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Canon S120 vs Nikon D300

The Canon PowerShot S120 and the Nikon D300 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2013 and August 2007. The S120 is a fixed lens compact, while the D300 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/1.7-inch (S120) and an APS-C (D300) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.2 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon S120 versus Nikon D300
Canon S120 Nikon D300
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 Nikon F mount lenses
12 MP, 1/1.7" Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/60p Video no Video
ISO 80-12,800 ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
No viewfinder, LCD framing Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Fixed touchscreen Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
12.1 shutter flaps per second 6 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
230 shots per battery charge1000 shots per battery charge
100 x 59 x 29 mm, 217 g 147 x 114 x 74 mm, 925 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot S120 and the Nikon D300? 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 S120 and the Nikon D300 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon S120 vs Nikon D300
Compare S120 versus D300 top
Comparison S120 or D300 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D300 is considerably larger (184 percent) than the Canon S120. It is noteworthy in this context that the D300 is splash and dust-proof, while the S120 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the S120 has a lens built in, whereas the D300 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D300 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the S120 gets 230 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the D300 can take 1000 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e 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 S120 100 mm 59 mm 29 mm 217 g 230 n Aug 2013 449i
2.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II 98 mm 58 mm 31 mm 206 g 235 n Jan 2017 529 i
4.
 
Canon G9 X 98 mm 58 mm 31 mm 209 g 220 n Oct 2015 529i
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 116 mm 74 mm 66 mm 553 g 240 n Feb 2014 799i
6.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
7.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799i
8.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499i
9.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429i
10.
 
Canon G12 112 mm 76 mm 48 mm 401 g 370 n Sep 2010 499i
11.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
12.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
13.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699i
15.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
16.
 
Panasonic LF1 103 mm 62 mm 28 mm 192 g 250 n Apr 2013 499 i
17.
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499i
Notes: 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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The S120 was launched at a lower price than the D300, despite having a lens built in. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon S120 features a 1/1.7-inch sensor and the Nikon D300 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D300 is 767 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 4.5 and 1.5. The sensor in the S120 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D300 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon S120 and Nikon D300 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the D300 offers a higher resolution than the S120 (12MP), but the D300 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 1.89μm for the S120) due to its larger sensor. However, the S120 is a much more recent model (by 6 years) than the D300, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Canon PowerShot S120 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D300 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.

S120 versus D300 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D300 offers substantially better image quality than the S120 (overall score 11 points higher). The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 stops in additional 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 S120 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.311.924656
2.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p21.912.552265
4.
 
Canon G9 X 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p21.512.349563
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 1.5-inch 13.0 4160 31201080/30p21.510.858158
6.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.723054
7.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
8.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.516546
9.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.217947
10.
 
Canon G12 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/24p20.411.216147
11.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
12.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
13.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
15.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
16.
 
Panasonic LF1 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.811.621152
17.
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.714750

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The S120 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D300 does not. The highest resolution format that the S120 can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D300 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the S120 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon S120 and Nikon D300 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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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 S120none n 3.0 922 fixed Y 1/2000s 12.1 Y Y
2.
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark IInone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 8.2 Y Y
4.
 
Canon G9 Xnone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 6.0 Y Y
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIoptional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 5.2 Y Y
6.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
7.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
8.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
10.
 
Canon G12optical n 2.8 461 swivel n 1/4000s 1.1 Y Y
11.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
15.
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic LF1200 n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 10.0 Y Y
17.
 
Panasonic LX7optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The S120 has a touchscreen, while the D300 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The Canon S120 and the Nikon D300 both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The S120 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D300 uses Compact Flash 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 PowerShot S120 and Nikon D300 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 S120-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
2.
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon G9 X-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
7.
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon G12Ystereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D2XsY-----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic LF1-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
17.
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the S120 offers wifi support, while the D300 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D300 (unlike the S120) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S120 and the D300 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300 was replaced by the Nikon D300S, while the S120 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon S120 better than the Nikon D300 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot S120:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12.1 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D300 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (100x59mm vs 147x114mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D300).
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years of technical progress since the D300 launch.

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Advantages of the Nikon D300:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1000 versus 230) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2007).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300 comes out slightly ahead of the S120 (11 : 10 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S120 10:11 D300

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon S120 and the Nikon D300 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S120 and the D300 in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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 S120..+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 449i
2.
 
Nikon D300..+ ++ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II4/5..75/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2017 529 i
4.
 
Canon G9 X3.5/5+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Oct 2015 529i
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II3/5+77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799i
6.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
7.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
8.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499i
9.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429i
10.
 
Canon G124/5+73/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 499i
11.
 
Nikon D70004/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
12.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
13.
 
Nikon D700..89/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs.......... Jun 2006 4,699i
15.
 
Nikon D200..+ ++ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699i
16.
 
Panasonic LF13/5+..4/54.5/5 Apr 2013 499 i
17.
 
Panasonic LX73/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499i
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 S120:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D300:
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 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 S120 vs Nikon D300

    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 S120 Nikon D300
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2013 August 2007
    Launch Price USD 449 USD 1,799
    Sensor Specs Canon S120 Nikon D300
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/1.7" Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 7.6 x 5.7 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 43.32 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 9.5 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 4.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.89 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 27.70 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 12,800 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor Digic 6 EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 56 67
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.3 22.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.9 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 246 679
    Screen Specs Canon S120 Nikon D300
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen no Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon S120 Nikon D300
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peakingno Peaking Feature
    Continuous Shooting 12.1 shutter flaps/s 6 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Canon S120 Nikon D300
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon S120 Nikon D300
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type NB-6LH EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)230 shots per charge1000 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 100 x 59 x 29 mm
    (3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in)
    147 x 114 x 74 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)
    Camera Weight 217 g (7.7 oz) 925 g (32.6 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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