Renting vs Buying Your Next Expensive Piece of Gear?

January 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Gathering and preparing  my gear for the upcoming trip to Antarctica this coming Sunday, I have decided to try something new. I am renting a very expensive lens that I would normally run out and purchase: the Carl Zeiss 16-35mm T* Wide-Angle Zoom, which retails for nearly $2,000.

Using this lens along with the Sony A99 will make for a pretty slick video package when filming on the White Continent. This wide-angle zoom will allow me to use my latest 77mm Eclipse Fader/ND filter from Genustech, one of our “Must Have” pieces of equipment to bring along for shooting top-quality video. Right now, my decision to rent vs purchase seems like it makes economic sense, especially since I know the exact duration of my trip. Guests who sail onboard the National Geographic Explorer also fall into this category. It’s smart to purchase and own your own all-round photo and video kit, but when it comes to an expensive specialty lens it makes more sense to rent it before making up your mind if this equipment is right for you. The advantages to renting first is that you get to shoot with it in different circumstances, see how sharp the corners are, how smooth is the barrel shooting  with manual focus, before making a long term commitment. Also, how does it balance in your hand and see how versatile it is. Is this something you would like to have in your “toolkit”?

I have seen more and more guests show up onboard the ship with some very impressive telephoto lenses. This past summer in the Arctic, there were several guests who brought along 500 and 600mm lenses with monopods in order to capture close-ups of polar bears and walrus. These lenses cost nearly $8,500.00 new.  If you only plan on using this type of lens for a brief period, better off renting. It makes more sense this way.

I have gone ahead and set up accounts with the two leading companies in America, and In the end I went with BorrowLenses, but I am sure they both offer excellent service. The lens arrives tomorrow and I will let you know more about the experience on how well it performs.

UPDATE The box arrived this morning, ahead of schedule, the lens is in perfect condition, with a return label. I am impressed.

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