One of the best ways to decide if you want to purchase a lens is to rent it first. Additionally, some photographers will so rarely use a speciality lens that it doesn’t make sense to do anything BUT rent.

The problem is, unless you live in a very large city, you probably don’t have a camera store that rents lenses near you.

Now you can rent lenses online. Several companies specialize in this service. A company called Rentglass.com and ships rental lenses for Nikon and Canon cameras anywhere in the Lower 48 states. It rents up to 300mm on the Nikon side and 400mm on the Canon side. It also rents some camera bodies and flashes.

The company carries a broad range of glass up to 400mm f/5.6 L.

Another company to look at is http://www.lensrentals.com/. They also rent lenses, camera bodies, tripods and flashes. They seem to have a larger range of gear for rent, including super telephoto lenses. In addition to Nikon and Canon lenses, they also rent Tamron, Tokina, Sigma and Sony lenses.

The third and final company on my list of lens rental houses is called http://www.webelenses.com/. They only rent Canon gear.

Most of these companies rent lenses for periods of one to three weeks at prices, including 2-way shipping. You arrange the rental online; transit days are not counted against your rental period; and the optics are shipped in a re-usable box with a prepaid return shipping label included.

I am not endorsing ANY of these companies since I have never used them. If you have used them and have an opinion as to the quality of their lenses or service, please leave it in the comments section.

Join the conversation! 59 Comments

  1. My preferred lens rental house is http://lensprotogo.com. Amazing service and great rates.

  2. My preferred lens rental house is http://lensprotogo.com. Amazing service and great rates.

  3. There is also http://www.borrowlenses.com/ though I’ve never used them. I usually rent from my local camera shop.

  4. There is also http://www.borrowlenses.com/ though I’ve never used them. I usually rent from my local camera shop.

  5. I’ve used lensrentals.com and rented one of their Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L lens. The process and rental was great and very smooth. I of course fell in love with that lens, and want one badly. My daughter is now in volleyball, so I am thinking of renting the 16-35MM F2.8L II as I want to try nice glass for indoor sports.

    I recommend lensrentals.com.

  6. I’ve used lensrentals.com and rented one of their Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L lens. The process and rental was great and very smooth. I of course fell in love with that lens, and want one badly. My daughter is now in volleyball, so I am thinking of renting the 16-35MM F2.8L II as I want to try nice glass for indoor sports.

    I recommend lensrentals.com.

  7. I have a hard won tip about renting from a camera store – do a thorough inspection of the lens before you rent.
    1. Take along a high powered flashlight and shine it through the lens to see how much dust is on or within the glass elements.
    2. Try it out on your camera body and take some shots to make sure the AF motor is working right.
    3. Also make sure the zoom and focus rings move smoothly…no snags, roughness or strange sounds.
    Rental gear can have a tough life, and sometimes you can get stuck with a real beater if your don’t give it the 3rd degree in the store.

  8. This is one idea that has never made sense to me.

    Any lens that I’ve thought of buying I just researched long enough to decide if I want it or not.
    To me a rental would mean wasting 10-20% of the purchase cost on renting a lens that I’d probably buy anyway.

    The only way I see rentals make sense is if you need a specialized lens that you KNOW you don’t want to buy, or you’ve left yours behind and find yourself needing it.

  9. This is one idea that has never made sense to me.

    Any lens that I’ve thought of buying I just researched long enough to decide if I want it or not.
    To me a rental would mean wasting 10-20% of the purchase cost on renting a lens that I’d probably buy anyway.

    The only way I see rentals make sense is if you need a specialized lens that you KNOW you don’t want to buy, or you’ve left yours behind and find yourself needing it.

