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Canon SX500 vs Sony NEX-5R

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and the Sony Alpha NEX-5R are two digital cameras that were announced in August 2012. The SX500 is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-5R is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX500) and an APS-C (NEX-5R) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 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 SX500
versus
Sony NEX-5R
Canon SX500 Sony NEX-5R
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
24-720mm f/3.4-5.8 Sony E mount lenses
15.9 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 80-1,600 ISO 100-25,600
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 461k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting touchscreen
0.8 shutter flaps per second 10 shutter flaps per second
195 shots per battery charge330 shots per battery charge
104 x 70 x 80 mm, 341 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 PowerShot SX500 IS and the Sony Alpha NEX-5R? 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 SX500 and the Sony NEX-5R. 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.

The NEX-5R can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the SX500 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX500 vs Sony NEX-5R
Compare SX500 versus NEX-5R top
Comparison SX500 or NEX-5R rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5R is notably smaller (10 percent) than the Canon SX500. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX500 nor the NEX-5R are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX500 has a lens built in, whereas the NEX-5R 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 NEX-5R and their specifications in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX500 gets 195 shots out of its NB-6L battery, while the NEX-5R 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 SX500 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 341 g 195 n Aug 2012 329 i
2.
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749 i
3.
 
Canon SX740 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 299 g 265 n Jul 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon SX430 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 323 g 195 n Jan 2017 299 i
5.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399 i
6.
 
Canon SX420 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 195 n Jan 2016 299 i
7.
 
Canon SX410 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 185 n Feb 2015 279 i
8.
 
Canon SX520 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 441 g 210 n Jul 2014 399 i
9.
 
Canon SX700 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 250 n Feb 2014 349 i
10.
 
Canon SX400 104 mm 69 mm 80 mm 313 g 190 n Jul 2014 249 i
11.
 
Canon SX510 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 349 g 250 n Aug 2013 249 i
12.
 
Ricoh GR 117 mm 61 mm 35 mm 245 g 290 n Apr 2013 799 i
13.
 
Sony WX800 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 233 g 370 n Oct 2018 399 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499 i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5T 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2013 699 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599 i
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 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 SX500 was launched at a lower price than the NEX-5R, despite having a lens built in. 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.

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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. 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 SX500 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Sony NEX-5R an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-5R is 1204 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 SX500 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-5R offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon SX500 and Sony NEX-5R sensor measures

With 16MP, the NEX-5R offers a higher resolution than the SX500 (15.9MP), but the NEX-5R nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 1.33μm for the SX500) due to its larger sensor. It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5R are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

SX500 versus NEX-5R MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 SX500 1/2.3 15.9 4608 3456720/30p...... ..
2.
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.1910 78
3.
 
Canon SX740 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p...... ..
4.
 
Canon SX430 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p...... ..
5.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p...... ..
6.
 
Canon SX420 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p...... ..
7.
 
Canon SX410 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/30p...... ..
8.
 
Canon SX520 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p...... ..
9.
 
Canon SX700 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p...... ..
10.
 
Canon SX400 1/2.3 15.9 4608 3456720/30p...... ..
11.
 
Canon SX510 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/24p...... ..
12.
 
Ricoh GR APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.613.5972 78
13.
 
Sony WX800 1/2.3 18.0 4896 36724K/30p...... ..
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.51067 74
15.
 
Sony NEX-5T APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60p23.613.01015 78
16.
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.71079 77
17.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.0830 68

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the NEX-5R provides a better video resolution than the SX500. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Canon is limited to 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The SX500 and the NEX-5R 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. That said, the NEX-5R can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-EV1S. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon SX500, the Sony NEX-5R, 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 SX500none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/1600s 0.8 Y Y
2.
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
3.
 
Canon SX740none n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/3200s 10.0 Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX430none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5 Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX730none n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9 Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX420none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5 Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX410none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5 Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX520none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6 Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX700none n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/3200s 8.5 Y Y
10.
 
Canon SX400none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/1600s 0.8 Y Y
11.
 
Canon SX510none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/1600s 3.8 Y Y
12.
 
Ricoh GRoptional n 3.0 1230 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
13.
 
Sony WX800none n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y
14.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Toptional n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
17.
 
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 SX500 has one, while the NEX-5R does not. While the built-in flash of the SX500 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The NEX-5R has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the SX500 does not have a selfie-screen.

The SX500 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-5R uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 SX500 IS and Sony Alpha NEX-5R 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 SX500-stereomono---2.0---
2.
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereomono--mini2.0Y--
3.
 
Canon SX740-stereomono--micro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon SX430-monomono---2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX730-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
6.
 
Canon SX420-monomono---2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX410-stereomono---2.0---
8.
 
Canon SX520-stereomono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX700-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
10.
 
Canon SX400-stereomono---2.0---
11.
 
Canon SX510-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
12.
 
Ricoh GRYmonomono--micro2.0---
13.
 
Sony WX800-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5TYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
16.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the NEX-5R offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the SX500 does not provide wifi capability.

Both the SX500 and the NEX-5R have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SX500 was replaced by the Canon SX510, while the NEX-5R was followed by the Sony NEX-5T. 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 SX500 better than the Sony NEX-5R 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 SX500 IS:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the NEX-5R requires a separate lens.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-5R:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/30p).
  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 461k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/1600s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 0.8 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (330 versus 195) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-5R is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 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 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.

SX500 05:17 NEX-5R

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX500 and the Sony NEX-5R place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings 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 incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SX500 or the NEX-5R perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

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 SX500..+ +..4/54/5 Aug 2012 329 i
2.
 
Sony NEX-5R......4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2012 749 i
3.
 
Canon SX740..+..4/54/5 Jul 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon SX430......3.5/53.5/5 Jan 2017 299 i
5.
 
Canon SX730..+..4/54/5 Apr 2017 399 i
6.
 
Canon SX420........3/5 Jan 2016 299 i
7.
 
Canon SX410..o...... Feb 2015 279 i
8.
 
Canon SX520..+..3.5/53.5/5 Jul 2014 399 i
9.
 
Canon SX700..+ +..4/54/5 Feb 2014 349 i
10.
 
Canon SX400..+...... Jul 2014 249 i
11.
 
Canon SX510..+ +..4.5/54/5 Aug 2013 249 i
12.
 
Ricoh GR5/5..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Apr 2013 799 i
13.
 
Sony WX800.......... Oct 2018 399 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5....4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499 i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5T......4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 699 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-5N3/5+ +79/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-3....70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon SX500:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-5R:
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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Canon SX500 vs Sony NEX-5R

    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 SX500 Sony NEX-5R
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 24-720mm f/3.4-5.8 Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2012 August 2012
    Launch Price USD 329 USD 749
    Sensor Specs Canon SX500 Sony NEX-5R
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 15.9 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.33 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 56.73 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 78
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 23.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 910
    Screen Specs Canon SX500 Sony NEX-5R
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX500 Sony NEX-5R
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.8 shutter flaps/s 10 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-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 no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX500 Sony NEX-5R
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Body Specs Canon SX500 Sony NEX-5R
    Battery Type NB-6L NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)195 shots per charge330 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 104 x 70 x 80 mm
    (4.1 x 2.8 x 3.1 in)
    111 x 59 x 39 mm
    (4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 341 g (12.0 oz) 276 g (9.7 oz)

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