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Another variation on the "rent-or-buy" conundrum


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 12:34 PM

Up to now, I've been firmly in the "rent" category. There wasn't really a need to own a new camera as a freelancer, because either there was budget for camera rental, or it was the sort of thing that did fine by using my older, XL2 SD.

But now I'm in pre-production on my new, feature documentary project. And I've gotten to thinking again about rent or buy. If it were a small project, I'd surely rent. But given the length, and the scope of the project, this promises to be a pretty involved shoot. And it's becoming clear to me that by the end of the production, I'd have spent more to rent a camera for each day, than I would have if I'd just bought a camera outright. And the camera I'm keen on using is the AG AF-100, which is fairly cost efficient, given what it offers. So I'm not looking to break the bank buying a Red or Alexa.

What concerns me about rentals is that this documentary is pretty travel heavy, and I'm concerned about inconsistency of availability of cams and lenses depending on the state and country I'm at. One solution is to rent from a single place, but that would just add extra days to the rental cost, by factoring in travel time. For a day long shoot, I could pay for three days, if I have to spend a day traveling each way.

Not to mention, it seems to me that when one is renting gear, that money is gone, but if I were to buy, after it was done, I'd at least have a new camera for other projects as they come, or worst case scenario, I could sell it, and get a decent return on my initial investment. Even a 50 percent return would be better than the zero percent return on camera rental.

So what are your opinions? Is there a point when the duration of the project's production makes buying gear a more practical option than rental?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 02:50 PM

Generally, the point where you buy, as you mention, is when it's cheaper to buy than to rent (for the same package.) You gotta factor in everything you get with your rental, not just the body itself. It's all about saving money. And, yes you could buy and re-sell, but that's always a little iffy. I'd say, if it's cheaper for you to buy the package by a few thousand bucks then what've you got to loose?
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 04:18 PM

... then what've you got to loose?


That's an important thing to think about. When you own a camera, figure on buying insurance just like you'd be required to carry on a rental. Insure it for the duration of production, then reconsider the whole thing for afterward, when the risks are lower.




-- J.S.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 04:41 PM

Quite true;
though in a situation as such one would want to get production to carry the insurance on the kit for the duration of the shoot, as well as carnet costs associated with travel.
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#5 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 04:57 PM

I would suggest you do the math and determine your return on investment (ROI). Do the numbers and see how things look in the end. Certainly you could sell it for 50% of the purchase price if less than a year has passed since purchase, figure that in. Also the insurance and risk-- one of the many advantages of renting is that you are passing most of the risk of damage, theft or equipment breakdown to the insurance company and rental house.

There is also an accounting angle that can be significant depending on the structure of your company. Rentals (and leases) are directly expensable costs, a cost of goods sold. A durable equipment purchase (like a camera) may require the equipment to be depreciated over a period of years increasing tax liability. Talk to a tax expert about current rules to get those answers.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 05:52 PM

The AF100 is in the lower end of camera equipment purchase costs, where the rental cost as a percentage of the buying cost is higher, so for a one year project it does tend to make sense to buy rather than rent. You'll need to do some sums, remembering that the rental companies also give discounts for long rentals.
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#7 Brian Rose

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 07:29 PM

The AF100 is in the lower end of camera equipment purchase costs, where the rental cost as a percentage of the buying cost is higher, so for a one year project it does tend to make sense to buy rather than rent. You'll need to do some sums, remembering that the rental companies also give discounts for long rentals.


This is a good point, and one I plan to investigate further. Because the pro side of rental is getting a more comprehensive package, whereas if I bought, I'd undoubtedly have to build up the package a bit. It'll take some number crunching.
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 07:43 PM

though in a situation as such one would want to get production to carry the insurance ....



Perhaps I misunderstood. I thought this was his own personal project, not a paid gig.





-- J.S.
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#9 Brian Rose

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 09:11 PM

Perhaps I misunderstood. I thought this was his own personal project, not a paid gig.
-- J.S.


In case I wasn't clear, it IS a personal project. I mean, I hope to raise funds for it, but it is an independent project, and I'm the director/producer.
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