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Epson R-D1 vs Sony NEX-5

The Epson R-D1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in March 2004 and May 2010. The R-D1 is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-5 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Epson has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Epson R-D1 VS Sony NEX-5
Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
Leica M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
6 MP, APS-C Sensor 14 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-1600 ISO 200-12800
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.0" LCD, 235k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
1 shutter flaps per second 7 shutter flaps per second
142 x 89 x 40 mm, 620 g 111 x 59 x 38 mm, 287 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Epson R-D1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5? 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 Epson R-D1 and the Sony NEX-5 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The NEX-5 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the R-D1 is only available in black.

Size Epson R-D1 vs Sony NEX-5
Compare R-D1 versus NEX-5 top
Comparison R-D1 or NEX-5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5 is considerably smaller (48 percent) than the Epson R-D1. Moreover, the NEX-5 is substantially lighter (54 percent) than the R-D1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the R-D1 nor the NEX-5 are weather-sealed.

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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (R-D1) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-5).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Epson R-D1» 5.6 in 3.5 in 1.6 in 21.9 oz .. n Mar 2004 2,999iEpson R-D1
 
Sony NEX-5« 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 10.1 oz 330 n May 2010 699iSony NEX-5
 
Canon Rebel« » 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899iCanon Rebel
 
Leica CL« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 1.8 in 14.2 oz 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 iLeica CL
 
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 iLeica M10
 
Leica X-U Typ 113« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 3.5 in 22.4 oz 450 Y Jan 2016 2,950 iLeica X-U Typ 113
 
Leica X Vario« » 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.7 in 24.0 oz 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 iLeica X Vario
 
Leica M9« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999iLeica M9
 
Nikon D40« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 470 n Nov 2006 499iNikon D40
 
Nikon D50« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.0 in 21.9 oz 400 n Apr 2005 749iNikon D50
 
Nikon D70s« » 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 500 n Apr 2005 899iNikon D70s
 
Nikon D70« » 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 400 n Jan 2004 999iNikon D70
 
Sony NEX-5R« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.7 oz 330 n Aug 2012 749iSony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 11.1 oz 470 n May 2012 599iSony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.5 oz 460 n Aug 2011 699iSony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3« » 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 7.9 oz 400 n Jun 2011 599iSony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3« » 4.6 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 330 n May 2010 599iSony NEX-3
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The NEX-5 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 77 percent) than the R-D1, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the NEX-5 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Epson R-D1 and Sony NEX-5 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the NEX-5 offers a higher resolution of 14 megapixels, compared with 6 MP of the R-D1. 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 5.11μm versus 7.85μm for the R-D1). However, it should be noted that the NEX-5 is much more recent (by 6 years and 2 months) than the R-D1, 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 Sony NEX-5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.3 inch or 58.3 x 38.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.2 inch or 46.7 x 31 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.3 x 10.2 inch or 38.9 x 25.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Epson R-D1 are 15 x 10 inch or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inch or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inch or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Epson R-D1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

R-D1 versus NEX-5 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Epson R-D1 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........Epson R-D1
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669Sony NEX-5
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455Canon Rebel
 
Leica CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........Leica CL
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386Leica M10
 
Leica X-U Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p........Leica X-U Typ 113
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078Leica X Vario
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469Leica M9
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156Nikon D40
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950Nikon D70
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068Sony NEX-3

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The NEX-5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the R-D1 does not. The highest resolution format that the NEX-5 can use is 1080/60i.

 

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the R-D1 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-5 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-5 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Epson R-D1, the Sony NEX-5, and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Epson R-D1optical n 2.0 235 fixed n 1/2000s 1.0 n n Epson R-D1
 
Sony NEX-5optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n Sony NEX-5
 
Canon Rebeloptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Canon Rebel
 
Leica CL2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n Leica CL
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10
 
Leica X-U Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n Leica X-U Typ 113
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n Leica X Vario
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n Leica M9
 
Nikon D40optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Nikon D40
 
Nikon D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n Sony NEX-3
The NEX-5 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the R-D1 does not have a selfie-screen.

The R-D1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the NEX-5 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 Epson R-D1 and Sony Alpha NEX-5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Epson R-D1Ynonenone--nonenone---Epson R-D1
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-5
 
Canon RebelYnonenone--none1.1---Canon Rebel
 
Leica CLYstereomono--nonenoneY--Leica CL
 
Leica M10Ynonenone--nonenoneY--Leica M10
 
Leica X-U Typ 113Ystereomono--none2.0---Leica X-U Typ 113
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---Leica X Vario
 
Leica M9Ynonenone--none2.0---Leica M9
 
Nikon D40Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D40
 
Nikon D50Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70sYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70Ynonenone--none1.0---Nikon D70
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereomono--mini2.0Y--Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-3

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Epson R-D1 (unlike the NEX-5) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the R-D1 and the NEX-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5 was replaced by the Sony NEX-5N, while the R-D1 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 Epson and Sony websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Epson R-D1 or the Sony NEX-5 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Epson R-D1:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • 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 March 2004).

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (14 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 53%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i 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 235k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (111x59mm vs 142x89mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 333g or 54 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (77 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the R-D1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-5 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 3 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.

R-D1 03:12 NEX-5

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 R-D1 or the NEX-5. 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 adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Epson R-D1.......... Mar 2004 2,999iEpson R-D1
 
Sony NEX-5+ +71/1004.5/54/54/5 May 2010 699iSony NEX-5
 
Canon Rebel..+ +..o.. Aug 2003 899iCanon Rebel
 
Leica CL........4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 iLeica CL
 
Leica M10....4/5..4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 iLeica M10
 
Leica X-U Typ 113........3.5/5 Jan 2016 2,950 iLeica X-U Typ 113
 
Leica X Vario....4/54/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 iLeica X Vario
 
Leica M9....4.5/54.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999iLeica M9
 
Nikon D4081/100+ +o5/54.5/5 Nov 2006 499iNikon D40
 
Nikon D5078/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Apr 2005 749iNikon D50
 
Nikon D70s......o5/5 Apr 2005 899iNikon D70s
 
Nikon D70..+ +..o.. Jan 2004 999iNikon D70
 
Sony NEX-5R....4.5/5..4.5/5 Aug 2012 749iSony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3..74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599iSony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699iSony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3+ +74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599iSony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3..70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599iSony NEX-3
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Epson R-D1:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-5:
Check Ebay offers

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. 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: Epson R-D1 vs Sony NEX-5

    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 Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date March 2004 May 2010
    Launch Price USD 2999 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 6 Megapixels 14 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 2000 pixels 4592 x 3056 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.85 μm 5.11 μm
    Pixel Density 1.63 MP/cm2 3.84 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200-1600 ISO 200-12800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 69
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 796
    Screen Specs Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification ..x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 235k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
    Focus System Manual Focus Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidNo Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/2000/s 1/4000/s
    Continuous Shooting 1 shutter flaps/s 7 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB no USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-5
    Battery Type EU-85 NP-FW50
    Body Dimensions 142 x 89 x 40 mm
    (5.6 x 3.5 x 1.6 in)
    111 x 59 x 38 mm
    (4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 620 g (21.9 oz) 287 g (10.1 oz)

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