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Canon 5D vs Nikon D1

The Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D1 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2005 and June 1999. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (5D) and an APS-C (D1) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12.7 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 2.6 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 5D
versus
Nikon D1
Canon 5D   Nikon D1
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.7 MP – Full Frame sensor 2.6 MP – APS-C sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-1,600 (50 - 3,200) ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD – 230k dots 2.0" LCD – 120k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 1.5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
152 x 113 x 75 mm, 895 g 157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D and the Nikon D1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon 5D vs Nikon D1
Compare 5D versus D1 top
Comparison 5D or D1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D1 is notably larger (40 percent) than the Canon 5D. Moreover, the D1 is markedly heavier (23 percent) than the 5D. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D1).

As can be seen in the images above, the D1 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the 5D, Canon provides the BG-E4 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on ebay).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 5D 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon D1 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g .. Y Jun 1999 5,499ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 6D Mark II 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 amazon.com
4.
 
Canon 5D Mark IV 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 amazon.com
5.
 
Canon 5DS 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 amazon.com
6.
 
Canon 5DS R 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 amazon.com
7.
 
Canon 5D Mark III 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499ebay.com
8.
 
Canon 6D 145 mm 111 mm 71 mm 770 g 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099ebay.com
9.
 
Canon 5D Mark II 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499ebay.com
10.
 
Canon 50D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
11.
 
Canon 1D Mark II N 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1565 g 1200 Y Aug 2005 3,999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon D2X 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999ebay.com
16.
 
Nikon D1H 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 4,499ebay.com
17.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 5D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 40 percent) than the D1, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 5D features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D1 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D1 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 5D and Nikon D1 sensor measures

With 12.7MP, the 5D offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the 5D has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.25μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). However, the 5D is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 1 month) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The resolution advantage of the Canon 5D implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 5D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.8 x 14.6 inches or 55.5 x 37 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.5 x 11.6 inches or 44.4 x 29.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.6 x 9.7 inches or 37 x 24.7 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D1 are 10 x 6.6 inches or 25.4 x 16.7 cm for good quality, 8 x 5.2 inches or 20.3 x 13.3 cm for very good quality, and 6.7 x 4.4 inches or 16.9 x 11.1 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon EOS 5D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 50-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D1 are ISO 200 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.

In terms of underlying technology, the 5D is build around a CMOS sensor, while the D1 uses a CCD imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

5D versus D1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon 5D Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912none22.911.1136871
2.
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
3.
 
Canon 6D Mark II Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
4.
 
Canon 5D Mark IV Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
5.
 
Canon 5DS Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.712.4238187
6.
 
Canon 5DS R Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.612.4230886
7.
 
Canon 5D Mark III Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
8.
 
Canon 6D Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082
9.
 
Canon 5D Mark II Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
10.
 
Canon 50D APS-C 15.1 4752 3168none21.811.469663
11.
 
Canon 1D Mark II N APS-H 8.2 3504 2336none22.311.297566
12.
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
13.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
15.
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659
16.
 
Nikon D1H APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
17.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
Neither the 5D nor the D1 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D and the D1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (96%), but the viewfinder of the 5D has a higher magnification than the one of the D1 (0.71x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 5D, the Nikon D1, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon 5Doptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s n n
2.
 
Nikon D1optical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 1.5/s n n
3.
 
Canon 6D Mark IIoptical Y3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 6.5/s n n
4.
 
Canon 5D Mark IVoptical Y3.2 / 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 7.0/s n n
5.
 
Canon 5DSoptical Y3.2 / 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
6.
 
Canon 5DS Roptical Y3.2 / 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
7.
 
Canon 5D Mark IIIoptical Y3.2 / 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s n n
8.
 
Canon 6Doptical Y3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5/s n n
9.
 
Canon 5D Mark IIoptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 3.9/s n n
10.
 
Canon 50Doptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3/s Y n
11.
 
Canon 1D Mark II Noptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 8.5/s n n
12.
 
Nikon D4optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
13.
 
Nikon D700optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0/s Y n
14.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
15.
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y2.5 / 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
16.
 
Nikon D1Hoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 5.0/s n n
17.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 5D and the D1 write their files to Compact Flash cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 5D and Nikon D1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon 5DY- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D1Y- / ----FW---
3.
 
Canon 6D Mark IIYstereo / monoY-mini2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon 5D Mark IVYmono / monoYYmini3.0YY-
5.
 
Canon 5DSYmono / monoY-mini3.0---
6.
 
Canon 5DS RYmono / monoY-mini3.0---
7.
 
Canon 5D Mark IIIYmono / monoYYmini2.0---
8.
 
Canon 6DYmono / monoY-mini2.0Y--
9.
 
Canon 5D Mark IIYmono / monoY-mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon 50DY- / ---mini2.0---
11.
 
Canon 1D Mark II NY- / ----1.1---
12.
 
Nikon D4Ymono / monoYYmicro2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D700Y- / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D2XsY- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D2XY- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D1HY- / ----FW---
17.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the 5D and the D1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the 5D was followed by the Canon 5D Mark II. Further information on the features and operation of the 5D and D1 can be found, respectively, in the Canon 5D Manual (free pdf) or the online Nikon D1 Manual.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D and the Nikon D1? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 5D:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.7 vs 2.6MP) with a 119% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.53x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (152x113mm vs 157x153mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 205g or 19 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (40 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D1 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D1:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 1999).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D is the clear winner of the match-up (13 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

5D 13:03 D1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 5D and the Nikon D1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 5D or the D1 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 5D..88/100..+ +o.. Aug 2005 3,299ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon D1......+ +.... Jun 1999 5,499ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 6D Mark II4/5+4/580/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 amazon.com
4.
 
Canon 5D Mark IV4.5/5+ +4/587/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 amazon.com
5.
 
Canon 5DS..+..83/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 amazon.com
6.
 
Canon 5DS R5/5+..83/1005/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 amazon.com
7.
 
Canon 5D Mark III..+ +..82/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499ebay.com
8.
 
Canon 6D5/5+ +..83/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099ebay.com
9.
 
Canon 5D Mark II4/591/100..79/1004/5.. Sep 2008 3,499ebay.com
10.
 
Canon 50D..+ +..+ +4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
11.
 
Canon 1D Mark II N............ Aug 2005 3,999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D4........4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D700..89/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs............ Jun 2006 4,699ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon D2X......+ +.... Sep 2004 4,999ebay.com
16.
 
Nikon D1H......+ +.... Feb 2001 4,499ebay.com
17.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon 5D vs Nikon D1

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 5D Nikon D1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2005 June 1999
    Launch Price USD 3,299 USD 5,499
    Sensor Specs Canon 5D Nikon D1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.7 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 369.72 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12.7 Megapixels 2.6 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4368 x 2912 pixels 2000 x 1312 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 8.25 μm 11.93 μm
    Pixel Density 1.47 MP/cm2 0.71 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 50 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 71 ..
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.9 ..
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.1 ..
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1368 ..
    Screen Specs Canon 5D Nikon D1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.71x 0.53x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 120k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 5D Nikon D1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Canon 5D Nikon D1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 Firewire
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 5D Nikon D1
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BP-511A EN-4
    Body Dimensions 152 x 113 x 75 mm
    (6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0 in)
    157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    Camera Weight 895 g (31.6 oz) 1100 g (38.8 oz)
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