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Leica M8 vs Nikon D3S

The Leica M8 and the Nikon D3S are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2006 and October 2009. The M8 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the D3S is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 10.4 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica M8 versus Nikon D3S
Leica M8 Nikon D3S
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
10.4 MP, APS-H Sensor 12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video 720/24p Video
ISO 160-2,500 ISO 200-12,800 (100 - 102,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 11 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 591 g 160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 and the Nikon D3S? 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 Leica M8 and the Nikon D3S 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 M8 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D3S is only available in black.

Size Leica M8 vs Nikon D3S
Compare M8 versus D3S top
Comparison M8 or D3S rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3S is considerably larger (126 percent) than the Leica M8. Moreover, the D3S is substantially heavier (110 percent) than the M8. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3S is splash and dust-proof, while the M8 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M8) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3S).

As can be seen in the images above, the D3S has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
2.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
3.
 
Canon 1100D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449i
4.
 
Canon 400D 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 n Aug 2006 799i
5.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Nov 2015 5,195i
7.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
8.
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499i
9.
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
10.
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599i
11.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749i
12.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
13.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
14.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
15.
 
Nikon D40X 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 n Mar 2007 729i
16.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999i
17.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3S was somewhat cheaper (by 5 percent) than the M8 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S is 77 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M8 and Nikon D3S sensor measures

With 12.1MP, the D3S offers a higher resolution than the M8 (10.4MP), but the D3S nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 6.84μm for the M8) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3S is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 1 month) than the M8, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M8 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3S implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3S for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica M8 are 19.7 x 13.2 inches or 50 x 33.4 cm for good quality, 15.7 x 10.5 inches or 40 x 26.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.1 x 8.8 inches or 33.3 x 22.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M8 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3S are ISO 200 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.

M8 versus D3S MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3S offers substantially better image quality than the M8 (overall score 23 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
2.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
3.
 
Canon 1100D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
4.
 
Canon 400D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.066462
5.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262 Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976none........
7.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
8.
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
9.
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
10.
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
11.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
12.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
13.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
14.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
15.
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
16.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
17.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D3S indeed provides for movie recording, while the M8 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3S can use is 720/24p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M8 and the D3S 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica M8, the Nikon D3S, and comparable cameras.

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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
1.
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
2.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
3.
 
Canon 1100Doptical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 400Doptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
5.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
7.
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
8.
 
Nikon D5optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n
9.
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
10.
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
11.
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
13.
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
15.
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
16.
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Panasonic L10optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the D3S, but is missing on the M8 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 Nikon D3S 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 M8 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D3S uses Compact Flash cards. The D3S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M8 only has one slot.

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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 Leica M8 and Nikon D3S 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
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 1100DYstereomono--mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 400DY-----2.0---
5.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262Y-----2.0---
7.
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D5YstereomonoYYmini3.0---
9.
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D40XY-----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic L10Y-----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D3S (unlike the M8) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the M8 and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M8 was replaced by the Leica M9, while the D3S was followed by the Nikon D4. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M8 and the Nikon D3S? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica M8:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 649g or 52 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2006).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3S:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.1 vs 10.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 8%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (23 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • 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 (921k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the M8 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 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 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.

M8 05:17 D3S

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M8 or the D3S. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica M8....+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499i
2.
 
Nikon D3S5/5..89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
3.
 
Canon 1100D..80/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449i
4.
 
Canon 400D..+ ++ +o4/5 Aug 2006 799i
5.
 
Leica M104.5/5....4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262.......... Nov 2015 5,195i
7.
 
Leica M9......4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
8.
 
Nikon D5....89/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499i
9.
 
Nikon D4......4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
10.
 
Nikon D3000..+72/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599i
11.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
12.
 
Nikon D3X....86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
13.
 
Nikon D700..89/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
14.
 
Nikon D3....+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
15.
 
Nikon D40X..79/100+ +4/54/5 Mar 2007 729i
16.
 
Nikon D80..++ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
17.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica M8:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3S:
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. 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: Leica M8 vs Nikon D3S

    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 Leica M8 Nikon D3S
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 October 2009
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 5,199
    Sensor Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3S
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.0 x 18.0 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 486 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 32.4 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10.4 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3936 x 2630 pixels 4256 x 2832 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.84 μm 8.43 μm
    Pixel Density 2.13 MP/cm2 1.40 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 160 - 2,500 ISO 200 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 102,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 59 82
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.1 23.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 3253
    Screen Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3S
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3S
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 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 SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3S
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3S
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BLI-312 EN-EL4a
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    Camera Weight 591 g (20.8 oz) 1240 g (43.7 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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