Photography Tech/Web

What lenses I should rent?

Good lenses are ridiculously expenses, so for most of us, owning a bunch of good glass is just not financially feasible. I own one good lens for my Canon Xti/400D. The 50mm f/1.4. Such a beautiful lens, but limiting. I also have a crappy kit lens 18-55mm f/cr.ap, but i refuse to use it now, because I know the results will be sub-par.

The other option is to rent lenses, which is actually a lot more affordable than you think. Plus, you get to take the lens for a test spin, keep the photos, and not have to sell stolen girl guides cookies out of your garage. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea… No not a good idea… A very bad idea…

You can rent pretty much any lens, even the elite L-series, for approx. $30 a day. And with most camera rental places, if you rent a lens on a Friday, you can keep it for the weekend. If you live in Vancouver check out Beau Photo or Leo’s Cameras.

So I wanted to ask all the photogs out there:

What is your favourite lens?
What awesome lenses do you think I should try?

PS. Thanks to my twitter peeps, I had a nice list going on twitter, but then the tweety bird freaked out again. So I’d like to compile a list on my blog, because I’m fairly certain WP won’t try to lift a giant whale with tiny songbirds.

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  • Reply
    Pete Parise
    June 27, 2008 at 2:08 PM

    Fisheyes are fun!

  • Reply
    Ryan Ray
    June 27, 2008 at 2:08 PM

    Haha, that whale must be why Twitter keeps sinking! Sadly though I just bought a Rebel XT for my foray into photography. Therefore I don’t know much about lenses yet. How much did you fork out for the 50mm? I’ve got the kit lens and a cheap 28-80 wide angle lens.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 2:10 PM

    Try out the EF-S 10-22

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    Anything with a wide aperture, preferrably prime.

    I shot with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L the other day… sweet

    Also, the 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.2 are wonderful

    my next purchase will probably be the 24-70 f/2.8L which is very versatile for portrait situations and, of course, the 70-200 f/2.8L IS

    Have a whole lot of fun :-)


  • Reply
    Michael Yurechko
    June 27, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    I like a bunch of lenses and own none… One lens I got to play with when I did a photography course a few months back at VanArts was the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8. We did a walk around Chinatown and it was a great walk-around lens with results MUCH better than a zoom (obviously).

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 2:33 PM

    I like to rent from The 24-70 f/2.8L is really nice!

  • Reply
    Mike Peterson
    June 27, 2008 at 2:33 PM

    I love my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L. I bought it for landscapes but so far I’ve mostly used it to photograph aircraft on display. I can get close and still fit a large subject within the frame. It’s also very sharp. I’m shooting on a 5D so it won’t be as wide on an APS-C sensor. I’d probably chose it over my 50/1.4 for a walking about lens though it’s considerably heavier. I’ve been disappointed with my 50/1.4 but I think the problem has been mis-focus with the auto focus in low light. I should give it another chance focus manually. I’m sure the problem is me and not the lens.

    You didn’t mention what you plan on shooting this weekend.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    since vancouver is a metro area wide angles like the previously mentioned 10-22 is the most fun and gives you some leway to play with wide and standard framing…go at it and have fun

  • Reply
    paul in Kirkland
    June 27, 2008 at 2:46 PM

    If you’re looking to rent in order to evaluate a possible (affordable) purchase I’d recommend:
    – EF-S 10-22. Down side: if you get a full frame camera this won’t migrate

    – 24-105 IS f4/L. Super-sweet L zoom

    – 135mm f2/L. One of the best L lenses Canon makes for the money

    – 85mm 1.8. Another great lens for the money.

    That’s my $.02. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 2:53 PM

    Some poor souls don;t even have a 50mm F1.4, they have to settle for the 50mm F1.8.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 3:14 PM

    Nikon user here. My next and first “good glass” will be the 70-200mm 2.8. $1700 but I’m so looking forward to it.

