I have often thought that the camera industry shares quite a few likenesses to the automotive industry. Brand new cars are expensive items to buy outright from new, and the same can be said for the latest cameras that boast state-of-the-art technology. Take the Panasonic Lumix S1R, Nikon Z 7 or Sony A9 for example – three prestige full-frame mirrorless models that all put a big dent in your bank balance at over £3,000 each for the body alone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a passionate amateur or working pro, dropping this kind of cash on a new camera isn’t a decision to be rushed. Camera manufacturers, like
car manufacturers, have acknowledged that with so much money on the line it’s imperative to get products into potential customers’ hands so they have the chance to try before they buy – much like taking a car out for a test-drive.

To get Lumix S series cameras into new people’s hands, Panasonic has recently launched an incentive that allows photographers to borrow kit and try it for free. Professional and serious amateurs can trial Lumix S kit for a period of two weeks to cover a specific project or simply to enjoy a chance to see what it can do. For those who’d like to get hold of a different camera or lens for a one-off opportunity, or extended time, there are numerous hire companies who are prepared to lend you kit for a fraction of the price of buying from new.

Camera for a monthly fee

Something that has proven to be hugely popular in the automotive industry is the option to lease a new car, but this concept is yet to filter through to the photography market. I believe that having the option to lease a costly camera like the Sony A9, say, whereby you pay a fixed monthly fee to use the camera for an agreed time period and not exceed a predetermined shutter count, would be an excellent idea. Sure there will be the usual strict rules, credit checks and the camera won’t be your own property, but the thought of being able to shoot with a new camera every few years, with relatively low monthly payments and no worry about resale value, is extremely appealing.

If camera leasing were to take off it would require a bit of thought. Camera manufacturers would need to make it easier for users to check the shutter count, a bit like we glance at the odometer on a car. Camera lease companies could offer personal contract hire (PCH) as well as the option to buy the camera and become its legal owner at the end of the leasing contract through a personal contract purchase (PCP) scheme. The other thing to consider is that it would supply the second-hand market with many well-looked-after cameras that haven’t been overused. Much like cars on PCH are sold on at the end of their contract period, it would be the same for cameras. This is all food for thought, but I do like the idea of paying a set price each month for a top-of-the range camera, much like I do for my smartphone.

Michael Topham is AP’s Reviews Editor. In his spare time he shoots weddings. See michaeltopham.co.uk.

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Amateur Photographer magazine or TI Media Limited