Lonely Planet Writer

Snap decision: why travelers are renting high end cameras

Quick pictures from your mobile phone or point-and-shoot camera can cover common situations. But travelers visiting locales with spectacular scenery may prefer to use professional cameras to preserve their memories.

Travelers are choosing to rent rather than buy digital cameras.
Travelers are choosing to rent rather than buy digital cameras. Image by Will Fuller / CC BY-SA 2.0

The paparazzo’s top choice is the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera), or the most common type of interchangeable lens camera in use today. DSLRs do a better job than most other cameras of capturing fine details and accurate colors, even if an object is in motion, far away, or very small.

The problem with DSLRs is that their starting price is about $600, plus the cost of a lens. That may seem like overkill for a traveler who only takes the occasional exotic journey.

An increasingly popular solution is to rent, rather than buy, the high-end camera bodies and the lenses that go with them.

Exhibit A: For a trip to Ireland this summer, Scott Sutherland of Washington, DC, will be renting a Fuji X100T (which, while not a DSLR, is similarly advanced). “It’s a great way to try a camera you’ve been lusting after to see if you actually like it for travel photography,” he says.

In the past few years, online stores such as LensRentals.com and BorrowLenses.com have slowly expanded from renting lenses to professionals to renting a full array of DSLR camera bodies plus lenses to travelers and other cameraphiles.

Rental rates vary. But as a rule of thumb, a traveler could rent about 10 DSLRs before he or she would have spent enough to buy a camera outright.

In a plus, a traveler gets the latest version of DSLR cameras available, somewhat like leasing a new car every two years.

Take, for instance, the Pentax K3, which debuted last year. A traveler could rent this $1,297 camera for a week this summer for $56 from Borrow Lenses and take advantage of the K3’s world’s first features, such as a selectable anti-aliasing function that, in essence, reduces microscopic distortions in photos.

In short, what sharing economy websites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing are doing to lodging is similar to what rental sites like Borrow Lenses and Lens Rentals are doing to photography.