How To Tuesday #26 - "Why Buy When You Can Try? Dirty Coast to Deftones: My Professional Experience with Renting Lenses" / by Zack Smith

As all photographers know it sometimes takes a lifetime to own just the right gear you can need for any type of shoot. Not only is the best gear usually the most expensive, but there is always some sort of "upgrade" or "v 2.1" right around the corner just teasing your inquisitive nature. As our buying habits are different I can only speak for myself when I say that I usually make do with what I have. But that is changing.

In my early days of shooting strictly film, I was limited to a 24mm, 50mm, an 85 lens for my Nikon n90s (remember those!) when I was shooting alot of low lit night club concerts at Tipitinas and street photography in New Orleans. In these early years, I was regulated to those three lenses, which I then mastered as those focal lengths became synonymous in how I saw the world.

After years of using multiple camera formats and focal lengths, ignorance is definitely bliss since I have TOO many choices. This for me, is a good thing. I really do enjoy diagnosing my client's visual problems when I have multiple formats, focal lengths and lighting choices to apply to each photoshoot. I am no longer limited to certain focal lengths that I own. 

As I write this, I still do not own everything I want and I don't think I will EVER have every lens or light I'll ever need or own. So when my vision requires a piece of gear I currently do not own, I often turn to renting gear for the specific shoot.

For my recent shoot with Dirty Coast t-shirts and an upcoming Deftones show at the Saenger Theatre I rented the Canon 35mm f1.4 and the Canon 50mm 1.2 from one of my favorite rental spots - www.lensrentals.com. The prices are fair and the return is made easy by a ready to go UPS return sticker. Oh, and they have EVERYTHING...

35mm 1.4 probably my favorite new lens...

35mm 1.4 probably my favorite new lens...

Canon 50 1.2 was so much fun to shoot!

Canon 50 1.2 was so much fun to shoot!

At this point I can't afford each of these lenses..it's just not in the short term budget. But renting them for specific shoots suits me just fine. Take a look at a couple of images I shot with these lenses at the Dirty Coast shoot. NOTE: All images shot at each lenses Max Aperture i.e. 35mm @ 1.4 and 50mm @ 1.2.  I absolutely love being able shoot at 1.4 and 1.2..but it takes ALOT of practice at nailing the shot! Most importantly, you have to realize that you have such a small focus range/depth and that any slight movement from subject or camera, you risk a soft focus point...or missed all together. But when you nail it...You KNOW IT.

I just love that nice shallow depth of filed and bokeh with the 50mm 1.2!

I just love that nice shallow depth of filed and bokeh with the 50mm 1.2!

The 50mm 1.2 had great focus lock, and found the subject at any depth.

The 50mm 1.2 had great focus lock, and found the subject at any depth.

Especially in low light, the 50mm 1.2 was bright, and it was easy to focus with low nat light

Especially in low light, the 50mm 1.2 was bright, and it was easy to focus with low nat light

So, probably my "next" lens...(meaning, pennies are being saved as we speak) is the Canon 35mm 1.4. I first rented the lens for this years French Quarter Festival (you can see my gallery here) and I don't think it left my Mark 3 at all. I guess I am becoming comfortable with the close range and intimate engagement the 35mm focal length gives me. Combine that with the tack sharp focusing, maximum light gathering, and beautiful bokeh at 1.4 - It's a lens I can't live without too much longer out of my bag. I am not there yet...so that's why I rent. Here are a few of my favorite 35mm 1.4 shots from the last few shoots.

I do like the bokeh on the 35mm more than the 50mm 1.2. I find its a bit softer...

I do like the bokeh on the 35mm more than the 50mm 1.2. I find its a bit softer...

Here are some more 35mm @ 1.4 - I can't get enough!

There you have it. A few of my favorite shots from two of my favorite new lenses. At price tags of $1,349 for the 50mm 1.2 and $1,799 for the 35mm 1.4, I don't think I'll be buying soon. For $165 I could rent both of them for a week, shoot a ton of personal and client work while counting and saving those pennies...