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Old June 23rd, 2014, 05:58 PM   #1
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Owning vs. Renting: Why I Never Bought a Camera

Originally Posted by Art Adams
I canít tell you the number of times Iíve lost jobs because I donít own a camera. And Iím okay with that. Those arenít the jobs I want. Hereís whyÖ
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Old September 21st, 2014, 11:16 PM   #2
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Re: Owning vs. Renting: Why I Never Bought a Camera

Art: I guess I'll weigh in on a few perspectives in regards to your article. I've been in this business longer than I care to admit.

But there was a time during the analog days (even those cameras with tubes) that there was really no other option but to own if you were in business. And the "professional" cameras (BVP-550) with an on-board Beta deck were tremendously heavy and very expensive. But BetaSP tape lasted a very long time and everyone used it, and usually mastered to 1" or perhaps DigiBeta. There really was no other "cheaper" options as there are today.

A few reasons why I always wanted my own camera is yes, to make an extra buck with it, and hopefully over the course of a couple of years, it has paid for itself several times over. But what you don't mention is that often times, rental cameras can be beat-up and settings so screwed up, that it becomes a liability. Plus, the rental camera has rental house ID stickers all over it which to me, doesn't look all that great to a client. There's also the issue of availability of a rental camera when you need it, and often times that can be immediately. And if the rental house doesn't have a second camera to rent, then you are screwed. Like you said, you'll have to spend a couple days going through it to check the settings…who pays for that time?
And then there's travel time, which normally, the rental house will give you a break on. And last but not least, if you are renting any gear, most rental facilities require you have insurance to pay for damage or theft. If you can't provide a certificate, then hit the road. Taking it overseas? Taking it on the water? Taking it up in a helicopter? All of those instances are usually extra when it comes to Certs of Insurance. I don't know about you, but carrying a policy for rental is very, very expensive. And you would be crazy not to have insurance for all of your gear.

So the way I see it, my camera is my heart, my soul, and my own peace of mind. I'll rent everything else though such as lights, stands, and grip gear. Yes of course, technology is constantly changing, and in due time, my camera will be obsolete…that's just the way it goes.

But there has really never been such a career-altering part of the "professional" video business than the invention and proliferation of relatively inexpensive cameras such as the HD-DLSR. Sure, those come with technical limitations, but the bottom line is that they are cheap; editing software just as cheap if not free; and ultimately…a client will ALWAYS go for the least-expensive production cost. I guess I digress from the topic a bit.

Owning professional video cameras is a crap shoot…we never know where our next client will come from, or how long we can keep our rig working. That's more an issue of selling ourselves, our capabilities, and our experience. (As we all know, there's some employee's brother who shoots weddings, and can give them a great deal). Me? I got a friggin' Bachelors Degree in Communications….and do you really think that means a ratsass these days? No, it doesn't.

So to wrap this up, I think if you are talking about high-end rigs such as Arri Alexa or some of the "broadcast" Sony cameras, then sure, taking on a note to pay off $100K camera might be risky. Maybe a lease would be a better option? But there's nothing wrong with ponying up and investing in your own business. At the very least, you have complete control over the quality of what you are shooting even though those images are compressed, squashed, and man-handled just to get them to play on YouTube or on some client's website. Need a 3D rig…or ultra high-speed camera? Hell yeah, rent those puppies. There will always be some dude or dudette that can talk their way into getting a job with only a GoPro to their name.
You simply can't always worry about "the next best thing". Establish a good, professional baseline of quality for yourself by owning your own camera. (Which also brings up the point that if you get a chance to shoot something really cool for your demo reel or perhaps some test footage to show a prospect, you simply can't do that without owning your own rig.)

Thanks for posting a good article!

Patrick McLoad
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Old September 22nd, 2014, 01:05 PM   #3
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Re: Owning vs. Renting: Why I Never Bought a Camera

I've had some very near disasters with rented gear (just some lapel mics and leads at one stage or another, early on) ... never again.

I decided to own my own gear so that I have it ready to grab-n-go whenever I need to. No running around the place to collect stuff. And I know that it works 100% okay.

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Old September 22nd, 2014, 02:37 PM   #4
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Re: Owning vs. Renting: Why I Never Bought a Camera

I guess I never wanted the headache of owning gear, being responsible for its maintenance, etc. Also, every job I do is different so I'm constantly working with different gear.

I know the model you're working under, and it's a good one, but I'm much happier renting. If something fails we make a phone call and get another one. (That assumes you have good rental houses nearby. I have two excellent ones.) I like having that support, and I suspect they'll maintain the gear better than I would because they have people on staff to do that kind of thing and I couldn't be bothered.

Plus, the older I get the more I want to work from the neck up instead of hauling gear around. I'm aware, though, that I'm losing out on income.

I also have a visceral reaction to people wanting to hire me only because I have gear. I hate that!

But that's strictly my perspective. I don't want to be tied to one camera package. And I can't afford to buy the camera package that I really want. :)
Art Adams | Director of Photography
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Old September 22nd, 2014, 10:41 PM   #5
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Re: Owning vs. Renting: Why I Never Bought a Camera

My previous camera was the Sony HVR-V1. (I was contemplating getting an EX1 or an EX3 at the time, but the price of the memory cards was truly hideous.) At the end of its time with me, I was able to sell it to a friend of mine who needs its superior autofocus for sports matches ... and I estimated that it had cost me roughly $400/year to own.

I've now moved up to the Sony PMW-300 and it's awesome. Truly telling is that the sales guy didn't even bother with selling me an extended warranty - probably to do with the lack of a tape drive unit. Less moving parts means less that can go wrong.

So it's really worked out well for me.

On the other hand, if I had sent great gobs of money off to a new camera manufacturer who announced an awesome new (and expensive) cinematic camera and it still hadn't arrived after months ......

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