Sugar House photography rental store, Acme Camera Company, could have Pictureline, its larger competitor, a bit concerned. But anyone who rents camera equipment will likely be happier.
When Acme owner Jacob Nuttall opened in August 2013, he created an innovation in camera rentals. He was intrigued by what might be done with all the older, cheaper film cameras available on the used market. Digital had made the film camera nearly obsolete, but also a great value. Cameras that cost thousands new were now going for less than a hundred. Even earlier digital cameras were going for a fraction of their cost new. For instance, a Nikon D2X pro that cost $4,500 new in 2009 can now be had for $500.
“In just 2 years digital cameras are outdated technically,” said Nuttall, “and in 4 or 5 a camera’s value bottoms out.” Nuttall began buying both those technologically older cameras and the latest pro line equipment to outfit his new business.
Now Acme rents quality older cameras to students of nearby Westminster and Salt Lake Community Colleges with an innovative, semester-long student rental program, as well as to pros who need the latest technology but don’t want to the high cost of ownership and plunging value.
At its opening, Acme’s rental rates were competitive with Pictureline’s. Nuttall decided to spur more mid-week rentals by discounting those rates by 25%. “Most everyone who rents is a weekend photographer,” he says.
Pictureline noticed and last fall lopped a whopping 50% off its weekday rental prices. When we called Pictureline about the plunging rates they were evasive, saying only that they wanted to increase weekday business.
“That was not a calculated business move,”said Nuttall. “It was reactionary, a gut shot.”
He should know. Nuttall was the rental manager at Pictureline for most of the 14 years he worked for the high profile photography store. It seems Nuttall and Pictureline outgrew each other. “I was asked to leave, but I’m grateful,” said Nuttall. “I learned a ton of things about the industry at Pictureline.”
So, a word to wanna-be camera renters: Acme has changed the local rental business for the better by getting quality, used camera equipment back into the field and slashing costs with a healthy dose of good old market competition.
Acme Camera Company is located at 1993 S 1100 E in Sugar House, Utah.
Story by Ed Kosmicki