I had a friend recently ask about how to secure cameras for a short film production in the Twin Cities and my answer was a mixed bag.
I actually don’t have any contacts in town who have that kind of equipment. The cameras that I have ever used in the past were standard definition and late-90s vintage they are quite dated now. I knew a couple of folks in L.A. who had them, but obviously that doesn’t do much good here. As always, it is good to have wealthy friends with cameras who will generously lend them to you.
For other options, the discount rental place that I know of in town stocking equipment is the local IFP branch. A glance at their price list though isn’t overly great, given that the cameras run about $150/day.
One thing to keep in mind – the cameras that they’re renting are semi-proprosumer and probably cost new $3,000-$5,000. If you were planning on doing a few-day shoot round-the-clock and wanted a product that could be entered in festivals, then that’s the quality-level that you’d want and the cost is justified for the rental. However, if you just want to mess around, you can get an HD consumer camera relatively cheap. I have a co-worker who just ordered a Canon one online yesterday for a little over $400 – retail $600; comes with a 32gb memory stick in it that makes transfer to your laptop very easy. If buying is an option, you may want to put something like that on your Christmas list and/or keep an eye out for Black Friday deals.
To be frank, the quality on a new, consumer HD camera might actually be better than some of those older prosumer cameras that the IFP organization is renting. The main reason to go with that level is to have the immediate-best technology, which later trickles down into the consumer models, and to have manual-controls/lens change capabilities, much like a DSLR vs. a standard compact camera. I wouldn’t get too hung up on having more than a basic HD camera since your focus should be more on the content than doing anything nutty with the camera. You can always tweak and work with effects in the editing program.