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Canon SX20 vs Nikon L840

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and the Nikon Coolpix L840 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2009 and February 2015. Both the SX20 and the L840 are fixed lens compact cameras that are equipped with a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 15.9 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon SX20
versus
Nikon L840
Canon SX20   Nikon L840
Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 22.5-855mm f/3.0-6.5
12 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 15.9 MP – 1/2.3" sensor
720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 100-6,400
Electronic viewfinder (202k dots) No viewfinder, LCD framing
2.5" LCD – 230k dots 3.0" LCD – 921k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (no touchscreen)
0.7 shutter flaps per second 7.4 shutter flaps per second
123 x 88 x 87 mm, 600 g 113 x 78 x 96 mm, 538 g
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Check L840 offers at
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and the Nikon Coolpix L840? 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 SX20 and the Nikon L840 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The L840 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the SX20 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX20 vs Nikon L840
Compare SX20 versus L840 top
Comparison SX20 or L840 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon L840 is notably smaller (19 percent) than the Canon SX20. Moreover, the L840 is markedly lighter (10 percent) than the SX20. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX20 nor the L840 are weather-sealed.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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 SX20 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Aug 2009 399ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon L840 113 mm 78 mm 96 mm 538 g 590 n Feb 2015 299ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399ebay.com
4.
 
Canon SX530 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 210 n Jan 2015 429ebay.com
5.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549ebay.com
6.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX40 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 600 g 380 n Sep 2011 429ebay.com
8.
 
Canon SX30 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 601 g 370 n Sep 2010 429ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX10 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Sep 2008 399ebay.com
10.
 
Canon SX1 128 mm 88 mm 88 mm 615 g .. n Sep 2008 599ebay.com
11.
 
Canon XS 126 mm 98 mm 65 mm 502 g 500 n Jun 2008 449ebay.com
12.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 124 mm 80 mm 95 mm 520 g 410 n Sep 2010 849ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon B600 122 mm 82 mm 99 mm 500 g 280 n Jan 2019 349 amazon.com
14.
 
Nikon B500 114 mm 78 mm 95 mm 541 g 600 n Jan 2016 299ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon P900 140 mm 103 mm 137 mm 899 g 360 n Mar 2015 599ebay.com
16.
 
Panasonic FZ100 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 540 g 410 n Jul 2010 499ebay.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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The L840 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the SX20, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a 1/2.3-inch sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 5.6. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the smaller-sensor digicams that favor affordability and compact design. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Canon SX20 and Nikon L840 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the L840 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the SX20. This megapixels advantage translates into a 15 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the L840 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 1.33μm versus 1.53μm for the SX20). However, it should be noted that the L840 is much more recent (by 5 years and 5 months) than the SX20, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon L840 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the L840 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon SX20 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon Coolpix L840 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the SX20 is build around a CCD sensor, while the L840 uses a CMOS 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.

SX20 versus L840 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). 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 SX20 1/2.3 12.0 4000 3000720/30p19.210.522537
2.
 
Nikon L840 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60i20.211.672147
3.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.511.992450
4.
 
Canon SX530 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.211.671247
5.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
6.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.217947
7.
 
Canon SX40 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.610.940941
8.
 
Canon SX30 1/2.3 14.0 4320 3240720/30p19.410.732039
9.
 
Canon SX10 1/2.3 10.0 3648 2736480/30p19.010.314435
10.
 
Canon SX1 1/2.3 10.0 3648 27361080/30p19.010.314435
11.
 
Canon XS APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.478364
12.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i19.410.732139
13.
 
Nikon B600 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.712.2109552
14.
 
Nikon B500 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60i20.311.781048
15.
 
Nikon P900 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p20.211.672747
16.
 
Panasonic FZ100 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i19.410.730639
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the L840 provides a better video resolution than the SX20. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Canon is limited to 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SX20 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the L840 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon SX20 and Nikon L840 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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 SX20202 n2.5 / 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7/s Y Y
2.
 
Nikon L840none n3.0 / 921 tilting n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
3.
 
Canon SX730none n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9/s Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX530none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX60922 n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4/s Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX50202 n3.0 / 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2/s Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX40202 n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/3200s 10.3/s Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX30202 n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.6/s Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX10202 n2.5 / 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7/s Y Y
10.
 
Canon SX1202 n2.8 / 230 swivel n 1/3200s 4.0/s Y Y
11.
 
Canon XSoptical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
12.
 
