Hawaii’s One-Stop Rental Shop

In the five years that Hawaii Photo Rental has been in business, the unique Kaimuki company has grown its state-of-the-art inventory from $80,000 worth of goods to about $2 million.

From its barely 500-square-foot store on Waialae Avenue, owner Josh Strickland and his team have established the company as the place to rent the latest and best in photo and video gear that includes Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji, as well as lighting and audio/visual gear.

Josh Strickland

Josh Strickland

Hawaii Photo Rental has been so successful that the company, desperately in need of more space, is moving a block away to a 1,600-square-foot, second-floor facility at 3457 Waialae Ave. Hawaii Photo Rental is expected to make the move in June.

Strickland is an entrepreneur, having started his first business at 14, mowing lawns. “No one in Hawaii was doing what I wanted to do with Hawaii Camera,” he said. “I was just a consumer (of photo gear) at the time.”

Born in Hawaii but raised on the East Coast, Strickland returned to Hawaii where he bought a Canon camera, some lenses, and a flash to try his hand at wedding photography as a side business. He had a consulting company but he wanted something creative to do.

“I did a couple of weddings, but I just couldn’t do what it required,” he said. “It was too much work.”

When he tried to rent some photo gear, Strickland couldn’t really find anyone in Hawaii who did that on a large scale.

“I immediately thought, ‘here’s an opportunity,’ so I sold my equipment, then leased the store and that’s how it all happened,” he said.

Certainly one of the attractions of Hawaii Photo Rental is not only its vast inventory, but its stock of the most exotic and expensive gear made.

“We have incredible high-end gear that we can show people firsthand because it’s all in the store,” said Strickland. “That’s what’s really fun. A lot of people come to us because they have never seen some of this gear except in catalogues.”

When the company opened its doors, it only had one Canon DSLR, two Canon lenses, a flash, and two memory cards.

“That was it,” said Strickland.

Today, part of its arsenal includes Canon’s state-of-the-art EOS 1D C DSLR that sells for about $13,000 (24-hour rental is $190). The camera features an 18.1-megapixel full frame CMOS image sensor that offers a wide range of image acquisition options, including 4K (4096×2160), HD (1920×1080), or 18-megapixel (5184×3456) still images. The company even has a Canon EOS 1N HS film camera that goes for just $12 a day.
On the lens side, if you need a super telephoto, Hawaii Photo Rental carries Canon’s mega-zoom 800mm f/5.6 ($14,000 list price, or $180 a day).

It will take about six years for Hawaii Photo Rental to make its money back on such a rare piece of glass. For less expensive, high-demand items, the return time is about 10 months.

“People do think a rental store should have that lens in stock,” said Strickland.

Hawaii Photo Rental’s original business goal remains the same: attract the largest market possible of photography consumers who need to be able to rent high-end gear.

“I knew there was a huge market out there for that,” he said. “No one was supporting this biggest market, or the everyday photographer.”

Hawaii Photo Rental’s popularity with production companies is growing, a market the company plans to pursue aggressively. They have recently rented gear to productions by BBC, Sony, NBC, and CBS’s Hawaii Five-0, in addition to several independent film companies.

They just recently put together a super high-end video “package” that includes everything a filmmaker needs, rather than renting gear piecemeal.

“Most companies may have a kit, but it doesn’t have the lenses, or tripod, just the camera and the battery,” he said. “With our kits you literally don’t need to add anything else to it. Just pick it up and walk out the door.”

The company recycles all of its lenses and camera gear after 2 years, or 40 days of rental usage.

Said Strickland, “We have to make sure that every item is working properly and will not shut down on a job.”

For more information about Hawaii Photo Rental, call 808-735-3838.

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