Top 10 Gear Rented on ShareGrid in 2015

January 12, 2016
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It’s an interesting time in the age of camera technology. Just in the last 10 years we’ve seen the introduction of 4K (now 8K), unfathomable amounts of dynamic range and the emergence of new companies trying to reinvent the camera-wheel. But as a Director of Photography, the most conflicting question I’m always faced with is what should I buy next? With camera technology advancing faster than the death of film, it’s difficult to land your loyalty on one brand or model when it’s “2.0” big brother is inevitably around the corner.

All of that being said, owning your own equipment can still offer you the opportunity on a great return of investment. Last year was a busy year for ShareGrid. We’re very proud of our diversified inventory and with over 4,000 active members in Los Angeles and New York City, we have a pretty accurate snapshot of what rents in the indie-world of filmmaking. So, if you’re thinking about what to buy for 2016, let’s discuss what rented well in 2015 so we can find you something that won’t become a really expensive paper-weight this year. Here are the top ten most rented items on ShareGrid for 2015.

10. Zeiss Super Speed PL Lens Set

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The Zeiss Super Speeds MK I, II and III’s have been a household name in the indie and studio landscape since their genesis back in 1970’s. There’s a reason why this glass has been used on some of cinema’s classics (The Shining, Raging Bull, Lost in Translation). Yet they are still prevalent in many of today’s titles (Her, Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild). Not to mention one of my favorites sets of lenses period. (See a list of features shot on Super Speeds.)

Since the advent of digital cinematography and its advances, images have become sharper, with more synthetic qualities and leaving modern-day cinematographers looking for ways to “dirty” up the frame. Glass, unlike cameras, offer artifacts and characteristics that give the image a unique look and style to do just that. There’s no doubt that in the last 10 years, we’ve seen a huge trend in using older vintage lenses attached to digital cameras. With the help of companies like Duclos Lenses, many cinematographers and film fanatics are blowing off the dust and rehousing vintage still lenses to achieve a more cinematic look with a unique style.

This is primarily why the Super Speeds were our 10th most rented item in 2015. This beautiful set is now accessible and affordable to the average indie filmmaker who wants to give their digital project a classic and unique look.

9. Canon CN-E Prime Lens Set

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Canon has made some amazing strides to land their place in the cinema market. Ever since their DSLR game put them on the cinema map, Canon has been pouring all resources into a brand just about any indie filmmaker would feel comfortable using.

And one of those ventures (not to ignore the C500, C300 and C100 families), is Canon cinema glass. Let’s not confuse that with their excellent L-series line for still photography. But their CN-E Prime Lens Set is our 9th most rented item and I have a feeling why. Canon glass has always done a great job at reproducing accurate skin tones in a digital world. Not to mention their warmer tendencies in color seem to appeal to a lot. Because they have such a strong hold on the indie-game with the success of their cinema camera lines respectively, we now have an overwhelming amount of indie-creatives with Canon EF mounted cameras or adaptors. Everyone is familiar with the EF mount and with that comes comfortability.

So if you’re thinking about picking up a new set of primes, give these guys a go. They’re not “old” like the aforementioned Super Speeds, but their price point is more than worth it ($22,790), and adaptability to the indie-world is unrivaled. So they will stay busy and maintain their investment value for quite some time.

8. Sony a7S / a7S II

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I don’t think there were many “indie” cameras that made as big of a splash in terms of performance as did the Sony a7S II in 2015. I watched countless demos of this little guy’s low-light performance. Which is just another indicator of where this industry is headed. But that’s for another conversation.

Indie filmmakers are on a budget. And though I come from a world of film and controlling light as much as possible. Nowadays, shooting guerilla-style with a camera and available light is very appealing to those on a budget. That is why the Sony a7S/a7S II is our 7th most rented item.

If you can avoid lighting scenes, you save money. No HMI’s, no generators, that’s money you can distribute elsewhere. The lack of noise and clean image is astounding and I think Sony’s technology is on to something big. That’s why buying one of these cameras ($2,998) certainly won’t hurt. Not only can you shoot your own projects with a whole new eye on available light, but there will be plenty of renters knockin’ on your door for a weekend rental.

