Lenses For Hire

By just about anyone's standard, we have a good selection of lenses but there is always something else that we want, so in the last few weeks, we have been trying out lens rental at Lenses For Hire

First up was the 200mm f1.8 that we hired for Karen and Greg's wedding. Compared to anything else we shoot, this lens is a monster. The lens is 13cm in diameter. Standard drainpipe is only 11cm. It weighs 3kg. It comes with a hood big enough to plant an amaryllis in. The front element is the size of a side-plate and lets in so much light that the usual compromises between film sensitivity and shutter speed just melt away. But the big bonus is the gloriously shallow depth of field.

Here is Greg, playing golf on the morning of his wedding. Clearly, at 200mm focal length, I'm standing maybe 20m behind him to frame the shot, but with him in focus, the fairway is still gloriously soft, conveying the feeling of a perfect drive into the distance on that lovely dewey morning.

Later in the day, this candid shows the superb ability of the 200 to isolate the subject. The person standing just a pace in front is so soft that she is almost indistinguishable, whilst the subject is aggressively crisp. The 200 delivers so much contrast that I have toned it down (reducing the exposure then increasing fill-light in post-processing) to avoid being too harsh on her skin.

The second lens we rented was a tilt-and-shift. Traditionaly, this is used to correct leaning verticals on architectural shots. I don't have side-by-side comparisons, but here are some shots that show leaning verticals:

And here are some shots where I used the tilt-and-shift to help to correct the lean:

But the fun trick with the tilt-and-shift is an optical illusion. When the lens is wide open and tilted, you get a very narrow depth of field. This plays a trick on the brain, which associates the thin DoF as being an image of a model rather than an image of real life. Picking a subject which consists of items that might reasonably be modeled and a viewpoint from above helps to re-inforce the effect. It can be difficult to persuade people that the diggers arn't simply highly-detailed models and that the white dusting isn't icing sugar...

The rental route is rather tempting. They are local and the contract is very fair - delivery or collection the day before you need it and return the day after. The tilt-and-shift was under 60 quid for the full 10-day tour of Europe - a reasonable price for full hands-on time to get the hang of this tricky bit of kit in a real-life situation. The 200mm monster was a ton for the weekend, again an excellent opportunity to use one of the best lenses ever made for a special occasion without breaking the bank.

But then there is the other side. The Tilt-and-shift will remain rental-only but now we're saving up for the modern equivalent of the 200mm 1.8, the 200mm 2.0 with image stabilisation and a frightening price-tag...