Let’s face it: modern camera equipment can get expensive. All of this highly sophisticated gear sells for hundreds and even thousands of dollars a piece, and as a result it’s become a wise move to rent before you purchase to make sure you’re comfortable with your choice. Fujifilm, already well known for their ability to listen to their users, now offers the Fuji Pro Rental Service that allows you to rent lenses, and even camera bodies, before you slide that credit card for the full amount. I took the service for a spin and wanted to share my thoughts on the experience with you. Stay tuned at the end of the review for a special Q&A with Dan Scarola at Fujifilm about the program and what we might expect from Fuji in the future.
PLACING THE ORDER
To set up your rental, you’ll first want to check out what’s available to rent, the cost of the items and get more established on how the whole process works. The key links to get your Fuji rental set up are:
Visit the Fuji Pro Rental Service Website
Download and review the Price Lists for Fuji Lenses and Camera Bodies
Read over the FAQs
- This FAQ will go over key topics ranging from payment methods to shipping information. I highly recommend reading through this entire document to get up to speed quickly with the program.
Once you’re more familiar with the program and have settled on what you want to rent, you’ll need to decide on a timeframe for your rental and when you’d like to receive your order. Fuji offers 3 Day, 7 Day, 14 Day and 28 Day rentals but can work with you on extensions and custom rental periods.
For my go-around, I chose to select the 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens. This coveted addition to the X-Series line of zooms is normally priced at $1600 USD and is currently on sale for $1400 USD. I don’t normally shoot anything that regularly requires zooms, but with a recent trip coming up that might benefit from having one I wanted to get my hands on it just to give it a shot.
When you decide on what you want to rent and when you want the rental period to begin, you can either call Fujifilm at 1-800-800-3854 (Option 3) or email email@example.com and they’ll get your order started.
RECEIVING THE RENTAL
I set my order up on a Friday morning and had the 50-140mm lens in my hands the following Monday morning. You just can’t beat that. I almost didn’t even realize the package was the lens until I read the shipping label. I couldn’t believe it had arrived so quickly.
It arrived in a plain brown box which I appreciated. No reason to announce the fact that expensive camera gear is inside. A prepaid FedEx Ground return label awaited me inside as well as a smaller white box inside a sea of foam peanuts.
UPDATE: 12/10, 9:00PM CST: The packaging that Fujifilm sent me for the purpose of this review was apparently outside of their normal rental system. They've forwarded pictures of their much more thorough packaging methods for rentals. I've placed those images just after the pictures of the package I received below.
Inside of the outer box was the lens itself, also once again packaged neatly in bubble wrap and a another plastic protector. After all of the packaging and wrapping was removed, I finally had the lens in hand.
It was spotless. Gorgeous. For a rental unit it seemed untouched. Fujifilm claims to clean and re-calibrate every returned order after it’s received, and I fully believe it. The lens caps, hood and tripod collar were all with the lens as well as a carrying case and the lens manual. I’ll be doing a full write up on my experiences with the 50-140mm in the days ahead. When it comes to receiving your rental from Fuji in good condition, you absolutely won’t be disappointed!
One more note, just in case you’re new to renting photography gear: do not throw away any of this packaging. You’ll need to re-package the equipment exactly as it arrived and affix that FedEx Ground label to the outside of the box for its return journey back to Fujifilm.
UPDATE: 12/10, 9:00PM CST: The pictures above were from the package sent for my review of the service and the lens. Fujifilm has shared the following images of what the official packaging looks like for their rentals. Note the molded foam core and the zip tie / velcro combination to secure the shipment. If you rent from Fuji, this is what you should expect. Bottom line: same great service, much better packaging!
DURING THE RENTAL PERIOD
Enjoy the fact that you’re getting a chance to test out a lens or camera for a fraction of the price that it would cost to own. Now is the time to put it through its paces and enjoy it!
I really liked being able to compare the 50-140mm to my one and only zoom lens, the XC 50-230mm. They’re opposites in more ways than one (many ways in fact), but it was enjoyable to compare them under a variety of different shooting conditions. I’ll write more on that comparison in a later blog post.
Should you be coming up to the end of your rental period and need to make an extension, feel free to contact Fuji and, if possible, they’ll do what they can to make arrangements for you.
RETURNING THE RENTAL
You kept all of that packaging, correct? Good, because now it’s just a simple matter of repacking the equipment back the way it arrived. I took a little extra time here to make sure it was packaged as neatly and carefully as it could be. As noted above, Fujifilm will clean and re-calibrate the lens for the next renter, but there’s no harm in making sure it’s packed well so that it arrives safely and ready for a quick turn-around.
I then attached the FedEx Ground label over the original label and removed any other original shipment stickers from the outside of the box. From here you can drop it off at a FedEx drop-off point or schedule a free FedEx Ground pickup, but be forewarned: if you’re up against your rental deadline the FedEx Ground pickup scheduling system requires at least 24 hours notice. Plan accordingly and pre-schedule when possible so your return package is ready to go out the day you intend it to and not the day after you’re meant to return it.
Renting photography gear online isn’t a new business. Companies like BorrowLenses and LensRentals are well established and I’m sure Fujifilm knew that when they created the Pro Rental Service. Still, it’s nice to see Fuji offering an “in-house” solution.
