Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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My extended family is taking a big trip around Christmas this year. It would be really nice to have some decent camera gear to be able to have some nice photography of this once-in-a-lifetime gathering. Currently, I can't afford to go out and purchase what I would like to have and am wondering if rental would be a good option.

Ideally, what I would like to have is a DSLR body, a prime lens, and a good general lens that would offer decent performance and zoom capabilities.

My budget would be kind of tight, as I'd like to keep under or as close to $300 as possible. But, I realize that having the capability to come away with some good photography is worth an investment.

Looking around, it seems like the new Nikon D3100 body would be a great choice, as it would give me the ability to shoot some video and seems cheaper to rent than a D90 or equivalent, but that's not really a main goal.

The timeframe for this would about 2 weeks. Which I figure would give me some time prior to the vacation to get comfortable with the camera.

Any suggestions for gear would be great as well as reviews of various rental outfits.

Thanks!

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2 Answers 2

The biggest thing I'd watch out for is the learning curve with a new camera body. You mentioned some time to come up to speed on the camera - I'd stress the importance of putting in some time ahead of time to take a couple hundred shots. Be sure to upload and evaluate the pictures to get a feel for what works well and what doesn't.

Do you have a camera that you're used to now? It might be worth bringing that as a backup, both in terms of equipment failure and in terms of ease of use and familiarity.

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Though a spare might be useful, DSLR's still have Auto mode which essentially make them giant point and shoots with ubër image quality. When I let someone have a go of mine I usually just switch it to Auto unless they have some knowledge of cameras. –  Nick Bedford Oct 21 '10 at 4:18
    
The only thing I have now are crappy point and shoots. I figure I'd spend a few days prior to leaving taking those couple of hundred shots and figuring out what would be some good general settings indoors and outdoors. –  Adam Oct 22 '10 at 4:42

Frankly, I think you may be better off with used gear. The reason is that the gear at lower price points rents for a much higher percentage of its purchase cost than does the more expensive gear (which make sense, as a lot of the overhead is the same). You could get a DSLR that was a generation or two old and a good prime lens for $300.

Or consider film. You could get a really classy film SLR plus a couple of nice primes for that budget. Of course, you then have to pay for processing, but that's not a high up-front cost. I have a Pentax Spotmatic II and while it's certainly not as easy to use or fast as my D90, it's a dream to operate and very satisfying. If you go this route, you will be using some of the best gear available rather than settling as you would with digital.

As for rentals, check out lensrentals.com. I have never rented from them but they write an excellent blog and seem like smart, fair folks. Prices are listed on their website.

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Any suggestions on which bodies would be a good choice if I looked for a used one a generation or two old? Is something like eBay the best bet for used gear or are there better places? If I can buy something, I would much rather go that route in the long run. –  Adam Oct 22 '10 at 4:38
    
I'll also add that I don't really want to the film thing. I'm much more comfortable with a digital workflow. –  Adam Oct 22 '10 at 4:43
    
@Adam, there's several questions on where to get used gear, so search around a bit and you'll find what you're looking for. –  Reid Oct 22 '10 at 22:26

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