Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved

Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved

When I realized it was actually easier to rent camera gear online than it was to head over to the closest camera store, I was sort of shocked. I mean if you think about it, it’s pretty amazing. Some nice folks located out there in cyberland are willing to send prize camera gear to a stranger?

I had my very first ever online lens rental experience thanks to a company called ProPhotoRental. Good old B&H Photo decided to ignore my request for two day shipping when I ordered my Nikon 16mm F/2.8 fisheye lens and shipped it ground instead. Had B&H followed my instructions, the lens had been ordered in plenty of time for me to make my trip to teach the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop last month at Yellowstone. Since that didn’t work, the good folks at ProPhotoRental were called into action. I wanted this lens for the workshop and rental was now my only option.

PPR rents Canon, Nikon and even Olympus gear. Most companies that do this sort of thing rent Canon and Nikon only.

Their online reservation system is very user-friendly. You pick your gear, select the begin and end dates of your rental, add the item(s) to your cart and check out. You can see whether or not the gear you want is available by looking at a calendar displayed on the PPR website.

Rentals cannot begin on a Sunday or Monday. Rentals cannot end on a Saturday or Sunday. This has to do with FedEx delivery and pickup times.

The quoted prices include free two-way shipping.

While I don’t have anything to compare it to, the online experience through PPR is very relaxed and easy. I’ve heard some photographers complain that they were intimidated to rent online. There’s no reason to feel that way dealing with PPR. They never tried to up-sell me. The lens they provided for me appeared to be brand new. It came with front and back caps and the special filters Nikon sells with their 16mm F/2.8 fisheye. A nice touch. The lens was shipped inside a Pelican case. It was secured with twist ties and it arrived in 100% operational condition. While the company usually promises two-day shipping, they shipped my rental overnight due to my unusual circumstances. Imagine that – a company that actually tries to help its customers rather than quote policy.

When I returned from Yellowstone, I simply put the lens back in the Pelican case that it arrived in, applied a FedEx label to the shipping box (both provided by PPR) and sent the lens back to Colorado where PPR is located.

Browsing the Nikon selection, you can rent everything from a D3x down to a D90. They even have the very rare Nikon 500 F/4 VR lens available at $49 a day. There are a few holes in the Nikon line up. You can’t rent a D3. They offer the SB-800 Speedlight but not the SB-900. I am assuming that they have decided to stock the gear they do based on expected demand for specific items. Perhaps they don’t believe the D3/SB-900 for instance will be called for much.

PPR’s lens selection could also be a function of their smaller size. There are larger companies competing in this space. And browsing their websites, it appears that some of the other companies may have a slightly wider selection and/or more copies of the same lens, etc.

Price-wise, the PPR gear was very competitive. The Fisheye goes for $10.50 a day (three day rental) at PPR. Three days from Borrow Lenses would cost you $6.75 a day but you have to pay for the shipping. If you use two-day shipping (matching what you’d get from PPR included in the price) the PPR rental is cheaper.

Ultimately, most people will probably approach a gear rental based on availability and price. But if you really need a piece of gear by a certain day, and you need to know that it’s in good shape and will do the job, I’d say ProPhotoRental is a great choice.

I was also very impressed with the company’s founder. Jared dealt with me in the best way possible. He was responsive and helpful and seemed genuinely interested in helping me achieve my photographic goals.

For many photographers, renting gear might be a better option than buying it under certain circumstances. In those cases, I highly recommend PPR.