Adventures in: renting camera equipment / by Nigel Rumsey

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For the first time, I decide to rent some gear for a shoot. In the past, I'd always managed to borrow what I needed or get by with what I had. But there's only so long you can live off of the generosity of others. Conventional wisdom says you don’t buy the gear you’re only going to use occasionally, it’s better to rent what you need. If you find you're using it a lot, then you buy.

I used to be a Project Manager, where you quickly learn, that if your plans can go wrong they generally will.

So I contact a local 'professional' dealer who's handily about a mile from the venue. I was going to be a bit pushed for time the week of the gig so I arrange to pick up on the way there, allowing me to drop it back a couple of days later. I need a Fuji camera body and a lens (an XT1 and a 16-55mm f2.8, if you're interested). I assume they probably won’t hold as much Fuji stock as the more popular Canon or Nikon, so I book nice and early. I'm all set, quite excited by this new way of working.

I used to be a Project Manager, where you quickly learn, that if your plans can go wrong they generally will. With this in mind, I make a note to call a month before the date. “Hi, I’m just checking on my booking.” “OK, let me just look for you ....., oh, sorry Sir, we’ve got it down for the wrong date,” they say. “But don’t worry, I’ll change that for you now. There all done, see you on the 21st.”

My Project Manager cautiousness steps up a gear. I schedule another call for a week before the date. “Hi, I’m sure it’s all fine (patently not true, or I wouldn't be calling), I’m just checking on my booking for the 21st?” “21st, let me see here. XT1 body…” (drawn out pause). “What date was it Sir?" “The 21st, I phoned”, (twice as it happens) “and you said it was all ok?" I then launch into this slightly out-of-control stuttering repetition of my name and the date like some down-market DJ. "Rumsey, on the 21st, 21st, Rumsey, 21st..." "That's strange Sir, we don’t seem to have a record of it, but don’t worry I’ll book it for you now.” I’m just on the verge of pointing out that I’ve already booked it when he says.. “Oh, I’m afraid that body’s already booked for the 21st". Yes, by me! Twice!

I can hear myself sounding like a dick.

I do my best to explain that I booked it first before the other booking, that should be my name on the list, not theirs. But I can hear myself sounding like a dick. After all, it’s not the other guy’s fault and it's obvious my arguments aren't going to cut any ice anyway. “I can do you the XT-10, but it’s a little more expensive.” At this point I’m resigned to my fate, I don't even ask how renting a cheaper camera can be more expensive. My options have run out, I need a camera. No, I need this camera. "Yes," I say, "that'll be fine."

The logic behind renting the same camera as you already use is a sound one, all the buttons are in the same place, it's just muscle memory. So much for that plan. However, the shoot goes fine, I don’t use the rented body that much anyway.

My question dear reader, is what do you do? Have I just been unlucky? Does renting gear need to be this difficult? How many times do you need to use a piece of gear to make it worth buying - at the moment, for me, that number is two.