  • Reply
    Ben Jammin'
    June 27, 2008 at 3:23 PM

    Hey I don’t mean to stray too far from the topic, but can you rent strobe or lighting setups? If so, what would you recommend, say for an basic on-location shoot with a model? I’ve got the lenses, but not the lighting. I’ve seen pics of your equipment before, but not sure if you can point me to a resource on this front…

  • Reply
    Michael Zahora
    June 27, 2008 at 3:23 PM

    Here is what I would recommend to any photographer wanting to rent lenses. If you know exactly what you’re shooting and where – get an appropriate prime lens for the shoot (best results). If, on the other hand, you have nothing specific you plan on shooting – get a zoom and experiment with it.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 3:40 PM

    I love all of my L zooms: 17-40 f/4L, 24-105 f/4L IS, 70-200 f/4L, and 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS. If I were looking to rent I’d go for a ginormous fast telephoto prime like a 300 f/2.8L or 600 f/4L because that’s pretty much the only niche I don’t have covered in my own arsenal. And I’ll also suggest a couple of special-purpose lenses you might not have considered: a macro lens (the 100 f/2.8 is really sharp and makes a great portrait lens as well as doing closeups down to 1:1) and a tilt/shift lens like the 24 f/3.5L TS/E. Lots of creative possibilities with those.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 4:26 PM

    If your renting and any lens is possible, this is a great site for recommendations based on use:

    If you find the 50mm limiting, there is not much sense renting another fixed prime lens. Same idea with a different focal length.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 4:30 PM

    What are you taking pictures of? That will determine what you’ll rent. the 70-200 2.8 is the bomb for action and portrait, but if you’re doing landscapes or portraits of large groups, it’ll be frustrating. A fisheye for portrait can create some nice effects, but gets old real fast. Neither is a great carry around lens.

    Don’t rent a bunch. Rent one, and get the hang of it. Next weekend you can rent a different lens.

    Some lenses I’ve been wanting to try are things like the 24 1.4, 35 1.4, and the 500 f4 for wildlife photography. But I live nowhere near a place where you can rent lenses, so I’ll have to wait until I come down there on holiday.

  • Reply
    Mathew Ballard
    June 27, 2008 at 5:53 PM

    My word really isn’t worth much…cause I only have two lens for my Canon. The crappy kit lens and a decent 55mm 1.4 non L.

    But, I personally would go with an L in the 150 mm to 200 mm range.

  • Reply
    James - DigitalKeyToInfo
    June 27, 2008 at 6:20 PM

    I did 90% of my studio shooting with the 100mm 2.8 macro.
    Other than that, a wide angle is usually handy.
    I agree, selling cookies made out of girl guides would be a very bad idea.

  • Reply
    Christopher Blunck
    June 27, 2008 at 8:34 PM

    Your selection of a lens really depends on your subject matter. If you’re planning on taking some nature oriented photos that focus on geographical aspects you should consider renting a powerful prime like a 600mm f/4. Even consider applying a teleconverter to it to get up to 900mm, or even 1200mm. Taking photos of animals at 1200mm can really produce stunning photos. And at f/6 or higher on a prime lens it’s going to be tack sharp, so make sure you clean your sensor off before heading out.

    Alternatively if you’re trying to go micro and get a lot of detail out of every day items (e.g. silverware in a drawer, wax on a candle, chalk on the sidewalk) consider getting a macro lens like the 85/1.2 or a 105/2.8.

    The zooms are versatile lenses, and f/2.8 is a wide aperture that produces a narrow DoF even at short focal distances. But if you’re looking to experiment with some rental equipment try the macro or the super telephotos.

    OTOH I think you should try some slow exposure, high aperture, blurred shots. Look and see if your camera supports “rear curtain sync”. If so, set your exposure to 1/25, and stomp down your aperture to properly expose your background. Then, take your shot while spinning or moving your camera around. You can achieve isolation of your subject by blurring your background without relying on a shallow DoF. I can send you some examples if you’re interested.

    Overall I think you do really well with strobes. I enjoy the slow exposures as well as the macro stuff and the super telephoto stuff.

    Good luck, and don’t stop trying.

  • Reply
    Fred Hill
    June 27, 2008 at 8:59 PM

    I love my Lensbaby 3G! I just got it last week and love to few shots I have taken so far. This weekend I can’t wait to really play with it since I have the weekend free. It just adds a bunch of new elements to shooting. I have also wanted to try fisheyes.