7. Kino Flo 4ft Gaffer Kit

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Who doesn’t use Kino’s nowadays? We have a plethora to choose from and they seem to rent out pretty regularly. Why? Because they’re light, they don’t give off a lot of heat and most of all, they don’t pull a lot of power. Therefore you get the best bang for your buck in terms of quality of light and power usage.

I’ve used Kinos for interview setups, green screen scenes, complimentary fill or background accents in scenes. It’s fair to say they’re quality is versatile and easy to use in just about any situation.

Lights also have a far longer shelf-life. Their technology evolves at a much slower pace than cameras. So besides replacing bulbs and some occasional maintenance, owning lights are an easy and long-term return on investment.

So I can’t think of a better brand of lights to purchase as their durability, price point and versatility is one of the best.

6. DJI Ronin

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DJI had a great year. With an insane amount of drones “deploying” and the Ronin giving Movi a run for it’s money, it’s no surprise that this brand was one of the most talked about in 2015. Cameras are getting smaller and more compact and not to mention cheaper. Close your eyes and picture the size of the Canon C300 or the RED Epic Dragon. Kind of small compared to what we used to consider a normal “cinema camera” just 5-7 years ago.

That’s where the Ronin stabilization technology comes in. A relatively “easy” way to give your image a Steadicam-look without breaking the bank. Let me be clear, a real Steadicam and Steadicam operator will always be the sure-fire way to go for the foreseeable future. However again, when budget comes into play, it makes sense to use the Ronin. This type of stabilization is only becoming more and more popular as the DJI name grows. Drones too have become popular this past year and DJI has been one of the front-runners in that department.

I think purchasing a DJI Ronin is a great investment. Depending on which one you want, they range from $1,399 to $2,150. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to understand how to operate it. That way when someone wants to rent it, you can offer an operator deal to get yourself a gig.

5. Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K

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Everyone knows Blackmagic Design by now. Their price point to image quality isn’t something to be ignored. A Blackmagic 4K is only $2,995. And I myself have seen a number of shorts, music videos and documentaries shot with the Blackmagic that hold highlights pretty well and skintones somewhat accurately (if lit and color-corrected professionally).

It has a strong dynamic range, a global shutter, a Super 35 sensor and offers close to 4K resolution (3840 x 2160). Blackmagic Design is on to something. They are fairly new to the game but they have the technology most consumers are looking for.

If you’re just starting out and looking for an introductory camera, this may be a perfect fit. It has been almost 3 years since this camera was announced and with how fast technology changes, Blackmagic may be due for 2.0 this year or the next. So I’d either sit tight and see what they come up with at this year’s NAB or pick up their newer URSA Mini at $2,995 which has performed modestly well on ShareGrid since it and its big brother hit our “shelves” in 2015.

4. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

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I personally own this lens and love it. Canon’s L-series is one of the most trusted families of glass in both the still photography and now the cinema world. Though it is a still lens at its core, the 70-200mm is often used for cinema capture alongside its L-series companions.

With its still lens functions as a small drawback (clicking aperture and lack of consistent back focus) the 70-200mm bokeh, smooth focus/zoom throw on the barrel and sharpness is pretty nice to work with. If you have any closeups or portraits in stills or cinema, this lens will do the job just right. Plus, its contrast and slight warmth (both not as strong as some of its family members) offer wonderful bonuses to the already trusty Canon glass-look.

This is an amazing purchase at only $1,999. People will be renting it for some time as Canon EF continues to spread through the indie-market and budget limits prevent one from going the CN-E route.

3. Canon 5D Mark III

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Not a whole lot to add here (see above praise to Canon). But there is no doubt the Canon DSLR splash back in 2007/2008 was a game changer for the company and our industry. It was one of the first times such an affordable, accessible and approachable camera-technology hit the market in HD. Canon will forever be indebted to Vincent Laforet for that.

