Q: Years ago I followed your advice and bought a Panasonic DMC-FZ35 superzoom camera, and I have never been sorry. I recently went to a lecture about wildlife photography, and the speaker said he was using a Sony DSC-RX10 Mark IV. He said the Mark III is similar but costs substantially less. I checked, and there is only a $300 difference — $1,500 vs. $1,200. What I found most intriguing about the camera is the zoom, which goes out to the equivalent of 600 mm. What are your thoughts about this? I can't really afford more than $800. What should I do to find a good used one?
A: First, perhaps you should ask yourself if you really need to buy a camera at all. Your camera zooms out to 486 mm. The 114mm difference with the Sony sounds significant, but the real world effect is not that great. In terms of the photos a lens produces, there is a much bigger difference at the low end of the scale — for example, comparing a 20mm lens to a 24mm lens — than with extreme telephotos.
If you do decide to go with a different camera, I'd strongly suggest replacing your fixed-lens superzoom camera with one that has interchangeable lenses. It will offer much better image quality and flexibility while giving you room to grow over time by adding other lenses. You can get a brand-new Panasonic DMC-GX85 with both the 12-32mm and 45-150mm zoom lenses for $497. That gives you an equivalent zoom range of 24 mm to 300 mm.
Now we will bring in the used equipment part of the equation. Panasonic makes a 100-300mm lens that can be purchased for as little as $325 used. Your total cost would be within $22 of your $800 target.
As for your question about finding a good used camera I would try dealers like keh.com, bhphotovideo.com and usedphotopro.com. All three check their equipment before selling it, offer warranties and have a return period. I would also check the certified refurbished department at getolympus.com. I have seen high-quality cameras with lenses there for as little as $300.
A dashcam dash
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Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.