We all start in photography and go through the phase of buying equipment we can afford at that point of time, it may not be the equipment we need or the equipment we lust for. The
first purchase is always dictated by our affordability.
While limited it may be, it does not limit the joys of photography. There are photographers who are creative and use their first purchases to create stunning images. For the rest of us, who need different lenses or second camera body to augment our expanding horizons, the only choice in India till a few years ago was to buy. This was a slow process taking many years to acquire the kit.
Many a times, I had wished that I could try a particular lens to see how it handles in the field and where it suits my shooting style. There was no option to do this and the only time I could this was when traveling abroad and most pro stores would have a demo copy of the lens to try and feel..
THE HORIZON BROADENS
Just about a few years ago the lens rental business started in India and I remember congratulating Sudhir Shivaram, the first entrant in this field on the pioneer steps taken in this direction. Since then the choices of rentals have increased for the photographer.
With so many rentals how does one choose? We want quality gear when we rent as every shoot for us is special and we do not want equipment failures. While today’s gear is highly complex piece of electronics and sometimes even new cameras shut down, the instances are few.
I went through this process and jotted down a few points.
1. Is the rental equipment a full time professionally run business?
I started off with this question because I was approached a few years back to pool in my kit for renting out. The argument was that anyway, I am not shooting for 365 days a year. So why not recover some money spent on the equipment.
My argument was that, while it sounds good. I do not have the resources for upkeep of the equipment lent out.
Eventually, my equipment will have loss of functionality and it would be unfair to the customer to rent out something that may not be 100% functional. Nobody would benefit unless I make it my prime business.
While Personal rentals can be between friends and acquaintances with or without monetary transactions.
There is a difference between Professional Equipment Rentals and Personal Equipment Rentals.
Professional run business objective is to be profitable. They will not survive if they do not take care of customers and offer the best. They have the resources for on-going upkeep. Moreover how would a Personal Equipment Rental manage with the corporate job that needs full time and a part time rental.
2. Does the rental have the wide variety for your use?
Having a small inventory does not suit a photographer who is serious about renting. Few lens or camera selections will vastly reduce the benefit for which you started with rentals in the first place. If you are a one lens one camera person it could work for you.
3. Do they have multiple copies of the fast moving items
Let’s face it there are some models that are more sought out then others. Example, the 500mm prime lens for photographers into Nature and wildlife, the 85mm primes for the candid wedding photographers, full frame camera bodies etc.
If the rental does not have multiple copies of these fast moving items, you may not be able to get it for rent when you need one.
A rental business must have a proper yield
management to figure out the fast moving items.
4. Do they calibrate and service their equipment?
Every piece of equipment needs regular service whether you own it or rent it. These complex pieces of equipment have many moving parts and lots of electronic parts which do need a check occasionally.
A good rental business will make sure that the lens are calibrated, Camera sensors are cleaned, and make sure the piece is in condition for the next order.
5. Do they upgrade their inventory with the latest gear?
What’s the point in going for a rental if they do not stock the latest and the best?
How soon does the rental get a new item on to their inventory? With new launches every few years, the gear has advances that can make images which were difficult with the previous versions.
6. Is the process of registration and booking rentals professional, hassle free and efficient?
Finally, how does one get to book the gear? No business will be able to rent out to customers without any credentials or verifications. Is the process of registration simple or does it take weeks / months before the business can verify and start giving you rentals.
How does one book an item? Can a customer book over phone or through the web site? A good rental business will have an efficient system in place to avoid double bookings. This means when you book an item, its ready for you to pick up.
7. Do they listen to their customers?
Does the Professional Equipment Rental have a mechanism to seek customer feedback and act on it? Situations change, challenges arise. Is the rental willing to address these and tweak their process to keep it relevant?
So, when does it make sense to rent? For non-professional use, if you need the equipment for a trip couple of times in a year it would be good to rent. if you end up using the equipment every weekend and for 4 – 5 major trips of a week or more in a year, it would make sense to buy. Calculate the planned usage and the cost of rental for the time over a period of 5 – 6 years that would give you an idea.
FUTURE OF RENTALS?
I see the day rentals matures to the extent that, I land at the location and I can pick up the pre-booked equipment, shoot and return before departure.
Imagine traveling to the location with a few memory cards and minimal personal equipment, having your rental gear ready for the entire trip or for a single safari and traveling back with your images.
Maybe I can use a different lens for each safari.
I am listing two such rentals in Bengaluru, which I have used personally or my friends have used it. Both of them have a wide selection and happy customers
BookMyLens : http://www.bookmylens.com/
Content taken from this link BVSK