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Canon SX50 vs Nikon D90

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2012 and August 2008. The SX50 is a fixed lens compact, while the D90 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX50) and an APS-C (D90) 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 SX50 versus Nikon D90
Canon SX50 Nikon D90
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5 Nikon F mount lenses
12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/24p Video 720/24p Video
ISO 80-6,400 ISO 200-3,200 (200 - 6,400)
Electronic viewfinder (202k dots) Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 461k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2.2 shutter flaps per second 4.5 shutter flaps per second
315 shots per battery charge850 shots per battery charge
123 x 87 x 106 mm, 595 g 132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and the Nikon D90? 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 physical size and weight of the Canon SX50 and the Nikon D90 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon SX50 vs Nikon D90
Compare SX50 versus D90 top
Comparison SX50 or D90 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D90 is notably larger (27 percent) than the Canon SX50. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX50 nor the D90 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX50 has a lens built in, whereas the D90 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 D90 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX50 gets 315 shots out of its NB-10L battery, while the D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429 i
2.
 
Nikon D90 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 n Aug 2008 1,299 i
3.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549 i
4.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
5.
 
Canon S120 100 mm 59 mm 29 mm 217 g 230 n Aug 2013 449 i
6.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799 i
7.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499 i
8.
 
Canon SX40 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 600 g 380 n Sep 2011 429 i
9.
 
Canon 1100D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449 i
10.
 
Canon G12 112 mm 76 mm 48 mm 401 g 370 n Sep 2010 499 i
11.
 
Canon 40D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299 i
12.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499 i
13.
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599 i
14.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749 i
15.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999 i
16.
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499 i
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 528 g 410 n Aug 2011 499 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 SX50 was launched at a lower price than the D90, 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. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the 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 SX50 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Nikon D90 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D90 is 1232 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 1.5. The sensor in the SX50 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D90 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon SX50 and Nikon D90 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the D90 offers a higher resolution than the SX50 (12MP), but the D90 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 1.53μm for the SX50) due to its larger sensor. However, the SX50 is a much more recent model (by 4 years) than the D90, 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 SX50 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D90 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.

SX50 versus D90 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D90 offers substantially better image quality than the SX50 (overall score 26 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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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 SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.2179 47
2.
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.5977 73
3.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.8127 39
4.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.7230 54
5.
 
Canon S120 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.311.9246 56
6.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.8644 60
7.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.5165 46
8.
 
Canon SX40 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p...... ..
9.
 
Canon 1100D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.0755 62
10.
 
Canon G12 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/24p20.411.2161 47
11.
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.3703 64
12.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.91167 80
13.
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.1563 62
14.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.5868 72
15.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.2524 61
16.
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.7147 50
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.410.9132 40

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the SX50 provides a higher video resolution than the D90. It can shoot video footage at 1080/24p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SX50 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), while the D90 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon SX50, the Nikon D90, 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 SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
2.
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon SX60922 n 3.0 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4 Y Y
4.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
5.
 
Canon S120none n 3.0 922 fixed Y 1/2000s 12.1 Y Y
6.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
7.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX40202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 10.3 Y Y
9.
 
Canon 1100Doptical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
10.
 
Canon G12optical n 2.8 461 swivel n 1/4000s 1.1 Y Y
11.
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic LX7optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0 Y Y

One feature that is present on the D90, but is missing on the SX50 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The SX50 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the D90 does not have a selfie-screen.

The SX50 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D90 uses SDHC 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 SX50 HS and Nikon D90 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 SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX60YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
5.
 
Canon S120-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
6.
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon SX40Ystereomono--YES2.0---
9.
 
Canon 1100DYstereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon G12Ystereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150Ystereo---mini2.0---

Both the SX50 and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the SX50 was followed by the Canon SX60. 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 how do things add up? Is the Canon SX50 better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/24p vs 720/24p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D90 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (123x87mm vs 132x103mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D90).
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years of technical progress since the D90 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (26 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 461k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 2.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 315) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2008).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D90 emerges as the winner of the match-up (12 : 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 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.

SX50 10:12 D90

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX50 and the Nikon D90 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SX50 and the D90 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 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 SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429 i
2.
 
Nikon D90..+ ++ +4/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299 i
3.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549 i
4.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
5.
 
Canon S120..+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 449 i
6.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799 i
7.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499 i
8.
 
Canon SX40..+..4.5/54/5 Sep 2011 429 i
9.
 
Canon 1100D..80/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449 i
10.
 
Canon G124/5+73/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 499 i
11.
 
Canon 40D..+ ++ +4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299 i
12.
 
Nikon D70004/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499 i
13.
 
Nikon D3000..+72/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599 i
14.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749 i
15.
 
Nikon D80..++ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999 i
16.
 
Panasonic LX73/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499 i
17.
 
Panasonic FZ1503/5+ +76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2011 499 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.

Canon SX50:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D90:
Check Ebay offers

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 your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon SX50 vs Nikon D90

    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 SX50 Nikon D90
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5 Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2012 August 2008
    Launch Price USD 429 USD 1,299
    Sensor Specs Canon SX50 Nikon D90
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.53 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 42.74 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/24p Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 6,400 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 200 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 5 EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 47 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.3 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.2 12.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 179 977
    Screen Specs Canon SX50 Nikon D90
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX50 Nikon D90
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2.2 shutter flaps/s 4.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX50 Nikon D90
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX50 Nikon D90
    Battery Type NB-10L EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)315 shots per charge850 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 123 x 87 x 106 mm
    (4.8 x 3.4 x 4.2 in)
    132 x 103 x 77 mm
    (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 595 g (21.0 oz) 703 g (24.8 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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