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Canon SX520 vs Leica S2

The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Leica S2 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2014 and September 2008. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the S2 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX520) and a medium format (S2) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 37.5 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon SX520
versus
Leica S2
Canon SX520   Leica S2
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Leica S mount lenses
15.9 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 37.5 MP – Medium Format sensor
1080/30p Video no Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 80-1,250
No viewfinder, LCD framing Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD – 461k dots 3.0" LCD – 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.6 shutter flaps per second 1.5 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
120 x 82 x 92 mm, 441 g 160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Leica S2? 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 SX520 and the Leica S2 are illustrated 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 SX520 vs Leica S2
Compare SX520 versus S2 top
Comparison SX520 or S2 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica S2 is considerably larger (95 percent) than the Canon SX520. It is noteworthy in this context that the S2 is splash and dust-proof, while the SX520 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX520 has a lens built in, whereas the S2 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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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 SX520 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 441 g 210 n Jul 2014 399ebay.com
2.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX540 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 205 n Jan 2016 399ebay.com
4.
 
Canon SX530 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 210 n Jan 2015 429ebay.com
5.
 
Canon SX710 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 230 n Jan 2015 349ebay.com
6.
 
Canon SX700 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 250 n Feb 2014 349ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549ebay.com
8.
 
Canon T5 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 480 g 500 n Feb 2014 449ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX510 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 349 g 250 n Aug 2013 249ebay.com
10.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 amazon.com
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900ebay.com
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490ebay.com
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950ebay.com
14.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon B600 122 mm 82 mm 99 mm 500 g 280 n Jan 2019 349 amazon.com
16.
 
Sony HX90V 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 245 g 360 n Apr 2015 429ebay.com
17.
 
Sony H200 123 mm 83 mm 87 mm 530 g 240 n Jan 2013 249ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 SX520 was launched at a lower price than the S2, 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.

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. 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX520 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Leica S2 a medium format sensor. The sensor area in the S2 is 4721 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 0.8. The sensor in the SX520 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the S2 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon SX520 and Leica S2 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the SX520 (15.9MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 1.33μm for the SX520) due to its larger sensor. However, the SX520 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 10 months) than the S2, 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 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 Leica S2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 37.5 x 25 inches or 95.3 x 63.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 25 x 16.7 inches or 63.5 x 42.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon SX520 are 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica S2 are ISO 80 to ISO 1250 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the SX520 is build around a BSI-CMOS sensor, while the S2 uses a CCD 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.

SX520 versus S2 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 SX520 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.111.567246
2.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.5222482
3.
 
Canon SX540 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.780648
4.
 
Canon SX530 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.211.671247
5.
 
Canon SX710 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.211.671247
6.
 
Canon SX700 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p20.111.462945
7.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
8.
 
Canon T5 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463
9.
 
Canon SX510 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/24p20.011.358645
10.
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p25.614.4314398
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none25.113.7276393
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p25.113.7276393
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
14.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
15.
 
Nikon B600 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.712.2109552
16.
 
Sony HX90V 1/2.3 18.0 4896 36721080/60p20.211.673847
17.
 
Sony H200 1/2.3 15.2 5184 2930720/30p19.911.252944
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 can also record movies. The SX520 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the SX520 can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the S2 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX520 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX520 and Leica S2 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
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 SX520none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
2.
 
Leica S2optical Y3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5/s n n
3.
 
Canon SX540none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 5.9/s Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX530none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX710none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 6.0/s Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX700none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 8.5/s Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX60922 n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4/s Y Y
8.
 
Canon T5optical n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Canon SX510none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/1600s 3.8/s Y Y
10.
 
Leica S3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5/s n n
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s n n
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5/s n n
14.
 
Leica S1optical nnone / none none n .. 0.01/s n n
15.
 
Nikon B600none n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
16.
 
Sony HX90V638 n3.0 / 921 tilting n 1/2000s 10.0/s Y Y
17.
 
Sony H200none n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/1500s 0.8/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The SX520 has one, while the S2 does not. While the built-in flash of the SX520 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The SX520 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the S2 uses Compact Flash or SDHC cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the SX520 only has one slot.

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 SX520 HS and Leica S2 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 SX520-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Leica S2Y- / ---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX540-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon SX530-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX710-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX700-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX60Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon T5Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX510-stereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
10.
 
Leica S3Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y- / ---mini2.0---
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y- / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Leica S1-- / --------
15.
 
Nikon B600-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
16.
 
Sony HX90V-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
17.
 
Sony H200-mono / mono---2.0---

It is notable that the S2 has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The SX520 does not feature such an accessory-socket.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the SX520) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the SX520 and the S2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, while the SX520 was followed by the Canon SX530. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Leica websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon SX520 better than the Leica S2 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the S2 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x82mm vs 160x120mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the S2).
  • 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.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 10 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica S2:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (37.5 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 56%.
  • 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.
  • 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 (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • 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.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2008).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S2 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 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.

SX520 08:15 S2

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX520 and the Leica S2 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SX520 or the S2 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews 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], 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 SX520..+....3.5/53.5/5 Jul 2014 399ebay.com
2.
 
Leica S2............ Sep 2008 22,995ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX540............ Jan 2016 399ebay.com
4.
 
Canon SX530..+ +....4/54/5 Jan 2015 429ebay.com
5.
 
Canon SX710..+....4/53.5/5 Jan 2015 349ebay.com
6.
 
Canon SX700..+ +....4/54/5 Feb 2014 349ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549ebay.com
8.
 
Canon T53/5+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX510..+ +....4.5/54/5 Aug 2013 249ebay.com
10.
 
Leica S3............ Sep 2018 18,995 amazon.com
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006............ Sep 2014 16,900ebay.com
12.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5.......... Sep 2014 24,490ebay.com
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006............ Sep 2012 21,950ebay.com
14.
 
Leica S1............ Aug 1996 21,490ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon B600..+....3.5/53/5 Jan 2019 349 amazon.com
16.
 
Sony HX90V4/5+ +....4/54.5/5 Apr 2015 429ebay.com
17.
 
Sony H200........3.5/53.5/5 Jan 2013 249ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted 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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

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Check S2 offers at
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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 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 SX520 vs Leica S2

    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 SX520 Leica S2
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Leica S mount lenses
    Launch Date July 2014 September 2008
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 22,995
    Sensor Specs Canon SX520 Leica S2
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 45.0 x 30.0 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 1350 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 54.1 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 0.8x
    Sensor Resolution 15.9 Megapixels 37.5 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 7500 x 5000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.33 μm 6.00 μm
    Pixel Density 56.73 MP/cm2 2.78 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 80 - 1,250 ISO
    Screen Specs Canon SX520 Leica S2
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX520 Leica S2
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.6 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX520 Leica S2
    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 no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX520 Leica S2
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type NB-6LH BP-PRO1
    Body Dimensions 120 x 82 x 92 mm
    (4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
    160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 441 g (15.6 oz) 1410 g (49.7 oz)
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