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Contax N Digital vs Leica X Vario

The Contax N Digital and the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2002 and June 2013. The N Digital is a DSLR, while the X Vario is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a full frame (N Digital) and an APS-C (X Vario) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 16.1 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Contax N Digital
versus
Leica X Vario
Contax N Digital   Leica X Vario
Digital single lens reflex Fixed lens compact camera
Contax N mount lenses 28-70mm f/3.5-6.4
6.1 MP – Full Frame sensor 16.1 MP – APS-C sensor
no Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-12,500
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.0" LCD – 200k dots 3.0" LCD – 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
100 shots per battery charge450 shots per battery charge
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 133 x 73 x 95 mm, 680 g
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Check N Digital offers at
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Check X Vario offers at
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Leica X Vario (Typ 107)? 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 Contax N Digital and the Leica X Vario are illustrated 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The X Vario can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the N Digital is only available in black.

Size Contax N Digital vs Leica X Vario
Compare N Digital versus X Vario top
Comparison N Digital or X Vario rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica X Vario is considerably smaller (54 percent) than the Contax N Digital. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the N Digital nor the X Vario are weather-sealed.

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

As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.
 
Contax N Digital 152 mm 138 mm 80 mm 990 g 100 n Feb 2002 7,399ebay.com
2.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
3.
 
Canon XC10 125 mm 102 mm 122 mm 1040 g 370 n Apr 2015 2,499ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999ebay.com
5.
 
Canon 300D 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899ebay.com
6.
 
Canon D60 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 855 g 620 n Feb 2002 2,999ebay.com
7.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
8.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249ebay.com
9.
 
Leica SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450ebay.com
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295ebay.com
11.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic FZ1000 137 mm 99 mm 131 mm 831 g 360 n Jun 2014 899ebay.com
16.
 
Sony RX1R 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 n Jun 2013 2,799ebay.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 obviously take relative prices into account. 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 X Vario was launched at a lower price than the N Digital, 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 sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Leica X Vario an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the X Vario is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Contax N Digital and Leica X Vario sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the X Vario offers a higher resolution of 16.1 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. 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 4.80μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the X Vario is much more recent (by 11 years and 3 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Leica X Vario implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the X Vario for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.6 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.7 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) are ISO 100 to ISO 12500 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the N Digital is build around a CCD sensor, while the X Vario 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.

N Digital versus X Vario 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 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.
 
Contax N Digital Full Frame 6.1 3040 2008none21.510.5128359
2.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
3.
 
Canon XC10 1-inch 12.0 4000 30004K/30p21.711.819761
4.
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
5.
 
Canon 300D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
6.
 
Canon D60 APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none20.39.830147
7.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
8.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
9.
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.612.8149178
11.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
12.
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
13.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.49.939448
14.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
15.
 
Panasonic FZ1000 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.111.751764
16.
 
Sony RX1R Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791
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 X Vario indeed provides for movie recording, while the N Digital does not. The highest resolution format that the X Vario can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the N Digital has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the X Vario relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the X Vario can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF 2. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Contax N Digital, the Leica X Vario, and comparable cameras.

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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.
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y2.0 / 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0/s n n
2.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
3.
 
Canon XC10none n3.0 / 1030 tilting Y 1/2000s 3.8/s n Y
4.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
5.
 
Canon 300Doptical n1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
6.
 
Canon D60optical Y1.8 / 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
7.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
8.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0/s n Y
9.
 
Leica SL4400 Y3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
11.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
12.
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n n
13.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
14.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
15.
 
Panasonic FZ10002359 n3.0 / 921 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0/s Y Y
16.
 
Sony RX1Roptional n3.0 / 1229 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the X Vario is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the X Vario uses 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 Contax N Digital and Leica X Vario (Typ 107) 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.
 
Contax N DigitalY- / ----FW---
2.
 
Leica X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon XC10Ystereo / monoYYmini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon 10DY- / ----1.1---
5.
 
Canon 300DY- / ----1.1---
6.
 
Canon D60Y- / ----1.1---
7.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
8.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
9.
 
Leica SLYstereo / monoYYfull3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Nikon DfY- / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
14.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---
15.
 
Panasonic FZ1000Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YY-
16.
 
Sony RX1RYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the X Vario) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the N Digital and the X Vario have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. Neither of the two has a direct successor, so they represent the end of the respective camera lines from Contax and Leica. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Leica websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Leica X Vario – 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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Reasons to prefer the Contax N Digital:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Can take a variety of interchangeable lenses, including specialty optics.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Leica X Vario (Typ 107):

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (16.1 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 62%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 200k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with an integrated lens, while the N Digital requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (133x73mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the N Digital).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (450 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 11 years and 3 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the X Vario is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 7 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 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.

N Digital 07:13 X Vario

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Leica X Vario place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Travel-Zoom 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the N Digital or the X Vario. 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 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.
 
Contax N Digital............ Feb 2002 7,399ebay.com
2.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
3.
 
Canon XC10......80/100.... Apr 2015 2,499ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 10D......+ +.... Feb 2003 1,999ebay.com
5.
 
Canon 300D......+ +.... Aug 2003 899ebay.com
6.
 
Canon D60......+ +o.. Feb 2002 2,999ebay.com
7.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
8.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5....80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249ebay.com
9.
 
Leica SL4/5..4/584/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450ebay.com
10.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5......3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295ebay.com
11.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon Df4/5....81/1004/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic FZ10004/5+ +..82/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 899ebay.com
16.
 
Sony RX1R5/5......4/54.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) 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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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 N Digital offers at
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Check X Vario offers at
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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Leica X Vario

    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 Contax N Digital Leica X Vario
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses 28-70mm f/3.5-6.4
    Launch Date February 2002 June 2013
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 2,850
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Leica X Vario
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.6 x 15.7 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 370.52 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 6.1 Megapixels 16.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 4928 x 3272 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 4.80 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 4.35 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 12,500 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 78
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 23.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1320
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Leica X Vario
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Leica X Vario
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Leica X Vario
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector Firewire USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Leica X Vario
    Battery Type 4xAA BP-DC8
    Battery Life (CIPA)100 shots per charge450 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    133 x 73 x 95 mm
    (5.2 x 2.9 x 3.7 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 680 g (24.0 oz)
    logo
    Check N Digital offers at
    ebay.com
    logo
    Check X Vario offers at
    ebay.com

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