How Much Is Your Gear Really Costing You in the Long Run?

The true cost of your gear might be more than you think.

Though it's important to look at the price tags on the gear you want to purchase, it's imperative to also consider how much they might end up costing you both out of pocket and on set. In this video from SLR Lounge, photographer Pye Jirsa talks about how to make smart choices when buying gear, as well as how expensive cheap gear can become.

The main point Jirsa's trying to get across is that the cost of a piece of gear isn't simply what you read on a price tag; it actually extends far beyond that. Inexpensive gear might be tempting (and necessary), but you might end up paying for it in the end when a battery loses its charge too quickly, or when a stabilizer doesn't really do its job, or when a light with a low CRI ruins your shot and you end up spending additional hours in post correcting your images.

If you're on a strict budget and can't afford high priced gear, well, cheap gear is better than no gear. Almost every filmmaker started out with stuff they either bought second-hand, pulled out of some dusty attic, or purchased online at a suspiciously low price. However, those same filmmakers probably learned that though you might get lucky and get a good deal on some well-made, dependable gear, a lot of times it ends up falling apart or not working the way you want it to. This is especially frustrating when this is found out on a film set or in the middle of a shoot.

My advice would be to determine what you can and can't afford to splurge on. If you're shooting films, spending a bunch of money on high-end audio is a worthy investment. If you shoot commercials or weddings, getting your hands on a pricey gimbal stabilizer might be where you want to spend the most cash. Finally, find out what you can do without, what you can build yourself, and what you can scrimp on.

In the end, just be aware that though you might be saving some cash at the register, you might end up really paying for it it comes time to replace your gear, spend extra time in post, or when you fail to give a client exactly what you promised them.     

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Your Comment



...But the quality of gear you have needs to match the quality of your clients. If your booking high end gigs and have cheap gear, you'll feel limited or the client might feel like you're unprofessional. If your gear is higher end than your clients can afford, you'll just be stomaching the cost of it.

February 13, 2017 at 9:09PM, Edited February 13, 9:09PM

Zachary Will

Funny I just bought a Atomos Ninja 2 as a pass through and recorder so I can stream see and capture video. I mentioned in another forum that this hobby is never ending expense. Reply was it gets more expensive when you buy pro gear also never ending.

February 14, 2017 at 12:32PM, Edited February 14, 12:32PM

Donald McPherson

If you are comfortable with making that investment, then you should. It's hard to invest in pro gear at the hobby levels because prices can get very high quickly.

February 17, 2017 at 6:26PM, Edited February 17, 6:26PM

Daymian S. Mejia

I think most people that watch this have the same reaction:

1) Your gear cost is directly related to your client/budget costs

2) Some gear is cheaper to buy, some cheaper to rent

3) You buy the best gear you can afford. Period.

If you need 5 strobes, then you buy 5 strobes. If you only need 1 but you buy 5 cheap ones because 1 is going to fail, then you are doing it wrong and should probably work in customer service or make salads.

Also, high cost does not mean perfect gear. even the best gear will fail. My rule of thumb is buy the best you can afford while having enough saved as a contingency to either replace, or rental replace in a pinch.

Lastly, then I'll get off this box of detergent, personally I think you buy whatever cheap crap you can to make it happen. I like working with lights, lenses and equipment that isn't meant for what I want it to do. Most of the time it ads a dynamic effect that wouldn't be there if I used the "industry standard". Of course depending on the client and budget standards are set, but dont be afraid of a little jury riggin.

February 15, 2017 at 2:04PM

Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor