The problem with the camera industry is that it’s constantly coming out with new shit. In the last few months, the Impossible Project revived the instant film camera (Polaroid lovers rejoice), Leica launched a $6,000 digital camera with no screen, Sony’s new A6300 made every photographer salivate, and Fujifilm unveiled the X-T2, which is heralded as “the perfect mirrorless camera.” And you can’t buy most of them because money trees aren’t real.
Fortunately, there are numerous rental services that loan pro-grade gear to nearly anybody. Whether you’re a novice looking to get your feet wet, or a professional who wants to test out another camera system (“ecosystem,” if we’re being pretentious), there’s an online service that can get you on a great shutter button, affordably.
Most Trusted Rental Service: There are several “big time” camera rental services out there, including BorrowLenses and Lumoid, but the one trusted by many of the top camera manufacturers — Sony, for one — is LensRentals. The service offers a wide selection of cameras, from Canon to Nikon, Fuji to Leica, with both old and new models. Individual lens and lighting/mounting equipment can also be rented. Rental lengths can be adjusted as need be (minimum one day).
Best for Finding Gear Near You: ShareGrind helps you rent cameras, lenses, video equipment and even drones from other people in your area. It also allows you to share your own equipment with others (and make a small profit). All potential renters are peer-reviewed — that way you don’t have to rent from/to someone you don’t trust — and ShareGrind promises that all rentals are insured. Unlike LensRentals, the value of this service is the camera sharing community that it fosters. It helps you meet likeminded people who can hopefully pass on some helpful photography tips.
Best Startup Subscription Service: For $149 a month, subscribers to Parachut have their pick from a catalog of camera and lens kits, including the latest Leica M-D and retro film SLRs. If you’re done using one kit, you can exchange it for a new one. The service has members fill out a photographer profile — answering questions about their skill level, photography needs and ambitions — and then curates gear to match. It’s great for those who want to get their hands on a variety of top-grade gear from a number of brands. Only downside: it costs $1,788 a year (without a protection plan), which could add up to a damn good entry level body and lens instead.