BorrowLenses.com offers affordable rentals on professional photo and video equipment.
If you're into photography or filmmaking, you know that the hobby/profession is not cheap with high-end gear sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars. By renting photo or video equipment, you can still get temporary access to expensive lenses, camera bodies, or accessories for photo shoots or special events without the need to dish out the full purchase price.
I've mentioned BorrowLenses.com in a few of my previous articles and have heard many great things about the service. Shutterfly acquired BorrowLenses back in October and in an effort to improve their service, we were asked to conduct a review of the BorrowLenses platform. In the past, I did have a rental pending through them back in January for CES 2014 although I had to cancel it last-minute due to an unexpected change in travel plans so I was never able to fully experience the rental process.
This time around, I went through with it from start to finish and documented my experience for your benefit. Rest assured, I will be giving my honest opinion throughout this entire article and no outside influences have had any effect on the outcome of this review.
BorrowLenses has a wide array of rental equipment ranging from your standard point-and-shoot to DSLRs that can shoot great video as well as photos all the way up to a Red Epic cinema package which would retail for well over $40,000. This makes the service suitable for both amateur photographers who are simply looking to utilize a nicer lens for a special occasion all the way up to the professional filmmaker that seeks a professional rig for shooting a short film in 4K.
Since I own both a Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70D (which I bought as a result of this rental process), the wide array of lenses and accessories available for Canon users like myself is what initially drew me into their service. If you're not a Canon user like myself, there is no need to worry as they offer gear from all major brands (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic, Sony, Olympus, etc.). It isn't limited to strictly camera gear, you can rent audio equipment, studio lighting equipment, or even an Apple iPad for use while in the field. Additionally, they offer photography and video packages geared for things like weddings, portraits, event photography, pet photography, etc. which features multiple products bundled together at a reduced rate.
When new products come out such as Panasonic's new GH4, BorrowLenses is rather quick to offer it for rental. You can already reserve the GH4 through the BorrowLenses website although it is not currently available for rent until the 28th of May (next week). This quick turn-around is ideal for someone who wants to rent a new camera, lens, or accessory in order to try it out and decide whether or not you went to buy it at full retail price.
As for pricing, BorrowLenses offers competitive and affordable rates that vary from product to product. However, the longer you intend to rent the gear, the more you'll spend. If you're looking to rent a camera, lens, or accessory for a few months at a time, you may just be better off buying the product as the rental fees for that duration will be rather significant.
Another important aspect of pricing is dealing with cancellations. Since I experienced my CES 2014 flight being canceled, I was forced to cancel my rental within 24-hours of my scheduled pickup and in return was hit with a cancellation fee equal to one day's rental plus I was still charged an additional fee as I scheduled the items for pickup at a local camera store in Vegas whom BorrowLenses is affiliated with (this can be arranged for an additional courier fee of $15-$25 at select locations across the U.S.).
Throughout the cancellation process, I dealt with multiple BorrowLenses customer service representatives and each of them was surprisingly courteous and helpful which was relieving as I wasn't in the best mood at the time. I did not blame them for still charging me as they have plenty of overhead costs associated with the business. The moral of this story is simple, do not place a rental order and cancel last-minute unless your ready to eat what could be a pretty hefty fee (depending on the size of your order).
If you're looking to rent gear on a regular basis, BorrowLenses offers a $99/year membership with the following benefits:
As a BorrowLenses.com member, you are entitled to the following benefits:
- – Automatic 10% off on all rental orders placed and shipped during the membership period. This will be applied automatically to your order at the time of checkout. To get the discount make sure to log into the account you purchased the membership with.
- – An increased level of rental item availability. If something is not available, all possible efforts will be made to ship the order to you, up to and including drop shipping a lens or camera from our suppliers.
(Limited to a retail price of $4000.)
- – Free BorrowLenses.com t-shirt. You will get one of these when you sign up for the membership account. If you place an order immediately, we will send one to you with the order. Please let us know which size you would like with the order containing the membership.
- – Cancellations with no fees. NO FEES!! If you need to cancel the order with us for any reason, and we would normally charge you a cancellation fee, this would be waived for Member level orders.
This time around, I placed an order based on three different DSLR-related items that I was planning on renting in order to test out and then decide whether I was going to buy them after having first-hand use. I chose a 7-day rental for the purpose of this review, but you have the flexibility to choose anywhere from a 3 to 90 day period.
