Before I spend hard earned money on an expensive new lens I would quite like to try it out. Sure, you can look at other people’s shots on flickr, which is more than you ever could in days of yore, but it’s still not the same thing as exploring what you can get out of the lens over a weekend.
The idea of renting a lens for a week, maybe to coincide with a trip abroad, is very attractive if the cost of hire is reasonable.
The problem is that this idea has not really caught on with non-professionals. Maybe people just aren’t aware of the lens (and camera) rental market. It is still almost exclusively professionals who rent specific gear for particular assignments, and so far as digital SLR equipment is concerned that means either Canon or Nikon. Those two makes so dominate the professional market that it is not worth the rental companies carrying other brands.
So if I, as a Sony Alpha user, fancied trying out one or two of the highly regarded Zeiss lenses on a trip then I am out of luck. Not to be had, at all, in the UK.
It’s not so bad in the US where outfits like lensrentals.com offer a slick web-based service, with lenses couriered to anywhere in the country, and covering a wider range of brands. The choices are far more limited in the UK, with only a couple of serious options for lens rental, London Camera Exchange and Calumet, and neither offer a service to compare to the best of the US. Nor do they cover DSLR brands other than Canon or Nikon.
It’s a shame the lens rental market is so limited. I imagine a lot of keen amateurs might welcome the idea of short term rental, with a view to potential later purchase, if the equipment were available and the service suitably publicised. And that goes for non-professional Canon and Nikon users too.