Know the Value: Renting vs. Buying Gear
Deciding whether to rent or buy certain cameras or accessories is a big part of freelancing since you are absorbing the costs instead of a studio. And with equipment running into the thousands of dollars, you don’t want to buy a piece of gear only to find out a few months later that it’s outdated or you don’t need it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to rent or buy a new piece of gear:
1. What gear does the majority of your shoots require?
What gear you need to buy will depend on what kind of video production work you do. However, a good rule of thumb for one-man-band videographers is to buy a base camera that gets at least 80% of your gigs done. Think about what your clients need most of the time and rent up for newer versions or special features for your other shoots.
For example, unless you’re shooting in 4K every day, you probably don’t need to buy a RED camera. Newer versions can run upwards of $15,000 and won’t be worth the investment for occasional use. Instead, if you have special shoots that require a RED, just rent it.
2. Will the gear provide a return on investment?
There is gear that you can’t go wrong with buying, such as a sturdy tripod or a shotgun mic. Or you might want to invest in a good stabilizer if you do a lot of stylized shoots or branded work. However, then you have to assess whether the base gear you buy will work if you decide to update a piece. For example, one stabilizer won’t work with every camera. So if you buy a new camera, you may have to update your stabilizer as well.
Beyond these staples, you have to calculate the cost of the gear versus the return you would get from gigs where you use it. For example, you might want to buy a lighting kit if you have the business for it since renting lighting with all its accessories can get expensive. But if you don’t have a car and can’t transport a lighting kit easily, renting might be your best option. It will basically come down to how often you work on gigs that will let you pay back the cost of buying. Though, for lighting, once you do buy it, kino flow or tungsten heads will last you awhile if you treat them right (cool down before striking, wrap wires, give cords slack, etc.).
3. How quickly will the gear be outdated by a newer version?
Some camera gear is consistently released in newer and better versions, making the previous versions obsolete. For example, lavaliers get updated all the time. So unless you specialize in audio, they’re probably not worth buying. Renting lavs can cost $20 a day while buying them might run you between $700 to $1,200. Instead, buy a versatile shotgun mic that will last you five years and just rent lavs for specific shoots. And if you’re looking for an easy place to rent gear, check out camera rental communities like Kitsplit and ShareGrid.
What gear do you rent instead of buying? Tell us in the comments below!
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By D. Simone Kovacs, Storyhunter Editor