A while back I bought my first cinema camera when I initially had the idea to make my own films. I decided to purchase a Canon C100 Cinema Camera from B&H Photo because someone I had worked on another project with had used that same camera and I really liked the way the images turned out on that film.
Sometimes Conventional Thinking Is Wrong
The first few short films we made, I had an Assistant Director strictly tell me to never ever buy equipment and to always rent the equipment. The reason why that statement is wrong is that there are huge differences between prices to rent and buy cameras and the opportunity cost really can be significant depending on the use of those cameras.
Are you shooting a feature film for 30 days, never using the camera again after that and the camera body cost more than $30,000? Are you making 10 projects over the next 10 months and are able to use the same camera? Are you looking at a $95,000 Arri Alexa or a $7,400 Canon C200? What is the resell value on your camera? Are you dealing with a company like B&H Photo who will purchase the camera back after you get ready to sell it if you decided to sell at some point in the future?
In Some Cases, the Numbers Work in Your Favor to Purchase, Not Rent
I purchased a camera and used it on about 9 different projects over a course of 10 months. The days we were on a set totaled about 30 days in actual use, but there were many more days whenever I found it useful to just have the camera on hand. In this case, the camera was sold back to B&H Photo for $1,224.99 and with free shipping. I originally paid $2,999.00 including shipping. I owned the camera for a full year exactly, totally random I know. During that same year, I could rent a C100 for $100 per day. Well $100 per day for 365 days is $36,500 or if you look at it for the days I used the camera on set, which was for about 30 days, then that total is $3,000. Basically, I paid $1,774.01 to own a camera for an entire year, which if I had rented it for that time period would have cost $36,500 or for just the days we used it on a film set, $3,000.
But don’t buy an Arri Alexa for $95,000 for a 30 days shoot, when you can rent one for much less than that.