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Canon SX510 vs Sony NEX-C3

The Canon PowerShot SX510 HS and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2013 and June 2011. The SX510 is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-C3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX510) and an APS-C (NEX-C3) 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 SX510
versus
Sony NEX-C3
Canon SX510   Sony NEX-C3
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
1080/24p Video 720/30p Video
ISO 80-3,200 ISO 100-12,800
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 461k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
3.8 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
250 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
104 x 70 x 80 mm, 349 g 110 x 60 x 33 mm, 225 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3? 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 SX510 and the Sony NEX-C3 are illustrated 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 NEX-C3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, pink), while the SX510 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX510 vs Sony NEX-C3
Compare SX510 versus NEX-C3 top
Comparison SX510 or NEX-C3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-C3 is notably smaller (9 percent) than the Canon SX510. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX510 nor the NEX-C3 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX510 has a lens built in, whereas the NEX-C3 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-C3 and their specifications in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX510 gets 250 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the NEX-C3 can take 400 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 SX510 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 349 g 250 n Aug 2013 249 i
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 599 i
3.
 
Canon SX420 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 195 n Jan 2016 299 i
4.
 
Canon SX520 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 441 g 210 n Jul 2014 399 i
5.
 
Canon SX700 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 250 n Feb 2014 349 i
6.
 
Canon SX600 104 mm 61 mm 26 mm 188 g 290 n Jan 2014 249 i
7.
 
Canon SX400 104 mm 69 mm 80 mm 313 g 190 n Jul 2014 249 i
8.
 
Canon SX500 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 341 g 195 n Aug 2012 329 i
9.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499 i
10.
 
Canon M 109 mm 66 mm 32 mm 298 g 230 n Jul 2012 599 i
11.
 
Leica X2 124 mm 69 mm 52 mm 345 g 450 n May 2012 1,995 i
12.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499 i
13.
 
Sony H200 123 mm 83 mm 87 mm 530 g 240 n Jan 2013 249 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599 i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699 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 SX510 was launched at a lower price than the NEX-C3, 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.

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. 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX510 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Sony NEX-C3 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-C3 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 SX510 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-C3 offers a 3:2 aspect.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Canon SX510 and Sony NEX-C3 sensor measures

With 16MP, the NEX-C3 offers a higher resolution than the SX510 (15.9MP), but the NEX-C3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 1.33μm for the SX510) due to its larger sensor. However, the SX510 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 2 months) than the NEX-C3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX510 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The Canon PowerShot SX510 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

SX510 versus NEX-C3 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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. 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 SX510 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/24p...... ..
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.21083 73
3.
 
Canon SX420 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p...... ..
4.
 
Canon SX520 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p...... ..
5.
 
Canon SX700 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p...... ..
6.
 
Canon SX600 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p...... ..
7.
 
Canon SX400 1/2.3 15.9 4608 3456720/30p...... ..
8.
 
Canon SX500 1/2.3 15.9 4608 3456720/30p...... ..
9.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.5165 46
10.
 
Canon M APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.2827 65
11.
 
Leica X2 APS-C 16.1 4928 3264none...... ..
12.
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.51067 74
13.
 
Sony H200 1/2.3 15.2 5184 2930720/30p...... ..
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.31114 73
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.71079 77
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.0830 68
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.2796 69

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 SX510 provides a higher video resolution than the NEX-C3. It can shoot video footage at 1080/24p, while the Sony is limited to 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The SX510 and the NEX-C3 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-C3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon SX510 and Sony NEX-C3 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
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 SX510none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/1600s 3.8 Y Y
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
3.
 
Canon SX420none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5 Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX520none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6 Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX700none n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/3200s 8.5 Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX600none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/2000s 3.9 Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX400none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/1600s 0.8 Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX500none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/1600s 0.8 Y Y
9.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
10.
 
Canon Mnone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.3 n n
11.
 
Leica X2optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
12.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
13.
 
Sony H200none n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/1500s 0.8 Y Y
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional 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 SX510 has one, while the NEX-C3 does not. While the built-in flash of the SX510 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The NEX-C3 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 SX510 does not have a selfie-screen.

The SX510 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-C3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 SX510 HS and Sony Alpha NEX-C3 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 SX510-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX420-monomono---2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon SX520-stereomono--mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon SX700-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX600-monomono--micro2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX400-stereomono---2.0---
8.
 
Canon SX500-stereomono---2.0---
9.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon MYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica X2Y----mini2.0---
12.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---
13.
 
Sony H200-monomono---2.0---
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the SX510 offers wifi support, while the NEX-C3 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

Both the SX510 and the NEX-C3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SX510 was replaced by the Canon SX520, while the NEX-C3 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 Sony websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon SX510 better than the Sony NEX-C3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/24p vs 720/30p).
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the NEX-C3 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.
  • 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 2 years and 2 months of technical progress since the NEX-C3 launch.

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-C3:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (5.5 vs 3.8 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 (400 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 2011).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-C3 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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.

SX510 08:15 NEX-C3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX510 and the Sony NEX-C3 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 comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX510 or the NEX-C3. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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 SX510..+ +..4.5/54/5 Aug 2013 249 i
2.
 
Sony NEX-C33/5+ +74/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599 i
3.
 
Canon SX420........3/5 Jan 2016 299 i
4.
 
Canon SX520..+..3.5/53.5/5 Jul 2014 399 i
5.
 
Canon SX700..+ +..4/54/5 Feb 2014 349 i
6.
 
Canon SX600..+..4/54/5 Jan 2014 249 i
7.
 
Canon SX400..+...... Jul 2014 249 i
8.
 
Canon SX500..+ +..4/54/5 Aug 2012 329 i
9.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499 i
10.
 
Canon M3/5+..4/54/5 Jul 2012 599 i
11.
 
Leica X23/5....3/54/5 May 2012 1,995 i
12.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5....4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499 i
13.
 
Sony H200......3.5/53.5/5 Jan 2013 249 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-F34/5..74/1004.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599 i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N3/5+ +79/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3....70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699 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 SX510:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-C3:
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 SX510 vs Sony NEX-C3

    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 SX510 Sony NEX-C3
    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 2013 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 249 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon SX510 Sony NEX-C3
    Sensor Technology CMOS 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 1080/24p Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1083
    Screen Specs Canon SX510 Sony NEX-C3
    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
    Shooting Specs Canon SX510 Sony NEX-C3
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3.8 shutter flaps/s 5.5 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 SX510 Sony NEX-C3
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX510 Sony NEX-C3
    Battery Type NB-6LH NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)250 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 104 x 70 x 80 mm
    (4.1 x 2.8 x 3.1 in)
    110 x 60 x 33 mm
    (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 349 g (12.3 oz) 225 g (7.9 oz)

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