You can learn a lot about photography gear by renting, repairing and testing it thousands of times.
Under these conditions, you learn not only who makes a great product, but who makes a product that performs consistently across multiple copies and which manufacturers are building durable gear that hold up in the field. It’s the kind of knowledge, in fact, that Drew Cicala and Chase Reynolds of LensRentals have acquired–and kindly shared with us during an interview at PhotoPlus Expo.
Before we dive in, there are a few important caveats. Often when photo and video equipment goes in for repair, it’s simply a matter of removing dust from a sensor or lens or updating firmware—it’s not always a sign of some serious electronic or mechanical failure or a faulty manufacturing process.
Even though dust in the lens may not represent a catastrophic failure, it can still be a pain and a lens that consistently collects dust can pose a problem for shooters. “For the average user or consumer, this type of cleaning involves removing a lens element which is not something they’re going to be comfortable doing,” Reynolds said.
So what has the LensRental duo learned about cameras and lenses? This:
* Zoom lenses need repair and are more prone to collecting dust internally than primes and the longer the focal length, the more it’s prone to collect dust. Moral of the story: there’s a price to be paid for focal length versatility.
* Nikon and Canon telephoto and super telephoto zooms (70-200mm, 80-400mm, 100-400mm, etc.) require repair 25 percent more often than wide angle and normal range zooms (16-35mm, 24-70mm, etc.). Third party lenses are not counted in this statistic.
* Lenses have multiple failure points, including their autofocus systems and image stabilization. Of the two, LensRentals sees image stabilization failing more than autofocus. You should always turn off image stabilization on your lens before you travel so as to lock floating lens elements in place and minimize the chances of them being jostled and damaged en-route.
*If your lens is heavier than your camera body, hold the camera by the lens, not the body. Lens mounts are very expensive to fix and will commonly bend when heavy lenses are attached to the camera.
About the Brands
* Canon cameras see 33 rentals before needing a repair, while Nikon models are rented an average of 25 times before repair. (This figure excludes the Nikon D810, which had a higher-than-usual repair rate simply to update firmware.) However, taking the average age of the camera at the time of repair (with age measured as the time since LensRentals purchased the product), the two brands are repaired at the same average age. Nikon cameras are also rented less frequently than Canon.
* Canon is the most popular brand, by far, for LensRentals. Canon has a 2x lead over its next closest rival across cameras and lenses, while Nikon had until recently a 2x lead over all other brands combined. In camera bodies, however, Nikon has been surpassed by Sony over the past 12 months.
* Sony’s A7S was the most popular rented new release camera of 2014, topping Canon’s 7D Mark II.
* Sony’s A7R II is on pace to be the biggest new release rental camera of 2015.
* Not surprisingly, LensRentals has seen a 200-percent growth in Sony rentals.
* For all the growth, Sony’s lens variance performance is poor relative to its competitors.
* The strangest thing they’ve pulled out of a lens recently? A spider.