It’s the eternal question: is it better to buy the motion picture equipment you need or rent it on a production-by-production basis? In most cases, the answer’s pretty straightforward: renting is the way to go. Why? Simple:
Even Owned Film Equipment Comes at a Cost
When you own your own equipment, you have to maintain it. And if it breaks down on set, there’s no rental house on standby who will provide you with a replacement.
Most importantly, not all cameras, lights, and other tools of the trade are created equal. Entry-level cameras are quickly obsolete and, while it can be fun to own one, keep in mind that you have to buy more than the body itself. There are lenses and other accessories such as batteries, media, lenses support, cases, and a bunch of other accessories that add a hefty amount sometimes equal to the piece of gear it supports to your purchase.
Finally, depending on how much gear you invest in, you’ll need a place to store it, and you’ll have travel-related expenses when transporting it as well as insurance costs that include minimum premiums with high deductibles and exclusions that you pay for such as unattended auto that costs extra to cover gear left in cars.
Yes, the tax man wants a piece of your gear also. You will need to pay a tax on tangible property for which film and television gear fall under. This adds to your accounting costs from your CPA at the end of the year. No IRS EZ tax returns for you.
Should you ever buy camera equipment new?
Maybe, especially if you’ll:
- Use the gear so frequently within 2 years that buying is more cost-effective than renting. Remember after it is paid for in rentals, that’s just a break even, you only make money on gear when you exceed the purchase price and all the other costs associated with the ownership!
- Make it a big part of your business model. Many DP’s, for instance, invest in cameras and lighting kits and rent them out independently of their own services. I’ve seen many a DP get into the gear rental business to only, after a few years, sell it all because of the significant hassle owning equipment can become if you don’t have the time, patience and effort to make the investment a success.
- Still get great value out of it, even if the technology is updated. For example, the 5D Mark II always delivers a look that filmmakers love. Additionally, for passion projects, older gear is often more than adequate and can be bought at .40 cents on the dollar from the original retail price. Putting on a show for your customer with the latest rented gear is a valid tactic.
Otherwise, here are three more good reasons to choose motion picture equipment rental instead of buying photo, video, and film gear.
Try Before You Buy
Rental houses tend to have the most popular and relevant gear available to rent. It’s a great way to give a piece of equipment a test drive before spending your cash – and then trying to sell it if you find it’s not what you hoped for. And you can practice improving your shooting skills without investing in expensive gear.
Whether you’re shooting low budget music videos or high-end features, you can still get the best quality equipment by renting. And if you shoot a bunch of different genres, you may only need to use a piece of equipment a few times throughout a year or two. Spending $3,000 to $5,000 a year is a lot more cost-effective than laying out tens of thousands for something you won’t use every day.
Are you just starting out? Congrats! Renting film equipment instead of buying it can lessen the burden on your cash flow. If you’re new to production, it pays to be thrifty with your costs until you’ve established yourself and landed a roster of clients. Why lay out vast sums of money on the latest and greatest gear? Besides, your clients won’t care about what equipment you use as much as they will about the final product.
Is The Gear Worth Owning?
Depending on the work you do and the types of productions you’re involved in, some pros believe these are your best bets for purchasing:
- Lights, especially tungsten fresnels. They last forever and can be rented out long after they’ve been paid for.
- Good lenses, but only if it doesn’t strain your wallet to invest.
Case by Case Decisions
There are other times it might make sense to buy equipment. Like if you have a client with specialized needs or you’re doing a remote shoot where the items you need might not be available. But overall, renting your gear makes financial and practical sense.
A rental house like Moving Picture Rental can quickly and easily put together the package you need. We offer all the latest camera and lighting gear and are happy to rent you camera accessories and lenses for the camera bodies you own. We also provide a full range of production services—everything from crewing, to production supplies, production insurance, and producer referrals.
MPR is your one-stop-shop, in the business of helping your production succeed! Call us today at 305.522.1361 to learn more about our camera rental packages and grip and lighting. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.