Two main factors in this type of business model are product availability and pricing. The Fuji Pro Rental Service will probably always be able to source the Fuji gear you’re looking for because I can only assume they have a solid link to their own supplies. However, when it comes to pricing the Fuji Pro Rental Service has a little catching up to do.
The chart below is a regular price comparison between the Fuji Pro Rental Service, BorrowLenses and LensRentals as of late November (not including shipping or taxes). I mention regular price because right now, and running until January 1st of this year, Fujifilm is offering a fantastic deal on their lens and camera body rentals. More on that in a second.
Regular pricing, green cell indicates the lowest price:
The Fuji Pro Rental Service is close on 3 Day and 7 Day rentals, but it seems to be more expensive on the longer rental periods.
Also of note: look at how BorrowLenses is only $1 USD under LensRentals on all but 28 Day rentals. LensRentals publishes 3, 7 and 14 Day rentals publicly on their site and someone (or some program) at BorrowLenses is looking at that and undercutting by only $1. 28 Day rentals at LensRentals are not published on their site and have to be keyed in manually, and that may be why the normally lower priced (undercutting) BorrowLenses doesn’t appear to beat them. Interesting.
But at least for the time being there’s an even more interesting pricing structure in effect thanks to the Fuji Pro Rental Service Holiday Sale which continues all through December:
Given the data from the sale noted above and applying it to the same chart as before, here’s how the pricing plays out:
Holiday pricing, green cell indicates the lowest price:
That’s a lot more green cells for the Fuji Pro Rental Service, and that means that now is the perfect time to get a longer rental on the gear you want to check out over the holidays.
CONCLUSIONS: FUJI PRO RENTAL SERVICE
- Fast turnaround / shipping times.
- Plenty of Fuji gear in stock.
- Items arrive in immaculate condition.
- Current Holiday Promotion pricing is unbeatable.
- Great way to test out gear without paying full price.
- Perfect for photographers who only need certain gear for short term work or assignments and don’t want to invest in the full kit.
- Also a great solution for photographers who need to continue to work while getting their main kit serviced or repaired.
- A website-driven ordering system might be more convenient than placing a phone call or formulating an email request.
- Holiday Promotion pricing aside, the regular pricing of rentals should be closer to businesses that offer similar services.
The Fuji Pro Rental Service is another perfect example of how Fuji interacts one-on-one with their customers. It’s a great solution for any Fuji shooter who wants to be able to test the latest and greatest gear without paying full price. When it comes down to reviewing a service like this, I'm mainly asking myself two questions: is the service reliable and does it deliver what it advertises? When renting from Fuji the answer to both is a resounding yes.
I had a very satisfying experience renting from Fuji, and I can wholeheartedly recommend them. Have a look at what they offer, and if the price is right, give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.
Q&A WITH DAN SCAROLA OF FUJIFILM
I recently sent a few questions to Dan Scarola, National Manager for Fujifilm North America Service and Support, about how the Fuji Pro Rental Service came about and how he sees it evolving from here. My thanks to Dan and Fujifilm for giving us the answers below.
RZ : Can you introduce yourself and tell us how the Fuji Pro Rental Service came about?
DS: My name is Dan Scarola, I am the National Manger for Fujifilm North America Service & Support.
As our product lineup became more high end, we realized we needed to offer more opportunities for customers to test our cameras and lenses, so that they can convince themselves to invest. Also, we wanted to enhance the level of service by offering photographers a choice to rent their familiar camera or lenses while their gear was in for repair or maintenance.
RZ : When comparing prices before promotions, the Fuji Pro Rental Service appears to be slightly more expensive in some cases when compared to businesses like BorrowLenses and LensRentals. Are these companies competitors, and if so, what additional incentives would someone have when renting equipment from the Fuji Pro Rental Service as opposed to those companies?
DS: We do not regard them as our direct competition, which is why our pricing structure is slightly different.
Since we solely service our own gears, we can say that each item is checked to factory specs before it leaves our office, a service which is only possible from the original camera manufacturer.
RZ: The Fuji Pro Rental Service pricing PDFs that are online mention that prices can change at any time. There's an amazing promotion going on at the moment, but are there any plans to bring the regular pricing even more in line with competitors when that promotion is over?
DS: Currently, we have no plan to change the regular pricing.
RZ: Switching gears, on average how many lenses and cameras are rented through the Fuji Pro Rental Service?
DS: The response has been very positive from our customers.
RZ: Will recent releases like the 90mm f/2 and the 35mm f/2 eventually be available for rent? How long does it usually take for newer bodies and lenses to become available for rent after official sales begin?
DS: They will be available, however the timing is dependent on each product's availability.
RZ: How do you see the Fuji Pro Rental Service evolving? What other programs does Fuji currently offer besides the Rental Service and what would you like to see Fuji roll out for their customers in the future?
DS: At some exhibitions such as PhotoPlus Expo in October, we offered free loaner gear for the attendees. We will continue to make improvements to the program and offer Rental services in many different ways. We are also seeking ways to increase customers' satisfaction with other value added services besides the Rental service. We hope to be able to share more on this in the near future.
RZ: Perhaps the biggest question on everyone's mind is: are there any current plans to introduce this service to other parts of the world in the near future?
DS: We’ve already introduced the Rental service in some countries, Japan for example. Some countries collaborate with local dealers to offer a similar service to achieve wider reach. The approach may be different by country, but we are working on it. Our goal is to offer as many opportunities as possible for customers to try our gear.