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Canon SX720 vs Leica M9

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS and the Leica M9 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2016 and September 2009. The SX720 is a fixed lens compact, while the M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX720) and a full frame (M9) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 20.2 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 18.1 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon SX720
versus
Leica M9
Canon SX720   Leica M9
Fixed lens compact camera Rangefinder camera
24-960mm f/3.3-6.9 Leica M mount lenses
20.2 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 18.1 MP – Full Frame sensor
1080/60p Video no Video
ISO 80-3,200 ISO 80-2,500
No viewfinder, LCD framing Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD – 922k dots 2.5" LCD – 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5.9 shutter flaps per second 2 shutter flaps per second
250 shots per battery charge550 shots per battery charge
110 x 64 x 36 mm, 270 g 139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS and the Leica M9? 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.

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Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon SX720 and the Leica M9 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.

The SX720 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the M9 is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, silver).

Size Canon SX720 vs Leica M9
Compare SX720 versus M9 top
Comparison SX720 or M9 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica M9 is considerably larger (58 percent) than the Canon SX720. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX720 nor the M9 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX720 has a lens built in, whereas the M9 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 M9 and their specifications in the Leica M Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX720 gets 250 shots out of its Canon NB-13L battery, while the M9 can take 550 images on a single charge of its Leica BLI-312 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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
  empty Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX720 110 mm 64 mm 36 mm 270 g 250 n Feb 2016 US$ 379ebay.com
2.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g 550 n Sep 2009 US$ 7 999ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX410 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 185 n Feb 2015 US$ 279ebay.com
4.
 
Canon SX420 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 195 n Jan 2016 US$ 299ebay.com
5.
 
Canon SX430 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 323 g 195 n Jan 2017 US$ 299ebay.com
6.
 
Canon SX540 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 205 n Jan 2016 US$ 399ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX710 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 230 n Jan 2015 US$ 349ebay.com
8.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 US$ 399ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX740 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 299 g 265 n Jul 2018 US$ 399 amazon.com
10.
 
Canon T2i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 US$ 699ebay.com
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g 500 Y Sep 2012 US$ 6 949ebay.com
12.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g 550 n Sep 2006 US$ 5 499ebay.com
13.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 US$ 6 599ebay.com
14.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 US$ 2 849ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic ZS70 112 mm 67 mm 41 mm 322 g 380 n Apr 2017 US$ 449ebay.com
16.
 
Sony HX80 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 245 g 390 n Mar 2016 US$ 349ebay.com
17.
 
Sony HX90V 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 245 g 360 n Apr 2015 US$ 429ebay.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 SX720 was launched at a lower price than the M9, 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 sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 SX720 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Leica M9 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the M9 is 2986 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 1.0. The sensor in the SX720 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the M9 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon SX720 and Leica M9 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon SX720 offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixels, compared with 18.1 MP of the Leica M9. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 1.18μm versus 6.91μm for the M9). However, it should be noted that the SX720 is much more recent (by 6 years and 5 months) than the M9, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. 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 Canon PowerShot SX720 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica M9 are ISO 80 to ISO 2500 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the SX720 is build around a BSI-CMOS sensor, while the M9 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.

SX720 versus M9 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
  empty Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon SX720 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.881748
2.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
3.
 
Canon SX410 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/30p20.211.672047
4.
 
Canon SX420 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p20.311.780648
5.
 
Canon SX430 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p20.511.990049
6.
 
Canon SX540 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.780648
7.
 
Canon SX710 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.211.671247
8.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.511.992450
9.
 
Canon SX740 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p20.612.1105051
10.
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
12.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
13.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
14.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
15.
 
Panasonic ZS70 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p19.110.610636
16.
 
Sony HX80 1/2.3 18.0 4896 36721080/60p20.411.882248
17.
 
Sony HX90V 1/2.3 18.0 4896 36721080/60p20.211.673847
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. The SX720 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the SX720 can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the M9 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX720 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX720 and Leica M9 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
  empty 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 SX720none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 5.9/s Y Y
2.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
3.
 
