Renting Camera Gear with Borrow Lenses
Back when I was a kid and VHS rentals were a modern phenomenon, I asked my dad one evening on the way out of the video rental store, "how come we still have to pay for the video if we don't even get to keep it? Oh, the joys of being a kid.
Renting lenses is somewhat of a new service that has become available to photographers in recent years. As we all know, purchasing new glass can get to be quite expensive. The option to test drive a lens before purchasing it has never been available, until recently. Meet Borrow Lenses.
I first tried the service on my honeymoon in San Francisco back in October 2011. I must admit, at the time, I was not too impressed with the service. I opted for the currier service to pick up the lens at the only San Francisco location they had at the time, since it was close to my hotel. The lens had to be returned on a Monday to avoid late charges, but the store was not open Monday's. Therefore, I was forced to return the lens early, and it was against their policy to credit me for the duration of time I had to forfeit to get the lens returned on time.
I take full responsibility for not checking the hours of the pick up location prior to renting the lens, but it would have been nice to have been notified of this conflict when they verified their orders. If you opt for the currier service, make sure you double check the operating hours of the pick up location to ensure their hours don't conflict with your scheduled pick up or drop off time.
Since Borrow Lenses doesn't have too many pick up locations at the moment, you will most likely need to have the lenses shipped straight to your house, avoiding the situation I experienced above altogether. The shipping process is very painless. You place your order online and they'll ship the gear to you. When your rental period is up, you simply drop the package off at a nearby Fedex location.
After the experience I had with Borrow Lenses on my Honeymoon, I had vowed never to use their service again. I realized recently though that my reaction was very irrational for something that was ultimately my fault. Maybe the fact that I've had my eyes on the Zeiss 21mm Canon mount lens for some time now, helped me to realize this. I've been wanting to purchase this lens, but at $1,900 a copy, I want to be really darn sure that I want this lens. I'll admit, having to always manually focus the lens didn't sound too ideal to me, so I decided I really needed to try out the lens before I shell out a month's worth of rent for it. With the recent photography trip I made to San Francisco, it was the perfect opportunity to try Borrow Lenses again.
I must say, Borrow Lenses has stepped up their customer service tremendously. I had several questions throughout the reservation process. Their phone staff was very friendly and willing to help answer my questions. They now have an additional location in San Francisco at Fireside Camera, next to the Apple Store on Chestnut. This is great because their new location is open 7 days a week. Do note though that you don't need to be physically located in the San Francisco area to rent lenses through Borrow Lenses. They will ship your rental to you, anywhere in the United States.
Submitting an order was fairly painless and took a minimal amount of time to complete. I submitted my order in advance via their website, but my credit card wasn't actually charged until I received the lenses.
If you opt for insurance, be sure to read the fine print. The insurance does not cover items that are lost, stolen, or damaged due to water. You will be responsible for the full replacement cost of the lens shall any of the above occur. In the event that you damage the lens, and you purchased the insurance, you will be required to pay a 12% deductable on the cost of the repair.
If you've had your eye on a particular lens for awhile but are having a hard time pulling the trigger on buying it, check out Borrow Lenses. They have a broad range of camera gear available for rent, their prices are very reasonable, if you're not in the bay area then their shipping service makes it very easy to get your lens rental to you, and that is my honest .02 cents worth. Just to be perfectly clear, they honestly, seriously, most definitely are not paying me a single penny to say any of this.