how you are being charged. Second, make sure you get insurance coverage for your rental equipment, especially if you are using expensive equipment. Nothing is worse than having to pay full-price for a piece of equipment that you lost or was stolen after only a few days of using it.