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Leica S2 vs Sony A5000

The Leica S2 and the Sony Alpha A5000 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2008 and January 2014. The S2 is a DSLR, while the A5000 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a medium format (S2) and an APS-C (A5000) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 37.5 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 19.8 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 Sony A5000
Leica S2 Sony A5000
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Leica S mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor 19.8 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 80-1,250 ISO 100-16,000
Optical viewfinder No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.0 LCD, 461k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g 110 x 63 x 36 mm, 269 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S2 and the Sony Alpha A5000? 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 Sony A5000 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 A5000 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the S2 is only available in black.

Size Leica S2 vs Sony A5000
Compare S2 versus A5000 top
Comparison S2 or A5000 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A5000 is considerably smaller (64 percent) than the Leica S2. Moreover, the A5000 is substantially lighter (81 percent) than the S2. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S2 is splash and dust resistant, while the A5000 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

The power pack in the A5000 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.

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, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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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 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Sony A5000 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 269 g 420 n Jan 2014 449i
 
Canon M10 108 mm 67 mm 35 mm 301 g 255 n Oct 2015 499i
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999i
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Pentax 645D 156 mm 117 mm 119 mm 1480 g 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Sony RX100 IV 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 298 g 280 n Jun 2015 999i
 
Sony A5100 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549 i
 
Sony A6000 120 mm 67 mm 45 mm 344 g 360 n Feb 2014 599i
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or 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 A5000 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 98 percent) than the S2, 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.

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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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S2 features a medium format sensor and the Sony A5000 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A5000 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica S2 and Sony A5000 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the A5000 (19.8MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 4.25μm for the A5000) due to its larger sensor. However, the A5000 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 3 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 the S2 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its 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 Sony A5000 are 27.3 x 18.2 inches or 69.3 x 46.1 cm for good quality, 21.8 x 14.5 inches or 55.4 x 36.9 cm for very good quality, and 18.2 x 12.1 inches or 46.2 x 30.8 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 Sony Alpha A5000 are ISO 100 to ISO 16000 (no boost).

S2 versus A5000 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.

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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........
 
Sony A5000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979
 
Canon M10 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.475365
 
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 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
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282
 
Sony RX100 IV 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
 
Sony A6000 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The A5000 indeed provides for movie recording, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the A5000 can use is 1080/60i.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the S2 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the A5000 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica S2, the Sony A5000, 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
 
Sony A5000none n 3.0 461 tilting n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Canon M10none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 4.6 Y n
 
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 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
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n
 
Sony RX100 IV2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 1/2000s 16.0 Y Y
 
Sony A5100none n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Sony A60001440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the S2, but is missing on the A5000 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 A5000 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 A5000 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A5000 only has one slot. The A5000 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the S2 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 S2 and Sony Alpha A5000 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---
 
Sony A5000-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Canon M10-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
 
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 S1----------
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---
 
Sony RX100 IV-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A5100-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A6000Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---

It is notable that the S2 has a hotshoe, while the A5000 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the A5000) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S2 and the A5000 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, while the A5000 was followed by the Sony A5100. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Sony websites.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica S2 or the Sony A5000 – 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 Leica S2:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (37.5 vs 19.8MP) with a 38% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • 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 prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A5000:

  • 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 1080/60i video.
  • 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 burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x63mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1141g or 81 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (98 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 3 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A5000 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 10 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.

S2 10:15 A5000

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S2 and the Sony A5000 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

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 S2 or the A5000. 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.

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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
 
Sony A5000+..4.5/5o4.5/5 Jan 2014 449i
 
Canon M10......o4/5 Oct 2015 499i
 
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 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
 
Pentax 645D......4.5/5.. Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Sony RX100 IV+ +85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999i
 
Sony A5100+..4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i
 
Sony A6000+80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2014 599i
 
Sony NEX-3N....4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499i
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.

Leica S2:
Check Ebay offers
Sony A5000:
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 make your choice using the following search menu. 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: Leica S2 vs Sony A5000

    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 Sony A5000
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2008 January 2014
    Launch Price USD 22,995 USD 449
    Sensor Specs Leica S2 Sony A5000
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 23.2 x 15.4 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 357.28 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 27.8 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 37.5 Megapixels 19.8 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7500 x 5000 pixels 5456 x 3632 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm 4.25 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2 5.55 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,250 ISO 100 - 16,000 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 79
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 23.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1089
    Screen Specs Leica S2 Sony A5000
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 461k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S2 Sony A5000
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Leica S2 Sony A5000
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI micro HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Leica S2 Sony A5000
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 NP-FW50
    In-Camera Charging no USB charging USB charging
    Body Dimensions 160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    110 x 63 x 36 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 1410 g (49.7 oz) 269 g (9.5 oz)

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