If you can’t afford a new camera and think renting one is like throwing away money, then Panasonic Japan has introduced another way – a leasing service.
Leasing is a super interesting option, particularly amid the cost of living crisis that looks like it'll stretch into 2024 for many people. In such challenging times, items considered as luxuries are usually the first to go, so a no-obligation lease for a creative tool like a camera has my vote.
So far, the service is only offered by Panasonic Japan and there’s a limited choice of cameras available, including one of the best video cameras, the Lumix S5 II. Would you lease a camera? Let’s take a closer look at the trailblazing service.
What Lumix cameras are available for lease and for how much?
Leasing the full-frame Lumix S5 II – the best video camera winner at TechRadar’s Choice Awards 2023, which is pictured below – with 20-60mm and 50mm f/1.8 lenses ('DC-S5M2W' kit) will set you back 9,900 yen per month (around $67 / £53 / AU$101). Elsewhere, the Micro Four Thirds Lumix G100 vlogging kit with 12-32mm lens and grip ('DC-G100V-K') is 2,970 yen every 30 days ($20 / £16 / AU$30).
That monthly fee runs for a three-year lease period, and from it you get the new mirrorless camera, insurance that covers any repair costs, an annual cleaning service, discounted lens rental, and access to Panasonic’s Lumix Academy program.
At the end of the rental period, you can cancel the payments and the product is yours. Alternatively, you can continue monthly payments at around 10-15% the cost, presumably to keep the insurance on your fully owned Lumix and discounted services.
As mentioned, it’s a no-obligation lease so, should you wish to part ways with the camera ahead of the three year period, you return it and pay the equivalent of two months of lease payments as a cancellation fee.
The new camera shopping?
Shoppers in Japan can already rent many types of essential products from Panasonic, including washing machines and dishwashers. Therefore, this leasing service, currently only available from Panasonic Japan, will be familiar, even if this is the first of its kind for serious cameras.
Leasing might not be the norm in many other countries, including the UK and US, plus many people like to own the camera gear they’re using. Personally, I don’t feel the same way, and I’m all for this new service. Imagine having an otherwise unobtainable expensive model like a Leica Q3, Hasselblad X2D 100C, or a leading mirrorless camera like the Nikon Z8, Sony A9 III, and Canon EOS R5 for a minimal monthly fee, and it's insured.
Renting is a great way to get your hands on camera gear like that for a day or two, but the fee is understandably high and obviously you’re giving the gear back. A lease program feels like the best of both worlds – a smallish monthly fee for something that will eventually be yours, although the option to adjust the lease period would be great (it’s a fixed three year period for Panasonic Japan's new service).
Cameras like those mentioned above are better than ever, but also prohibitively expensive for most people. Even more affordable models can be a bit of a punt – what if you don’t like it, or you simply stop using it? That's happened to me before.
I’d love to see a lease service more widely rolled out for camera gear. It’s probably too much of an ask for Leica to do it, but how about other leading Japanese brands , such as Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Nikon, or OM System? Could this be a new way of camera shopping? I certainly think so.
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Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.