If you have kit aspirations beyond your budget, maybe it’s time to take a look at renting some gear. Angela Nicholson explains what you need to know
With top-end cameras and lenses (especially those used for video) costing several thousand pounds, many professional photographers regularly hire gear to supplement their own kit, yet it’s something that’s not that prevalent amongst enthusiasts. However, there are now several companies willing to loan gear to enthusiasts, so it makes sense to investigate the opportunities that hiring might bring you.
If you’ve been interested in photography for many years you may have built up an extensive collection of gear and feel that you have everything you need. However, there are always bits of kit that are just too expensive to buy – every now and again a shooting opportunity comes along that you can’t quite do justice to with what you have. Perhaps you need a longer telephoto lens, a wider aperture, a faster frame rate or some more light? All of these things could be achieved by renting gear at a fraction of the cost of buying.
Canon’s EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS USM with internal 1.4x extender lens, for example, is a fabulously versatile optic that gives you a focal length range of 200-560mm on a full-frame camera, which could prove very useful for a bird or wildlife photography trip. But at almost £11,000 it’s hard (by which I mean almost impossible) for most of us to justify buying it for a one-off, or even occasional, use. However, at £108 per day from Hireacamera, it becomes more feasible. Similarly, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR AF-S, which retails for a more accessible £1,100, but is still far from an ‘everyday-use’ optic, can be hired for £32.40 a day or £68.36 for a week. Which would you rather pay, more than £1,000 or less than £100?
Hiring kit also gives you the opportunity to double-up on your kit. For example, if you have a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and you’ve been asked to shoot a wedding, you might like to hire a second body to act as a back-up and save you having to change lenses frequently. That could be the difference between missed shots and the eternal gratitude of the happy couple (not to mention another potential booking or two from guests).
Renting kit – Try before you buy
Another compelling reason to hire kit is to try it before buying it. It gives you the opportunity to check that a new camera, whether it’s just a body upgrade or a change in system, is right for you before you spend lots of money. Wilkinson Cameras is primarily a retailer, but kit is available for hire from its Southport and Liverpool stores on a ‘try before you buy’ basis (visit www.wilkinson.co.uk/hire). Calumet and Fixation will also refund up to two days’ rent if you decide to buy a piece of equipment. This is great news if you’re one of many photographers thinking of swapping from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera. But remember, many rental companies don’t just limit themselves to cameras and lenses; most also offer lights, studio kit, tripods and supports. Some even hire out laptops in case you need something to process images with.
Renting kit – Make a booking
Most hire companies have a list of the kit available online and while you can usually browse through the selection to find what you want (there are often search filters to help with this) and make a booking, some companies ask that you call to check availability and book. Calling into a local store to collect and drop off kit keeps costs down, but most hire companies are willing to send gear via courier. They may be able to arrange this for you or you can do it yourself.
Charges are usually made on a daily basis and you will need to collect the kit at the beginning of the first hire day and return it (or have it packed and ready for collection) by the company’s specified time on the last day. Make sure you are clear about what the collection and pick-up times are, as failure to return the kit on time may result in a financial penalty as well as extra hire cost. If something unexpected happens and you are going to be late, give the company a call; they are human after all.
Because hire companies mainly deal with professional photographers who work during the week, there are often deals to be had for renting kit for the weekend. In some cases you can get two or three days’ hire for the cost of one. It’s definitely worth asking.
Renting kit – Get covered
Naturally when you’re hiring expensive gear you’re going to have to provide some form of identification and you may be required to call in person to arrange the first booking. You will usually have to pay a deposit (a credit card is normally fine), although companies take a different approach depending upon the type of account you opt for. Hireacamera, for example, gives two options: with the first you have to take out its insurance and pay an excess seven days in advance of the hire. So long as there is no damage to the goods, the excess is refunded in full upon their return. Alternatively, you can opt to pay a deposit, which is usually larger than the insurance excess and at least the value of what you are hiring. Again this must be paid seven days in advance of the first hire day and it’s refunded upon the safe return of the goods. If you take this option it’s up to you to insure the kit.
When you take out insurance with the hire company, check what the excess is, in case the gear is damaged in your possession. Calumet adds 10% to its hire fees to cover insurance, for example, and the excess is £250.