I personally do not use DSLRs for cinema purposes. However, in a pinch or for someone just starting out as a filmmakers, a 5D Mark III would be another great option to consider like the above mentioned Blackmagic. The price point is great ($2,499) and it’s full-frame CMOS Sensor technology is a quality to be desired by all (with the exception of the rolling shutter). For those who are wondering what I mean, full-sensor 35mm = shallow depth of field. I for one, don’t think this is the only reason why you should purchase or use a 5D as I think the shallow depth of field desire is a little over-done and often misused. However, having a full-sensor for stills or cinema is a wonderful option to have if you use it right for your imagery.

Bottom-line, no matter how good the C-100, Blackmagic, or Sony A7s II are, Canon DSLRs will always be in least in the near future. Not to mention it's an amazing still camera.

This is a no-brainer purchase.

2. Sony PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 Camera

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Coming in at number 2 is the celebrated, Sony FS7. As a cheaper option compared to Sony’s F5 or F55, the FS7 offers some pretty amazing stats. Super 35 Sized CMOS Sensor, shoots 4K (4096 x 2160) Up to 60p, 1080 up to 180fps and 14 stops of dynamic range. And it is only $7,999 out the door.

5 years ago, a camera with these kind of specs would be worth $25K at the very least. I’ve used the FS7 a number of times just this past year and really enjoyed it. I’m still partial to the F3 skin tones and highlight rendition when using S-Log (RIP F3). But the price point is again, amazing for what you get.

The day this camera came out, we had a number of them pop up in our marketplace within days. I can’t think of another technology that flooded ShareGrid as quickly as the FS7. And the demand was there to meet these cameras with open arms. One of our members, Mark LaFleur, told me about how he couldn’t keep his Sony FS7 home...people would request it when it was already rented out.

(If the price is too steep, check out the FS7's baby sister, the FS5. At only $5,599, the Sony FS5 offers decent stats but check out this comparison article to see what best suits your needs.)

Besides its ergonomic drawbacks and other Sony-isms that they like to "proprietize," I think the FS7 is in high in-demand simply due to its specs. People love slow-motion and resolution nowadays. I still feel that the excitement for anything over 2K in resolution is premature for most indie-filmmakers. But the simple fact that you can shoot 180fps at 1080p is simply worth the purchase. These number-based desires to shoot is only growing in, well numbers. Therefore cameras with sexy specs sell. And of course, rent. All the time.

1. Atomos Shogun 4K

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Coming in as the number 1 rented item on ShareGrid for 2015 is the Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder. At first glance this came as a surprise to me. I would’ve expected the Red Epic or the C300...both items we have plenty of and they rent a lot! But this little guy snuck in without me noticing. The Atomos Shogun has been a hugely popular item in the indie market for a lot of reasons. Most notably no need to transcode. Recording directly to the Shogun offers footage in a number of different formats without the added step, time and money of transcoding. In today’s industry of fast-turn around time and short budgets, external recorders have been flying off the shelves.

The beauty with the Shogun is that a lot of indie shoots need it. And it works with just about all cameras. Sony FS7, RED Dragon, Canon C300. So it may be one of the most universally used and needed items on an indie set today. Which makes sense as to why it’s our number one most rented item for 2015. Buying one of these makes a lot of sense simply because the need will only continue to grow in 2016, they rent for around $60-$80 a day and given their price point at $1,995, you’ll make your investment back in just over a one year if you rent it out 2 times a month.

In Conclusion

There is no science or guaranteed formula to what I'm suggesting to buy this upcoming year. It’s truly always a crap shoot. I’ve heard of Sony having something up their sleeves in 2016 (when don't they?), RED is churning out all sorts of goodies and more and more brands are surfacing with “better”, cheaper technology with attractive numbers (dynamic range, resolution, base ISO etc...). However, all we do know is what 2015 told us. And typically technology doesn’t shift too much in one year. So if anything, use this list as a guideline for where the industry is going and whether you should pick up one of the above mentioned 10 items or wait for one of their upcoming successors.

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Brent Barbano

I have been a freelance Cinematographer in Los Angeles for over 12 years. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, I also studied at Syracuse University’s film program. I am a proud member of IATSE Local 600 International Cinematographers Guild.

I am the Co-Founder of ShareGrid and I happily contribute my findings, ideas and news on ShareGrid with all of you.

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