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I am going on an Antartica cruise and want to take long distance photos from my balcony and want a zoom lens that won't kill my budget (can't afford those $2,000 lens'). Would appreciate any suggestions. Someone told me to rent one of the expensive ones, but I need it for 3 weeks and it seems for that price I should buy one. Help?

closed as off-topic by mattdm, Hueco, xiota, Michael C, Romeo Ninov Apr 1 at 17:57

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    "... it seems for that price I should buy one." Not really - just as an example, at lensrentals.com you could rent an EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L ("one of the expensive ones" at >$2k) for 30 days with insurance for <$400. You could rent 5 of them for a month for less than buying one. Yes, you could probably buy something for less than renting something completely different, but only you would know what you're really looking for – twalberg Mar 21 at 14:32
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    You’re better off renting a stellar lens than buying junk, as a general rule. – Hueco Mar 21 at 14:34
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    I think "you can rent rather than buy" is going to be a much better answer to this question than specific product recommendations, so I'd suggest those comments are posted as answers. – Philip Kendall Mar 21 at 15:04
  • One more possibility... buy a lens, use it, re-sell it. The money you lose could be worth it, certainly if you buy a secondhand lens to begin with. – osullic Mar 21 at 15:19
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    You may find Should I borrow a wider or more narrow zoom lens for a trip to Antarctica? helpful. Even though that person is using Nikon, the same general things apply. – mattdm Mar 21 at 15:25
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First things first: photography is a pay-to-play game. The idea is to maximize your return by stretching your dollars over as many images as you can. Typically, this means that we save up and buy the best glass we can and then use it for as long as possible. During the course of day-to-day shooting, this makes sense.

However, for once-in-a-lifetime occasions, the rules shift a little. If you have to ask about lenses, then you don't have the gear you need to get the shot.

If you don't already have said gear, then you've been doing without it just fine and there may not be much future ROI of said lens. Now we're talking a limited ROI timespan. In your case, 3 weeks.

LensRentals has a few options, from the 100-400L IS (62/w), 400L (49/w), 70-300L (76/w). Personally, I'd go with the 100-400L IS (older version) at $62/week. That brings the total cost to $186 for 3 weeks. If you rented the newer version of that lens, you'd be paying $303 for 3 weeks.

Those numbers are significantly lower than the purchase price of those lenses - and the quality will far surpass cheaper grade lenses in that focal range.

The choice is simple, really. Rent.

  • They could also potentially rent a teleconverter along with it for even more reach. – Robin Mar 21 at 18:26
  • @Robin that's a great point! The 1.4x appears to be 33/w. Not too shabby. – Hueco Mar 21 at 19:05
  • @RobJohnson no worries. I know it feels like tossing money away (renting), but it's not. Consider it a trip cost akin to renting a car or paying for that unlimited alcohol ticket on the cruise. FWIW, even pros rent. I rented a fisheye for every wedding, for example. Definitely not enough ROI to make it worth a purchase, but it was nice to have when I needed it. The 100-400L will do you well on this trip! – Hueco Mar 21 at 20:00
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I suggest considering two zoom lenses instead of a do-it-all lens. The weight with two zooms is typically the same or even smaller if you consider the lower-end equipment, the cost is typically smaller, the image quality is typically better. This advice applies no matter whether you are considering buying or renting.

However, it's not entirely without its drawbacks to have two (or more) lenses. You need a slightly larger camera bag (although it won't be heavier because two zooms may weight less than a do-it-all lens), and you occasionally need to change lenses.

Superzooms: don't, unless every second picture you take is zoomed in and the pictures inbetween are zoomed out. I don't think the person suggesting to rent some of the more expensive ones suggested renting a superzoom.

Now, do you want to purchase or to rent? By renting you get better quality, but obviously if there's any chance of you needing long focal lengths later, buying reasonably priced lenses may be a better option than renting super-expensive lenses. Also, typically the more expensive lenses are heavier as well, and I absolutely hate high-weight equipment.

If I was the one doing the trip, I would pick my cheap 55-250mm with image stabilization and take it with my crop sensor camera. I would also select few other lenses and probably leave the kit zoom that came with my crop sensor camera home, its job being replaced by few carefully chosen primes.

Oh, and one more option. Instead of renting a super-expensive lens, could you rent a lens that you find affordable, in case you want to add it to your collection by purchasing it later?

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