Is It Better to Rent or Buy a Camera?

Are you stranded in a dilemma between renting or buying a camera? We’ll show you how to weigh both sides of the divide for the best way forward. There are many factors to consider so there isn’t one outright clear winner. 

The best answer would be that it depends. 

❓ Are you shooting for the long term or do you need it for a temporary project? 

❓ How often will the camera be in use? 

❓ Do you have the financial means to buy one? 

❓ What are the upsides and downsides to renting a camera? What about buying? 

In this blog, we’ve covered extensively on either option. 

Read about our recommendations on the best DSLR for budget filmmaking.

Or check out our reviews on the best rental options for filmmaking.

But before you commit to either renting or buying, consider our thoughts below.

Why renting may be the better option

Cost reduction

Photography gear and lenses can cost through the roof. If it’s a passion or job you’re willing to put in the money for, then that’s alright. However, not everyone can or want to dig so deep into their pockets.

Even if you have the resources to pull off your dream purchase, there’ll always be some hot new equipment in the market to drool over. You finally got your hands on that Canon you’ve had your eye on for some time.

However, the latest model is making you think twice.

Take a look at the price of a Canon C300 Mark 2 courtesy of Adorama:

💲 Hefty price. 

Now take a look at the rental price of this camera from Kitsplit:

The price of the camera ranges from $275 per day to $650 dollar per day.

If you needed to shoot a music video for a couple of days, it’s definitely cheaper to just rent the camera rather than buy it.

Renting is an excellent way to try your hand at big-ticket equipment without punching a hole in your bank account.

You’ll be privy to fisheye and tilt-shift, among other high-end specialist lenses you covet for a fraction of the buying price.

If it’s a camera you’re only going to use one time or for a short while, it’s cheaper to rent. For instance, maybe you’re traveling for holiday and only need a camera for that vacation.

Finally, remember you will need accessories to make the most of the camera. You’ll need tripods, lenses and mics for sound.

By renting a camera, that leaves more room to acquire necessary accessories for your video project.

Renting provides a road test

For most professionals who bought their first camera, no questions asked, regret has crept up sooner or later.

Had I known about this and that, I probably would have gone with some other equipment. When starting your photography business, renting allows you to sample various cameras and tools.

So when you finally know what you like and what works best for your purposes, there’ll be no doubt about which one to get. You’ll look back on your investment knowing you chose wisely.

At first, it may not be clear which combination of gear is the best for you. As you work with different varieties and experience grows, you’ll realize your best fit.

Mirrorless systems, for instance, tend to work well for DSLR users. What’s more, renting allows you to experiment beyond your skillsets or comfort zone.

You can play around with a flashgun, work a wide-angle lens instead of typical portrait shots, etc.

Renting toward owning

You’ve set up your new photography business and have broken the bank for it. There’s little cash to spare but you know clients will expect a certain quality of standard.

The best equipment tells clients the caliber of services to expect. Renting allows you to get the best cameras for the job to impress customers and inspire confidence in your abilities.

Because it’s a piece of equipment you’re going to be using a lot, it’s probably best to own it permanently.

Many stores offer a rent-to-own policy. You don’t have to wait to save up enough money and get by with subpar equipment in the meantime. Hit the ground running with top-notch rental gear that’ll eventually become yours.

When buying makes more sense

Buying may be cheaper in the long run

If you’re talking about camera equipment to be used regularly, renting may be the more expensive option. You need only do the math and work out the total cost of renting in the project period vs the buying price. 

Even when buying for your business, keep in mind clients’ demands so that you don’t overspend unnecessarily. For instance, if your clients rarely ask for more than 1080p, then do you really need to go for an 8K camera?

In my guide on wedding videography tips, I emphasized the need for mobility and versatility. For more higher budget weddings, you’ll be asked to shoot in 8K. But for most weddings, they’ll be okay with 1080p.

It’s not the most economical reason to buy an 8K camera AND a set of DSLRs, if you’re starting a wedding video company. Your best bet is to rent the right camera (and the lens), depending on the project and budget.

Before you make your mind up on which camera to get, keep in mind the features you’ll use regularly too. Knowing this allows you to spend just the right amount of money on a camera body that you actually need.

Camera bodies can vary in price up to thousands of dollars so figuring out unneeded features could save a big chunk of your income.

Photography emergencies won’t catch you off guard

In most cases, projects are planned out for days and even weeks before their execution. You have your clients’ needs figured out well before the D-day.

You know what kind of equipment you’ll need and for how long. However, certain projects can sneak up on you out of the blues.

You get an unexpected phone call for a wedding gig where the photographer bailed last minute. There are mere hours to prepare. You can’t get to your rental company of choice in time or you aren’t familiar with the available cameras.

The previous renter’s settings are way off. You need some time to make adjustments but there’s little of it so you have to work on the fly. Renting can become inconvenient at times of immediate need.

Having camera equipment also enables you to give clients a taste of what to expect. Additionally, in case of unforeseen reworking, you won’t have to rent a camera soon after returning it.

Buying assures reliable equipment

The major downside side of renting is that you don’t know the track record of the gear. Its maintenance history is a mystery, and it could fail right when you need it most.

The previous renter may have messed things up and returned the camera with the rental company none the wiser.

Hence, if you decide to rent, do so with sufficient time to test out the camera. That way, you can seek a replacement in time as opposed to taking your chances on the day.

You’ll have no such worries with new equipment. The camera’s never been used before so it’ll probably work as flawlessly as it should.

Moreover, with good camera practices and maintenance, you can have a camera that’ll serve you for a long time to come.

To buy or not to buy – the videographer dilemma

I’ve laid out reasons to buy or to rent. The decision rests on you as the videographer or cinematographer.

From my experience running a video production company in NYC, I can tell you the decision should be based on where you are in your video production career.

Are you a recent film graduate looking to get experience? Then I recommend getting a cheap DSLR, like the Sony a6500. It’s less than 1K and you can get basic lenses with it or use the kit lens that comes with the camera.

If you are a serious videographer, it’s always important to practice your art.

Ever heard of ABC, or always be closing? In videography, it’s ABF or…

📣 Always Be Filming!

It’s how you get better. Moreover, an a6500 will allow you to do budget weddings. As you master this camera, then you can move onto a Black Magic or even a cinema camera like a C300.

And as you progress through you career, just rent out any camera as needed. The client requests a RED camera? Just rent it. Much more economical than buying a $40,000 camera.

So to answer the question of to buy or not to buy —

The right choice will depend on what’s required of you in a film project. But to get better at videography, it’s highly recommended to at least own a budget camera or a DSLR to practice your craft. Protection Status