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Canon SX520 vs Pentax Q

The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Pentax Q are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2014 and June 2011. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the Pentax Q is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 12 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
Pentax Q
Canon SX520   Pentax Q
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Pentax Q mount lenses
15.9 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 12 MP – 1/2.3" sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 125-6,400
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
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
Lens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
210 shots per battery charge230 shots per battery charge
120 x 82 x 92 mm, 441 g 98 x 57 x 31 mm, 180 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 Pentax Q? 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 SX520 and the Pentax Q is provided 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The Pentax Q can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the SX520 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX520 vs Pentax Q
Compare SX520 versus Pentax Q top
Comparison SX520 or Pentax Q rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax Q is considerably smaller (43 percent) than the Canon SX520. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX520 nor the Pentax Q are weather-sealed.

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

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 SX520 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 441 g 210 n Jul 2014 399ebay.com
2.
 
Pentax Q 98 mm 57 mm 31 mm 180 g 230 n Jun 2011 649ebay.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.
 
Nikon B600 122 mm 82 mm 99 mm 500 g 280 n Jan 2019 349 amazon.com
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699ebay.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.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The SX520 was launched at a lower price than the Pentax Q, 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.

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.

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 SX520 and Pentax Q sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the SX520 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the Pentax Q. This megapixels advantage translates into a 15 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the SX520 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 Pentax Q). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the SX520 is much more recent (by 3 years and 1 month) than the Pentax Q, 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 the SX520 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Canon SX520 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SX520 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 Pentax Q 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 SX520 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Pentax Q are ISO 125 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the SX520 is build around a BSI-CMOS sensor, while the Pentax Q 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.

SX520 versus Pentax Q 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.
 
Pentax Q 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/30p20.211.118947
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.
 
Nikon B600 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.712.2109552
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649
12.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
13.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
14.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
15.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
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 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, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The SX520 and the Pentax Q 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 Pentax Q can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the O-VF1. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX520 and Pentax Q 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.
 
Pentax Qoptional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/2000s 1.5/s Y Y
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.
 
Nikon B600none n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0/s Y Y
12.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
13.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
14.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/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.

The Pentax Q has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SX520 and the Pentax Q write their files to 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 SX520 HS and Pentax Q 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.
 
Pentax QYmono / mono--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.
 
Nikon B600-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Sony HX90V-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
17.
 
Sony H200-mono / mono---2.0---

It is notable that the Pentax Q 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.

Both the SX520 and the Pentax Q have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The Pentax Q was replaced by the Pentax Q10, while the SX520 was followed by the Canon SX530. Further information on the features and operation of the SX520 and Pentax Q can be found, respectively, in the Canon SX520 Manual (free pdf) or the online Pentax Q Manual.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Canon SX520 or the Pentax Q – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? 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 SX520 HS:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (15.9 vs 12MP) with a 15% higher linear resolution.
  • 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 Pentax Q requires a separate lens.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the Pentax Q launch.

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Advantages of the Pentax Q:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • More compact: Is smaller (98x57mm vs 120x82mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • 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 number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the Pentax Q emerges as the winner of the match-up (7 : 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.

SX520 05:07 Pentax Q

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX520 and the Pentax Q 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SX520 and the Pentax Q in practical situations. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
 
Pentax Q3/5......4/53.5/5 Jun 2011 649ebay.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.
 
Nikon B600..+....3.5/53/5 Jan 2019 349 amazon.com
11.
 
Olympus XZ-24/5+....4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +..72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699ebay.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 assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

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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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon SX520 vs Pentax Q

    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 Pentax Q
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Pentax Q mount lenses
    Launch Date July 2014 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 649
    Sensor Specs Canon SX520 Pentax Q
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS 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 15.9 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.33 μm 1.53 μm
    Pixel Density 56.73 MP/cm2 42.74 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 125 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 47
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 20.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 11.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 189
    Screen Specs Canon SX520 Pentax Q
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View 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 Pentax Q
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.6 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Image StabilizationLens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX520 Pentax Q
    External Flash no 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 SX520 Pentax Q
    Battery Type NB-6LH D-LI68
    Battery Life (CIPA)210 shots per charge230 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 120 x 82 x 92 mm
    (4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
    98 x 57 x 31 mm
    (3.9 x 2.2 x 1.2 in)
    Camera Weight 441 g (15.6 oz) 180 g (6.3 oz)
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