October 24, 2015 at 10:08PM

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Leasing a camera, or getting a loan?

I'm exploring new camera options, but the price tags on some of the cameras I'm looking at are pretty scary. That said, I know I need to invest, but wisely.

Does anyone have experience leasing cameras (I know B&H has a new leasing option) or getting a loan of some kind?

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There are a few things you can do. 1st I'm a big fan for renting different cameras to get a feel for what you like. Renting is very cheap and competitive nowadays and this also is a great way to not be out a lot of money if you don't have back to back paid gigs right away.

As far as financing, Amazon & Paypal credit usually have 12 months same as cash when you spend a certain amount. This would be different than leasing because you would own the equipment.

What kind of work do you do?

October 25, 2015 at 12:01PM

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Derek Armitage
Filmmaker & Vlogger
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Thanks Derek. I do like the idea of renting, but I'm pretty sold on Canon. I've shot enough with Sony's to know that I just can't stand their menu systems and form factors. Plus I don't want to have to deal with lens adapters to fit my EF glass.

That said, the C300 MK II is obviously very appealing, but at $16K, I could probably get a used Scarlet, which is also something I'm considering.

I shot weddings this past summer (which I'm no longer doing), but will be working on docs and narratives this year, hopefully commercial too. The C300 seems like a great choice, given that it can do everything pretty well.

Gabe Reuben

October 25, 2015 at 12:50PM

There are a lot of people over at REDUSER.net who say things along the line of "the Camera paid for itself on the first job". I think that's a good (and perhaps the best) rationale for leasing or borrowing money for equipment. If you cannot get that kind of return from your first job, renting is a far less risky way to get the job done without being in hock for longer than you can afford, or facing down the ugliness of the end-of-lease buyout options.

If you are feeling lucky, you can roll the dice with "12 months same as cash" credit offers, but if you cannot earn all the money back in 12 months, don't kid yourself that you'll earn it back in 2-3 years. Those who seriously hustle earn it back in a matter of weeks or months. Those are the people who can afford to borrow.

October 26, 2015 at 7:17AM

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What about a bank loan? For instance, a $15K purchase amortized over 3 years would be a couple hundred bucks a month. So, provided you make a couple hundred bucks a month off the camera (and if you can't do that, then..yikes), you should technically be in the clear, and have a camera that will be "future proof" at least for a couple years.

I'm specifically referring to something like a C300 MK II. Three years from now, that camera should still be widely used.

Gabe Reuben

October 26, 2015 at 1:02PM

Michael makes good points. I have only once been able to pay off my camera with "one job", however. Being realistic, if you're talking a $25K camera system, it's unusual to say the least to make $25K PROFIT (that's after paying for your shoot, including paying yourself!) off one job. I usually take about a year to 18 months for bigger camera systems like RED Dragon, including all the accessories. That is with hustling. Again, the bar raises itself quite a lot when you're looking at profit paying for your camera system, instead of "I just landed a $25K job!!!!".

Patrick Ortman

October 30, 2015 at 11:34AM

Well I would not recommend going in debt, first of all realize the camera body is just the first thing and there is a whole list of things you need esp as you go for more expensive cameras. My recommendation buy a good, but inexpensive cameras and hone your skills. What is likely that you will be in debt, you will not be able to afford the batteries, memory, storage for off loading etc and you are stuck. On the other hand, make your work pay for camera upgrades, get the inexpensive camera, learn your craft, make the footage look excellent, LEARN TO LIGHT, rent as needed, if your work won't pay for a camera body upgrade, it says you are not ready yet. Todays hot camera is tomorrows door stop.

October 26, 2015 at 9:17AM

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Lofar this is great advice, that I personally followed from film teachers 8 years ago when I got into the industry. Problem is that with advancing technology, human experience and "skills" will mean less and less. As harvesters of the screen, we must adapt to this tech landscape and embrace our eventual replacement by A.I. that can light and setup a camera angle. Right now the only way to clearly separate yourself, without opinion or judgement, is to own a high end digital camera like a Red. I have seen DPs with little to no to 0 experience/skills with a shiny Red take jobs from DPs with over ten years of experience. Once was an actor who saw what the Red name meant, and is now a working DP with 0 learning/education. I have seen low interest financing work well, but you need to hustle the camera on jobs and get it paid off within 1-2 years. Then with a red being able to hold their value so well over other digital cameras you'll have at least 2 more years to profit from it.

NinjaMonkey

October 29, 2015 at 8:08AM

I've been looking into this same thing for the Canon C300 Mark II. I can't imagine in 3 years time or so I'll beed more than 12bit 2k, 10 bit 4k, 4k raw out, etc., seems like a pretty future proof camera for my needs.
I'm about to fill out the BH provided leasing application, as they offer lease to own at monthly payments. 16k is a SO MUCH, but if you break that down to monthly payments that come around to 500 a month, that should be no problem at all to afford in that sense. Whether you're getting gigs or even in your offtime just renting the camera out.
Seems like a no brainer to do so? I can only imagine that's how a good amount of people get their hands on such expensive cameras.

April 28, 2016 at 5:57PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
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