Camera rental has long been an opaque area for information. You would hear anecdotal evidence like "Those lenses are hot," or "those camera bodies just sit on the shelf," but if you didn't work in a rental house it was hard to know how much of that was stories and how much of it was actionable truth. Why does that info matter? Well, you are way more likely to get a deal on a camera or tool that isn't super popular, and if you are thinking about rental income being part of your strategy for paying off your gear, knowing what is actually hot is worth investigating.

There is a whole host of new data available about what cameras people are actually using.

With the rental market moving out of individual houses and onto platforms, there is a whole host of new data available about what cameras people are actually using. We had a conversation with Brent Barbano at online rental platform ShareGrid about the company's 2017 year-in-review to glean a few insights based on this information.

One thing to be clear about any set of data is that it is always limited. For instance, ShareGrid is mostly built around owner/operators, so the pool of gear will be different than a traditional rental house. Additionally, there are some pricey items that owner/operators are going to keep busy enough to be worth the risk, while some are still rare enough to mostly live in the bigger rental house inventory. Additionally, the best advice is still: just buy the tools you want, and use rentals as a supplemental income; only get into buying things you yourself don't want to use personally if you want to be a dedicated rental house, which is another business entirely.

Here are some of our biggest takeaways.

Ronin_stabilizierCredit: ShareGrid

1. Ronin wins with indies

While Freefly and the MoVi were the market maker, DJI and the Ronin dominate gimbal rentals for ShareGrid at the moment, with more than eight times the rentals going to DJI over MoVi. This is likely the result of a few factors coming together, including the price difference between early Ronin units and the original MoVi line. With the new Ronin 2 (which we will be reviewing soon), and the MoVi Pro, the prices are now nearly in line with each other, so it will be interesting to see how these stats play out in another year. 


2. Mirrorless cameras dominate

The overall number one rented camera in 2017 from ShareGrid was the Sony A7SII.  This makes sense, of course, since it is a great combination of very popular, affordable to an owner/operator, but just expensive enough to be worth renting if you are only going to use it a few times a year. It hits that sweet spot where it's affordable to build a package for the dedicated, but too pricey for the rare user. 

Mirrorless in general (largely the A7SII and the Panasonic GH units) were very dominant this year over DSLRs, with 1.3 times the rental volume and 1.7 times the revenue. While this isn't a surprise, considering how frequently clients still request "DSLR" quality footage, it's likely many of those productions are able to deliver the same or better results from mirrorless, and these rental numbers say they are likely doing so.

Nokia_vr_ozo-press-photo-shade_0Nokia OZO VR cameraCredit: Nokia

3. VR still isn't really a thing

We asked Barbano about how much movement there is in VR and he answered, "Honestly, less than .002% of our business." This doesn't mean that VR will never happen, or that VR-specific rental houses like Radiant Images aren't seeing some traffic in immersive and 360° rigs. But it does tell us that the revolution is happening more slowly than the most optimistic VR boosters hoped. Will VR go the way of the Stereoscopic boom of 2008? That remains to be seen, but it certainly hasn't started to make a real dent on platforms like ShareGrid yet.

Alexa_miniAlexa Mini

4. Alexa still inspires lust

The most viewed item in 2017 was an Alexa mini package. Not the most rented, but the most viewed. This means the package most people looked at and thought "how can I talk the producers into paying for this," or "how I can squeeze this into my next production," or "when will I be able to afford this," is the Alexa Mini. Which lines right up with reality to us.  We can't always afford it, but it remains the camera we would shoot if we could.


5. LED rents more than HMI

This is one of those areas that might have more to do with the platform than the unit. Visiting sets we still see most of them based around HMI lighting, but then we see people mostly buying LED units. Still, ShareGrid reports that LED is out-renting HMI by a factor of five to one, likely driven by the larger inventory of LED lights available from those owner/operators who have them available.

If you're going to be buying and renting in 2018, follow the ShareGrid blog for its analysis.