Meet J Rental Centre — an ‘Airbnb’, but for cameras

So you’re a student. Or just don’t have a lot of money lying around. However you’ve got a photography project to fulfill — something that needs better equipment than you already have. So, you fire up Google and search for a camera and lens rental business. Thing is, you live a good 2 hours away, the prices are far too much, and the collection and/or return timings for the equipment just don’t suit your schedule.

Good for you, then, that there is now J Rental Centre (JRC). The brainchild of a group of passionate photographers themselves, JRC aims to act as an ‘Airbnb’ for cameras and lenses. Citing the issues small productions might face with tight schedules, and low or even no budgets, they decided to band together to offer their own equipment up for loan all across the island.

jrc

Designed to solve the problem of under-utilised gear that freelancers own and overpriced rentals that students and small productions pay, JRC is a startup that will benefit many individuals. Today, I was invited to JRC’s official launch — a year after they had been formed. Then, JRC was simply another lens rental option situated in Dover, however today’s launch propels it into its new business model. Nevertheless, it has still garnered approximately 400 rentals, and 150 customers to date.

How JRC works is by linking up with freelance photographers and videographers and allows them to list their own camera bodies and lenses up for rental on JRC’s website. Prices are decided in collaboration with the JRC management team and the freelancer, however it is ultimately up to the latter to decide. As of now, JRC has 20 members who have put their equipment up for rental. This has allowed JRC to dot most of the island with locations where gear is available for rental.

The locations where JRC has gear available
The locations where JRC has gear available

The rest of the process is pretty simple. You decide which piece of equipment you want to rent (and where from) — either via the map or the ‘Gear’ page — and submit your details, such as your contact information and the duration of the rental. Once JRC has confirmed that they have stock (in 1 to 2 hours, during standard business hours) of the piece of equipment, you can firm up your order. Once that is done, you can collect your equipment from the location you have selected at a time convenient to you. The same applies for returns. Once a rental is completed, JRC pockets just 15% of the revenue.

If you are a student and you place a booking more than 48 hours in advance, you also get to enjoy a 15% discount from your overall bill.

The JRC team and their members
The core JRC team with their members

Don’t get your knickers in a knot about JRC trying to nickel-and-dime you, though. The team behind JRC aren’t actually going to turn a profit unless transactions shoot through the roof (read: 60 rentals per month). Calculated in a hypothetical scenario where all the work handling the operations of JRC is handed to a lone employee, paid just $2000/month, the total revenue collection in a year must hit a mammoth $173,000.

What’s more, JRC offers prices which undercut the competition by up to 40% by virtue of not having to operate a physical store or hire full-time or part-time staff. What all this translates into for the consumer (that means you) is a win-win situation. Members get to rent out their equipment and make some money on the side, while the consumer gets to save some valuable dough.

Carl_Zeiss_Camera_and_Cine_Lenses_damaged_Distagon_T28_25 ZF
Even if this happens, loaners are well protected

There is also a solid damage protection policy, where in the case of damage to the rented equipment, the loanee must put down a deposit of $200 while the equipment is checked by the manufacturer. Once diagnosed, the repair cost is taken out of the $200 and the rest of the money is returned to the loanee. However, if the repair costs exceed $200, the loanee must either top-up the amount paid or replace the equipment and re-collect the $200 deposit.

As a hobbyist photographer myself, I feel this is a great service that fills an important role in photographers’ lives. With so many low-priced rental options so close to my residence, it is pretty safe to say I’ll be using JRC’s services in the near future. How about you?

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