Canon SX410none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5/s Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX420none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5/s Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX430none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5/s Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX540none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 5.9/s Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX710none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 6.0/s Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX730none n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9/s Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX740none n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/3200s 10.0/s Y Y
10.
 
Canon T2ioptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
12.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
13.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
14.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
15.
 
Panasonic ZS701166 n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 10.0/s Y Y
16.
 
Sony HX80638 n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/2000s 10.0/s Y Y
17.
 
Sony HX90V638 n3.0 / 921 tilting n 1/2000s 10.0/s Y Y
Note: *) 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 SX720 has one, while the M9 does not. While the built-in flash of the SX720 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SX720 and the M9 write their files to SDXC cards. The SX720 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the M9 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 SX720 HS and Leica M9 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  empty Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon SX720-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
2.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX410-stereo / mono---2.0---
4.
 
Canon SX420-mono / mono---2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX430-mono / mono---2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX540-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX710-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon SX730-stereo / mono--micro2.0YYY
9.
 
Canon SX740-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
10.
 
Canon T2iYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereo / mono---2.0---
12.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
14.
 
Leica X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic ZS70-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
16.
 
Sony HX80-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
17.
 
Sony HX90V-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-

It is notable that the SX720 offers wifi support, while the M9 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

Both the SX720 and the M9 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the SX720 was followed by the Canon SX730. Further information on the features and operation of the SX720 and M9 can be found, respectively, in the Canon SX720 Manual (free pdf) or the online Leica M9 Manual.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon SX720 better than the Leica M9 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 SX720 HS:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.9 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the M9 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x64mm vs 139x80mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the M9).
  • 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.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 5 months of technical progress since the M9 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica M9:

  • 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.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/3200s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with different optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (550 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • 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 2009).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SX720 emerges as the winner of the contest (14 : 11 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 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.

SX720 14:11 M9

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SX720 and the M9 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 adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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
  empty  Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX720..+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2016 US$ 379ebay.com
2.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 US$ 7 999ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX410..o........ Feb 2015 US$ 279ebay.com
4.
 
Canon SX420..........3/5 Jan 2016 US$ 299ebay.com
5.
 
Canon SX430........3.5/53.5/5 Jan 2017 US$ 299ebay.com
6.
 
Canon SX540............ Jan 2016 US$ 399ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX710..+....4/53.5/5 Jan 2015 US$ 349ebay.com
8.
 
Canon SX730..+....4/54/5 Apr 2017 US$ 399ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX740..+3.5/5..4/54/5 Jul 2018 US$ 399 amazon.com
10.
 
Canon T2i..+ +..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 US$ 699ebay.com
11.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5......4/5.. Sep 2012 US$ 6 949ebay.com
12.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 US$ 5 499ebay.com
13.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 US$ 6 599ebay.com
14.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 US$ 2 849ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic ZS70..+ +....4/54/5 Apr 2017 US$ 449ebay.com
16.
 
Sony HX80............ Mar 2016 US$ 349ebay.com
17.
 
Sony HX90V4/5+ +....4/54.5/5 Apr 2015 US$ 429ebay.com
Note: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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.

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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 use the search menu 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 SX720 vs Leica M9

    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 SX720 Leica M9
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Rangefinder camera
    Camera Lens 24-960mm f/3.3-6.9 Leica M mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2016 September 2009
    Launch Price USD 379 USD 7,999
    Sensor Specs Canon SX720 Leica M9
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 864 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 43.3 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 20.2 Megapixels 18.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5184 x 3888 pixels 5212 x 3472 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.18 μm 6.91 μm
    Pixel Density 71.80 MP/cm2 2.09 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 3,200 ISO 80 - 2,500 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 69
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 11.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 884
    Screen Specs Canon SX720 Leica M9
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX720 Leica M9
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Manual Focus
    Continuous Shooting 5.9 shutter flaps/s 2 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX720 Leica M9
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port micro HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Near-Field Communication NFC built-in no NFC
    Body Specs Canon SX720 Leica M9
    Battery Type Canon NB-13L Leica BLI-312
    Battery Life (CIPA)250 shots per charge550 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 110 x 64 x 36 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
    139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 270 g (9.5 oz) 585 g (20.6 oz)
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