Should You Purchase a Lens Right Away

By John Frelich

Think of the times you look at a lens and think of a trip you’re ready to take. If only you had a 100-400mm lens to get some good zoom images.  Then you go to the various Photographic stores and see the price somewhere around $2200 for a camera manufacturer’s product. The prices can range higher or you consider a secondary manufacturer but still look at prices around $1500. Then you explore the grey market but fear something going wrong with the lens and no one will repair it. Finally, you look at refurbished or used lenses but are still apprehensive.

Well why not consider renting a lens for a weekend or longer trip? I just did a weekend workshop and rented a lens from Tempe Camera. Picking it up on a Thursday afternoon and bringing it back on a Monday afternoon cost me $93. The  price for a similar used lens is around $1700 so was it worth it? I tested it out on around 2,000 images and found that the quality of the images was “Good to Very Good.”

Notice I didn’t say “Great.”

When I evaluated the number of times I could rent the lens before I would equal the current value it was greater than 15 times. How many times will I be shooting images requiring this lens? If I hit 15 it will take several years. By that time will Nikon make a 100-400mm lens that will give me what I want? This zoom lens has been made for several years now so the technology that was used is waning.

Also secondary manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma are advancing their products at a fast pace. So if you’re not using a good lens on a regular basis, rental is a great way to get limited uses at a comfortable price. BUT, not all rentals are the same. A good camera store keeps their products in excellent condition. When online you must also consider the shipping and insurance costs both ways. That can be greater than the rental cost of the lens.

The key to success is if you live in a metro area like Phoenix and can find a local store that in essence let’s you try a product (rental) it gives you the best way to limit expenditures.

P.S. I have the first model of this lens and it serves as a paperweight because of its slow focusing and “soft” results. If you’re rich please ignore this advice. You won’t need it.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops