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  1. #1
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    Ideas for camera rental business?

    Hey guys,

    Im a noob when it comes to cameras, but Ive always liked to try stuff out before I bought it. I know that most major cities (as photo-john told me) have pro-rental stores, but ive noticed them to be really expensive, and not catering to the just the photo enthusiast.

    My idea is to rent cameras online (ship them in the mail, and you only pay for the days that the equipment is in your hands), as well have a small store front in downtown los angeles. I would have small selection of DSLRs, just canon and nikon. Lenses would be a major focus (for both nikon/canon), and I would try to get a couple of L-series lenses as well.

    I know also photo shoot equipment (umbrellas/lights etc) is popular, and that would be could be rented at the storefront because of shipping issues.

    What would you guys rent? I want to be able to rent amateur, the tourist, starting wedding photographer etc. (I dont want to rent point and shoots, but maybe the middle range canons like the g5s)

    prices would be very competitive, and shipping time would be very fast, as right now I only have plans for the west coast.

    ideas? thoughts? anything would be great!
    Last edited by carbnjunkie; 10-27-2005 at 11:04 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Whew, getting into that kind of deal is risky at best. The place I deal with for rental gear wants blood both arms and legs, plus deposit.... and they know me personally! They have for some items foregone the deposit, but still.

    What you are considering, you won't even know the customer if you are shipping the items. Even to rent tools locally you need to show a drivers license, and how would handle credit card fraud and the ultimate theft of gear by those who would be sure to strike? I think that alone would cause some serious rethinking a plan to ship items.
    Renting cheap (compared to pro gear) cameras and so on just wouldn't seem to pay enough to cover business expenses and losses. Renting locally may work though, still not sure it would be very profitable however, especially with the influx of cheap P&S cameras, camera phones (which should be banned) and so on.
    It would take some serious capital to start a thing like this, figure on starving for a few years before even possibly seeing any profit.

    JS

  3. #3
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Yah i know what you mean.

    Theft and fraud are a problem with all business it seems. What I could do, is have people fax a copy of his/her licnese, but who knows.

    Most business Ive seen online will either charge the full amount, or "check" (i dont know the correct term) with a pre-authorization to see if they have the credit to do so.

    Renting cheap seems counter-produtive, and doesnt hit the niche market im looking for. I agree that the cheap end and cell phones have killed that anyways.

    What type of equipment would you guys be looking for?
    Last edited by carbnjunkie; 10-27-2005 at 11:53 AM.

  4. #4
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Quote Originally Posted by carbnjunkie
    Yah i know what you mean.

    Theft and fraud are a problem with all business it seems. What I could do, is have people fax a copy of his/her licnese, but who knows.

    Most business Ive seen online will either charge the full amount, or "check" (i dont know the correct term) with a pre-authorization to see if they have the credit to do so.

    Renting cheap seems counter-produtive, and doesnt hit the niche market im looking for. I agree that the cheap end and cell phones have killed that anyways.

    What type of equipment would you guys be looking for?
    For me it's no longer an issue when it comes to bodies as I have a 1D and 1D MKII N, lenses on the other hand are about the only thing I have a need for and those get pretty pricy as well. To have enough lenses just from Canon you'd have $80,000 to $100,000 invested and thats probably low, and just for Canon. One lens I want to rent would cost me over $6000 just for deposit.

    Credit cards are the only way the local dealer rents gear, and then they deduct the amount immediately, then credit the balance minus rental once the equipment is returned.

    Your best bet may be to rent gear such as the 5D, which is really in a class by it'self. But there are times people want better gear too. The other problem is what happens when the 5D is replaced by the next model? The place I deal with sells theirs and starts renting the newer model as soon as they get them. Also what about warranty service, will say Canon support the units since they are being rented?

    A lot to consider, and I'm just one person, I'm sure others will come up with ideas, god, bad, otherwise.

    Oh, insurance... how would you cover the gear, would you be held responsible for what the customer does with the gear, what about customer insurance against damage, etc.

    JS

  5. #5
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    This is a very good subject. Like JSPhoto, I've done a fair amount of renting. I've rented bodies and lenses as well as kits. It's nice to be able to rent, especially super-telephoto lenses that cost thousands of dollars.

    What I'm curious about, is how your business idea is different from the pro dealers rental departments. Why would I use your business instead of what already exist? Or who would use your business, instead of the pros that already use the big dealer rentals. What do you have to offer that's really different? If ionline is the twist, how long would it take me to get a rental camera from you? If I can drive 20 minutes and pick one up from Samys (for example - because they're in LA, near you), why would I consider renting one ffrom you when I have to wait to have it shipped. Or is your target market the small town person who doesn't have access to a pro dealer?
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  6. #6
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    The way I look at it is that if all the dealers charge a lot to rent a piece of equipment, then that's probably what they have to charge to stay in business. The first time I realized it would cost over $200 (plus deposit) to rent a DSLR I thought it was a lot of money but on the other hand they probably clean the sensor and have to send it in for regular service (think about how some people treat rental cars!). Then, it's almost worthless in two years because it's very used and obselete.

    I think it would be tough to charge only for the amount of time it's in the renter's hands - you're tying up inventory that's not making you any money and can't be rented. I can see how you'd have to have some duplicates because of this and having a piece of equipment at the factory for service for a couple/few weeks. And then there's the times when UPS or FedEx loses it for a couple weeks.

    I don't mean to talk you out of it, but it sounds risky. Sure, I might try something like that out - occasionally it would be nice to have a 300 f2.8, a fast body or fisheye to use but it's not something I think I or most other non full-time pro's would use often. It would be nice to rent a backup/second body, but I could about buy one and sell it barely used on ebay for less than Calumet's rental charge...

  7. #7
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Thanks for the input guys, I appreciate it.

    I was looking at what some shops charge for camera rentals, and I think its all too high. If a amateur was looking at a 350xt and it cost 80 bucks a day to rent, im sure he/she would never think about it.

    But if it was in the range of 35-50, it would make more sense.

    on the obeslete equipment issue, I plan to keep the equipment for max a year, and then sell it. I know the tameron and other similar brands have almost no resell value, hence why I wouldt rent them.

    here is a place in DC that rents cameras, and their prices are lower than most. (the cost for weekend vs. weekdays is more....not to mention, 35 bucks for a CF card! whoa)

    http://www.penncamera.com/images/pag...rental1005.pdf

    Does Samys in LA rent cameras/equipment? I cant find any info on their site.

    any input on lenses? brands?
    Last edited by carbnjunkie; 10-27-2005 at 03:26 PM.

  8. #8
    don't tase me, bro! Asylum Steve's Avatar
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    What you also have to consider...

    ..is that a pro who uses rented gear for a commercial shoot passes that expense along to the client.

    Not only that, but more often than not renting the gear is what allows the photog to complete the assignment the way a clients wants, which may in turn be the very reason they landed the assignment and that $1000 day rate (or whatever).

    I guess my point is for a pro who needs a very specific high-ticket photo item on occasion, renting only makes sense and does not add a penny to his or her overhead. More importantly, it extends their creative range to be able to compete for more types of work.

    Now, as others have already pointed out, renting for consumer shooters is a whole nother story. To me, the only place that kind of setup would even make sense would be (maybe) at a theme park, where the inventory and money aspects of the business could be carefully controlled, and the customers in a relatively confined area, and the volume of rentals might allow a cheaper rate.
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  9. #9
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    Re: What you also have to consider...

    Aye, ditto steve. Eventually, I would love to be able to rent a lens that is 5k, but I dont think I could when I (and IF!) start the business.

  10. #10
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    Re: What you also have to consider...

    I think eveyone else has brought up some very good points to consider with this type of business, so I won't go into any of that. To answer your original question as to what type of gear I would like to rent at a reasonable rate, here is a little list. I think I fit the demographic that you are aiming at. Granted I would only rent one or two of these at a time, but you can see that your investment would be pretty larger. The price I included is from B&H.

    Lenses:
    EF 600mm f/4L IS USM=$7199.95
    EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM=$1699.95
    Tilt Shift TS-E 45mm f/2.8=$1099.99
    EF 14mm f/2.8L USM=$1799.95
    EF 135mm f/2.8 L USM=$899.95
    EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM=$659.95
    EF 24mm f/1.4L USM=$1119.95
    EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS=$1434.95
    EF 300mm f/2.5L IS=$3999.95
    EF 400mm f2.8L IS=$6599.95

    Bodies:
    EOS 1Ds MkII=$7395.95
    EOS 1D MkII N=$3999.95
    EOS 1D mkII=$3829.95
    EOS 5D=$3299.95
    EOS 20D=$1299.95

    EOS 1V 35mm=$1649.95
    EOS 3 35mm=$874.95
    EOS Elan 7NE=$339.95
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  11. #11
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    Interesting Point

    Quote Originally Posted by Asylum Steve
    Now, as others have already pointed out, renting for consumer shooters is a whole nother story. To me, the only place that kind of setup would even make sense would be (maybe) at a theme park, where the inventory and money aspects of the business could be carefully controlled, and the customers in a relatively confined area, and the volume of rentals might allow a cheaper rate.
    This is the most interesting thing to come out of this discussion yet, I think. Having a consumer-oriented rental business in a tourist center is something I've never heard of. People are prepared to spend money and they want good photos to remember their trip. That would really be providing a service where there's an unmet need.

