If you are a new client, please check out our reviews on yelp! and read our Welcome Guide. To arrange your rental, contact 215-821-7161 or PhillyLensLibrary@gmail.com for an appointment.

What is the Philly Lens Library?

The PLL is a bunch of lenses and cameras in my office, in University City/West Philly neighborhood of Philadelphia, available for rent to other photographers.

It not a library, in the sense of lots of books on shelves, and people who say “shhhh!”.

Where are you located?

We are located at the Cedar Works building, at 4919 Pentridge Street, Philadelphia PA 19143. We are approximately a five minute drive from the University of Pennsylvania, 15 minutes from downtown Philadelphia, and 20 minutes from either the Ben Franklin or Walt Whitman bridges.

What is the Canon L series?

The L series is Canon’s high-end/luxury lens line, designed for serious photographers and imaging professionals. The L series are easily recognizable by the bright red ring on the front element.

What’s the big deal about the L lenses?

First – L lenses are made with very high quality glass, so the images they produce are very sharp, with excellent color, contrast and bokeh (bokeh is the creamy out of focus areas of an image).

The images that result look great right out of camera, and require very few tweaks in post.

Second, they they are fast lenses (both in terms of optics and focusing speed) and can do the job in nearly every situation. Most of the L zooms are 2.8, and nearly all of the primes are 2.8 or faster. The midrange primes (24mm to 85mm) are all 1.4 or better.

They gobble up light and can focus quickly and quietly, so you shoot in conditions where other lenses would be useless.

Third, they feature a very high build quality. These lenses are built like tanks and can stand up to professional level use. The downside to this is that they tend to be heavier and larger than consumer lenses. The upside to this is that if you can use them as a hammer and do carpentry work.

Fourth, they are expensive. The basic L primes (85mm, 50mm or 35mm, depending on what you prefer) will run you well over $1000.

Fifth, they just look cool. If you are bored with your life, have money to burn, and are tired of you million-dollar home and triple garage, the L series will quench the ennui for a bit.

Are the L series lenses that much better than the Canon consumer lenses or the third party lenses (Tokina, Tamron, Sigma, etc.)?

If you have to ask, then you probably haven’t ever tried one. The short answer – yes. There is a reason why nearly every professional photographer who shoots with Canon uses the L series lenses, and not the Tokina, Tamron, or Sigma version.

There are so many lenses, and I don’t know which one is best for my needs. Can you provide a few recommendations?

Certainly. See this page.

How do I  rent a lens?

To rent a lens, you pick up in person and sign a rental agreement. I will keep your driver’s license and credit card information on file. No deposit or hold is placed on the card. The  information is kept on file until you return the lens – just like any other rental house. The rental fees are payable in credit card, cash or business check. No personal checks are accepted.

Why not just rent a lens from a regular camera store?

1) Inconvenient pickup and dropoff hours.

2) The staff probably doesn’t know very much about the lens and probably won’t be able to offer detailed comparisons between lenses (eg. the 16-35 Mark 1 or a 24mm 1.4?).

3) Poor selection. Unless you go to New York City, you probably aren’t going to find a physical rental house that can match the selection of Canon lenses that the Philadelphia Lens Library offers.

4) You probably won’t save much  money.

5) You might waste your time. According to my customers, two established camera stores in Philadelphia tell people to go to the Philadelphia Lens Library anyway.

Why don’t you have any of the cheaper lenses, like the 35mm 2.8 or the 18-55mm EF-S?

They aren’t useful for professional images, and they are much easier to find. Your friends probably have them.

Why don’t you have lenses by other manufacturers, like Sigma or Tamron?

For the same reason that I don’t have the Canon cheapie lenses. Off-brand lenses offer a fairly good value (often close to half of the cost of their equivalent by Canon or Nikon) but when image quality matters the most, most pros I know reach for the expensive stuff, because it is worth it.

Do you ship any rentals?

Most rentals over $250 can be shipped. Some of the large supertelephotos cannot be shipped.

I want to do what you do. Do you offer lessons, training or consultations for projects?

I do consultations, on a limited basis. Read more.

If you mean that your dream in life is to run a little lens rental business on the side, please get bigger dreams.

What’s the one piece of free advice that you have for someone who wants to have a career in photography?

Don’t take free advice from someone unless they make at least three times as much as you do each year. This is not a joke. Talk is cheap. If you want to be successful, don’t get advice from people who aren’t successful at what they do.

Number two: Spend 10% of your time asking really good questions, and then close your mouth and take careful notes. Notice that this means you do 90% of the listening.

Any other pieces of free advice?


Get a mentor who is older and wiser than you  Buy them lunch a few times a year, and as I said above, make sure that they do 90% of the talking.

Learn how to backup your images before your first hard drive fails. It will fail, I promise you. It’s a matter of if, not when.

Spend some time learning about business structures and taxes before you start.

I’m a starving artist/photo student and I have a really quick question about lenses or cameras or photography. Can you help me?

If you email me, I will try to be helpful. The worst thing is that I might say no. I got a lot of free help when I was starting out, and I’m usually inclined to pay it forward when I can. I think that most photographers should try to help people starting out.

Do you have any relationship with Canon?

No, absolutely none. This site has nothing to do with Canon.

Who are you?

I’m a full time professional photographer. I earn 98% of my annual income from photography. Most of that is from weddings. The rest is editorial, architectural and a potpourri of other clients.

Can I see some of your work?

Yes. Contact me.