Cinematography : Buy or rent camera? by C. D-Broughton

C. D-Broughton

Buy or rent camera?

Prices in Finland (where I am right now) are ridiculous for rentals, whereas firms like Black Magic offer high quality (or so I've been advised) for a low cost. Their Pocket Cinema is supposed to be 4K cinema-quality, though they - and other companies - have other 4K budget options, so I'm not restricted product or brand-wise.

I'm aiming to shoot a low budget pilot for a TV programme, which will be filmed entire indoors on a single location. Most rental places here offer Arri cameras... but at the same cost per day that the above mentioned Black Magic could be bought at!

So, your valued opinions, please...

It's important to note that 4K is a requirement.

M L.

You don't mention whether you own or have access to the rest of the camera package. Lenses, tripod, cards, batteries, mattebox, follow focus, filters, etc. If you're starting from scratch and buying all of it you will spend way more than the cost of the camera. No matter what camera body you pick up. The accessories and lenses are always a lot more money if you buy quality products.If you have all the other stuff and are just looking to get a new camera body, then you're better off renting just the body from a house. Or hiring a 1st A.C. with a camera body that fits your kit. You'll be able to get someone good because you're offering a kit rental as well as the day rate and they'll know the camera inside and out. Much better than buying a new camera and bringing it on set with you when you haven't had a lot of time with it.If you have no accessories at all and don't own any part of the camera package, then you probably want to hire a 1st A.C. or camera operator with a complete kit and let them take the rental fee. Just work as the DP. Because renting an entire camera package will cost you or the production a lot of money at the end of the day.

David Trotti

M L has some really good advice. There are several big advantages to hiring a DP or Videographer or AC with his or her own camera and package. First, you'll get someone who knows how to set up and use their own equipment and comes with it. Second, you'll be able to get a package deal that's probably a lot less expensive than a rental house. Third, you don't have to incur the cost of buying your own equipment, then kicking yourself in six months when a newer, better camera comes out for less. You still may wind up renting some equipment to supplement the package, but you can do this based on the expertise of the DP/Videographer and your specific needs. Make sure you take into account your post and delivery Codec (like ProRes or DNxHR) and if you're shooting using High Dynamic Range/Log and what your LUT settings will be.

C. D-Broughton


I had considered the DoP with gear but, well, cha-ching is a big factor. We'll have to keep looking around for prices (not at loss of quality).

The concept is very easy-shoot though, with a no-nonsense approach (so we won't need a Christopher Doyle).

The buy option - even factoring in extras equalling probably double the cost - would still work out more cost-effective than renting, and certainly less hassle... but they are insured and any accidents wouldn't mean the production shuts down.

Royce Allen Dudley

If 4K is a delivery requirement make absolutely certain that the actual 4K codec you are working in satisfies those requirements. "4K" is not a single format. Netflix is a good example- their partner projects must use an approved camera, and only in the approved format and workflow parameters.

Ryan McCoy

Speaking from experience, the Black Magic is a gem. I’ve used it on multiple productions this far. But, don’t let the equipment stop you from creating. Everything you need is right in your hands, brother. Let me know if I can help you out.

Andrew Sobkovich

Ryan, when did you use the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K? As it is not yet released to the public, was everything on the pre-production you must have used working? What insights can you share from using this camera?

Rakesh Malik

The Pocket 4K camera isn't available yet. Most of BMD's cameras have been very good though; there were some that had QC problems early on, but the cameras are pretty solid now -- enough to get on the Netflix approval list. Obviously, the new Pocket 4K isn't yet, since it's not available and Netflix tests cameras pretty rigorously before certifying them.Buying is only more cost effective than renting if you plan on using the gear you buy often. If it's just for one production, renting or making a deal with an owner/operator or owner/DP is probably more economical.

Other topics in Cinematography:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In