  10. I know Scott’s post is about renting lenses, but since readers may also want to rent a camera body to try out, I’d like to add a bit to Quin’s comments: try to give yourself plenty of time to pick up rented gear and check it out thoroughly before you leave the shop, especially if you are renting for a job. A quick glance may not be enough to find a potential problem. Last time I rented a Canon 5D, the battery compartment door was loose and the clip that holds the battery in was, too. So when I brought the 5D up to shoot, half the time it was dead and I had to push the door closed to seat the battery, then wait for the camera to ready up. Also, ask for help restoring the camera to factory settings if you don’t know how to do so yourself–the previous renter may have been doing some strange things with the settings that could cause you problems if you’re unfamiliar with that model. Finally, if you call to reserve a lens, ask how old it is. Some shops have ancient copies that are still working, but may be several generations behind the current technology. So if you get a price on a 300 f/2.8L that is cheaper at one place than another, there’s probably a reason. Find out just what they have to offer before you put your eggs in that basket.

    But having rented many times, overall this is a great option to use gear you can’t otherwise afford or want to try out and what you want/need is available.

  11. I know Scott’s post is about renting lenses, but since readers may also want to rent a camera body to try out, I’d like to add a bit to Quin’s comments: try to give yourself plenty of time to pick up rented gear and check it out thoroughly before you leave the shop, especially if you are renting for a job. A quick glance may not be enough to find a potential problem. Last time I rented a Canon 5D, the battery compartment door was loose and the clip that holds the battery in was, too. So when I brought the 5D up to shoot, half the time it was dead and I had to push the door closed to seat the battery, then wait for the camera to ready up. Also, ask for help restoring the camera to factory settings if you don’t know how to do so yourself–the previous renter may have been doing some strange things with the settings that could cause you problems if you’re unfamiliar with that model. Finally, if you call to reserve a lens, ask how old it is. Some shops have ancient copies that are still working, but may be several generations behind the current technology. So if you get a price on a 300 f/2.8L that is cheaper at one place than another, there’s probably a reason. Find out just what they have to offer before you put your eggs in that basket.

    But having rented many times, overall this is a great option to use gear you can’t otherwise afford or want to try out and what you want/need is available.

  12. Pro Photo Rentals, in addition to Canon and Nikon, rents all the top Olympus lenses. Shipping is free, except for Alaska and Hawaii, where they split the costs for express shipping. I haven’t tried them, but I’ve heard good things. Been meaning to try the excellent 150 f2 through them.

    http://www.prophotorental.com/default.asp

  13. Pro Photo Rentals, in addition to Canon and Nikon, rents all the top Olympus lenses. Shipping is free, except for Alaska and Hawaii, where they split the costs for express shipping. I haven’t tried them, but I’ve heard good things. Been meaning to try the excellent 150 f2 through them.

    http://www.prophotorental.com/default.asp

  14. I’d say also look into the used market as a way to try lenses. If you don’t like it, you can almost certainly turn it around for about what you paid for it. And if you do like it, then you keep it and you’re not out anything. I suppose the rental places have “buy” options, but I’d be a little uneasy buying a lens that may have been through so many hands.

  15. Anyone know of a good rental place in canada, more specificly Ontario? After searching the web I can’t seem to find any. The fact I’m looking for Pentax makes it that much harder.

  16. Anyone know of a good rental place in canada, more specificly Ontario? After searching the web I can’t seem to find any. The fact I’m looking for Pentax makes it that much harder.

  17. Another vote here for rentglass – until I moved to Denver, that was my rental route of choice. In Denver now though, and the rates are even cheaper at Camren – $10 a day for a 28-135 IS, and if you rent on Friday, one day takes you through until Monday!

  18. Another vote here for rentglass – until I moved to Denver, that was my rental route of choice. In Denver now though, and the rates are even cheaper at Camren – $10 a day for a 28-135 IS, and if you rent on Friday, one day takes you through until Monday!

  19. Well to-date I’ve done all my Lens and camera body renting through Calumet Photographic . So I get both the convenience of inspecting the equipment before I use it, and reasonable pricing. Say, like a 70-200 2.8 IS for $40-45/weekend! But then I live near Chicago where they have two stores. I know they have a few stores about both coasts too. They don’t deliver gear, but if you are close, they are a great resource. Heck, I once rented gear fro a week trip out to Yellowstone one year, and it was still worth it. They also rent lighting gear as well.

