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Leica M8 vs Olympus E-P1

The Leica M8 and the Olympus PEN E-P1 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2006 and June 2009. The M8 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless, while the E-P1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and a Four Thirds (E-P1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 10.4 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 12.2 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
Olympus E-P1
Leica M8   Olympus E-P1
Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
Leica M mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
10.4 MP – APS-H sensor 12.2 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 160-2,500 ISO 100-6,400
Optical viewfinder No viewfinder, LCD framing
2.5" LCD – 230k dots 3.0" LCD – 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
no shake reductionIn-body stabilization
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 591 g 121 x 70 x 36 mm, 355 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 and the Olympus PEN E-P1? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica M8 and the Olympus E-P1 is provided 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 E-P1 is available in three color-versions (black, silver, white).

Size Leica M8 vs Olympus E-P1
Compare M8 versus E-P1 top
Comparison M8 or E-P1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-P1 is notably smaller (24 percent) than the Leica M8. Moreover, the E-P1 is substantially lighter (40 percent) than the M8. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M8 nor the E-P1 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. 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-P1).

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.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 1100D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 400D 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 n Aug 2006 799ebay.com
5.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Nov 2015 5,195ebay.com
7.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D40X 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 n Mar 2007 729ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599ebay.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 E-P1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 85 percent) than the M8, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.

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. 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. 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Olympus E-P1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-P1 is 54 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 2.0. The sensor in the M8 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-P1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica M8 and Olympus E-P1 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-P1 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 10.4 MP of the M8. 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 4.29μm versus 6.84μm for the M8). However, it should be noted that the E-P1 is much more recent (by 2 years and 9 months) than the M8, 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 the M8 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-P1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-P1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 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 Olympus PEN E-P1 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the M8 is build around a CCD sensor, while the E-P1 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.

M8 versus E-P1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the M8 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-P1 (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.3 bits lower color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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
    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.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
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 3976none24.813.7247890
7.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
8.
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
9.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
10.
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
11.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
12.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
13.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
14.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
15.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556
16.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
17.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955
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 E-P1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M8 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-P1 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the M8 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-P1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica M8 and Olympus E-P1 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.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
2.
 
Olympus E-P1none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
3.
 
Canon 1100Doptical n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon 400Doptical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
5.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262optical n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
7.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
8.
 
Nikon D3000optical n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D5000optical n2.7 / 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
11.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n3.0 / 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
13.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0/s Y Y
14.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
16.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y Y
17.
 
Panasonic L10optical n2.5 / 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

The M8 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-P1 uses SDHC 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 Leica M8 and Olympus PEN E-P1 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.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 1100DYstereo / mono--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 D3000Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D5000Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D40XY- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic L10Y- / ----2.0---

Both the M8 and the E-P1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The M8 was replaced by the Leica M9, while the E-P1 was followed by the Olympus E-P2. Further information on the features and operation of the M8 and E-P1 can be found, respectively, in the Leica M8 Manual (free pdf) or the online Olympus E-P1 Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M8 and the Olympus E-P1? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica M8:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • 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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Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-P1:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 10.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 6%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (121x70mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 236g or 40 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (85 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 9 months of technical progress since the M8 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-P1 emerges as the winner of the match-up (10 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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.

M8 07:10 E-P1

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the M8 or the E-P1 perform in practice. 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.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-P1..+..66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 1100D..80/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 400D..+ +..+ +o4/5 Aug 2006 799ebay.com
5.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262............ Nov 2015 5,195ebay.com
7.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D3000..+..72/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D40X..79/100..+ +4/54/5 Mar 2007 729ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/100..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+..69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100..+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599ebay.com
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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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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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 Olympus E-P1

    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 Olympus E-P1
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 June 2009
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-P1
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.0 x 18.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 486 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 32.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10.4 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3936 x 2630 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.84 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 2.13 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 160 - 2,500 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 59 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.1 21.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 536
    Screen Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-P1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-P1
    Focus System Manual Focus Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image Stabilizationno shake reductionIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDHC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-P1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-P1
    Battery Type BLI-312 BLS-1
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    121 x 70 x 36 mm
    (4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 591 g (20.8 oz) 355 g (12.5 oz)
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