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Sunday, January 03, 2016

Lens Renting

I bought a new DSLR (back in late 2008), so I finally have a decent digital camera. I had a digital compact for a few years back around 2001, but it was of the old style - annoying delay between button-pushing and shutter-firing, only 2Mb or so, and being a compact I had almost no real control over the exposure or focus (and what exposure control there was via +/- half-stops took about 5 seconds to change each time through a submenu). But I loved my Canon EOS 300 (film SLR) and for any kind of real photography, thats what I always took with me along with whatever lenses/flash/tripod I felt worth carrying. I have a fair range of Canon EF lenses. But it got stolen in 2007 and for quite a while I was without a nice camera - although the newer smartphone Nokia's have ok (for a phone) cameras and I was ok using them for snapshots. But I lusted after a nice camera again that would give me real power over my pictures. I more recently obtained an old film SLR again through a friend who had a 300 and a 600 and decided he didn't need two EOSs (so I have a 600). I wanted to get a nice digital one and I was waiting to save up and for one that fit my wants - the newer in-built sensor cleaning sounded a great idea, I wanted a few things my 300 had lacked (2nd-curtain/higher-speed flash sync, for one).
I also wanted to go see some family in Canada last year, which I finally planned for October and that was the impetus to really decide which camera I wanted so I had the advantage of digital while out there and a new toy to play with too, something to really satiate my built-up desire to take good photos again with a great, usable tool. One I could predict the results of given certain settings and light levels.
So, I chose my EOS - and compatibility with existing lenses and accessories (down to the wired remote), and then wondered if I had suitable lenses for the trip. I have a 75-300 that doesn't get a huge amount of use, good for wildlife at a distance, but its slow (f3.5/4.0, I forget) and not particularly fast to focus unless there's lots of light - it hunts around a bit even though it's USM (ultrasonic motor) is quick when it knows where to go. So I rather wished I had a faster long lens, similar focal length(s), although anything of the sort was going to cost me somewhere near a thousand quid new. Even second hand they don't lose a lot of value, so I considered renting or selling it again after. My credit card could stomach it (despite the new camera+flight tickets), but with an uncertain return on the lens, I didn't quite feel happy.
I looked into renting. It would be hard to collect it outside of the area I was flying to, and I only considered I needed it for one weekend so a rental for the full trip length would be outside of the budget (therefore not a valid option to pick it up before I flew/drop back on return). To widen the choice I looked into companies that would do postal renting. You'd be surprised how many companies won't let you take it outside the country, or won't ship to Canada. Just about everyone in the US I tried wouldn't do it, despite finding a lot of companies advertising rentals.
In the end, I found two companies in Canada that would ship it to me and that I could send it back after the weekend. Speaking to them on the phone, one sounded great but they only had one worthwhile lens not booked out for the required dates, and that was in repair and the logistics just weren't workable. So I went with the other, lensrentals.ca, who would provide it in a Pelican toughened case (they'd never had any problems in shipping with it), courier-shipped, to the door where I was staying, and prepaid postage back afterwards.
So I hired a 75-300 f2.8 IS L lens for the weekend. It arrived on time, in good-as-new condition, with the lens hood and manual and tripod-mount ring. It was heavier than I'd even expected for, but took some really nice pictures and I felt like a serious photographer wielding it around.

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