    If you can’t afford to have gear in your own kit, but want to shoot with it, Renting is a wonderful way to still get the shot you want… Oh, Find your own target subject though!

  20. Well to-date I’ve done all my Lens and camera body renting through Calumet Photographic . So I get both the convenience of inspecting the equipment before I use it, and reasonable pricing. Say, like a 70-200 2.8 IS for $40-45/weekend! But then I live near Chicago where they have two stores. I know they have a few stores about both coasts too. They don’t deliver gear, but if you are close, they are a great resource. Heck, I once rented gear fro a week trip out to Yellowstone one year, and it was still worth it. They also rent lighting gear as well.

    If you can’t afford to have gear in your own kit, but want to shoot with it, Renting is a wonderful way to still get the shot you want… Oh, Find your own target subject though!

  21. I second the Pro Photo Rental suggestion.

    They’re the only place that has a real reservation system with an online calendar, and they also do rentals as short as 4 days. Their customer service has been unbelievable too (in a good way).

    I’ve used a couple of the other places (lensrentals and borrowlenses), but I’m sticking with PPR now.

  22. I take mostly portraits, but was taking a trip to Yosemite this spring. I have several “Normal” lenses, but I knew I would never have areal need for something very wide or very long. So I rented a Sigma 10-20MM and a Nikon 80-400 VR from borrowlenses.com to complement my collection.

    Fortunately they are located in San Francisco so I could pick them up within 10 miles from the airport. I had a great experience and had $2000 worth of glass that I would not have had for about $100. The rental process was easy and the lenses were in great condition. I would highly recommend renting from borrowlenses.com, or just renting lenses in general for this purpose. I got many shots that I would not have gotten otherwise.

  23. I take mostly portraits, but was taking a trip to Yosemite this spring. I have several “Normal” lenses, but I knew I would never have areal need for something very wide or very long. So I rented a Sigma 10-20MM and a Nikon 80-400 VR from borrowlenses.com to complement my collection.

    Fortunately they are located in San Francisco so I could pick them up within 10 miles from the airport. I had a great experience and had $2000 worth of glass that I would not have had for about $100. The rental process was easy and the lenses were in great condition. I would highly recommend renting from borrowlenses.com, or just renting lenses in general for this purpose. I got many shots that I would not have gotten otherwise.

  24. On the issue of pro photo rental, I just sent back the 5D I rented for my first wedding and the service was great (they got in touch very quickly when I accidentally put in a double order) and it was incredibly easy.

  25. On the issue of pro photo rental, I just sent back the 5D I rented for my first wedding and the service was great (they got in touch very quickly when I accidentally put in a double order) and it was incredibly easy.

  26. Here’s another advantage to renting: You get to know your lens in the event you choose to buy it.

    For years, I rented the Nikon 70-200 VR each time I needed to shoot sports. As these types jobs came in, I would rent the lens and then either include the rental charge as part of my bill, or just consider it a donation to a local sports team.

    I bought the 70-200 VR this summer – the same lens I had become familiar with through renting. The sample I bought was slightly loose at the camera mount, and the focus action was a bit light, causing the lens to switch to manual focus with the slightest touch. Because I had rented several other copies of the lens, I knew right away that my new lens was sub-standard. I exchanged it for a different sample. That one was a keeper. I never “regretted renting to learn”.

  27. I used http://www.lensrentals.com earlier this summer. I rented the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS as well as the 1.4x TC. I had rented them for 3 weeks to cover a trip to South Africa. I got the lenses a little before the trip to give me some time to test them out and it also gave me a little time after the trip to play with them and get them returned. I was thrilled with all of the gear I received. To top off the quality gear that I had, the customer service from Lens Rentals was over the top. All of my emails were answered quickly and the people I dealt with were great. I will use them again when there is a lens I need and can’t afford to purchase.