  • Reply
    Derek K. Miller
    June 27, 2008 at 11:34 PM

    Consider a medium-telephoto macro prime, like the 100mm f/2.8 Macro:

    I have a bunch of other blather about lens options here:

  • Reply
    Roel Willems
    June 27, 2008 at 11:52 PM

    As Christopher mentioned it’s all about your subjects. Looking at you photo’s at Flickr I would recommend a fast tele, great for portraits.
    But a wideangle is also great fun (tokina makes a decent 12-24 f4.0 for a fair price.

  • Reply
    Ryan Ray
    June 28, 2008 at 9:26 AM

    Completely off topic, but have you seen this?

  • Reply
    Ryan Ray
    June 28, 2008 at 9:26 AM

  • Reply
    30 Ways To Wait For The iPhone 3G, #18 Pick A Color | Fire The Cannon
    June 28, 2008 at 10:32 AM

    […] any data, but atleast you get unlimited incoming SMS right, right?!@ I’m sorry for folks like Mostly Lisa, and all the other fine Canadian people who want to use an iPhone. Rogers is ripping you a new one. […]

  • Reply
    Manuel Zamora
    June 28, 2008 at 10:55 AM

    To get a “classic” 50mm field of view on a 1.6x sensor, rent a EF 28mm/f1.8, the Sigma 30mm/f1.4 or the phenomenal Canon EF 35mm/f1.4. Many classic photographs were taken with the “nifty fifty” (also called normal lens). The Ef 85mm/f1.8 is a very nice portrait telephoto. To experiment with wide-angles, get the Tokina 11-16mm/f2.8. Best walkaround zoom: Canon EF 17-55mm/f2.8 IS. But I’d recommend a prime lens to train your eyes and improve your creativity.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    I’d too terrified of dropping them to rent really expensive lenses…o.0

    However, my girlfriend recently bought me a nice fisheye lens. They’re a lot of fun to play with.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 7:25 PM

    After looking at your photos and what seems to get your attention, get a Lensbaby! Yeah it’s still a 50mm, but you will love the color splash and the abstract focus cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Not spendy.

    Get the “creative aperture kit” for 10 bucks. Shape your out of focus specularity to whatever you like (hearts, stars, maple leaf, etc… I know you want one. The website has a great gallery. (Sorry, sounds like a commercial, not intended. Really sorry, couldn’t pass up the maple leaf reference.)


  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 9:49 PM

    Go outside of your current range, rent a ballin’ 70-200 2.8 or a slick ultrawide like the 10-22.

  • Reply
    TJ Asher
    June 29, 2008 at 6:33 AM

    If you are planning to rent just ONE lens I recommend renting one that is versatile and in a different focal length range than the one you have now.

    My choice would be the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS. It is one of the most versatile lenses out there.

    This lens covers most of the popular portrait lengths in the 80-135mm range and a nice wide aperture for great portraits and gets you a nice telephoto at 200mm to capture candid moments.

    You get image stabilization which can really help getting that telephoto shot in low light. Of course the subject cannot be moving if your shutter speed is very low. I’ve done 200mm shots at 1/4 sec hand held.

    It has a nice close focus distance of about 2m so you can get really, really tight on a subject and not be right on top of it.

    It is the lens that is on my camera probably at least 75% of the time. It’s the lens I use for all of my outdoor portraits and all my flower photographs.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2008 at 8:37 AM

    In my opinion – Always rent the coolest lenses you can… affordable lenses are usually in the higher aperatures…

    Thus get the lenses with F2.8 F1.4 etc… I am not a Canon shooter but I have an 85 F1.4 that shoots the most incredible portraits… while the 70-200 F2.8 is the best Glamour lens I own and the models love the results becase long lenses are more slimming….

    As for lighting – you do not need tohave much money to afford a really great lighting setup…

    One single mono light – and one huge umbrella will get you great results… you do not even need a meter but it definately helps…

    I shoot just about everything I do with one light and one 44″ umbrella….

  • Reply
    June 29, 2008 at 1:03 PM

    Very simple, if you love your 50mm and its about the range you want then get the 24-70 f 2.8, I rented this lens for a week and a week later ordered it. I will have it on Wed. the 2nd and can’t wait. If you want a longer range get the 70-200 f2.8. If you don’t have the $1600 for the IS version which is on sale right now get the non IS version. I rented this lens also for a week and its next on my to get list.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    Oh one more thing, the best place to rent glass is Lens Pro To Go.

