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Leica S2 vs YI M1

The Leica S2 and the YI M1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2008 and September 2016. The S2 is a DSLR, while the M1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a medium format (S2) and a Four Thirds (M1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 37.5 megapixels, whereas the YI provides 20.2 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
YI M1
Leica S2   YI M1
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Leica S mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor 20.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 4K/30p Video
ISO 80-1,250 ISO 100-25,600
Optical viewfinder No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.0 LCD, 1040k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
1.5 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g 114 x 64 x 34 mm, 281 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S2 and the YI M1? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica S2 and the YI M1. 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 M1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the S2 is only available in black.

Size Leica S2 vs YI M1
Compare S2 versus M1 top
Comparison S2 or M1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the YI M1 is considerably smaller (62 percent) than the Leica S2. Moreover, the M1 is substantially lighter (80 percent) than the S2. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S2 is splash and dust resistant, while the M1 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 M1 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.

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 S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
2.
 
YI M1 114 mm 64 mm 34 mm 281 g 450 n Sep 2016 349 i
3.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399i
4.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-A3 117 mm 67 mm 40 mm 339 g 410 n Aug 2016 399i
6.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
7.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
8.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490i
9.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
10.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
11.
 
Nikon 1 J5 98 mm 60 mm 32 mm 231 g 250 n Apr 2015 399i
12.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
13.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
14.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
15.
 
Panasonic GX850 107 mm 65 mm 33 mm 269 g 210 n Jan 2017 549 i
16.
 
Panasonic GF7 107 mm 65 mm 33 mm 266 g 230 n Jan 2015 499i
17.
 
Pentax 645D 156 mm 117 mm 119 mm 1480 g 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.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The M1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 98 percent) than the S2, 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 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 S2 features a medium format sensor and the YI M1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the M1 is 83 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 2.0. The sensor in the S2 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the M1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica S2 and YI M1 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the M1 (20.2MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 3.34μm for the M1) due to its larger sensor. However, the M1 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 11 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 YI M1 are 25.9 x 19.4 inches or 65.8 x 49.4 cm for good quality, 20.7 x 15.6 inches or 52.7 x 39.5 cm for very good quality, and 17.3 x 13 inches or 43.9 x 32.9 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 YI M1 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

S2 versus M1 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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
1.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
2.
 
YI M1 Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p........
3.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p........
4.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744none24.012.0166380
5.
 
Fujifilm X-A3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p........
6.
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p........
7.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
8.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p........
9.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
10.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
11.
 
Nikon 1 J5 1-inch 20.7 5568 37124K/15p21.112.047965
12.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
13.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
14.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
15.
 
Panasonic GX850 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p23.213.358673
16.
 
Panasonic GF7 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p........
17.
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The M1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the M1 can use is 4K/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from 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 M1 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 YI M1, and comparable cameras.

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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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica S2optical Y3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
2.
 
YI M1none n3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
3.
 
Canon SX730none n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9 Y Y
4.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIoptical Y3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
5.
 
Fujifilm X-A3none n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
6.
 
Leica S3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
7.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
8.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
9.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
10.
 
Leica S1optical nnone / none none n .. 0.01 n n
11.
 
Nikon 1 J5none n3.0 / 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 60.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
13.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
14.
 
Nikon D3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
15.
 
Panasonic GX850none n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/500s 10.0 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic GF7none n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/500s 5.8 Y n
17.
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n

One feature that is present on the S2, but is missing on the M1 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 YI M1 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 S2 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the M1 uses SDXC cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M1 only has one slot.

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 YI M1 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 S2Y- / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
YI M1Ystereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
3.
 
Canon SX730-stereo / mono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIYmono / ----2.0---
5.
 
Fujifilm X-A3Ystereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
6.
 
Leica S3Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
7.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y- / ---mini2.0---
8.
 
Leica S Typ 007Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
9.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y- / ---mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica S1-- / --------
11.
 
Nikon 1 J5-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
12.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D3XY- / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D3Y- / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic GX850-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
16.
 
Panasonic GF7-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
17.
 
Pentax 645DYstereo / ----2.0---

It is notable that the M1 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the S2 does not provide wifi capability.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the M1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

The M1 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of YI. In contrast, the S2 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the S2 was succeeded by the Leica S Typ 006. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and YI websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica S2 or the YI M1 – 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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Reasons to prefer the Leica S2:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (37.5 vs 20.2MP) with a 39% 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 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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Arguments in favor of the YI M1:

  • 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 4K/30p video.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 460k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (114x64mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1129g or 80 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 file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (98 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 11 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M1 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 9 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 sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S2 09:14 M1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S2 and the YI M1 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 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 S2 or the M1 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], 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 S2............ Sep 2008 22,995i
2.
 
YI M1......69/100.... Sep 2016 349 i
3.
 
Canon SX730..+....4/54/5 Apr 2017 399i
4.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III......+ +4.5/5.. Aug 2007 7,999i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-A3......74/1004.5/54/5 Aug 2016 399i
6.
 
Leica S3............ Sep 2018 18,995 i
7.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006............ Sep 2014 16,900i
8.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5.......... Sep 2014 24,490i
9.
 
Leica S Typ 006............ Sep 2012 21,950i
10.
 
Leica S1............ Aug 1996 21,490i
11.
 
Nikon 1 J5........4.5/54.5/5 Apr 2015 399i
12.
 
Nikon D3S5/5....89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
13.
 
Nikon D3X......86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
14.
 
Nikon D3......+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
15.
 
Panasonic GX850..+..76/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2017 549 i
16.
 
Panasonic GF74/5+....4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2015 499i
17.
 
Pentax 645D5/5.......... Mar 2010 9,995i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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 S2:
Check Ebay offers
YI M1:
Check Amazon price

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. 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 S2 vs YI M1

    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 YI M1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2008 September 2016
    Launch Price USD 22,995 USD 349
    Sensor Specs Leica S2 YI M1
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 37.5 Megapixels 20.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7500 x 5000 pixels 5184 x 3888 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm 3.34 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2 8.96 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 4K/30p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,250 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    Screen Specs Leica S2 YI M1
    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 1040k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Leica S2 YI M1
    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 5 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board 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 YI M1
    External Flash Hotshoe 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
    Bluetooth Support no Bluetooth Bluetooth built-in
    Body Specs Leica S2 YI M1
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 BXM-10
    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)
    114 x 64 x 34 mm
    (4.5 x 2.5 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 1410 g (49.7 oz) 281 g (9.9 oz)

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