Monday, February 8, 2010

Where do I rent cameras and other gear accessories?

Camera Gear Rental

Back when I did my Lens Rental Review Series, I strictly focused on renting lenses. However, some of the companies featured, like BorrowLenses.com also rented equipment. During that review series BorrowLenses.com was kind enough to let me rent some gear – quite a lot in fact – so I could report back to you about my experience. So with an open invitation to rent gear on someone else’s dime, I did what any camera geek would do - I got a truckload of cool stuff!

Here’s a picture of the gear I rented and my order form: (click for a larger version)

In case you are having trouble with the images, here’s what I got:

* = For use with a 400mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens I was renting from LensRentals.com 

The good folks at BorrowLenses.com have a huge selection of gear to rent, so you can literally put together a full kit from them if you are in a pinch.

In my case, I pretended that I needed to equip my assistant with a bunch of gear for a photo shoot. However, the people at BorrowLenses.com don’t just blindly fill my order. They are there to help make sure your shoot will be successful, so they looked through my list and asked if I really needed the 52mm Drop-In Circular Polarizer (for a 400mm lens) as well as the heavy tripod and Gimbal head with a simple Rebel T1i. They also reminded me that the body didn’t come with a lens and wanted to find out if I needed any lenses.

Initially I was put off by this call because I knew what I was doing, but then I stopped for a minute and realized – what if I were noob – wouldn’t I be pretty disappointed to find out that the camera didn’t have a lens or that the tripod and head I got was for a big lens and not for my camera?

BorrowLenses.com didn’t know that I had a 400mm f/2.8 lens in my possession, so it was a reasonable courtesy call. In addition, I've never used the Quantum QFlash system before, and I had forgotten to order the digital transceiver, so they pointed this out and corrected my order. In the end, you can say I was a noob and they saved me from renting $134 worth of Quantum gear that would have been useless, so score one big one for the BorrowLenses.com support staff!

Here’s how my order arrived, in two boxes due to the size of the tripod:

Naturally, the experience was just as excellent as I had reported previously in my last BorrowLenses.com article.

How’s this for customer service?!!!!

The day before my order was to arrive, I got a call from the order fulfillment team informing me that they did not have a Battery Pack returned on time, but that they had already ordered B&H to drop ship a brand new one. As a result, the next day I got all of my gear from BorrowLenses.com in two boxes (above) plus another box from B&H that had my brand spanking new battery back – sweet! These guys didn’t make excuses about stock – they just did what was necessary to make sure my order was fulfilled! Now THAT is customer service baby!!!

Shots with the Canon Rebel T1i

As a former owner of the Canon Rebel XTi, I have a soft spot for the Rebel series as I find them to be a great value and very easy to use. When I started seeing comparisons of the Canon Rebel T1i out performing the Nikon D60, I took note and was eager to get my hands on one. While I loved my XTi, it wasn’t very useful past ISO 400 (800 in a pinch) in my opinion, so I wanted to have a little fun with it. All of the shots below are unprocessed beyond cropping from their in-camera JPEG originals taken from the Rebel T1i shown above (which you can see arrived in mint condition). The last shot in the bottom right corner shows that it performed admirably at ISO 3200, which is a big improvement from my old XTi! The Rebel remains a charming and easy to use body that gets the job done for the photographer new to the world of Digital SLR’s. If you are wondering if it can meet your needs, I highly recommend you rent it from BorrowLenses.com and with the lens of your choice. (NOTE: The first shot below was shot with the 24-105mm, but all of the other shots were shot with the 50mm f/1.4 prime which is very reasonably priced, yet produces outstanding results). 


1/1000 sec @ f/4 ISO 100 24mm

1/60 sec @ f/2 ISO 250 50mm

1/50 sec @ f/2 ISO 200 50mm

1/160 sec @ f/4 ISO 3200 50mm

The Wimberley System and Gitzo Tripod Legs

For this review I chose to get a Wimberley Gimbal head (shown above mounted to a Canon 100-400mm lens), which also requires a quick release plate for your lens (not your camera – big lenses mount to the tripod head directly) mounted to a Gitzo G-1410 Pro Studex Tripod (not shown above). Here’s the exact items I rented:

As you can see in the above picture (taken by my wife on her first day using her new Canon G11 Point and Shoot), the 400mm f/2.8 fits quite nicely on the Gimbal head and is very well supported by it. Despite the tremendous weight of this lens (11.7 lbs), I was able to keep it rock steady even for long exposures. Here’s a couple shots that turned out super sharp thanks to this great support system and the 400mm lens: 

This setup is a perfect rental setup as it would have cost nearly $7800 to purchase it all, but you can rent the lens and the head and plate for only $280! After having this lens for a week, I also realized that this isn’t a beast you want to take out unless you have a damn good reason! It is also no fun to store this monster lens and the behemoth tripod legs it requires. This setup used to be on my dream list, but now it’s permanently on my “rent only” list as it is too impractical to own for most of us. The other funny thing is that just recently Canon announced an update to this lens, so even if had bought it – I’d already be lusting after its replacement! Renting was definitely the way to go here!

Lowepro CompuTrekker Plus AW Backpack [Rental Link]

Sadly, I neglected to take stand alone photos of the Lowepro CompuTrekker backpack when I had it in my possession.

I liked the fact that this bag had lots of pockets and was fairly light weight, but my love for it ended right there.

I was very disappointed with the straps and found them to be very uncomfortable when it was loaded with half of the gear I typically put in any of my Think Tank Photo bags. I have a bad back and shoulders from a 1999 car accident, so if I bag doesn’t feel good then I usually can feel it within minutes. In this case, despite it bothering me I gave it a half hour before I cried Uncle and took it off. I also didn’t care for the dividers which were thin and less rigid than what I am used to, so I didn’t like that feature either. However, the show stopper for me was the crappy zipper which appeared to be exactly the same as the zipper that failed me in China.

I know that there people out there who swear by their Lowepro bags, but this is another case where  Lowepro bag has disappointed me so for now I’ll pass. I’ll stick with my Think Tank Photo bags any day! For current users or shoppers of this bag, I’d encourage you to consider the Think Tank Photo Airport Acceleration® V2.0 or Airport Antidote® V2.0. To see my reviews on Think Tank Photo bags, click here.

Quantum QFlash & components [Rental Link]

I did not test these items during my rental period. When I had discovered that BorrowLenses.com had drop shipped me a new flash battery (mentioned earlier in this review), I felt it was my duty as a reviewer to inform them that I wasn’t a typical paying customer so I blew my undercover status. I assisted them in the return of the item to avoid any unnecessary expense, and skipped this part of the review. While they were willing to let me test the unit and eat this expense, I couldn’t do that in good conscious.

Conclusion

I learned a lot by this rental, and ultimately saved myself a lot of money by NOT buying gear based on what I learned. Sure, one could argue that the cost of rentals might be quite step for some items like the T1i, but in that case it makes more sense to rent a camera for a emergency situation or for an assistant, than it does to buy equipment that might not be fully utilized. What’s more, you can charge your clients for the rentals (and in theory, you should be charging them already for your own gear).

Special Offer

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As ronmart.blogspot.com readers, you are entitled to receive 5% off your TOTAL order amount, no matter how large or small. Simply visit BorrowLenses.com using this link and enter the coupon code RM5 during the checkout process. Contact borrowlenses.com support if you need assistance.

Disclosure

This gear was rented under my wife’s name (who has a different last name) and email so this company would not be aware I was renting from them. This blog was reimbursed for the rental charges after this order was completed (gear returned). If you place an order using this links from this article, like this one, I will get a commission – thank you for supporting this blog!

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