Why you need to rent camera gear before you buy

I’m an amateur photographer right now, but more of my friends lately have been asking me to take photos for them – which I’m LOVING!

For a while I’ve felt that my camera bag is missing something, but I couldn’t figure it out. There are about a million + one options of cameras and lenses out there, and for someone who barely knows how to shoot in manual mode, the choices can be a little overwhelming.

My equipment

I have a Nikon D5100, which I am hoping to upgrade sometime soon, and my lenses include: 18-55mm kit lens, a 55-200mm lens, and a 50mm prime lens. Shame on me, but before I got the 50mm lens, I mainly used the kit lens!

I’ve got a few shoots with friends coming up this week, and so I wanted to get a lens that would challenge me and would help me achieve the certain look that I’m always aiming for. {I like soft, natural & radiant photos that convey feeling and realness.} I thought it would be a good plan to rent a lens for the shoots, and also just for fun!! After a LOT of research, I chose to rent the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens from BorrowLenses.

Why rent?

I’ve borrowed once from BorrowLenses before – about a year ago when I was thinking about buying a 50mm lens. I wanted to make sure I actually liked it and that it helped me produce shots I liked. Short answer was yes, and my hubs bought me one for my birthday.

It’s pretty great to be able to rent camera equipment that can cost upwards of $2k for a short period before you buy! It’s a more accessible way of exploring your photography than waiting to buy new equipment. Of course, it can really add up, especially with shipping costs, but I think it’s worth it to spend a smaller amount of money on renting, just in case the lens you thought you wanted turned out to not be right for you. Reselling used lenses & cameras can be a pain!

The site I used, BorrowLenses, has all kinds of photo & video gear that you can rent. You can choose the rental period {I chose 8 days to be able to practice with the lens before the shoots} & whether or not you want a damage waiver {you never know…} and they ship your order directly to you! They’ve got some pickup locations in the major cities like Boston, NYC, & San Fran as well. Shipping can be pricey, but they get it to you quickly and safely, and it includes your return shipping as well.

What I rented

I considered renting a different camera body, since I’d like to upgrade at some point, but to save some $ I chose to just rent one lens. As I mentioned above, I picked the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens.

If you’re renting lenses, I’d recommend doing LOTS of Googling. I’m doing portrait and baby photography, so I searched things like “portrait photography with xx lens”. It also helped to read blog posts by different photographers that I admire to see what gear they use. I liked the photos I found that were taken with the 85mm lens, and I figured that if I ended up liking it, the price isn’t too much of a crazy investment.

Honestly, I really wanted to try a 24-70mm lens, but hey, I don’t have $1.7k to spare!!! I can’t deal with that kind of photog heartache.

The happiest kind of mail

Ah, delivery day! When you get something delivered from BorrowLenses to your home, it needs to be signed for. Luckily the delivery day coincided with a day where I only worked in the evening, so I was able to accept it with no problem.

Anything camera related is just the happiest kind of mail that I could get. Aside from a giant box from Sephora, maybe.


The lens was carefully packed in the box between two very thick foam sheets, and arrived intact with no issues!

Other than the two large animal hairs under the rear lens cap…

Not so cool. I feel like the items should be super carefully inspected, given the amount of $$ that they charge, so it was fairly surprising to see long animal furs stuck to the glass on the back of the lens! Like, I’m stupidly careful with my lenses to avoid getting ANYTHING on them, especially something that could end up in the body of my camera. Just a good reminder to carefully inspect anything that touches your camera.

After I carefully plucked the hairs off of the lens {not a sentence I expected to type} I popped the lens on my camera and started snapping. Easy as that!

Oh, and they include the return shipping label, a receipt, a coupon, & general info about the return process in the box with your lens. You just pop the gear back in the box, tape it up, and send it away!

Now for the good stuff…

Test shots!!!

I took far too many photos of random things around my office and of my cats, then moved on to an unwilling human subject, my husband.

{He puts up with a lot — just imagine a short giddy woman hopping up on the kitchen bench with a big camera in your face, interrupting you while you try to cook your lunch, whining that you’re not looking at the camera for long enough. Thanks, dude.}

Then I texted my friend & neighbor, Dina, to ask if I could come over and take pictures of her baby while we hang out and chat. Her response: “ANYTIME! I’LL PUT ON CUTE OUTFITS LOL”

Guys, Dina’s awesome. I’m so glad we’re friends. ALSO she has a super cute baby with the biggest smile ever!

Also, I loved the lens. It really helped me get more of the shots I was hoping for. I took a lot of these on manual mode {big step for me!} and was pretty pleased with the results!

When I dropped it all the way down to f/1.8, the bokeh was so soft & buttery. I love the way it lets me focus in so specifically on anything.

{lol @ me trying to make it sound like I actually know what I’m talking about}

Don’t make me send it back!

Agh, it’s going to be so hard to part with this lens!

Being able to rent the 85mm lens from BorrowLenses and try it out for a few days {and I still have the shoots coming up that I can use it in} has been so fun & challenging – just the push I needed to want to improve and learn more about my camera at every chance I can get.

This lens is definitely making its way to the top of my dream list!!

Photo-loving friends: What’s at the top of YOUR dream list? Have you rented camera gear before? Lemme know!

{Side note: if you’d like to try out this rental service, use THIS LINK to get $20 off an order of $99 or more! Dooooooo it.}


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