  28. I used http://www.lensrentals.com earlier this summer. I rented the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS as well as the 1.4x TC. I had rented them for 3 weeks to cover a trip to South Africa. I got the lenses a little before the trip to give me some time to test them out and it also gave me a little time after the trip to play with them and get them returned. I was thrilled with all of the gear I received. To top off the quality gear that I had, the customer service from Lens Rentals was over the top. All of my emails were answered quickly and the people I dealt with were great. I will use them again when there is a lens I need and can’t afford to purchase.

  29. I have also rented from both http://www.borrowlenses.com/ and http://www.lensrentals.com/ and have had great experiences with both. Borrow Lenses is a little better for me since they have a local pickup option. I rented a camera body from them and the battery went bad the 2nd day while I was travelling. They had me purchase a battery from a local camera store and they reimbursed me for the cost. Great service.

  30. I have also rented from both http://www.borrowlenses.com/ and http://www.lensrentals.com/ and have had great experiences with both. Borrow Lenses is a little better for me since they have a local pickup option. I rented a camera body from them and the battery went bad the 2nd day while I was travelling. They had me purchase a battery from a local camera store and they reimbursed me for the cost. Great service.

  31. DaveRig-
    Camera Lens Rentals rents Pentax lens & bodies in addition to the usual Canikon. Haven’t used them but the prices, selection, & policies look good. Will be giving them a try in late Sept. Lens must stay in the US but I think that may be fairly common.

  32. DaveRig-
    Camera Lens Rentals rents Pentax lens & bodies in addition to the usual Canikon. Haven’t used them but the prices, selection, & policies look good. Will be giving them a try in late Sept. Lens must stay in the US but I think that may be fairly common.

  33. I’ve found that unless the lens costs over $800 it isn’t worth it to rent the lens unless you absolutely can’t do without the lens and absolutely can’t afford it. Why? Shipping on the lenses is $20-$30, so on cheaper glass you are paying 10-20% the cost of the lens to use it for one job. And if you don’t like the lens you can sell it most places for $50-$100 less than you payed for it. Same total cost as renting. However, I can see renting being cost effective for more expensive glass, or if you can pass on the rental cost to the client.

  34. I’ve found that unless the lens costs over $800 it isn’t worth it to rent the lens unless you absolutely can’t do without the lens and absolutely can’t afford it. Why? Shipping on the lenses is $20-$30, so on cheaper glass you are paying 10-20% the cost of the lens to use it for one job. And if you don’t like the lens you can sell it most places for $50-$100 less than you payed for it. Same total cost as renting. However, I can see renting being cost effective for more expensive glass, or if you can pass on the rental cost to the client.

  35. I’m not a pro, but I have rented lenses from both sites to try them out before taking the purchase plunge. I got a Nikon 18-200 from rentglass.com and a Sigma 30 f/1.4 from lensrentals.com and both were great. Signing up was easy, and the rental process for both was a snap. The glass was good and really helped me decide what I wanted. It is also a great way to tray somthing new for not much money.

  36. I’m not a pro, but I have rented lenses from both sites to try them out before taking the purchase plunge. I got a Nikon 18-200 from rentglass.com and a Sigma 30 f/1.4 from lensrentals.com and both were great. Signing up was easy, and the rental process for both was a snap. The glass was good and really helped me decide what I wanted. It is also a great way to tray somthing new for not much money.

  37. Craig S;

    On one episode regarding “going pro”, I think Scott Bourne said that’s the very idea, that you need to rent everything and charge the rental cost to the client. Buying more equipment than what you already have doesn’t make business sense because it’s going to take a lot of jobs to pay it back, and maybe not all the jobs need the same equipment. As the experience builds, you’ll know what to buy rather than spend money on equipment rarely used, and you’ll also know what to charge based on the equipment use for a shoot.

