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I have just started out and am learning so have limited kit at this time.

I wondered if renting gear like additional lenses worked for anyone or is it always better to buy?

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great question! –  Reid Oct 22 '10 at 22:30

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The short answer: It really depends on what you're shooting. If you do infrequent big events then renting can be a great way to shoot with top of the range gear. On the other hand if you mostly shoot spontaneously, or spend your spare time experimenting then you'll probably want to own your lenses. The type of photography you do comes into the equation too, as certain things such as sports/wildlife really benefit from expensive glass. In other areas knowing how to use your existing gear and how to use light is more important.

The obvious advantage to owning is that you have the gear available all the time and you're free to experiment whenever you feel like it, and you know it's reliable and been well looked after (assuming you've looked after it well!)

The obvious advantage to renting is that you get access to extremely expensive glass for a relatively small fee. If you occasionally shoot wildlife you can rent a 600 f/4 without ever being able to buy it.

The great thing about lenses is that the learning curve is extremely shallow - you can just pick up a lens and go, which is great if there's a lens you only need a few times a year. It's a totally different case with camera bodies, as it pays to know you camera inside out. I would only consider renting a body that I had used extensively before. Control systems vary even with manufacturers, a Canon 5D mkII shooter using a 1Ds for the first time would be totally lost! Plus you don't know how the camera has been set up by the person before you.

Another advantage of renting is that you can try a lens to see if it works for you before buying. You can find out if it has problems with flare, is slow to focus or is simply the wrong focal length. This can be especially helpful if you're new to photography and don't have a handle on what a 400mm lens is like to live with.

For rental places, if you're in or near London Fixation are very good. Otherwise lensesforhire.co.uk will post lenses, that are very cheap but I've had problems with them claiming to have lenses in stock but then letting me down at the last minute, so be careful if renting for an assignment!

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Thanks - Now also seen this question photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4130/… which may help others reading this –  John Oct 21 '10 at 19:17
    
I think it's a bit misleading to say that there's "practically no learning curve" - certainly, much less than a body but still there. –  Reid Oct 22 '10 at 22:32
    
Yes the curve is still there, but the fact that in 99.9% of cases you just have to mount the lens (in the same way you mount your other lenses) and shoot, makes the learning curve is about as shallow as you can get. I've edited the answer to remove the possibility of misleading. –  Matt Grum Oct 24 '10 at 10:48
    
No, there's more to it than that. Example: if you haven't used a long lens before, acceptable shutter speeds may be different. Handholding technique may be more exacting. The perspective compression requires different composition techniques. etc. Not to mention lenses have quirks to be learned (e.g., when does it flare, is it soft wide open, what is the bokeh like, how well does the VR work). Things like that are what I was referring to. –  Reid Oct 24 '10 at 15:36
    
@reid This is all very true, there is a lot to learn, but it doesn't change the fact that the learning curve is shallow i.e. you need hardly any knowledge to start using a lens. The learning rate gets steeper as you take a lens to the extremes of its performance envelope, and some lenses can be difficult to master, but that doesn't mean the learning curve can't be shallow, which is important when it comes to renting unfamiliar gear. –  Matt Grum Oct 24 '10 at 16:05

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