The rental cost came out $259 (including insurance) with $44.95 in round-trip shipping costs. This equaled out to a total of $303.95 for a 7 day rental of these three items. This may seem like a lot of money to some and I agree, but when you look at the prices for these three items, you'll realize how little it is compared to the overall cost of buying all three items.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II Telephoto Lens – retail price: $2,499
- Canon 70D DSLR Camera (Body Only) – retail price: $999
- Glidecam HD-2000 Hand-Held Stabilizer – retail price: $499
Total combined retail price: $3,997
This means the 7-day rental price of $303.95 (with shipping and insurance included) equals out to only 7.6% of the total retail costs of which I'd need to spend had I bought the items instead of rented. Considering, I was using the rental period as a trial with each product to determine if I should purchase them at a later date, this cost would be warranted and well worth it.
When you're ready to place the order, you must choose the date in which you want to have the rental arrive via a shipping company or the date you'd like to pick the rental up at one of BorrowLenses partner locations which are spread across the U.S. and in most major cities. If you opt to pick the item up in person, you'll likely save money when compared to the shipping costs at least when dealing with a large order.
For first-time customers that are planning on renting an expensive item (high-priced camera body, lens, etc.), you'll have to go through a verification process in order to be approved for the rental. This may seem like a hassle, but it only has to be completed the first time you try to rent an expensive item and is a fairly quick and painless process. It simply involves uploading a few documents to prove you are who you say you are. They require this to keep people from stealing someone else's name/credit card, renting the gear, and never returning it thus resulting in a huge financial loss for the company (it is sad that the world has come to this).
Rental Time Table
- April 29th, 2014 – Rental order is placed with anticipated delivery for May 5th, 2014
- May 2nd, 2014 – Rental order shipment has been initiated, tracking number received via email
- May 5th, 2014 – Order arrives via FedEx at 11:50am with signature service required
- May 11th, 2014 – Email reminder received from BorrowLenses reminding me to ship back my order by the 12th
- May 12th, 2014 – Order dropped off to local FedEx location for return shipping
- May 13th, 2014 – Order reaches BorrowLenses facility for return
- May 14th, 2014 – Return has been processed, email received stating my rental was properly returned in “excellent condition” and thanking me for using their service
Unboxing & Condition Of Rental Equipment
I received my rental gear in a large traditional cardboard box which was a bit surprising. I anticipated some sort of reusable protective case considering the contents of the box were fragile and expensive. After opening the box, I saw all three items were packaged with an enormous amount of foam padding to prevent damage during shipment. I wouldn't call the contents of the package to be “organized”, but it got the gear here safely. They included the pre-paid return shipping label within the box as well as a written reminder as to when my order was due back to avoid any late fees.
The most expensive item I rented was this Canon “L” series lens. It was packed in between a foam sheet inside a standard household plastic bag. The lens came with both a rear and front lens cap, tripod collar, and a Bower UV filter. The exterior of the lens did show slight wear, but nothing significant with no major dings, dents, or scratches.
Internally, the lens was in great shape and the optics and UV filter were both free from any scratches, dust, or blemishes. Features like the autofocus and image stabilization all worked as expected.
Condition Rating: 9 out of 10
The Glidecam HD-2000 was not covered by anything in particular, but left freely in the box between two large pieces of foam. It included four weights on both side as well as an aftermarket quick-release system that was hooked to the existing cheese plate.
Cosmetically, the HD-2000 had seen much better days as there was a wide assortment of scratches and dings with the bottom missing a large portion of the black finish. While it wasn't pretty to look at, the HD-2000 performed without issue once it was properly dialed in for my DSLR.
Condition Rating: 6 out of 10
I rented the Canon 70D as I was looking to upgrade my backup DSLR which was a T3i at the time (and I did end up purchasing one after my rental period). It is important to note that any DSLR body you rent from BorrowLenses will only come with a single battery, a charger, and a camera strap (unless specified otherwise). This means you'll need to rent or own a compatible lens and memory card in order to make the DSLR body fully-functional.
Our rental unit was in mint condition and looked as though it had just entered the rental circulation. Like the lens, it was shipped within a household plastic bag and packed between layers of foam. There were a few very minor scratches here and there, but overall the camera body was in excellent cosmetic and working order. The attached RFID tag was my only real complaint as it dangled annoyingly and sometimes got in the way when holding the camera with both hands.
Condition Rating: 9.5 out of 10
In the end, my rental experience through BorrowLenses was a smooth experience that gave me the chance to test out three products of which I was considering purchasing for only a small fraction of their combined retail price. The ordering process was simple, the customer service is stellar, and they kept excellent communication with me throughout every step of the way. While the Glidecam I received was fairly beaten up cosmetically, all three rental items worked flawlessly and gave me a solid basis for making my future purchase decision. I will rent again from the BorrowLenses service in the future without hesitation and would recommend this service to any prospective customers as they provide great value and convenience for your money.