TO HIRE OR TO BUY?
For some photography is something they are happy to do with the barest of equipment, the compact/bridge camera bought for them as a present or the basic DSLR that may have come with two lenses.
For others it is a hobby or more that grows as their skills and interest grows and this will always lead to one age old problem, cost. The big question is, to hire or to buy. Lets look at hiring first; as with all things there are pro’s and cons to all options and this is no exception. Hiring allows you to have what you need for a specific shoot/assignment at a fraction of the cost of buying it. This becomes even more relevant if you are never likely to want it again (a one off) or it might not be needed on a regular basis. It also means you don’t have to store it until you need it again (some items of photographic equipment can be very big and bulky!) Another consideration is if you are thinking about an expensive purchase why not if possible hire the item first? For a fraction of the price you get to “try before you buy” and if it turns out not to be as good or as useful as you thought then it goes back with no more hassle. There are many outlets from which you can hire equipment, a quick look round the magazines or Internet will turn up no shortage of outlets. Many big equipment dealers do a hire service and if you are lucky enough to have one within easy reach this can be the best option. Their staff should be helpful and approachable and should be ready and willing to offer help and advice. Is that bit of kit you want to hire the right item for the job? They may have a better idea. In an Internet driven world a face to face chat can still make all the difference. The best thing about hiring this way is when you go to collect the item from the store you can inspect it in front of an assistant before taking it away. Therefore no awkward arguments such as “it was fine when we put it on the courier!” The reverse of this is equally true. Enough about the pro’s though, what of the cons? In my experience you can insure with the equipment hire company against damage for a small fee, but not theft. If the item is wrecked but you still have it then its good bye deposit but theft can mean you just bought it! OUCH!! You can protect yourself with specific camera insurance (I feel another post coming!!) from this but you must bear in mind that £10.000 lens is not yours and extra care must be taken if additional cost is to be avoided! Many hire companies are Internet based which is very handy but has its pitfalls. To elaborate on my last paragraph the hire company will be very careful how it packages the item but will always be at the mercy of the courier. To much rough handling means it arrives unusable and you are off to a bad start. The good hire companies will have contingencies for this but you MUST FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER! To state the obvious if the packaging is damaged reject delivery. If the packaging is OK remove the item and inspect/test it IMMEDIATELY. ANY PROBLEM contact the hire company STRAIGHT AWAY. They should have a system in place to recover the faulty equipment and replace it ASAP. Sending you a replacement lens three days later isn’t going to work if your sisters wedding is the day after tomorrow!!!! Remember you are paying for a service and they are bound once the money is taken to supply the required equipment in good order. And so we come to buying; This immediately gives us two options, new or used. New is always nice and in many cases when items are inexpensive the obvious choice. But, when items are more expensive then the relevancy of the question becomes more important. That new lens or full frame DSLR can be eye wateringly expensive or simply out of financial reach all together and very often finance especially through the dealer makes the cost even higher so a used item becomes more attractive. But hang on, used... why has it been part exchanged? Whats wrong with it? Why does the previous owner want rid of it? These are the questions that put people off but providing you choose your supplier wisely you should not have cause to worry. A good second hand specialist should have inspected and tested the item prior to sale and it will usually be advertised with a grading from as new to rough but in working order. The sale price will vary accordingly. Read up on how the seller grades items for sale and what guarantee they offer. To state what I would hope is the obvious buying private is totally a case of buyer beware as if the item turns out to be miss sold, unserviceable or worse still stolen you are on your own! I have bought a number of items second hand that would have simply been way beyond my financial reach brand new and so far have not had reason to regret my decision. It seems some people simply MUST have the very latest version of the camera/lens of their choice and when the newest version comes out its goodbye to the older one. Why this is so I have no understanding but I am most grateful they think this way as it means those of us in search of a bargain get lucky and can get our hands on pro equipment at greatly reduced prices! To sum up the overwhelming fact is it pays to think seriously about what you want to do and how you want to do it. Hiring can be a simple and cheep option for the occasional user or as a try out before committing to a purchase. You don’t have items cluttering up your home that you only use occasionally BUT there can be down sides to consider. If you can afford it an outright purchase means you get a brand new shiny item all to your self but if it is high value the cost of specialist insurance can be cheep in comparison to a repair bill or worse still a total loss. Don’t be scared of the second hand market but shop with care. Big outlets won’t mess you about, it’s poor PR for no gain but be very wary of private sales. If you made it this far without falling asleep thank you for taking the time to read my post and I hope it helped.