On Renting Equipment

I really can’t stand spending money on rental equipment.  I’ve probably collected enough rental fees over the years to pay for some sweet equipment if I had saved the money and bought the gear rather than renting it.  But the problem is that I need the equipment today, and I can’t afford to drop a couple thousand dollars right now.  This is where renting provides a nice alternative.  For example, instead of spending over $2,300 on the new Nikkor 70-200 lens, I can rent it for a weekend for only $50 at Penn Camera.  The problem is that by the time Monday morning rolls around, I have to return the lens and I’ve lost $50 (i.e. I have merely spent the money, not invested it.)

Generally speaking, at the end of the day I can hang my hat knowing that I was able to do my job better because I had relatively affordable access to the gear that I needed.  This is especially true for gear that I will only use a handful of times (like the 600mm lens I’m renting for the shuttle launch next month).  Still, I think there is a better alternative…

Consider this:

  • The Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR2 lens retails for $2,319 at B&H.  It costs $50 to rent it for a day.
  • The Nikon D700 camera body retails for $2,399 at B&H.  It costs $185 to rent it for a day.

It is over three times more expensive to rent a camera than a lens!  Granted, these prices were taken from Penn’s website and I know there are other places to rent equipment –I’ve used lensrentals.com a number of times– but still the rental costs of camera bodies seems overpriced across the board.  I’m sure rental shops have their reasons for pricing camera bodies the way they do (to make money), but I have reasons to look elsewhere (to save money).

Here’s what I propose: why not find a friend who has the gear you need and then rent it from them for a smaller fee?  They make a buck for essentially doing nothing, and you save money by being able to negotiate, not to mention that you are building community among your circle of friends and photographers.  Invest in the people around you; the corporations will adapt.  Learn to barter and trade with others; you will find that it can help more than just your photography.

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