Review of Kingdom Camera Rentals at Walt Disney World

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Daisy Duck MVMCP

If you’re like me, you LOVE to take pictures while on vacation at WDW. I’ve been a professional photographer for several years now, so it just seems natural for me to visit the parks with a camera in hand. I don’t take nearly as many pics as I use to though since we make several trips a year as passholders and you can only have so many pictures of Cinderalla’s before they start to look the same. Because of that, I always make it a point to take on a personal photography project when I make trips so that I can focus on something new or different than the norm. For example, in April I only took night shots. I didn’t even take my camera with me during the day. This was also my first attempt at long exposure shots, so the trip was also a bit educational for me as a photographer as well – who says a trip to the parks can’t be educational?

We returned in December from our latest vacation to WDW and I’m already missing it! Before our trip, I contacted Lenise with Kingdom Camera Rentals to see if I could try out a couple lenses from them. I will preface this review by saying that I was given free rentals of these two lenses in exchange for a review, but that does not influence my honest feedback on the experience or equipment in any way. Being a professional, I’ve only rented equipment from companies that only work with professional photographers, so it’s nice to know that there are other companies out there, like Kingdom Camera Rentals that will rent expensive camera equipment to everyone, regardless of skill level.

So how does it work?

The process to rent from Kingdom Camera is pretty simple – you can either go online, select the equipment you want and place your order, or you can give them a call. The staff seems pretty knowledgeable on the equipment they have and can answer the questions you may have for them – and if they don’t know the answer, they will find out for you. Once you order, you’ll receive a confirmation email. They also arrange a drop off time so that you can meet with a Kingdom Camera representative at a mutually agreed-upon time the day you’re scheduled to start your rental period. I received a call from Ron a few days before our trip to schedule a time for the equipment drop-off. During busy seasons, be sure to get your rental order in ASAP, else you may end up like me and have to wait a day (or longer) before the equipment you want becomes available. They do have a scheduling calendar online that shows if the equipment is available for the days you’re looking for. But keep trying back if the one you want isn’t available, as people do change plans. I met Lenise at my resort hotel lobby bright and early the day after we arrived – I picked this time since we were headed to the parks for rope drop, so don’t think you have to meet at 8AM like me. She came in with a smile, we sat down on a bench and looked the equipment over to make sure it was okay, went through basic rules and I signed saying I had received the equipment. We did the same thing when she picked the equipment up from me a week later, a pretty simple and fast process. I received a confirmation email both times when I signed for the equipment and when I returned the equipment. Be sure to make note of your pick-up and drop-off times though. I forgot to write down my time of 8AM the day we picked the equipment up and went down to the lobby at 7:30AM, the original time I had in an email. It was totally my fault, but they were there early, so I didn’t have to wait until 8AM!

Kingdom Camera has several different options and packages for those who are looking to rent equipment for their upcoming vacation. You can choose between Canon or Nikon equipment, so go with what you’re familiar with. And if you’re not familiar with the equipment, just rent Canon equipment – my personal preference and expertise. Package levels for week-long rentals are: Fun, Adventure and Enthusiast – prices start at $120 for the Fun package and go up to $224 for the Enthusiast Package. All packages come with a camera body, a lens, memory card and a camera bag. Take it from me, that’s a great price for a week of equipment rental! I pay over $100 nearly every time for just 3 days of rental for one lens when I need it for a wedding or other event. Of course, if you don’t need the entire package, you can rent all of these items a la carte.

Since I do this for a living, I already had an impressive lineup of equipment with me, so I brought both my camera bodies (including a full frame Canon 5D Mark II and a crop sensor Canon T2i) and my go-to walk-around lens, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. Kingdom Camera only has one full-frame Canon body at the time of this review, the 7D, which is a mid-level camera body and should only be used by those who are really comfortable with shooting in manual mode in order to get the most out of the camera. This is also the only camera body that you can rent a la carte, but that’s understandable and expected since most people who rent are probably not professionals and only need the basics. For those who are entry-level, you will need to select a package deal.

What lens should I rent?

As noted earlier, I brought my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens with me – Kingdom Camera also has this lens available to rent and I highly recommend it. It’s been my go-to lens for a couple years now and still performs well on crop sensor bodies (i.e. the cameras in the first two packages). The f/2.8 means that it performs well in low light, so while it may not be the best in dark rides, it’s great for getting the not-so-dark pictures at night. Be sure to read my previous article on night photography tips. If you’re comfortable shooting in manual mode, this is a great lens for you since you can maintain the right levels of exposure and shutter speed while getting a sharp picture. I haven’t shot in auto mode in 3 years now, so I can’t speak to how well it performs on auto or if it will select f/2.8 or other proper settings for you at night.

