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Leica S2 vs V-LUX 3

The Leica S2 and the Leica V-LUX 3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and December 2011. The S2 is a DSLR, while the V-LUX 3 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a medium format (S2) and a 1/2.3-inch (V-LUX 3) sensor. The S2 has a resolution of 37.5 megapixels, whereas the V-LUX 3 provides 12 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica S2 versus Leica V-LUX 3
Leica S2 Leica V-LUX 3
Digital single lens reflex Fixed lens compact camera
Leica S mount lenses 25-600mm f/2.8-5.2
37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor 12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor
no Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 80-1,250 ISO 100-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (202k dots)
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 12 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g 124 x 81 x 95 mm, 540 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S2 and the Leica V-LUX 3? 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 S2 and the Leica V-LUX 3 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.

Size Leica S2 vs Leica V-LUX 3
Compare S2 versus V-LUX 3 top
Comparison S2 or V-LUX 3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica V-LUX 3 is considerably smaller (48 percent) than the Leica S2. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S2 is splash and dust resistant, while the V-LUX 3 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the V-LUX 3 has a lens built in, whereas the S2 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup.

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
 
Leica S2 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 49.7 oz .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Leica V-LUX 3 4.9 in 3.2 in 3.7 in 19.0 oz 410 n Dec 2011 949i
 
Canon G1 X 4.6 in 3.2 in 2.6 in 18.8 oz 250 n Jan 2012 799i
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999i
 
Leica S3 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica V-LUX 4 4.9 in 3.4 in 4.3 in 20.7 oz 540 n Sep 2012 949i
 
Leica V-LUX 2 4.9 in 3.1 in 3.7 in 18.3 oz 410 n Sep 2010 849i
 
Leica S1 13.3 in 8.4 in 4.7 in 88.2 oz .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
 
Nikon D3S 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Panasonic FZ200 4.9 in 3.4 in 4.3 in 20.7 oz 540 n Jul 2012 599i
 
Panasonic FZ100 4.9 in 3.2 in 3.6 in 19.0 oz 410 n Jul 2010 499i
 
Pentax 645D 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.7 in 52.2 oz 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995i
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 V-LUX 3 was launched at a lower price than the S2, despite having a lens built in. 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.

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

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S2 features a medium format sensor and the Leica V-LUX 3 a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The sensor area in the V-LUX 3 is 98 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 5.6. The sensor in the S2 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the V-LUX 3 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica S2 and Leica V-LUX 3 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the V-LUX 3 (12MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 1.53μm for the V-LUX 3) due to its larger sensor. However, the V-LUX 3 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 2 months) than the S2, 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica S2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 37.5 x 25 inches or 95.3 x 63.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 25 x 16.7 inches or 63.5 x 42.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica V-LUX 3 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica S2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 1250. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica V-LUX 3 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.

S2 versus V-LUX 3 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-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
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
 
Leica V-LUX 3 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p........
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744none24.012.0166380
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p........
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p........
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
 
Leica V-LUX 4 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p........
 
Leica V-LUX 2 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i........
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
 
Panasonic FZ200 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.110.811437
 
Panasonic FZ100 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i........
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The V-LUX 3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the V-LUX 3 can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the V-LUX 3 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), while the S2 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica S2, the Leica V-LUX 3, 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
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica V-LUX 3202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0 Y Y
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIoptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica V-LUX 41312 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0 Y Y
 
Leica V-LUX 2202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Panasonic FZ2001312 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0 Y Y
 
Panasonic FZ100202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n

One feature that is present on the S2, but is missing on the V-LUX 3 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 V-LUX 3 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 S2 does not have a selfie-screen.

The S2 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the V-LUX 3 uses SDXC cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the V-LUX 3 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 S2 and Leica V-LUX 3 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
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica V-LUX 3Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIY-----2.0---
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica V-LUX 4YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Leica V-LUX 2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Leica S1----------
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
 
Panasonic FZ200YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Panasonic FZ100Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the V-LUX 3) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S2 and the V-LUX 3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, while the V-LUX 3 was followed by the Leica V-LUX 4. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica website.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Leica S2 better than the Leica V-LUX 3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Leica S2:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (37.5 vs 12MP) with a 80% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Can take a variety of interchangeable lenses, including specialty optics.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • 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 heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).


Reasons to prefer the Leica V-LUX 3:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with an integrated lens, while the S2 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (124x81mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the S2).
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 2 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S2 comes out slightly ahead of the V-LUX 3 (13 : 12 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. 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.

S2 13:12 V-LUX 3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S2 and the Leica V-LUX 3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Superzoom Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S2 and the V-LUX 3 in practical situations. 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 (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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Leica V-LUX 3.......... Dec 2011 949i
 
Canon G1 X+76/1004/54/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III..+ +4.5/5.... Aug 2007 7,999i
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007.......... Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica V-LUX 4.......... Sep 2012 949i
 
Leica V-LUX 2.......... Sep 2010 849i
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490i
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X..86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3..+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Panasonic FZ200+ +80/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jul 2012 599i
 
Panasonic FZ100+..4.5/5..4.5/5 Jul 2010 499i
 
Pentax 645D......4.5/5.. Mar 2010 9,995i
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. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica S2:
Check Ebay offers
Leica V-LUX 3:
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 your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica S2 vs Leica V-LUX 3

    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 S2 Leica V-LUX 3
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses 25-600mm f/2.8-5.2
    Launch Date September 2008 December 2011
    Launch Price USD 22,995 USD 949
    Sensor Specs Leica S2 Leica V-LUX 3
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor 1/2.3" Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 6.17 x 4.55 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 28.0735 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 7.7 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 5.6x
    Sensor Resolution 37.5 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7500 x 5000 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm 1.53 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2 42.74 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,250 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 6,400 ISO
    Screen Specs Leica S2 Leica V-LUX 3
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S2 Leica V-LUX 3
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 12 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica S2 Leica V-LUX 3
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S2 Leica V-LUX 3
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 BP-DC9
    Body Dimensions 160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    124 x 81 x 95 mm
    (4.9 x 3.2 x 3.7 in)
    Camera Weight 1410 g (49.7 oz) 540 g (19.0 oz)

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