Leica V-LUX 2202 n3.0 / 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0/s Y Y
13.
 
Nikon B600none n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
14.
 
Nikon B500none n3.0 / 921 tilting n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
15.
 
Nikon P900921 n3.0 / 921 swivel n 1/4000s 7.0/s Y Y
16.
 
Panasonic FZ100202 n3.0 / 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

Both the SX20 and the L840 have zoom lenses built in. The SX20 has a 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 optic and the L840 offers a 22.5-855mm f/3.0-6.5 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the Nikon provides a wider angle of view at the short end, as well as more tele-photo reach at the long end than the Canon. The SX20 offers the faster maximum aperture.

The SX20 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the L840 uses SDXC 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 PowerShot SX20 IS and Nikon Coolpix L840 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 SX20Ystereo / mono--YES2.0---
2.
 
Nikon L840-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
3.
 
Canon SX730-stereo / mono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon SX530-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX60Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX50Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Canon SX40Ystereo / mono--YES2.0---
8.
 
Canon SX30Ystereo / mono--YES2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX10Ystereo / mono---2.0---
10.
 
Canon SX1Ystereo / mono--YES2.0---
11.
 
Canon XSY- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Leica V-LUX 2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon B600-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
14.
 
Nikon B500-stereo / mono--micro2.0YYY
15.
 
Nikon P900-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
16.
 
Panasonic FZ100Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the SX20 has a hotshoe, while the L840 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

Both the SX20 and the L840 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The SX20 was replaced by the Canon SX30, while the L840 was followed by the Nikon B500. Further information on the features and operation of the SX20 and L840 can be found, respectively, in the Canon SX20 Manual (free pdf) or the online Nikon L840 Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon SX20 and the Nikon L840? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS:

  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Better light gathering: Has a lens with a wider maximum aperture (f/2.8 vs f/3.0).
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2009).

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Advantages of the Nikon Coolpix L840:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (15.9 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 15%.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/30p).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/3200s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7.4 vs 0.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
  • More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
  • More compact: Is smaller (113x78mm vs 123x88mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 5 months of technical progress since the SX20 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the L840 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 5 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.

SX20 05:13 L840

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX20 and the Nikon L840 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX20 or the L840. 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 adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera 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 SX20..+ +..73/100..4/5 Aug 2009 399ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon L840..+ +....3.5/54/5 Feb 2015 299ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX730..+....4/54/5 Apr 2017 399ebay.com
4.
 
Canon SX530..+ +....4/54/5 Jan 2015 429ebay.com
5.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549ebay.com
6.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +..72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX40..+....4.5/54/5 Sep 2011 429ebay.com
8.
 
Canon SX303/5+ +....3.5/54/5 Sep 2010 429ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX10..+ +......4/5 Sep 2008 399ebay.com
10.
 
Canon SX1..+ +..+..3.5/5 Sep 2008 599ebay.com
11.
 
Canon XS..82/100..+ +3.5/54.5/5 Jun 2008 449ebay.com
12.
 
Leica V-LUX 2............ Sep 2010 849ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon B600..+....3.5/53/5 Jan 2019 349 amazon.com
14.
 
Nikon B500..+....4/53.5/5 Jan 2016 299ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon P900......77/1004/54/5 Mar 2015 599ebay.com
16.
 
Panasonic FZ100..+....4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499ebay.com
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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, 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 SX20 vs Nikon L840

    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 SX20 Nikon L840
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 22.5-855mm f/3.0-6.5
    Launch Date August 2009 February 2015
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 299
    Sensor Specs Canon SX20 Nikon L840
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor 1/2.3" Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 6.17 x 4.55 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 28.0735 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 7.7 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 5.6x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 15.9 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4608 x 3456 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.53 μm 1.33 μm
    Pixel Density 42.74 MP/cm2 56.73 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    Screen Specs Canon SX20 Nikon L840
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX20 Nikon L840
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.7 shutter flaps/s 7.4 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX20 Nikon L840
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port YES HDMI micro HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Canon SX20 Nikon L840
    Battery Type 4xAA 4xAA
    Body Dimensions 123 x 88 x 87 mm
    (4.8 x 3.5 x 3.4 in)
    113 x 78 x 96 mm
    (4.4 x 3.1 x 3.8 in)
    Camera Weight 600 g (21.2 oz) 538 g (19.0 oz)
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    Check SX20 offers at
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    Check L840 offers at
    ebay.com

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