Madame Leota Haunted Mansion

While I love my 24-70mm lens, my absolute new favorite lens is the 50mm f/1.2 prime lens that I rented from Kingdom Camera. In my previous article, I mentioned that you really need a lens that can get down to f/1.2 to really capture scenes on dark rides. Even my 24-70mm f/2.8 doesn’t always cut it on dark rides, so I was amazed at the clarity and abilities of the 50mm lens – the above pic was taken while riding Haunted Mansion and using the 50mm f1.2 lens! I have a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and I hate it – the autofocus is horrible, but there’s a reason why that lens is only $100 and the 50mm f/1.2 you can rent from Kingdom Camera is a $1600 lens…the quality is undeniable. The picture at the top of this post was taken during the MVMCP parade one night. Pretty awesome clarity and lighting huh? As most photographers will tell you though, pictures don’t always look  spectacular straight out of the camera (SOOC), but all I did was up the exposure a tad bit in Lightroom and I was done with editing the pictures here. These same shots would have taken some more editing if I had used the 24-70mm lens. I will say that the autofocus on this 50mm lens isn’t the best when you’re travelling laterally in dark rides (i.e. Little Mermaid or Nemo type rides), but that’s to be expected with lateral movement. The 50mm lens is a prime lens (meaning you can’t zoom in or out) and in true prime fashion, it has a shallow depth of field, allowing you to get that nice bokeh and blurred background. This is definitely on my wish list of lenses to purchase next!

Jennifer Hollar Photography - Candlelight Processional Fisheye

The other lens I rented from Kingdom Camera was the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye. Being that it’s f/4, it’s not a good lens for night photography unless you really want a lot of ‘noise’ in your picture from turning up the ISO. I honestly only used this lens one day before deciding it wasn’t what I needed. Plus, I didn’t want to have 2 camera bodies and 3 lenses in a bag, so I stuck with my two favorite lenses on the camera bodies. The shot above was taken at the Candlelight Processional with the fisheye (it’s a pretty bad photo by my standards, but it’s posted for an example of what a photo would look like when using this lens). It’s a neat lens for sure and you can get real creative with it, but keep in mind that if you have anyone standing to your left or right, they WILL be in the picture if you don’t hold it out far enough from your body. The fisheye will also only get the complete round effect if you’re using your own full-frame camera body or renting the Canon 7D (or Nikon equivalent). You won’t get the rounded effect if you use a crop sensor body, but it’ll still have some of the typical fisheye distortion, just not as drastic. I would recommend renting the Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye instead since it’ll perform better at night – lesson learned for me!

All the lenses I used were Canon L lenses, meaning they are HEAVY and made with glass/metal parts. That’s why they’re much more expensive to buy and are more sought-after since they outperform the plastic standard lenses any day. But if you’re looking for a lightweight lens, I suggest you stay away from any you see on the Canon part of the Kingdom Camera page that has a red ring around the lens (that denotes it as an L lens).

If you’re looking for a great Animal Kingdom lens to get those close-ups of animals, I recommend the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DO IS Zoom or Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Zoom – I own the latter version that is a bit larger in size. These two lenses are great for those close-ups and for getting action shots. If you’re really feeling adventurous and have a good back and arm strength, I recommend the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom lens. This lens feels like you’re carrying around a bag of bricks, but it is seriously one awesome lens. I decided not to rent it for this trip, simply because I know how heavy it is. I rented the II version of this lens for a wedding recently and it takes the sharpest photos and is phenomenal in low-light, but after carrying it around for 8 hours, your back and shoulders will start to feel it…if that doesn’t intimidate you, then by all means, go for the better lens and rent the 70-200mm version and not the other 70-300mm versions (which do not perform well in low-light).

What about memory cards?

Another neat thing is that Kingdom Camera does rent or sell memory cards for you to use with the camera rental. The only thing is that you have to get your pictures off the memory card BEFORE you return the equipment if you’re renting, but they provide memory card readers to do this. I don’t always travel with a laptop, so that wouldn’t be a viable option for me. To make it easier though, just buy some memory cards before your trip. I recommend Transcend brand Class 10 memory cards. I’ve used them for years with no problems whatsoever and they cost way less than popular brands like SanDisk. For my Canon T2i, I use the 16GB memory cards, which holds about 600 RAW files (if you shoot in JPG, then of course you’ll get twice as many). For my 5D Mark II full-frame camera, it will only work with CF cards. I use 32GB cards for that camera and it will hold about 1000 RAW photos. Which brings me to an important point – make sure your camera is set to shoot in JPEG format IF you do not have photo editing software that can open RAW files (software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or Apple Aperture). The advantage of RAW files is that it retains more of the photo information so that you have more control over editing. But if you’re just taking photos of your family vacation and will not be editing them, then just shoot in JPEG. These settings can be found under the menu options on the camera.

As I’ll say time and time again though, camera equipment does not make your photos great, it can help, yes, but photography excellence is really an art and a skill that not everyone possesses and it takes A LOT of practice and effort to pull off those gorgeous shots of different Disney sites that we all adore. Those flawless looking shots take photographers 20 minutes to an hour to edit most of the time, time I simply don’t have since I’m not a dedicated Disney photographer. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take photos like the ones I took above with the right settings on your camera and a good lens to help catch everything in action (and maybe just a little editing once you get home). If you just want better pictures than your digital camera can take or if you’re like me and do photography on a professional level, Kingdom Camera is sure to have the equipment you want and need for your upcoming trip at reasonable prices that will not put a serious dent in your vacation budget! Visit their website at kingdomcamerarentals.com to view all the available options and to schedule your camera equipment rental today!

For more photos from my trip, be sure to visit my Facebook page and website – I’ll be posting them soon!

Review of Kingdom Camera Rentals at Walt Disney World 1

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