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Leica M9 vs Nikon D300

The Leica M9 and the Nikon D300 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and August 2007. The M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the D300 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and an APS-C (D300) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon 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 M9 versus Nikon D300
Leica M9 Nikon D300
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 6 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 147 x 114 x 74 mm, 925 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Nikon D300? 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 M9 and the Nikon D300 is provided 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.

The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D300 is only available in black.

Size Leica M9 vs Nikon D300
Compare M9 versus D300 top
Comparison M9 or D300 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D300 is considerably larger (51 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the D300 is substantially heavier (58 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the D300 is splash and dust-proof, while the M9 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 (M9) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D300).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999 i
2.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799 i
3.
 
Canon 700D 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649 i
4.
 
Canon 550D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699 i
5.
 
Canon 500D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799 i
6.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
7.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
8.
 
Leica T 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 384 g 400 n Apr 2014 1,850 i
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295 i
10.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950 i
12.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499 i
13.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499 i
14.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799 i
15.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999 i
16.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699 i
17.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699 i
Notes: 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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D300 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 78 percent) than the M9, 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M9 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D300 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D300 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.

Leica M9 and Nikon D300 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the D300 (12.2MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 5.53μm for the D300) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the M9 is a much more recent model (by 2 years) than the D300, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M9 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica M9 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M9 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 26.1 x 17.4 inches or 66.2 x 44.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.8 x 13.9 inches or 53 x 35.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.4 x 11.6 inches or 44.1 x 29.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D300 are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M9 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D300 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.

M9 versus D300 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. 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 M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.7884 69
2.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.0679 67
3.
 
Canon 700D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.2681 61
4.
 
Canon 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.5784 66
5.
 
Canon 500D APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.5663 63
6.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none...... ..
7.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.22133 86
8.
 
Leica T APS-C 16.2 4944 32781080/30p23.012.71082 75
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p...... ..
10.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.71320 78
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.31860 84
12.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.3663 59
13.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.91167 80
14.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.2787 70
15.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.22303 80
16.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.9489 59
17.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.5583 64
The D300 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The M9 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M9 and the D300 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the M9 has a higher magnification than the one of the D300 (0.68x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M9 and Nikon D300 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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 M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
2.
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon 700Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 550Doptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
5.
 
Canon 500Doptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
6.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
7.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
8.
 
Leica Toptional n 3.7 1300 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
10.
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
12.
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
13.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
16.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
17.
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the D300, but is missing on the M9 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 D300 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 M9 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D300 uses Compact Flash cards.

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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 M9 and Nikon D300 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 M9Y-----2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 700DYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 550DYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon 500DYmonomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
7.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
8.
 
Leica TYstereomono---2.0Y--
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono---2.0---
12.
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D2XsY-----2.0---
17.
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D300 (unlike the M9) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the M9 and the D300 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300 was replaced by the Nikon D300S, while the M9 was followed by the Leica M Typ 240. 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 M9 and the Nikon D300? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 12.2MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.63x).
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 147x114mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 340g or 37 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the D300 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D300:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • 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 (922k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (78 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2007).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 8 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 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.

M9 08:12 D300

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the M9 or the D300 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 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 M9......4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999 i
2.
 
Nikon D300..+ ++ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799 i
3.
 
Canon 700D....76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649 i
4.
 
Canon 550D..+ +77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699 i
5.
 
Canon 500D..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799 i
6.
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
7.
 
Leica M104.5/5....4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
8.
 
Leica T3/5....4/54/5 Apr 2014 1,850 i
9.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5....3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i
10.
 
Leica X Vario3/5....4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5....4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950 i
12.
 
Leica M8....+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499 i
13.
 
Nikon D70004/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499 i
14.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799 i
15.
 
Nikon D700..89/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999 i
16.
 
Nikon D2Xs.......... Jun 2006 4,699 i
17.
 
Nikon D200..+ ++ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699 i
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. 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. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D300:
Check Ebay offers

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: Leica M9 vs Nikon D300

    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 M9 Nikon D300
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 August 2007
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 1,799
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Nikon D300
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 69 67
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 22.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 884 679
    Screen Specs Leica M9 Nikon D300
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Nikon D300
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 6 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Nikon D300
    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 M9 Nikon D300
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BLI-312 EN-EL3e
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    147 x 114 x 74 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 925 g (32.6 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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