As a photography instructor who does both in-person workshops and online coaching, I’ve lost count of how many photographers I’ve talked to who regretted at least one camera or lens purchase.

Sometimes, it’s a portrait photographer who was told by some “big name pro” that they absolutely must buy this-or-that giant, heavy portrait lens. (I’ve seen plenty of Rebel cameras with Canon 85mm f/1.2 L’s mounted on them!)

Other times, it’s a landscape or nightscape photographer who bought a highly exotic, oversized, overweight ultra-wide lens.

In each case, these photographers tell me the same thing: that they hardly ever reach for that lens they spent $1200 or $2400 on, and they actually regret buying it in the first place. 

The same thing happens with camera bodies. I speak to casual beginners, serious hobbyists, and aspiring  pros, who were fortunate to have enough money for a high-end camera, but later realized it was way more than they really needed, or just the wrong choice for what they usually shoot.

[Related: Your Complete Guide To Lenses For Landscape Photography]

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At first, I found this to be a rather odd statement. How could someone possibly spend that much money on something they didn’t realize wasn’t right for them? What I learned was this: many shoppers just buy whatever they think is “the absolute best”, period, even if it’s just not what they really need. Many others, afraid of over-spending or getting too overwhelmed by complexity, buy the most entry-level option even though it is effectively a “crippled” version of something just slightly more expensive.

This is fine in many consumer situations, but when it comes to cameras and lenses, one can quickly begrudge having to lug around an exotic, heavy lens, or waste money on something that’s just not right for their photography.

Now, it’s one thing if the photography you do actually can benefit from the “extra workout” of hand-holding larger cameras and/or lenses. To those people, I would say, be glad that you made a great long-term investment! You will “grow into” the gear and it will help you create wonderful imagery.

However,  if you barely use a piece of gear because it simply isn’t suited to your style of photography at all, (say, you bought an expensive 85mm prime, and then realized you really prefer 35mm or 50mm, and barely use 85mm at all) …then that’s an unfortunate situation and one that I’d like to help people avoid if I can.

[Related: How To Pick The Best PRIME Lenses For Wedding Photography]

[Related: Complete Guide To The Best ZOOM Lenses For Wedding Photography]

So, have you ever regretted a high-dollar purchase, for whatever reason? You don’t have to leave a comment below, but you won’t be judged if you’d like to tell your story and help others spend their hard-earned money more wisely…

[NOTE: is currently doing a “7 days for the price of 3” deal, if your order arrives by July 4th. The promo code is: COOLPOP]

Everybody Buys Cameras Online Now, And That’s OK, But…

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Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS ($2700, read our review HERE)

Over the last 10-20 years, as in-store shopping has given way to online shopping, virtually everybody I know buys their cameras and lenses online. It’s a shame because I always liked being able to go into a store, hold a camera, and talk to a knowledgeable person about it before buying anything. And, usually, the in-store price was exactly the same as the online price. But, on the other hand, I understand that this is the way things are, and it’s just a matter of convenience.

For the most part, gone are the days of trying out a camera or lens before buying it. This puts buyers at a disadvantage, in my opinion, because it’s easy to make the wrong choice for your personal style of photography and other needs/preferences.  This can cost you many hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

You could always return an item, but that’s a hassle, and you often wind up paying the cost of shipping. All I know is, I’ve talked to many photographers who have a lens in their bag that they just loathe having spent so much money on, only to barely use it.

For these reasons, I strongly recommend that people try gear out before buying it, and renting equipment is the best way to try out something!

Whether you’re considering saving up for a really nice lens, or you know your budget is smaller but you just want to compare both a high-dollar and a budget-friendly option at the same time, spending a few days with one or two lenses (or a camera or two) is infinitely better than getting advice from dozens of strangers on the internet.

Either way, you will be able to rest assured the expensive item you’re saving up for is worth it, OR, that what you’re “missing out on” is actually NOT worth it, for your particular type of photography.

I’ve Spent Thousands Of Dollars On Camera Rentals

Ever since I first got into wedding photography in 2004/2005, I started renting various lenses just to see what worked for me. Back then, there wasn’t very much free advice on the internet about which f/2.8 zoom lens or f/1.4 prime was perfect (on APS-C) for weddings or portraits, so I had no choice but to experiment and try things out for myself.

I’ve rented (or borrowed) literally every Nikon and Canon lens to come out in the last 15 years, and pretty much every Sony lens too. (Aside from the little f/3.5-4.5 “kit” lenses that seem to multiply like rabbits!)

To be honest, when I add up all the money I’ve spent over the years, I could probably buy a really nice flagship camera body and one or two flagship lenses! Spending all that money on rentals might sound like a huge waste, but keep in mind that a lot of it was for paid professional work, and all of it was because I just really enjoy trying out new camera gear.

Do I Regret Spending So Much Money, Or Was It All Worth It?

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Sony RX100 VII, 2019

Of course, spending thousands is overkill. If I were just a hobbyist or part-time photographer, and not a full-time photographer and gear reviewer, I would likely have only spent a small fraction of that amount.

For most, renting 2-3 camera bodies and 3-5 lenses in your lifetime is not unreasonable. It should only cost a few hundred dollars at most, and it could save you from regretting spending thousands more on something that isn’t right for you.

Also, obviously, renting is how you get access to an extremely high-dollar lens that you could never afford in the first place, and wouldn’t even want to buy because you only need it for one major job.

