The Solution to Gear Acquisition Syndrome: Renting Lenses

Tamron Lenses

The struggle is real. Like many photographers, I spend a lot of time having G.A.S. No, I’m not talking about that loud noise and smell that seems to accompany Uncle Steve whenever he comes over for dinner, but what is more commonly known among photographers as Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Ask any photographer what they want as a gift and I promise you will see the gears start cranking in their head as they consider the hundreds of different lens choices available for each and every camera system on the market. Does that sound overwhelming? You bet. Especially when more than likely that photographer hasn’t experimented with that lens, let alone seen it in person. The solution? Renting lenses and finding what’s right for you.

In the beginning, I had only the starting kit lens and the nifty fifty. After that first year however, I realized that there was a look I was missing from my trusty sidekicks, but as previously mentioned, the options for lenses to help me fill my image gaps were, quite frankly, overwhelming.

So what’s the trick? How do I find out which lens will make my G.A.S. go away (I am still so sorry for using that acronym). My first objective was to understand and be able to articulate what you need from your gear. By being able to clearly outline what exactly was missing and what I was trying to accomplish with my shots I then became able to start shopping and truly make informed and useful gear decisions. So with that – here are one humble photographers’ choices for lenses and approaches as I tried to intelligently stumble through the overwhelming world of camera gear. And I did my research by renting lenses making sure I was happy with my selection before forking over the cash.

Want to expand your gear cravings even further? Join Mike Hagen as he teaches an Introduction to Using Multiple Flashes to achieve optimal results.

Wide Anglelenses range from 14mm to 35mm and are great for that aisle shot and amazing for dance photos. The ability to capture the entire scene, show off the environment and to pull the viewer into the experience is a powerful tool for any photographer. I find that wide angle shots offer a personal point of view that allows us to feel like part of the action and a wide lens can help achieve that perspective best. 

Suggested Lens: Tameron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DI-II LD

Tameron Wide Angle Lens: Renting Lenses

Prime Lenses are where I feel most at home. They are defined by having a fixed focal length (i.e. not being able to zoom any closer or further away than their specified length), sharpness, and in most cases, the ability to have a substantially wider aperture than zoom lenses. I’d rented the 35mm f/1.4 once before and I was blown away by it’s ability to shoot in low light and maintain incredible sharpness. When I tried out the 50mm f/1.2 that Canon had to offer however, my poor jaw hit the floor so hard I chipped a tooth. Here was a lens that gave me a personal feel to portraits and allowed me to almost disregard low light situations. This lens felt like it could take my portraits to the next level and it did not disappoint.

Suggested Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens

A Solution to Gear Acquisition Syndrome: Renting Lenses

Want to expand your gear cravings even further? Join Mike Hagen as he teaches an Introduction to Using Multiple Flashes to achieve optimal results.

Telephoto Lenses generally tend to fall into the range of 70-200mm. This was an area I struggled with making the “right” decision and reinforced why rentals are so important. The telephoto focal length is easily my least favorite when it comes to weddings. I understand why it is necessary, but the idea that I’m going to lug around a lens that I’m only going to use 10% of the time at a wedding was frustrating. I wanted to ensure before purchasing that I had put each available option through its paces. And since I’m not a billionaire I did a little research and narrowed down my choices to the following.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM Lens – This was a change of pace for me, as my rental of this lens was the first time that I’d gotten my hands on any macro lens whatsoever. I’ve seen people use this lens to great effect with detail shots of wedding decorations and the classic shot of the bride and groom’s rings. Heck, this lens also can knock it out of the park with portraits. That said, what I didn’t like was that in low light, even with the image stabilization on, my shots ended up being out of focus. I will admit that this is potentially user error (shaky hands? guilty as charged), but after the 3 day rental period, I gladly sent it back in knowing that something else existed that would suit me better.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L – Being fairly light (especially in comparison to the 70-200) this lens offers you the distance and a nice wide aperture while still maintaining pristine sharpness. When I first clicked it onto my camera body, however, I found that it didn’t give me the flexibility I needed. If I was standing at the end of the aisle watching the bride and groom, in order to get the ideal shot I would need to move into the aisle itself and that felt too intrusive. The open aperture was a nice addition as well, but not enough to sway me.

Tameron EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM II – WINNERRRRR No bones about it this is a heavy lens, but it’s also a heavy hitter. At its shortest range this lens can get a good portrait and at the longest, it can produce a tack sharp image to let your eyes really walk around. This lens hit all the criteria I needed with the extra bonus of it’s touted 5 stops of image stabilization (that’s an extra 1 stop above Canon’s 70-200mm for those keeping track) so that even my world class shaky hands could be calmed. With this lens I could even take a sharp photo in low light, at 200mm at 1/15th of a second. Oh, and did I mention it’s waaaaay cheaper than the Canon lens? It’s way cheaper than the Canon lens. 

(special note: Want to get even CLOSER? Slap on a 1.4 teleconverter and with minimal weight added you can really punch in changing the 70-200mm to a 98-280mm.) 

Suggested Rental: Tameron EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM II

A Solution to Gear Acquisition Syndrome: renting lenses

So we’ve been through my top three: Wide Angle, Prime, and Telephoto, but what’s your favorite?

Unless you are swimming in money (and I’m talking Scrooge McDuck swimming) affording each and every lens that has come out or will come out is impossible. So get to renting lenses, get a feel and get your hands on every lens that interests you before you take the financial plunge. Put each lens through its paces and find what works best in your workflow. Renting that coveted lens from places like your local camera store or places like Borrowlenses, Adorama, or Lensrentals will ensure that when you do purchase, your money spent will be well spent. 

Want to expand your gear cravings even further? Join Mike Hagen as he teaches an Introduction to Using Multiple Flashes to achieve optimal results.

Photos: Casey Cosley

Casey Cosley

As a Seattle-based photographer, I incorporate the culture and style of the city into the sense and attitude of my work. I deliver a stunning and vibrant body of work for my clients, and am available for commercial & editorial travel and/or location photo assignments worldwide. Check out my work on Instagram.