Landscape Photography: 3 Reasons to Rent a Camera before Buying

3 Reasons to Rent a Camera before Buying

If you are in the market for a new camera, you know that shopping for the right kit can be an overwhelming process. A new camera can get pricey quick, and when you make the investment you want to make sure that you are getting exactly what you want.

I’ve been shooting with an old Sony NEX-3 mirrorless camera for a while now. I took this camera with me on the John Muir Trail, and a lot of the pictures you see on my website and my Instagram feed were shot with it. Overall, it has been a fantastic and affordable camera to learn on. It’s allowed me to experiment with a variety of interchangeable lens without having to lug around a monstrous-sized camera kit. However, one of my goals for the year was to work on improving my photography, and I’m now at the point where I think I’m ready for an upgrade.

So now I’m facing the choice of moving to one of Sony’s newer compact mirrorless systems, which get rave reviews, or if I should bite the bullet and get a full frame DSLR, which is much bigger, heavier and often more expensive. (For a more detailed post about the differences between compact point-and-shoot, mirrorless, and full frame DSLR cameras, see this camera guide by the Digital Photography School.)

You can read all of the reviews you want, but there is nothing better than getting a feel for a camera in your own two hands. So when I recently learned about a few online companies that rent cameras by mail, such as, I thought this would be a perfect way to test out the gear I’ve been eyeing before pulling the trigger.

For my recent Havasu Falls trip, I decided to rent a mirrorless Sony A7R and Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 lens from
Sony A7r

They also set me up with a Tiffen 72mm Variable neutral density filter – something I had heard of but never used. This filter allowed me to take long waterfall exposures even in the bright sun. Check out more of my Havasu Falls pictures here.

Beaver Falls - Havasupai Indian Reservation

Next, I wanted to compare the Sony to the Nikon D810 full frame DSLR with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lensNikon D810

With the tall landscapes in Paria Canyon, I thought this camera and lens would be a great combo, and I was also able to experiment with some night photography which I am also new to. Visit my Paria Canyon photography post for more photos that I took with the Nikon.

Paria Canyon Narrows, Slide Rock Arch
Throughout this process, I found that there are three main benefits to renting a camera before buying it, as it will help answer the following important questions.


1) Is it your camera or your skills?

It’s easy to swoon over people’s Instagram photos and think, “man, if I only had a nicer camera I could take pictures like that.” In some cases this is true. Some cameras don’t do well in low light, have slow autofocus, or take pictures that aren’t sharp enough. But there are some things that are totally in the photographer’s control, like composition, which have nothing to do with how fancy the camera is. Renting a camera gives you a chance to see whether investing a new camera will really make your pictures better, or if perhaps you’d be better off investing in a short photography course to make better use of your existing equipment.


2) Do you really want to lug that thing around?

That Nikon D810 and the lens I rented weighed about 7 pounds, and that didn’t include the spare battery. Carrying this around on a 4-day backpacking trip may sound crazy, but I wanted to know my threshold. Would I get tired of carrying it after two days? Or maybe it wouldn’t be so bad? It all depended on how the pictures turned out. My take after my Paria trip is if I’m going somewhere really spectacular that I may never return to, it’s probably worth the extra weight. On the other hand, if it’s a simple hike somewhere I’ve been many times before, then I may prefer to stick to a smaller camera or even my cell phone. Renting a camera gives you a chance to really learn your limits and how important those shots really are.


3) What kind of lens makes the most sense?

Depending on the type of trip you are going on, renting camera gear allows you to tailor the kit to your needs. For instance, for my Paria trip, I knew I wanted a wide angle lens with a wide aperture so I could capture the whole canyon and try to get some starry sky shots. For my Havasu Falls trip, I also wanted a wide angle, but the maximum aperture wasn’t as important. Alternatively, if I were going somewhere with wildlife, I would have chosen a telephoto lens. Renting camera gear and different lens helps you get more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of different lenses and the types of scenarios when you would use each one.


Where to Rent Camera Gear

I used and was very happy with the process. They have a thorough website with tons of info about the different options which range from inexpensive point and shoots to top of the line DSLRs. Their phone staff are also extremely friendly and can provide guidance, helping you choose the right equipment. All cameras and lenses comes with a carrying case, and they also have a variety of accessories including tripods and filters.

Shipping is very easy. You can choose USPS or FedEx at checkout, and you can order your camera up to two days before your trip with overnight delivery. When it comes time to return it, you just pack it in the box it came in and drop it off with the prepaid shipping label.

Finally, if you like your rental camera so much and decide you want to buy it, Lens Rentals has a Keeper program where you can apply a small portion of the rental price to your purchase.

Depending on the model, renting a camera can get expensive for anything longer than a couple of days, so it’s not something to do all of the time. But if you have your eye on something new or your current camera isn’t adequate for a cool upcoming trip you have, I definitely recommended renting one and giving it a whirl.



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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. An affiliate means that if you make a purchase, I receive a tiny bit of compensation at no added cost to you. I only recommend products that I truly love, and any purchases you make help keep this blog going. Thanks for all of your support, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on my site, please email me. Thanks! Kristen


There are 22 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

22 Comments on “Landscape Photography: 3 Reasons to Rent a Camera before Buying

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  1. I think another consideration is what the final destination of your photos will be. The 810 has over 35mp, the more the merrier should the photos destination be LARGE display prints . . . but if FB or Instagram is their destination, 35mp is serious overkill.