Plus, can you even put a price tag on having access to a certain lens or camera that could help you develop your creative style as an artist sooner than later? Having to wait months or years to save up for a new piece of gear could be holding back your creative journey, your growth as an artist, instead of having it available right now.

Okay, that was too melodramatic. I don’t want to sound like I’m shilling exotic lenses. The reality is, if you already have a camera and one or two lenses, you can experiment with almost any type of photography. Where gear might hold you back in one area, creativity can almost always find a way to overcome the obstacles.

Still, in my own growth as an artist, I can remember pivotal moments that helped me take leaps forward, such as buying that first f/1.4 prime for portraiture after owning nothing but f/4-5.6 kit lenses, or buying that first ultra-wide lens after having nothing even remotely wide-angle for my landscape photography. In these cases, getting the new lens truly did “unlock new levels” for my creativity.

I’ve Truly Loved Every Camera And Lens I’ve Ever Bought

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(That crazed look a landscape photographer gets when the light is about to get really good, and you actually got set up on time!)

Indeed, I might have gone a little bit overboard in my quest to try out all the gear ever made, but then again gear reviewing has become my full-time job now, so it’s hard to regret investing in my future.

And, yes, I can honestly say that after ~16 years in digital photography, and owning 12 camera bodies, (I always owned two or three at a time for wedding photography) plus likely two or three dozen lenses, …I don’t regret one single purchase. Actually, a lot of gear was bought used, and only one or two items could be considered “exotic”. I also sell off older gear after upgrading and moving on to something newer.

Rent Before You Buy

The bottom line is this: If you’re shopping for a new camera or lens, there is a ton of advice out there regarding which gear is best for what purpose, but the more advice you read, the more you’ll see almost every lens and camera get recommended for almost every type of photography. In other words, the more “research” you do, the more confused (or misled) you might be.

If you try gear out before you buy it, one way or another, then not only will you know which item actually works well for you, but also, if you compare multiple options, you’ll never have that nagging sense of, “was there a better choice I could have made?” Let me tell you, it feels great to never worry about that!

Local Camera & Lens Rental Shops

I live in Southern California, and I’m highly fortunate to have a very good local rental shop nearby. If you live within an hour of Irvine, CA, then you should know about ProPhoto Connection. I’ve been renting cameras and lenses from them for 15+ years now, and they have always had what I needed. They mainly stock Canon and Nikon DSLR equipment, since that’s the most tried-and-true gear in terms of being indestructible and professionally capable, however, they’re beginning to also rent Sony full-frame mirrorless, too.

Due to COVID-19, ProPhoto had to close for a while, however, they’re open again for film development & purchasing, and their rental shop will be open again shortly.

In general, if you’re looking to try a lens or camera over the course of a weekend, I strongly recommend local rental shops. They usually offer the best one-day prices, since you pick up the gear yourself, (versus having it shipped to you) and in the case of ProPhoto Connection, you can get an entire weekend for the price of one day. (So, check the lens out on Friday afternoon and return it Monday morning, for, say, $25-35 for most pro flagship lenses.)

Simply put, if you’re contemplating a purchase that could be 5-10X that price, why NOT try it out first?

Online Camera & Lens Rental Shops

If you can’t find a local shop, there are a few reliable, reputable online rental shops out there. We do not have a direct affiliation with any of them, however, I personally have the most experience with, and in my overall opinion, their system and inventory is the best. The gear I want is always in stock, and their prices are competitive compared to other online rental shops. You can also check out Borrowlenses; I don’t think I’ve rented with them before,  but my colleagues have had some great experiences there as well.

When I first started renting gear online, I was annoyed that some online rental companies included shipping in the cost of the rental, while others didn’t. LensRentals is one of the companies that charge shipping separately, however, as soon as you receive your first rental, you realize that they don’t mess around. In fact, I doubt even Ace Ventura could harm a camera or lens during “transit”… (Actually, unless he had steel toe boots and the leg of the Six Million Dollar Man, he would probably break his toes or ankle!)

Plus, and this is REALLY cool, companies like LensRentals also sell their gear through after it has been in the rental system for a while. So, you can get a good deal on well-maintained, oft-serviced (used) gear, instead of having the fear of half-broken junk from eBay.

In most cases, you may even be able to apply the cost of your rental towards purchasing the exact gear you rented, through the LensRentals “keeper” program.

[NOTE: is currently doing a “7 days for the price of 3” deal, if your order arrives by July 4th. The promo code is: COOLPOP]

Conclusion | My Camera Gear Shopping Advice To All Photographers

Whether you’re a beginner, a hobbyist, or an aspiring professional, here’s the best advice I can give you: Figure out your photographic style, preferences, and habits before you make any big investments. If you have to go on a Facebook group and ask, “should I buy the 24-70mm f/2.8, or the 70-200mm f/2.8?” …then you should probably NOT just listen to the advice of strangers on the internet, unless you both shoot exactly the same subjects, in the same creative style.

Instead, what you should be doing is “bite the bullet” and spend a few bucks to rent both lenses, see which one suits your needs, and buy that one. Will you spend a little bit more money in the long run? Technically, yes, but it will actually be far LESS money than if you ‘d bought the wrong item.

Then, on the next big photography adventure or job you have, you’ll be able to enjoy the craft of photography even more because you have the perfect camera and lens(es) for the task… Good luck!

Again, leave a comment below if you have your own gear shopping (or rental) success/failure story you’d like to share.