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Canon M3 vs Sony NEX-5T

The Canon EOS M3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5T are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2015 and August 2013. Both the M3 and the NEX-5T are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 16 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon M3 versus Sony NEX-5T
Canon M3 Sony NEX-5T
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Canon EF-M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
24 MP, APS-C Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 100-12,800 (100 - 25,600) ISO 100-25,600
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 1040k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting touchscreen
4.2 shutter flaps per second 10 shutter flaps per second
250 shots per battery charge330 shots per battery charge
111 x 68 x 44 mm, 366 g 111 x 59 x 39 mm, 276 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS M3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5T? 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

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon M3 and the Sony NEX-5T. 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M3 can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the NEX-5T is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, silver).

Size Canon M3 vs Sony NEX-5T
Compare M3 versus NEX-5T top
Comparison M3 or NEX-5T rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5T is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Canon M3. Moreover, the NEX-5T is markedly lighter (25 percent) than the M3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M3 nor the NEX-5T are weather-sealed.

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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

Concerning battery life, the M3 gets 250 shots out of its LP-E17 battery, while the NEX-5T can take 330 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras 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 M3 111 mm 68 mm 44 mm 366 g 250 n Feb 2015 679i
2.
 
Sony NEX-5T 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2013 699i
3.
 
Canon M6 112 mm 68 mm 45 mm 390 g 295 n Feb 2017 779i
4.
 
Canon M100 108 mm 67 mm 35 mm 302 g 295 n Aug 2017 499i
5.
 
Canon G7 X Mark II 106 mm 61 mm 42 mm 319 g 265 n Feb 2016 699i
6.
 
Canon M5 116 mm 89 mm 61 mm 427 g 295 n Sep 2016 979 i
7.
 
Canon 750D 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 555 g 440 n Feb 2015 749i
8.
 
Canon G5 X 112 mm 76 mm 44 mm 353 g 210 n Oct 2015 799i
9.
 
Canon M10 108 mm 67 mm 35 mm 301 g 255 n Oct 2015 499i
10.
 
Canon G7 X 103 mm 60 mm 40 mm 304 g 210 n Sep 2014 699i
11.
 
Canon M 109 mm 66 mm 32 mm 298 g 230 n Jul 2012 599i
12.
 
Sony A5100 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549 i
13.
 
Sony A6000 120 mm 67 mm 45 mm 344 g 360 n Feb 2014 599i
14.
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749i
15.
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The M3 was somewhat cheaper (by 3 percent) than the NEX-5T at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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.

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Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the NEX-5T is 10 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (M3) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon M3 and Sony NEX-5T sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon M3 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixels, compared with 16 MP of the Sony NEX-5T. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.72μm versus 4.78μm for the NEX-5T). However, it should be noted that the M3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 5 months) than the NEX-5T, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

The resolution advantage of the Canon M3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-5T are 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.4 x 41.5 cm for good quality, 19.6 x 13.1 inches or 49.9 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.6 x 27.6 cm for excellent quality prints.

The M3 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.

The Canon EOS M3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5T are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

M3 versus NEX-5T MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-5T has a markedly higher DXO score than the M3 (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. 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 M3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.811.8116972
2.
 
Sony NEX-5T APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60p23.613.0101578
3.
 
Canon M6 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p........
4.
 
Canon M100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.512.9127278
5.
 
Canon G7 X Mark II 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p........
6.
 
Canon M5 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277
7.
 
Canon 750D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.712.091971
8.
 
Canon G5 X 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p........
9.
 
Canon M10 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.475365
10.
 
Canon G7 X 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p23.012.755671
11.
 
Canon M APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.282765
12.
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
13.
 
Sony A6000 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782
14.
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
15.
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the NEX-5T provides a faster frame rate than the M3. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The M3 and the NEX-5T are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. However, optional viewfinders – the EVF-DC1 for the M3 and the FDA-EV1S for the NEX-5T – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon M3, the Sony NEX-5T, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon M3optional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 4.2 Y n
2.
 