    And here's an added idea to throw in the mix. Sales would be a big part of the picture. If the customer likes the camera, they're ripe for an upsell. The rental fee could be applied to a camera purchase. That's pretty common for sports equipment rental, like skis and mountain bikes.
    Photo-John

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  12. #12
    nature/wildlife co-moderator paulnj's Avatar
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    CAMERA BIRD NERD #1




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  13. #13
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    This is an interesting idea, Carb, but I don't think it is very feasible. There are a number of issues that have already been pointed out about fraud and theft, but I think the most important one, and I believe it has been somewhat addressed, is cost.

    I believe there is a very good reason as to why the pro places charge so much for rentals, and that is the cost of the items they are renting. The more expensive the item, the more it needs to be rented out just to cover the purchase cost, and I doubt that there is a lot of volume in the rental business, especially for the larger items. This means that the rental price of other items needs to go up to help cover those costs too.

    In the consumer grade camera market, either P&S or DSLR, you would be taking an even bigger risk. Professionals and advanced amateurs would know how to respect the equipment and would generally be trustworthy enough to bring it back, but with the average consumer, you run the risk of having them run off with your camera.

    Technology in the consumer grade cameras advances much more rapidly than the technology in DSLRs, so you would be stuck having to upgrade yearly in order to keep your customers happy. Unless you're in an area where you can get high volume, you'd be running razor thin margins.

    The final point I want to make is why? I understand some of the reasoning for this, but with Digital Cameras being as common as they are nowdays, why would I want to rent one when I can borrow one from a friend, neighbor, or relative. Most of the people I know just bought one to take pictures of the kids or vacation.

    Its not a bad idea, Carb, but I don't think it would work out. Depending on the market you're in, you might just be better off opening a camera store.
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  14. #14
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    Re: Interesting Point

    Quote Originally Posted by Photo-John
    This is the most interesting thing to come out of this discussion yet, I think. Having a consumer-oriented rental business in a tourist center is something I've never heard of. People are prepared to spend money and they want good photos to remember their trip. That would really be providing a service where there's an unmet need.

    And here's an added idea to throw in the mix. Sales would be a big part of the picture. If the customer likes the camera, they're ripe for an upsell. The rental fee could be applied to a camera purchase. That's pretty common for sports equipment rental, like skis and mountain bikes.
    It also opens up a whole new can of worms too... the person who is not happy because they didn't get any good shots as they didn't understand how to use the gear You would have a headache trying to teach some folks the simplest cameras and nightmares with the rest ... especially the know-it-all who is half drunk

    JS

  15. #15
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Thanks guys, I appreciate the time you took to make all the suggestions.

    I have a lot to think about, as most of you guys pointed out.

    As said before, point and shoots arent what most photo-curious people are looking for, and they change wayyy too often.

    The reason why I "thought" this could work was, I have tons of people bugging me about getting DSLRs who would have never purchased one before the digital relm. (The drop in prices helps also) They are all curious as to what kind of results they could get, and what differences lenses/lighting etc make. Now to them, trying out a basic L-series would be exciting. And getting it online at a click of a button may suit their needs. (this is all in theory, who knows if that person even exists.)

    Photo-jon - is their a chance of getting a "professionals hangout" corner on the site? might be intresting!
    Last edited by carbnjunkie; 10-28-2005 at 11:39 AM.

  16. #16
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    PJ's been a bit busy, probably missed the question so I'll help by "bumping" this up a bit.

    JS

  17. #17
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Thanks JSP.
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  18. #18
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Interesting Point

    Quote Originally Posted by JSPhoto
    It also opens up a whole new can of worms too... the person who is not happy because they didn't get any good shots as they didn't understand how to use the gear You would have a headache trying to teach some folks the simplest cameras and nightmares with the rest ... especially the know-it-all who is half drunk

    JS
    Good point. I can see someone renting the least expensive camera and wanting a 1/2 day tutorial on it, only to have the guy wanting the 600 f4 and two bodies get tired of waiting... Hey, it's been one of those days.

  19. #19
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    haha, its hard to satisfy the person who doesnt do their research!

    Anyone have any more input?
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  20. #20
    nature/wildlife co-moderator paulnj's Avatar
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    Re: Ideas for camera rental business?

    Quote Originally Posted by hambim336 View Post
    Hi

    You can find this info by using search box in the top of website with some keywords related before posting questions.
    6 yr old post.......
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