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I'm in the process of trying to put together a sort of "lending library" of cameras and other photography equipment. The basic functionality is: one of you wants to test out a piece of gear, but can't afford or don't want to buy it. However, you can rent it from some existing online rental company (located in your country), and Stack Exchange will reimburse the cost of the rental in exchange for you either writing a blog post for the (lonely!) Photo Blog Overflow (gear review type of post, most likely) or asking a certain number of questions. These questions can be either directly about the gear you rent, or about photographic techniques your try out with that gear.

This process is not fully formed yet; there are a lot of logistical elements I need to figure out, especially in order to make this work for this very international community. I will probably launch a pilot program limited to the US and UK, where I've been able to locate reasonably priced online rental companies and where we have a pretty high concentration of users. If that works, we can expand it to other countries based on interest and feasibility.

Before I launch anything, I'd like your feedback, comments, concerns, and suggestions.

Specifically:

  • Are you at all interested in this type of program? (i.e., are you willing to commit to a certain, pre-determined amount of activity/content generation in exchange for reimbursed rental gear?)
  • Since we can't just send checks to people outside the US to reimburse you, do you guys have access to and are willing to use PayPal or Amazon Payments? Or do you have some other method that we can investigate?
  • Do you have a favorite website that does photography gear rentals? If you have suggestions, particularly if you're outside the US and UK, make sure you leave the link to the website and let me know which country (or countries) it serves.

I would love to hear any other thoughts you have, so please don't feel you need to limit your responses to the questions listed above.

Eligibility for this program will likely be based on some minimum threshold of on-site activity (and like I said, will probably be tested in the US only or the US/UK to begin with). I will be contacting the selected users about this via the email address you used to sign up, so if you'd like to participate, please be sure that the email address associated with your account is a valid one. I will post a full list of criteria, eligibility requirements, conditions, and restrictions when the program is fully formed and ready to launch.

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    Hey, 3 of the top 6 site reps are Canadian, don't leave us in the snowy cold! I would have said 2 of 5, but I'm number 6... ;) – John Cavan Feb 26 '12 at 22:17
  • @JohnCavan Certainly! I won't forget you. The point is that the first round (or few) will be small in scope so we can hash out the details. But I'll be sure to include Canada. – Laura Feb 27 '12 at 18:22
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That's a very generous offer!

I'm outside the US/UK, but would certainly love to rent an exotic Nikon lens and give it a workout and write up the results or answer questions about it.

One thing I've seen on other sites is someone offers up an old lens that doesn't get the use they feel it should. People who are interested in using it sign up. He sends it to the first person in the list, they use it for a week or two, post some images up, and then send it at their expense to the next person. Not sure if that's appropriate for SE, but you end up with a lot of people getting use of the equipment, get to see lots of results using it, and cost is minimual (each person's cost shipping it to the next person in the list).

If there's a way you could spread the cost out, so it's not just one person benefitting (maybe others in the geographic location could meet up at a zoo or somewhere to all have a play)

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    I love the idea of doing photo meetups; I strongly encourage everyone to try that. I know there are a bunch of regular users who live in smaller or more remote cities who may not be able to find other SE users nearby, but it's worth a shot, particularly for people in large cities. If you all want to try a community lending program of your own personal gear, that's fine, but you'll want to keep in mind that shipping, tracking and insuring the package can get really expensive. Cheaper than buying gear, but still expensive. :) – Laura Feb 21 '12 at 21:11
  • If anyone wants to try a local photo.SE meetup, you can use meetup.com - they have a very large network, make it easy to organize events, and could help get exposure to other, non-SE photographers. – Laura Feb 21 '12 at 21:56
  • We use meetup.com to organise local events here. How would we publicise it to photo.SE members though, a post here on meta? – MikeW Feb 21 '12 at 22:36
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    You could post on meta, make a community ad, drop by the chatroom...any combination of those should help. There may be additional avenues in the future, so stay tuned. :) – Laura Feb 22 '12 at 0:28
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For Canada, Lens Rental Canada is cheap and has plenty of lenses to lend.

Plenty of stores here also rent gear, including lenses, but all types of gear including lighting equipment and camera bodies. These include reputable stores but they are less internet connected for their rental system. Not sure if that is an issue for your plans.

Note that I suggest you define what you are willing to put in. Doing gear reviews is an intensive task (Do it all the time) but it takes weeks and I could not afford rentals for long enough for a review period.

  • Don't forget HeadShots/Henry's ( headshotsrentals.com ) and Vistek ( vistek.ca ). I can spit at the main location for both from my home and only fall a few feet short, but they're both long-standing online renters (with some shipping restrictions on oversized and/or fragile gear, of course, which would need to be picked up and dropped off). That said, I'm a dementia-afflicted disability pensioner who needs a trustee to make sure I pay my rent and remember to buy food, so my equipment rental days are pretty much done. – user2719 Mar 2 '12 at 8:31

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