Renting Cameras

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Renting a Camera

You may be having a Peter Kaye cheesecake moment here…”rent a camera ?……cameras, to rent? Renting? Cameras?”

Why would you do that?

As it turns out, quite a few reasons.

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the chap who borrowed his son’s camera to record the trip of a lifetime to Las Vegas and spent the whole trip taking his own picture, and let’s talk about why you would want to rent a camera rather than buy one.

Fairly obviously, they can be quite expensive, and renting cameras can work out very reasonably indeed. So if you don’t think you’ll use it often, does it make sense to own it when there might be a new shinier one in a couple of years? This way you can always have the latest model!

Perhaps not quite so obviously, modern cameras can have a lot of settings, menus etc and the 20 minutes you spend in the shop playing with it really doesn’t give you a true indication of whether you can make it work. We can all zoom in and go “look, I can see the hairs on his face” in the shop, but how do you change the exposure settings while the sun is sinking ever more quickly…..you’re not going to be able to practise that at 5:45pm in Westfields, are you?

So rental is a good way to “try before you buy”, in a real context with real results.

As a friend of ours found out on a recent trip to New York, the longer zoom lens was too big for the hotel safe, so she had to carry both around with her all week – that’s when you find out if the kit is the right weight for you, or too heavy in the end.

Calumet photographic lent me a Canon 5D Mk III for a few days, and I thought this would be a good chance to tell you about their service for renting cameras.

The way it works is you pick a date, select your camera and fill in a credit check form. Then the BIGGEST cardboard box arrives, carefully toted to your door.

The kit included a camera, lens, lens hood and soft case, battery charger and lead, plus a spare battery – both batteries were fully-charged though, so we didn’t end up needing the charger.

You have to supply the memory card, but that is probably for the best – your pictures should be on your card and otherwise they’d only get mixed up/left in card readers etc etc.    Make sure you take it out at the end though…

(Ed’s Note: As Mr B is quite nerdy thorough, he wanted to see how the new camera stacked up against his current beast, a now rather ageing Canon 20D, given to him by a very nice man in exchange for a gun (don’t ask).

Calumet PHotographic

At first sight the 20D is smaller, lighter, has a built in flash and…that’s about it for advantages. The new camera has a much brighter and bigger screen so it’s easier to review your pictures as you go, you can preview your pics on the screen too, but it does come with a hefty price tag. The 20D can be found on well known auction sites for really not very much at all, and if you’re looking for a solid yet inexpensive DSLR, you could do a lot worse…..but it’s not the 5D.

The autofocus is much better on the 5D, the ISO goes much higher (this means you can take pics without flash in really low-light situations like theatres or parties) and there are some little differences that I found made a big difference. The On/Off switch is in a much better position. It sounds like a silly thing but having it where your thumb is, is a huge improvement. The sculptured grip is surprisingly better, and the shutter release is lovely on the 5D. The detail is where the differences really tell. There are (or appear to be) fewer dedicated modes for taking pictures on the 5D, but the 5D handles the more unusual shots better in general, so you don’t need to ‘warn it’ about a tricky shot coming up.

In fact, it handles pretty much every situation well, so you can just treat it as a point-and-shoot and you’ll be surprised at the quality (autofocus, level of detail) in your pictures. It’s quite an expensive point-and-shoot though.

If you want an in-depth review of these cameras, I can really recommend Ken Rockwell’s website here. He knows more about the workings of either camera than I do and his common-sense approach and language really strikes a chord.

So, should you rent a camera?

At the end of the day, the most important bit of the camera is the bit behind the viewfinder – you. As a wise man said the other day…..

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This approach of renting one could save you from an expensive mistake although it won’t turn you into David Bailey overnight.

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