Lets face it, photography equipment is expensive. There are definitely times when renting can be beneficial but in most circumstances the average consumer can get by without it.
Renting is helpful for professionals when a specific lens or camera is needed for a specific project. Renting also can be useful if you are doing a once in a lifetime trip and you need a camera or lens for a short period. Reviewers need to rent camera gear, because they need it as soon as it’s available.
For all the other times, it’s better to buy and sell.
Pros and cons for renting photography gear
The benefits of renting camera gear are great right? You have access to whatever gear you want, it gets shipped to your door in a few days, and it’s a fraction of the price.
At least that’s what the rental companies want you to think. Renting photography gear is like leasing a car. You have to pay for it until you return it, if it’s returned late there’s a late fee, and if there’s damage, you pretty much own it.
On the other hand, buying and selling camera gear is much more cost effective. It can be even more cost effective than buying a car.
Camera Gear doesn’t depreciate like other tech
Just like cars, cameras will depreciate slightly after 5 years, but lenses hardly ever depreciate especially if you buy name brand such as Nikon, Canon, or Sony.
If you paid $1000 for the latest iPhone you will notice that after one year it’s about $750 through apple or another retailer. If you buy it used you can probably get it for around $600.
That’s almost half the retail price after one year. Cameras are different. When the Sony a5100 came out it was $550 in 2014. In 2020, it was still selling online for $450. Who would pay that much for a 6 year old camera.
Lenses depreciate even less. The sony 85mm 1.8 FE is a good example. The lens has always sold for about $550. I bought mine used and it cost $500. Lenses hold their value, because they don’t change every year like cameras or cars. Sony hasn’t come out with another 85mm 1.8 and they probably won’t unless they change camera mounts.
Alternatives to renting camera equipment
The best alternative for renting camera gear is to buy and sell used equipment. If you need to hang on to a camera or lens for a longer period of time another great option is to rent your own gear.
Parachut.co is an online camera rental business that rents gear and helps you rent your gear that’s sitting around. I made $200 after 6 months of renting two of my Sony lenses, and the process was easy.
This is how Parachut works. They send you an empty box, and you mail it back to them with a camera, lens, flash, etc. They tell you when it’s being used and how much you’re making per month.
You can ask for your gear to be returned whenever you need it, and shipping is included. They also clean the equipment.
The only problem is they prefer you keep your gear with them for extended periods. They expect to be able to use your equipment for about 6 months to a year. So if you’re okay renting your gear for 6 months or more it’s a great service.
Parachut is especially good for reviewers. You may want to review a lens and compare it with another lens released one year later. In the mean time you can rent your lens to Parachute and request it back when you’re ready to do the review.
One other benefit is that they will send your gear back whenever you need it. Even though they prefer to keep it for 6 months or more, they are willing to send it back sooner if you need it.
- Make money off used gear
- Free shipping
- Gear is cleaned
- Encouraged to rent gear long term
- Trusting a small company with your gear
Why to buy and sell used camera gear instead of renting
I never buy new camera gear, because there’s always a better price if you can wait 6 months to a year. I know this doesn’t really work for reviewers, but for most people it’s so much more cost effective to buy used.
For example, say the newest camera or lens just came out. If you wait a few months you can likely find it used on amazon, ebay, or bhphoto for 10-15% off. If you wait until black friday or another shopping holiday you might find it for 20% off. Then when you sell it 3 years later you can usually sell it for about the price you paid.
That’s 3 years of ownership without the cost of renting.
The 6 Best sites to save on Camera Gear
- Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, Offerup (No tax)
- Mpb.com (No tax)
- Bhphoto (No tax with their credit card)
- Greentoe.com (No tax)
What alternatives do you use for saving on camera gear?
*Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash