Buy an expensive camera for travels, or just rent (something leh)?

Camera Gear - Bryce Walker
Camera Gear by Bryce Walker via Flickr CC

The one thing I’ve realised in my 6 years of travel blogging? I’ve become a lot more concerned about the quality of my photos, and my photos have definitely improved a lot since I started out. Not because I have invested in a fancy DSLR camera or expensive gear – my regular readers will know that most of my photos are taken from my iPhone or a dinky point-and-shoot camera in my early days.

But there are these trips that I go on where I wish I had access to a better camera, just for that trip. Scuba diving trips for example – being a fan of underwater photography makes me want to capture good memories of what I see beneath the surface. Diving with whale sharks and manta rays – I look back at my old videos of my last Maldives dive and am very thankful I had the chance to test an action camera back then so I had some pretty nice video footage.

This is what I mean by my early travels being marred by bad photography. My memories of Cebu underwater are definitely less blurry than this 😛

Just buy a GoPro, you might say – but I don’t think my sporadic use justifies me buying a GoPro as I don’t always go on trips like these, nor do I do a lot of video in my travels and blogging. It’s not a cheap investment – you’re looking at least S$500 and above for a brand new GoPro, not accounting for accessories and other supporting equipment. For an occasional traveller like me, I’d rather put that money into my next plane ticket.

But it would be nice to have that option, no?

So when Rent Something Leh dropped me an email one day, and it definitely piqued my interest (I admit to being quite tickled by that extremely Singaporean Singlish name). Rent Something Leh loans out fancy camera equipment to people on a short term basis. When I first spoke to them, they were mostly renting out GoPro cameras, but since then they’ve expanded their service to include quite a lot of other equipment:

  • GoPro Hero 4 and GoPro accessories
  • Drones – DJI Phantom and DJI OSMO
  • DSLR – Canon EOS 5 and a range of lenses
  • Video Cameras – Sony PMW200 and Canon C100 Mark II
  • Instant Printer – Instax SP-1

This also came up right around the time I was headed to Seoul and knew I was going to spend a day skiing, so I met up with owner and founder JG to pick up a GoPro camera for my trip. It’s a pretty small outfit right now so service is quite personal – submit your requests and dates online through the website and arrange for a meet up to receive the camera. For newbies especially, the meet up is quite useful as JG doesn’t just hand you the camera and leave; he does take the time to go through the essential functions and explain them to you, so you don’t have to figure things out from scratch.

The rental works on a per day basis, so perhaps less suitable for those who take very long trips as that per day cost can add up, but here are some people I think it could work for well:

Short trippers

I find it most suitable for those going on a short weekend trip – the standard GoPro rental + 1 mount is S$10/day, which is quite affordable if you want memories of yourself whitewater rafting in Bali or going on a weekend ski trip – S$20-30 is pretty decent and not a big % of your travel costs.

For trips longer than a week, it then depends on whether you feel it will be worthwhile. Take for example: a week-long dive trip – RSL has a dive package with the respective mounts at S$12/day – that works out to S$84 in total. For my current budget, that starts edging into the ‘should I/shouldn’t I’ range. If I’m quite an infrequent diver and going somewhere with amazing waters and large animals like the Maldives where photos just don’t cut it, then yes I would pay for it. I would then try to maximise use of the camera throughout my trip, or maybe share costs with friends.

Or maybe if you are a visitor just stopping over in Singapore for a short while and don’t want the hassle of carrying gear around with you, why not rent a good camera or GoPro for a day or two?

Gangwon High1 Ski Resort View
Took this with the GoPro on the slopes in Gangwon, South Korea!


On assignment

As someone who does freelance writing and blogging work, sometimes I need better gear (than my phone) on hand for certain assignments. It then becomes a worthy investment to get the right camera that I need just for that assignment rather than be forced to beg/borrow/buy a camera that becomes a white elephant when you really only need it for one day.

Even if you’re like me and take most of your photos on your phone, having a backup camera doesn’t hurt if photos and videos are essential to you. I was pretty lucky this trip – the cold weather in Seoul shut down my wonky iphone battery, so you probably wouldn’t have seen any pictures of Apjugeong or me skiing if I didn’t have the GoPro on hand!

Seoul Apgujeong Selfie
That is the relieved face of someone who had a spare camera on hand! I would have been quite sad if I didn’t manage to get these pix for my street art in Seoul post!


Testing waters

Also for those who do want to get serious equipment but don’t know what they want to commit to yet, renting out equipment on a per day basis is a good way for you to get a feel of what works for you. Imagine sinking all that money into buying the GoPro and its accessories and then realising you hate using it? This way, you move beyond the product counters and actually get to try some of the equipment in a real life situation, helpful for those who like a hands-on experience.

So thanks to JG and Rent Something Leh for sponsoring the GoPro loan to Korea! I’ll be working with them on and off to borrow the GoPro as and when I need for The Occasional Traveller in the coming year ahead, but the best part of this blog post is how YOU can benefit from this – we’re giving my readers a special 10% off their GoPro rentals when you quote TOTxRSL in your sign up form… unlimited use, but only for GoPro rentals, it’s that easy!

But EXTRA BONUS – Sign up for TOTmail and along with getting my blog posts right to your email inbox, you’ll get an additional secret code to give you an extra 10% off (that’s 20% instead of the standard 10%) your first GoPro rental, woot! Find out more in perks or sign up straight away here.

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