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Contax N Digital vs Nikon D4

The Contax N Digital and the Nikon D4 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2002 and January 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 16.2 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
Nikon D4
Contax N Digital   Nikon D4
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
6.1 MP – Full Frame sensor 16.2 MP – Full Frame sensor
no Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-12,800 (50 - 204,800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0" LCD – 200k dots 3.2" LCD – 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 11 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
100 shots per battery charge2600 shots per battery charge
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 160 x 157 x 91 mm, 1340 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D4? 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 Nikon D4 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Contax N Digital vs Nikon D4
Compare N Digital versus D4 top
Comparison N Digital or D4 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D4 is notably larger (20 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the D4 is substantially heavier (35 percent) than the N Digital. It is noteworthy in this context that the D4 is splash and dust-proof, while the N Digital does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

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

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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
    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.
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999ebay.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 SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450ebay.com
9.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D4S 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
16.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic FZ1000 137 mm 99 mm 131 mm 831 g 360 n Jun 2014 899ebay.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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D4 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 19 percent) than the N Digital, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Contax N Digital and Nikon D4 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D4 offers a higher resolution of 16.2 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 7.29μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the D4 is much more recent (by 9 years and 10 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 Nikon D4 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D4 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.8 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 Nikon D4 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.

In terms of underlying technology, the N Digital is build around a CCD sensor, while the D4 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 D4 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The 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.
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
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 SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
9.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
10.
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
11.
 
Nikon D4S Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
12.
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
13.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
14.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
15.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.49.939448
16.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
17.
 
Panasonic FZ1000 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.111.751764
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 D4 indeed provides for movie recording, while the N Digital does not. The highest resolution format that the D4 can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The N Digital and the D4 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the D4 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the N Digital (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Contax N Digital and Nikon D4 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.
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y2.0 / 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0/s n n
2.
 
Nikon D4optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n 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 SL4400 Y3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
9.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
10.
 
Nikon D5optical Y3.2 / 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0/s n n
11.
 
Nikon D4Soptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
12.
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n n
13.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
14.
 
Nikon D3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
15.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
16.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
17.
 
Panasonic FZ10002359 n3.0 / 921 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

The Nikon D4 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.

The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D4 uses Compact Flash or XQD cards. The D4 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the N Digital 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 Contax N Digital and Nikon D4 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.
 
Nikon D4Ymono / monoYYmicro2.0---
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 SLYstereo / monoYYfull3.0Y--
9.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D5Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0---
11.
 
Nikon D4SYmono / monoYYmini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon DfY- / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D3Y- / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
16.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---
17.
 
Panasonic FZ1000Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YY-

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the N Digital and the D4 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D4 was replaced by the Nikon D4S, while the N Digital does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Nikon websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Contax N Digital better than the Nikon D4 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Contax N Digital:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.70x).
  • More compact: Is smaller (152x138mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 350g or 26 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D4:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (16.2 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 63%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 200k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (2600 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (19 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years and 10 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D4 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 4 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 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.

N Digital 04:12 D4

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D4 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing 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 D4. 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 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.
 
Contax N Digital............ Feb 2002 7,399ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon D4........4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999ebay.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 SL4/5..4/584/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450ebay.com
9.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D5....4/589/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D4S5/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon Df4/5....81/1004/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D3S5/5....89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D3......+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
16.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic FZ10004/5+ +..82/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 899ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu 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 Nikon D4

    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 Nikon D4
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 January 2012
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 5,999
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D4
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 6.1 Megapixels 16.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 4928 x 3280 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 7.29 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 1.88 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 50 - 204,800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 89
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 24.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 2965
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D4
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 3.2inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D4
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 11 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XQD cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D4
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector Firewire USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI micro HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Headphone Socket no Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D4
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type 4xAA EN-EL18
    Battery Life (CIPA)100 shots per charge2600 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    160 x 157 x 91 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 1340 g (47.3 oz)
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    Check D4 offers at
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