Should you buy or rent camera lenses?

Trying to decide between renting or buying that latest piece of camera lens equipment you’ve been pining over? Knowing the right time to buy or to borrow can greatly impact your photography business and your own skills.

Every professional photographer or videographer faces the dilemma of buying or renting a lens as they advance in the industry. With improving image standards, better specs, or simply just nicer possibilities, new camera lenses always present a shiny temptation to invest in. But before you swipe that credit card, you should know there are many ways to acquire a new lens, including:

  • Buying a new lens
  • Buying a used lens
  • Loaning or buying lenses from peers
  • Renting short-term
  • Renting long-term (rent to own)

For the sake of this article, we will be looking at the pros and cons of buying new or used camera lenses compared to when you should rent camera lenses.

When should you buy camera lenses?

As a professional photographer, you have your go-to camera kit stocked with all the equipment you need. Your kit is tailored to your photographic style and preferences, and is ready to go when you get a call for a photoshoot. As technologies advance however, you may find the need to update your equipment. This is where buying a new or used camera lens comes in handy: if you know the brands you trust and the specs you need, buying a new lens to upgrade your equipment is probably the better step to take. In addition, you will always have your new lens on-hand, and can even factor in the cost of buying it as an expense to write off in your business.

Buying a lens should also be considered if you find yourself “excessively renting”. That is, you’ve rented the same lens from the same photography equipment house repeated times over the past few months. If you account for the rental costs compounded, you may find that it would’ve been better to have saved up and bought the lens yourself. For example, renting a 50mm Canon Prime Lens from Bolt Productions for 10 weeks exceeds the price of buying that lens off of Amazon.

The pros of buying a camera lens:

  • Once purchased, you will always have the lens on-hand and ready to go
  • You’ll never have to worry about your favorite rental house being out of inventory when you need that specific lens
  • Because you own it, you can use it as much as you want
  • If you’re feeling entrepreneurial (or simply don’t want to see your shiny new lens collecting dust) you can rent your gear out for extra cash when it’s not in use
  • If you maintain your equipment well, it may work better than renting from a studio
  • You can save money long-term compared to continuously renting the same gear
  • New gear means you can stay up-to-date with latest technologies

The cons of buying a camera lens:

  • Camera equipment isn’t always cheap. Buying a new lens – or four – will be costly upfront
  • If you’re over your head with pricey new gear, it could mean a lengthy financial commitment for you. You could be bound to a two or three-year financial plan for that expensive equipment
  • Planned obsolescence: your new gear may be surpassed by even newer equipment in no-time
  • If you buy used gear, you may have limited warranty coverage compared to buying a new lens

When should you rent camera lenses?

There are several advantages of using rental lenses instead of buying. You never know just how much time, money, and hassle you could save! In general, it’s advisable to rent camera lenses from an equipment house if your photography handles a variety of different projects and needs, you like flexibility in your gear, or happen to be in a time crunch and need a lens stat.

Isn’t the whole point to have a little fun and flex your creative muscles? Renting lenses gives you the option to experiment and explore with what’s on the market, trying a variety of products and exploring a new style of photography. For example, the 24mm Canon Tilt Shift Lens is hardly an everyday lens, but is fun to rent for a weekend in the city. This will help narrow your scope of products you’re interested in without forcing you to be married to a lens for a long time.

Have a job that requires a specific piece of equipment? It’s totally worth renting instead of letting it sit on your shelf for months at a time. For example, renting a 300mm Canon Telephoto Lens for a week from Bolt would only cost you $345, but buying from Canon would have you shell out about $8K. You can also factor the cost of the rental into your bid, passing the cost to your client. You should never feel limited by your equipment and production possibilities.

You never know when a piece of equipment is going to fail. You’d hate for that to happen in the middle of a job where a reshoot is impossible. It’s better to stock your bag with additional lenses to give you options and peace of mind. Security is always a priority, especially in such an industry where equipment can be so volatile or fragile.

Renting equipment saves you money, period. Not tying up your cash flow in lenses allows you to spend it on other parts of your business like marketing, or to save up and enjoy. And you never have to worry about the hassle of retiring your piece of equipment either.

Are you trying to decide between a 35mm Canon prime or the 16-35mm Sony? Take them both for a test drive by renting! This will let you see which result you like best and help you make a decision before purchasing. That, or you can choose both rental items to enjoy a variety of shooting possibilities.

Many camera and lens rental houses have insurance policies on their photo gear rentals and require renters to sign a rental agreement and provide proof of Rental insurance during the period. This keeps them, and you covered in case of an unfortunate moment when a lens is broken. That way you don’t have to worry about damaging a newly-bought lens on your own dime.

The pros of renting camera lenses:

  • Renting lenses is cheaper than buying outright. You can save thousands of dollars renting a piece of equipment compared to buying
  • You won’t have to worry about repair costs if you damage a lens, so long as your rental program has you covered by insurance
  • Renting gear can come with affordable deals. At Bolt, our weekend rentals (2-day) costs the same as our daily rate!
  • You can build relationships with other creatives and learn from them different tips and tricks with the rental equipment
  • Renting from a well-stocked lens rental house that caters to large productions means you can borrow many different pieces of rental equipment at once
  • The gear is always available for last-minute pickups
  • Rental houses will have back-up gear in case something goes wrong or they don’t have the exact gear you need

The cons of renting camera lenses:

  • Some rental houses can be expensive or require a pricy deposit on gear that may not fit your budget
  • Rental houses have limited opening hours compared to online shops
  • You may have to experiment on-site if you’re working with unfamiliar lenses
  • Without insurance, you’ll have to pay up if anything goes wrong

Conclusion: Try before you buy

Before you make a big purchase, try several rental camera lenses to weigh your options. Many lens rental companies also offer rent to own camera lenses as an economical option to getting that shiny new lens. By renting a variety of lenses first, you might not only find the lens that works best for you, but won’t have to grapple with doubting if you could’ve made a better purchase if you bought a lens outright. Renting lenses is also more cost effective on an as-need basis compared to outright purchasing. This will give you peace of mind when you’re ready to take the plunge and buy a camera lens.

Ready to give something a test run? Bolt Productions stocks a nice selection of equipment for you to try your hand with. Check out our wide selection of lens rentals in Dallas, give us a call, or read the How-To-Rent page to start renting camera Lenses with us today.