    I lugged two bodies and four lenses around much of the world, but once film died (I mean GOOD films) I hung up my 35mm stuff. Years later, just wanting something, I got into members of the Canon G-family (I have the G-12 now). At 12mp it cowers in the shadow of the 810 (or my own 710) but I can crop each Canon image to a quarter of the original image size and still come out with a more-than-workable and presentable 8X10. And with the 810 coming in around $2500, and the Canon around $500 . . . up to each of us to determine worth and value.

    And yes, a camera can do many, many (many) things, it might TAKE a good picture, but it can’t MAKE one. To paraphrase Lance Armstrong – It’s not about the camera.

    We rented the Sony a6000 and a lens from BorrowLenses for our Yosemite trip before finally selling Angel’s old DSLR and switching over to the mirrorless system. Two a6000 cameras with three lenses between the two of us. That way Angel can take beautiful shots, and I can stand off to the side with my own camera and hopefully get better from practice.

    I’m also happy cause I never got used to holding a DSLR in my hands, I constantly felt like I was going to drop it.

    Have you made the final decision on a camera?

    The sony A7’s definitely have an advantage in that they’re lighter, and so are other mirrorless..but they might act up in hot/cold temps…

    Also, I think it’s pretty nice that the sony A7 line’s batteries can be charged via usb…

    Great idea Kristen! I’ve never rented before but will check out Lens Rentals. I’m currently shooting with a NEX 6 and considering upgrading soon. Did you make a final decision?

      Hey Amanda – I’m still teetering, but I think I’ve settled on a Sony A7S. Let me know if you end up renting and what you go with!

    These pictures are truly incredible, especially the one of the falls! Your tips are great as well. I hate bringing my equipment with me when it’s going to be a long carrying time. Renting definitely makes more sense for me, I think.

      Thanks Veronica! It was good to test it out before making the investment.

    Hey Kristen. Did you edit the pictures? They look amazing, especially the one of the waterfall. That shade of blue is just incredible.

      Thanks! I edit my photos in Lightroom….but for Havasu Falls, the color really is that blue in real life. 🙂

    I really like your article also the pictures that you shared….
    Great points you make about the value of renting a camera. I am doing a big video shoot the next couple months. It should be a ton of fun and I am really excited about it. However, right now I only have a prosumer level DSLR. It will not give me the quality of footage that I need. I was thinking about buying a higher end model but I think I will do as you suggested and rent one instead….
    Great idea Kristen!!!Keep posting…..
    Have a nice day ahead!!!

    Excellent post! That was so helpful. I just may have some of these on my trip next year….
    That was so helpful. I use Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II DSLR camera for my travel photography. As the camera is quite expensive therefore I generally hire it as the picture quality of this camera is just amazing….
    And now I am even thinking of purchasing it
    Waiting for your next tips! Cheers!!!! Keep posting!!!!
    Have a nice day ahead……

    I have a Nikon D800 Camera, and a few lenses. 24-85mm, 50mm 1.4 and a Macro lens 105mm. I always wanted to try other lenses such as telephotos but due to the price I was not able to buy them at this time. I liked the idea of renting a lens and trying it out before committing and buying it outright. Thanks for your insights!

    I’m thinking about going mirrorless from my 5D mkii. I travel A LOT so downsizing makes sense. Think I will rent a Sony on my next adventure

    I think it’s perfectly fine to invest in a good camera, as long as you keep your focus on all the other countless aspects of film making.

    Sweet Idea. Seems Cheaper to rent a great camera than buy a cheap one which will both end of costing nearly the same. The cheap camera just wont be able to produce the same quality of pictures

      Totally agree with you! Plus renting allows you to experiment with all different types before committing to buying!

    I love the idea of being able to rent a camera. I’ve always loved photography but because I’ve always just played around with pictures I’ve never jumped into investing in a nice but expensive camera. This would be an amazing option especially for beginners who are trying to decide if photography is right for them. How were you able to decide which camera was right for you?

      Steve – I rented a few before deciding on Sony. I took a Nikon on a 4 day backpacking trip and realized that it was much too heavy. Then I rented a Sony, which was much smaller and took really nice pictures. So that’s how I ended up with what I have today.

    Do you recommend Sony a7s ii to use for the first time? Especially, for No-1 that “Is it your camera or your skills?” make sense to rent a camera first. By the way, which one you are using right now? I think people should start to use rent camera before buy one for him/her. Maybe next week I will rent a camera for me before I buy Sony a7s ii. One of my friends is using Sony a7s ii.

    Rightly said…I facing challenges with the lenses I should buy and was really wonderinh where I can rent them in edinburgh before buying. Thanks so much for the tips. Need to check the site you have mwntioned.

    Dear Kristen, I do agree with you that you can have a feeling of the camera and lens before actually buying them.
    However, I personally buy electronic stuffs at Best buys or Walmart and if I don’t like it, I return them before 30 days period. This way, you will get the same feeling, and more economy friendly. Hope this helps.

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