Photography Gear Announcement

January 19, 2018

tl;dr: A collection of photographers at Linfield have started a camera library co-op. The goal is to make pro-gear more accessible and encourage collaboration. As of now, we have about 17 lenses and 10 bodies. Most are manual focus film lenses, so we're looking to purchase a Sony a7 and corresponding adapters. Our library functions like a directory, without a centralized space. You don't lose physical control of your equipment, but you have the option to make your gear available for others. Loan or trade out gear, or help purchase future equipment. You'll earn a share of profits derived from shared items, and revenue helps with maintenance, props, lighting, etc.

More details

I've found that most people, especially college photographers, don't have time to shoot constantly. We are occupied and doing different things. Even if we're editing, we're still not shooting. So our cameras are under-utilized, much like our vehicles, and few of us can afford nice gear. We end up shooting with entry level equipment and struggling to upgrade our lenses. If we shot constantly, it wouldn't be reasonable to share things. But since our equipment has frequent downtime, we can network and collaborate, raising the total quality of our photos at the same time. This keeps people involved and motivated to shoot.

Whenever there's a great deal on used items, we rarely have the money to buy them individually. With a group mindset, we actually can have nice things at affordable prices. We contribute some fraction of the total cost, and this represents our ownership. If we buy a used 100-400mm zoom lens for $1800, the 10 of us only put forward $180. We have equal shares and can use that lens indefinitely. This is far cheaper than any rental, and it enables immediate ownership, rather than going into debt with credit cards or making speculative purchases.

If you decided you don't like that lens, then you could sell back your $180 share to the other nine people, or someone else could take your place. But assuming you're at Linfield for a few years, spreading fractional amounts makes the cost of ownership very low. You only would need a few jobs in 1-4 years to get your money back. And while others are using the gear, you'll earning a small percentage on your investment.

When I graduate in the spring of 2020, I could sell my $180 share for $160. Now someone else has a claim to that gorgeous lens, and it only cost me $20 to own for two years. That’s an incredible value. I'll only need to shoot one portrait in two years to make a profit. Reaching a profitable phase is challenging when you have to spend piles of cash. This is SO EXCITING! Imagine being able to shoot with very low financial risks.

If you have gear and want to list it, please get in touch! I'll start out with a simple director list, and as it becomes more complex, we might make a dedicated website with accounts. The official page has a current list of available gear, and photos will be added soon. Together, we can buy nice stuff and collaborate.

In terms of total value, my contribution is between $400-600 for film stuff, mostly in lenses. The only thing missing is a Sony a7, so the lenses can be adapted for digital use. A digital collection of lenses with the same optical coverage would cost well over $2,000. There’s a reason I’ve only been buying film stuff. It’s very cheap, but it still works just fine. To illustrate my point about cost effectiveness, an old Canon FD 85mm 1.2 lens costs between 500-700, whereas the digital version is around $1,200 used. Adapt that to a Sony, and you’re in business. It’s far cheaper than going with heavier, motorized AF lenses. I have about 10 working film cameras, some excellent primes, and some nice zooms. Not having autofocus can be a pain in some situations, but how many of you actually sell sports photos on a regular basis? Unless you really need sports action autofocus, a manual lens will suit you just fine. Once we buy a Sony A7, it’s a non-issue, because focus peaking helps you do it manually.

A used A7 can be purchased for about 550-650. The second version has a stabilized sensor, which is probably worth the extra expense, increasing to around $800-1,000. In the short term, we're going to buy an a7, and once we can buy the a7 II, we'll sell and upgrade. But at the same time, having two a7 cameras could be more useful.

So if you’re at a point where gear is an issue, or maybe you want to try new things, join the library, and let’s build something awesome! Thanks for reading this post!