If you decide not to take out insurance cover as part of the hire agreement, make sure that your own insurer will cover any loss or damage, pay particular attention to the individual item maximum value figure. Also, be prepared to provide proof of cover to the hire company.
Renting kit – Find your kit
Fancy hiring some kit? Here’s what you need to know about eight of the most well-known rental companies
Tel: 0333 003 5000
With more than 400 products available from a range of manufacturers including Canon, Fujifilm, Hasselblad, Pentax, Nikon, Sony, DJI and GoPro (plus accessory manufacturers) Calumet has plenty to entice every level of photographer. A few products are available for a free ‘test drive’, while you can get a two-day rental fee back if you buy anything else. You can pick up and drop off kit at one of nine stores across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland or have it delivered. Insurance costs 10% of the rental fee and the excess is £250.
Tel: 0330 808 3324
Camera Jungle is mainly known as an online second-hand dealer but it also has a rental business, and you can rent anything that the company has in stock for sale. That means that the stock is constantly changing and it’s worth keeping an eye on the website. The rental part of the website shows the rent and deposit for each of the routinely available products. Items can be collected from Jessops on Oxford St in London (pick-up 2-5pm, drop-off 9am-noon) or can be delivered for £4.99. Bookings are made over the phone or by email.
Tel: 020 7620 8500
Based in London and Manchester, Direct Photographic offers Canon, Nikon, Sony, Hasselblad, Phase One and GoPro cameras for hire along with lenses, tripods, lights, light meters, computers and monitors. If you call into a store, technicians will demonstrate the product so that you feel con dent you know how to use it. Payment can be made on the day or you can open a 30-day credit account. All bookings should be made via email or phone. Insurance adds 15% to the hire fee and there’s a £500 excess.
Tel: 020 3393 5760
In addition to a range of mid to high-end Canon and Nikon SLRs, Hireacamera offers a collection of mirrorless cameras, lenses and accessories. There are even some compact cameras such as the Canon PowerShot G7 X II and Fujifilm X100F available. As well as body-only, some cameras are offered in packages with accessories and lenses. It’s easy to find the gear you want via the website, and kit is usually delivered by 12noon the day before your hire begins, while collection is the first working day after your hire ends.
Tel: 01752 310132
Lens Pimp has a small collection of cameras available with a focus on Canon DSLRs, and a large catalogue of Canon and Nikon lenses along with some Sony and Fujifilm optics. A deposit isn’t usually required and the insurance has an excess of £180. Loans usually take three days to arrange. Kit is sent out via Royal Mail special delivery or courier, and is normally sent to arrive the day before your hire period starts. Collections can be made by arrangement or items can be posted back to the company on the last day of hire via Royal Mail special delivery.
020 7582 3294
Fixation has a huge range of gear available for hire from all the main manufacturers and bookings may be made via its website, in-store, on the phone or over email. Fixation is also a retailer which means it can offer a ‘try before you buy’ service and will refund up to two days’ rental on kit that you decide to buy. If you’re a first-time hirer you will have to pop into the London store with some photo ID and proof of your address. Insurance costs 10% of the listed rental and is valid up to £7,500 with £250 excess.
Lenses For Hire
Tel: 0800 61 272 61
Lenses For Hire offers a collection of mid to high-level Canon and Nikon SLRs as well as Fujifilm X-series mirrorless system cameras and an extensive catalogue of lenses, with exotics like tilt-shift lenses and macro ash systems. The website is easy to navigate, and a combination of slider controls and tick boxes make it easy to find the gear you want. There’s generally no deposit required and online prices include insurance that carries a £150 excess for damage or loss. Standard delivery is before 12pm and costs £12 for any number of items.
Tel: 020 7729 8822
Pro Centre can supply a wide range of high-end enthusiast and pro-level kit with APS-C, full-frame and medium-format kit available from all major manufacturers. There’s also an excellent collection of lenses, lighting, computers and accessories. Before you rent anything you need to set up an account. The best option for occasional use is ‘pay-as-you- go’, which requires completion of an application form, proof of ID and address. The deposit is the full value of the hire kit and insurance is charged at 15% but there’s no excess.