Buying vs Renting? That is the Question

Insights & Thoughts May 4th 2012 6:00 PM One Comment

canon-lenses

I just read an article on the F-Stoppers website which was titled “If you don’t own it, why not rent it?”

http://fstoppers.com/if-you-dont-own-it-why-not-rent-it

Buying vs. Renting is something that I have considered a few times in my Photography life; however I ended up always opting to buy it anyway.

I am not, by any means, a financial advisor, and this may not work out to be the best way to go for everyone, but I personally have found that if I buy the gear I want to use, I’ll save in the long-run, regardless of it costing £1000+.

Background

I began shooting Weddings in June 2011, and I quickly realized the limitations of my gear as I only owned a Nikon D7000 and 50mm f/1.4.

I said to myself that I needed a flash, a wide angle, mid-range zoom, telephoto, and macro lens. To literally cover all bases, and various perspectives, I needed these lenses. (Forgot to add, I aimed to have back-ups of certain things too)

The whole “Zoom with your feet” saying in Photography does not work in all scenarios as Focal Length does not only determine how much you can magnify an image, but it determines its perspective.

So, as far as I was concerned, I needed all these lenses to cover all perspectives.

Granted, I do not need to use all the lenses, all the time. For instance I’m not really into Macro Photography. However I needed a Macro lens for some shots at the Wedding such as Rings, and other details. I’m not really the type who would feel comfortable including a ring shot which was not done with the correct tools for the job. So I had been advised in the past to just rent the Macro when I needed it for a Wedding.

The True Cost of Renting

I called up FixationUK (www.fixationuk.com) and got a quote from them that the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro would cost me £18 a day. Then to factor in the cost of collecting the lens, returning it, and the time it would take for me to collect and return the lens, I figured it would set me back roughly £32 and 2hrs.

£18 – Lens
£7 – One Day Travelcard (to collect)
£7 – One Day Travelcard (to return)
2hrs = 1hr collect, 1hr return

FixationUK may have a delivery collection service, however I am not the type who likes sitting at home waiting around for couriers to collect or deliver, as my time waiting at home is time I could spend being more productive elsewhere.

In addition, they wanted a deposit for the value of the lens anyway. So for me to rent the lens, I would have to have a lump of money available to use anyway.

I then looked at the cost of the lens in Jessops (www.Jessops.com), at the time the price was £624.95, and first impressions was “Whoa! that’s a lot of money…”. So I checked eBay for used versions of the lens, and discovered that even used, the lens was going for roughly £600 with no warranty. With used equipment there are risks of dust inside, sticky focus rings, damaged front or read elements, and generally just looking scruffy.

But I realised that the value difference between new and used gear was basically the same as it would cost me to rent, and that if I did own the lens, there’s no rush to return the lens, no worries of late fees etc.

So instead I opted to just buy the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro and I have used it for various Wedding shoots, and not needed to worry about returning it on time or late fees etc. In the past year, I have now done a total of 9 Weddings, and assume that I had rented the lens for each Wedding, the cost of lens rental alone would amount to £162. That is not including the travel costs and time to collect/deliver. Hypothetically speaking, even if FixationUK were to have delivered and collected, then it’s my time that I’m losing whilst waiting around to not miss that door knock.

So I decided to look at my lenses as investments rather than general purchases seeing as even though I lose out on holding £624.95 worth of cash, I still possess something of worth. As opposed to if I rented, that money I’m never seeing again and will have to give back the lens.

In addition to that, the current value of my Nikon 105mm f/2.8 is now at £649.95 in Jessops. So I am confident I can get most of my money back, if not all, if I were to sell privately as the RRP for the lens new, has gone up.

Conclusion

I’ll accept that not everyone has the means to just go out and drop that lump of cash on a lens, and there may be other rental company’s out there who don’t require a deposit for the amount of the lens you are renting. However, for those of you that could actually buy it right now, but choose to rent to save money, you’re probably losing out in the long-run.

There is a boundary where I do not cross between buying and renting of course, and I am not necessarily saying that we should all fork out the cash and buy everything we want. I mean as much as I would like to shoot with a Nikon 400mm f/2.8G, which costs £6646.95 from Jessops, I would not opt to buy this as I think it would be too difficult to resell, and I really do not think I will get much use out of it, although I do really want to see first-hand what the compression is like on a 400mm lens!

But for other lenses like the very popular Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, and other popular lenses like that which are in demand and will probably sell fairly quickly, you may want to consider buying it as opposed to renting it as you could save in the long run if you bought, used, then sold.

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About

Leo Hoang is a professional photographer based in London who shoots Weddings, Events and Real-Estate.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous

    I totally agree. If you know your gear will make you money in the future, it is defiantly more economical to buy and own your gear. You can then even rent your gear to colleagues in the business. 

    // Stefan
    http://stefanhellberg.com

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