Sony NEX-5Toptional n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
3.
 
Canon M6optional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 9.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon M100none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.1 Y n
5.
 
Canon G7 X Mark IInone n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 8.0 Y Y
6.
 
Canon M52360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 1/4000s 9.0 Y n
7.
 
Canon 750Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
8.
 
Canon G5 X2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/2000s 5.9 Y Y
9.
 
Canon M10none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 4.6 Y n
10.
 
Canon G7 Xnone n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 6.5 Y Y
11.
 
Canon Mnone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.3 n n
12.
 
Sony A5100none n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
13.
 
Sony A60001440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
14.
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
15.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The M3 has one, while the NEX-5T does not. While the built-in flash of the M3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.

The M3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-5T uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The M3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-5T cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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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 M3 and Sony Alpha NEX-5T 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
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon M3YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
2.
 
Sony NEX-5TYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
3.
 
Canon M6YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon M100-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
5.
 
Canon G7 X Mark II-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon M5YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
7.
 
Canon 750DYstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon G5 XYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
9.
 
Canon M10-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
10.
 
Canon G7 X-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
11.
 
Canon MYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
12.
 
Sony A5100-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
13.
 
Sony A6000Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
14.
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereomono--mini2.0Y--
15.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the M3 has a microphone port, which is missing on the NEX-5T. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

Both the M3 and the NEX-5T have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5T was replaced by the Sony A5100, while the M3 was followed by the Canon M6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Sony websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon M3 better than the Sony NEX-5T or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS M3:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 16MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
  • Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 922k dots).
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 5 months after the NEX-5T).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-5T:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (111x59mm vs 111x68mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 90g or 25 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (330 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2013).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the NEX-5T comes out slightly ahead of the M3 (8 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

M3 07:08 NEX-5T

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon M3 and the Sony NEX-5T place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M3 or the NEX-5T. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon M34/5o75/1004.5/54/5 Feb 2015 679i
2.
 
Sony NEX-5T......4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 699i
3.
 
Canon M6....80/1004/54/5 Feb 2017 779i
4.
 
Canon M1003/5+..4/53.5/5 Aug 2017 499i
5.
 
Canon G7 X Mark II4.5/5+ +81/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 699i
6.
 
Canon M54/5+82/1004/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i
7.
 
Canon 750D5/5..75/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749i
8.
 
Canon G5 X5/5+ +78/1004.5/54.5/5 Oct 2015 799i
9.
 
Canon M10........4/5 Oct 2015 499i
10.
 
Canon G7 X4/5+ +77/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2014 699i
11.
 
Canon M3/5+..4/54/5 Jul 2012 599i
12.
 
Sony A51004.5/5+..4.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i
13.
 
Sony A60005/5+80/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2014 599i
14.
 
Sony NEX-5R......4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2012 749i
15.
 
Sony NEX-F34/5..74/1004.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3....70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon M3:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-5T:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon M3 vs Sony NEX-5T

    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 M3 Sony NEX-5T
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Canon EF-M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2015 August 2013
    Launch Price USD 679 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Canon M3 Sony NEX-5T
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 24 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6000 x 4000 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.72 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 7.22 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 25,600 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor DIGIC 6 BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 72 78
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.8 23.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.8 13.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1169 1015
    Screen Specs Canon M3 Sony NEX-5T
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 1040k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon M3 Sony NEX-5T
    Focus System On-Sensor Phase-detect Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus PeakingFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 4.2 shutter flaps/s 10 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Canon M3 Sony NEX-5T
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication NFC built-in NFC built-in
    Body Specs Canon M3 Sony NEX-5T
    Battery Type LP-E17 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)250 shots per charge330 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 111 x 68 x 44 mm
    (4.4 x 2.7 x 1.7 in)
    111 x 59 x 39 mm
    (4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 366 g (12.9 oz) 276 g (9.7 oz)

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