  38. If you are in Australia check out: http://www.lensrental.com.au/ I’ve never used it so I can’t actually say if they are any good.

  39. If you are in Australia check out: http://www.lensrental.com.au/ I’ve never used it so I can’t actually say if they are any good.

  40. Canadian readers may be interested in Lens Lenders for camera lens rentals.

  41. Canadian readers may be interested in Lens Lenders for camera lens rentals.

  42. Another vote for http://www.lensrentals.com/
    The equipment I’ve rented has been on-time and in like-new condition.
    Better yet, the service has been outstanding.

  43. Another vote for http://www.lensrentals.com/
    The equipment I’ve rented has been on-time and in like-new condition.
    Better yet, the service has been outstanding.

  44. DaveRig asked about a rental place in Ontario, http://www.headshotsrentals.com
    Unfortunately they do not rent Pentax.

  45. DaveRig asked about a rental place in Ontario, http://www.headshotsrentals.com
    Unfortunately they do not rent Pentax.

  46. I have used http://www.lensrentals.com for a couple of years now. Excellent lenses, great people to deal with. High Marks from me.

  47. I have used http://www.lensrentals.com for a couple of years now. Excellent lenses, great people to deal with. High Marks from me.

  48. I am in the Bay Area and rent here all the time. http://www.borrowlenses.com is the place to go. They are local to me, so it’s free to pickup. My brother lives in Denver and he rents from them too. It’s all just a 2 day shipment by FedEx away. The prices are reasonable, the lenses always spotless (rented 85mm f/1.2 (omg drool…) and 70-200mm f/2.8 IS several times. Never a complaint, never a problem, even with reservations two months out. I have a 400mm f/2.8 currently on reserve for mid-November vacation trip. Much love for the BL (how they refer to themselves around the office) folks.

  49. I am in the Bay Area and rent here all the time. http://www.borrowlenses.com is the place to go. They are local to me, so it’s free to pickup. My brother lives in Denver and he rents from them too. It’s all just a 2 day shipment by FedEx away. The prices are reasonable, the lenses always spotless (rented 85mm f/1.2 (omg drool…) and 70-200mm f/2.8 IS several times. Never a complaint, never a problem, even with reservations two months out. I have a 400mm f/2.8 currently on reserve for mid-November vacation trip. Much love for the BL (how they refer to themselves around the office) folks.

  50. Here’s something to think about with Calumet. As I understand it – if you rent equipment from them and you decide that you would actually like to purchase the equipment, they’ll put the money you paid cumulative from renting it towards your purchase! Sometimes I find Calumet a bit pricey on their rentals, but if they put it towards the eventual purchase of the equipment – Now THAT’s a deal.

  51. Here’s something to think about with Calumet. As I understand it – if you rent equipment from them and you decide that you would actually like to purchase the equipment, they’ll put the money you paid cumulative from renting it towards your purchase! Sometimes I find Calumet a bit pricey on their rentals, but if they put it towards the eventual purchase of the equipment – Now THAT’s a deal.

  52. For Pentax lens rentals try http://www.cameralensrentals.com/

  53. For Pentax lens rentals try http://www.cameralensrentals.com/

  54. For Hawaii Camera rentals, Hawaii Photo Rental is the place to go. Their website is http://www.hawaiicamera.com/

  55. I recently used http://aperturent.com and would recommend them.

  56. quick delivery, great price
    i have been really please with my orders for my Nikon! camera. the merchandise – good quality, well-packaged – arrived very quickly. and the prices were the best i’ve found! they will beat any one price online they match email them don’t hastate i will definitely be shopping for more here.

  57. quick delivery, great price
    i have been really please with my orders for my Nikon! camera. the merchandise – good quality, well-packaged – arrived very quickly. and the prices were the best i’ve found! they will beat any one price online they match email them don’t hastate i will definitely be shopping for more here. http://www.fotorentals.com

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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