    Tell Paul, Jerry from Lawrenceville sent you.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2008 at 8:41 PM

    My 24-70 f/2.8 has been mounted on my camera since the first day I got it, taking the place of my 50 f/1.4. I love the way it performs at photoshoots and parties.

  • Reply
    June 30, 2008 at 3:41 AM

    I’ve only recently got into photography and picked up a DSLR and some of your pics have really inspired me to have more of “a go” with my camera!

    I’ve recently purchased a 55-200mm Nikon lens (my 18-55 just wasn’t getting me close enough!), in fact it’s so recent I’m still waiting for it to arrive!!

    I’ve never even considered (or heard) of renting lenses, but that could be my lack of knowledge or not mixing in the right circles I guess!

  • Reply
    Kenny Hyder
    June 30, 2008 at 12:31 PM

    If you’re gonna rent, why not go BIG!!! Rent the 600 f4L! But then again, thats gonna cost you more than $30 a day! I personally lean towards the fixed side, you get better glass and better apertures that way.. If you haven’t checked out the 85 1.2 yet, do that… Also, if you’re currently shooting the 50 1.4 (I have one too, love it) check out the 50 1.2, just to get a comparison what the L series brings to the table, you might be surprised!

  • Reply
    July 2, 2008 at 7:56 AM

    Well, I have a Canon 400D, too. The kit lens isn’t that bad. At least, it was quite good for cityscape nightshots :) However, i wanted to buy a better lens for this range, so after a lot of reading, i decided to buy a Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5. At 70mm it also has macro feature 1:2. I love this lens, although it hunts when trying to shoot in low light conditions.

    I’m in my way to buy another sigma lens, 50-150 f/2.8. I’ve read very positive comments.

    Sadly in Greece there’s no shop for renting lenses. Or i think so :P

  • Reply
    July 2, 2008 at 10:41 AM

    I like the 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR, but I shoot Nikon. I think that other brand has something similar. I shoot lots of portraits and this actually a really flattering lens.

    Plus it lets you reach out and catch people when they don’t know you are shooting.

  • Reply
    July 3, 2008 at 7:52 AM

    After the 70-200 2.8 and a wide angle why don’t you send some time with a lensbaby? After looking at your photos I bet you can be very creative with a lensbaby.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2008 at 10:29 PM

    paul earlier listed 4 of my favourite lenses (10-22, 85/1.8, 135L and 24-105). but by far, far, far my favourite lens is my 135 f/2L, even though it’s not an “everyday” lens. I’d agree with paul’s comment that this is probably one of Canon’s best lenses for the money.

    I used it for many years with my old EOS film cameras, and even though I don’t use it as often now on my 40D, I’d _never_ part with it. if you like your 50/1.4, then give the 135 a try e.g. for portaits/headshots. the sharpness & colour vs super smooth background bokeh at wide apertures is amazing.

    Also give the 35/1.4L a try – it’s also a great lens. or any of the other fast L prime lenses. (beware, you’ll get addicted :-)

    have fun!

    p.s. I hadn’t thought about renting lenses in Vancouver before… I think I may give one of the 70-200 lenses a try…

    p.p.s. another good place to look at user submitted reviews of lenses is here:

  • Reply
    July 8, 2008 at 4:55 AM

    TILT-SHIFT!!! 24 f/3.5L TS/E, or one of the other ones.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2008 at 5:46 AM

    I go second hand. This weekend I brought a 20-35L f2.8. A discontinued model (no USM) for 17,000 THB (about $500 US). The new Equivalent (16-35L f2.8( is 48,000 THB (1,400 US). Jusy don’t forget to try it out first in store.

    Previously brought a second hand 70-200L f4 for about the same price second hand but realised I wasn’t really using that range enough to justify it sold it back to the shop. I only lost 1000 THB on the deal and I’d had it for 6 months.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    I would go with an L in the 150 mm to 200 mm range.

  • Reply
    June 14, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    After the 70-200 2.8 and a wide angle why don’t you send some time with a lensbaby? After looking at your photos I bet you can be very creative with a lensbaby

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