Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Lens Pro To Go

Me and the 200-400VRII
Me and the Nikon 200-400 VRII. Photo by James Wong.
Today’s post is really photog-specific (shocking for a photography blog, I know). It’s about my recent experience with the online lens-rental service Lens Pro To Go. Any “normals” that are luckless enough to stumble upon this posting are urged to look elsewhere. For Brothers & Sisters of the faith, there’s more after the jump…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been shooting a lot for our city’s new Arena Football team the Pittsburgh Power. Recently I’ve had to shoot several actual games; and this is relatively uncharted territory for me. Initially, I thought I could get away with my 80-200/2.8. In the AFL, the field is only 50 yards long; and while (like hockey) there is a wall surrounding the field, I’d be shooting from the end zones and whatever passes for the sidelines.

But after I got back from my first game it was clear that the 80-200 just wasn’t gonna cut it. It’s a fine piece of glass, no doubt about that; and it’s always been a workhorse for me. But after looking at my pictures it was evident that I needed something with a lot more reach.

Somewhere in my travels of the interweb photosphere I had come across the name Lens Pro To Go (Strobist? Arias? I can’t remember and despite searching can’t find my original point of demarcation). Doesn’t matter…. I knew that such a name existed and Google did the rest.

One look will show you that their web site is pretty much a breeze to navigate. Canon/Nikon, pick one. What (general) kind of lens do you need? Here it is, and here is the rate. It couldn’t have been easer.

However, this being my first time dealing with them (or any lens rental really), I wanted to skip the impersonal online experience in favor of something more…. Well, more. Note: unlike a lot of sites that bury their phone number deep in the subterranean tree of a “contact us” tab, LPTG has their number in a giant font and at the top of every page. Well done.

I think the phone rang twice. Then the strangest thing happened. A person… a real, honest to goodness human answered. He even had a name (Paul). When I explained that I was interested in renting a lens – and had never rented from them before – the immediate answer was “Sure. I can help you with that.”

I already knew what piece of glass I wanted – the Nikon 200-400 VRII. Paul simply could not have been more helpful… he was able to immediately verify that they did, in fact, have it available – and answered all my questions about the rental process.

In less than 15 minutes everything was set. I needed the lens over a weekend, one week away. Paul gave me the exact date the lens would ship, when it would arrive, and when I had to ship it back. Important note: All the prices on the web site include the price of shipping EXCEPT for the super telephotos. Makes sense; bigger, heaver glass, more costly shipping.

I also opted for the “lens insurance”. An extra $25 bucks. It doesn’t cover loss or theft (in which case you on the hook for the full depreciated price of the lens); if the lens is damaged, you pay 10% of the depreciated price. In this case the depreciated price was $7000.00, which meant that (had I damaged it) I would have had to pony up $700.00. It’s not the best protection I could imagine, but it beats the alternative.

On the shipping day I got a call (again, from a actual person!) confirming my shipping address. Less than an hour later I received an email with a tracking number. Pretty darn through.

Two days later, exactly on time, it arrived. The lens (all seven and a half pounds of it) was extremely well packed. Upon examining it, it was clear that this was a used lens – but also a well cared for one. No scratches on the front or rear, no sign of fungi. A few marks and scuffs on the outside, but absolutely nothing that gave me pause. If’n I had to, I would have rated it 8 out of 10.

Used the lens for four days (and, sadly, because of bad weather here not nearly as much as I would have liked too). When I was done I packed it back up in the original box, slapped on the pre-printed return label, and sent it home.

The verdict on LensProToGo: excellent. I absolutely would not hesitate to rent from them again. Their prices are very reasonable – and for that price I got excellent service that delivered exactly what was promised. If I could suggest anything; it would be a slightly more encompassing protection program for lens insurance; even if it meant paying a premium.

But overall, if you need a specific (and otherwise expensive) piece of glass for a specific job, I can’t recommend these guys highly enough.

End of line.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    big lenses amazing
    thank you :)