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Leica X Vario vs Sony NEX-3N

The Leica X Vario (Typ 107) and the Sony Alpha NEX-3N are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2013 and February 2013. The X Vario is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-3N is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 16.1 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 16 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica X Vario
versus
Sony NEX-3N
Leica X Vario   Sony NEX-3N
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
28-70mm f/3.5-6.4 Sony E mount lenses
16.1 MP – APS-C sensor 16 MP – APS-C sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 100-12,500 ISO 200-16,000
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD – 920k dots 3.0" LCD – 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (no touchscreen)
5 shutter flaps per second 4 shutter flaps per second
450 shots per battery charge480 shots per battery charge
133 x 73 x 95 mm, 680 g 110 x 62 x 35 mm, 269 g
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Check X Vario offers at
ebay.com
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Check NEX-3N offers at
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) and the Sony Alpha NEX-3N? 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 X Vario and the Sony NEX-3N 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 X Vario can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the NEX-3N is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, white).

Size Leica X Vario vs Sony NEX-3N
Compare X Vario versus NEX-3N top
Comparison X Vario or NEX-3N rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-3N is notably smaller (30 percent) than the Leica X Vario. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the X Vario nor the NEX-3N are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X Vario has a lens built in, whereas the NEX-3N is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the NEX-3N and their specifications in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the X Vario gets 450 shots out of its BP-DC8 battery, while the NEX-3N can take 480 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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
1.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
2.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549ebay.com
4.
 
Leica X-U Typ 113 140 mm 79 mm 88 mm 635 g 450 Y Jan 2016 2,950ebay.com
5.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249ebay.com
6.
 
Leica T 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 384 g 400 n Apr 2014 1,850ebay.com
7.
 
Leica V-LUX Typ 114 137 mm 99 mm 131 mm 830 g 360 n Sep 2014 1,349ebay.com
8.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749ebay.com
10.
 
Panasonic FZ1000 137 mm 99 mm 131 mm 831 g 360 n Jun 2014 899ebay.com
11.
 
Ricoh GR 117 mm 61 mm 35 mm 245 g 290 n Apr 2013 799ebay.com
12.
 
Sony A5000 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 269 g 420 n Jan 2014 449ebay.com
13.
 
Sony A5100 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549ebay.com
14.
 
Sony RX1R 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 n Jun 2013 2,799ebay.com
15.
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749ebay.com
16.
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599ebay.com
17.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599ebay.com
Note: 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. 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.

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.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the NEX-3N is 2 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica X Vario and Sony NEX-3N sensor measures

With 16.1MP, the X Vario offers a slightly higher resolution than the NEX-3N (16MP), but the X Vario nevertheless has marginally larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.80μm versus 4.78μm for the NEX-3N) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the X Vario is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 months) than the NEX-3N, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The Leica X Vario (Typ 107) has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3N are ISO 200 to ISO 16000 (no boost).

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

X Vario versus NEX-3N 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the X Vario has a notably higher overall DXO score than the NEX-3N (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
2.
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774
3.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
4.
 
Leica X-U Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.813.0161480
5.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
6.
 
Leica T APS-C 16.2 4944 32781080/30p23.012.7108275
7.
 
Leica V-LUX Typ 114 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p21.611.712760
8.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.612.8149178
9.
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
10.
 
Panasonic FZ1000 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.111.751764
11.
 
Ricoh GR APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.613.597278
12.
 
Sony A5000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979
13.
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
14.
 
Sony RX1R Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791
15.
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
16.
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
17.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the NEX-3N provides a faster frame rate than the X Vario. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Leica is limited to 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The X Vario and the NEX-3N are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. However, optional viewfinders – the EVF 2 for the X Vario and the FDA-SV1 for the NEX-3N – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica X Vario and Sony NEX-3N along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
2.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
3.
 
Canon SX60922 n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4/s Y Y
4.
 
Leica X-U Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
5.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0/s n Y
6.
 
Leica Toptional n3.7 / 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
7.
 
Leica V-LUX Typ 1142359 n3.0 / 921 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0/s Y Y
8.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n n
10.
 
Panasonic FZ10002359 n3.0 / 921 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0/s Y Y
11.
 
Ricoh GRoptional n3.0 / 1230 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
12.
 
Sony A5000none n3.0 / 461 tilting n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
13.
 
Sony A5100none n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0/s Y n
14.
 
Sony RX1Roptional n3.0 / 1229 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0/s n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5/s Y n
17.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.
The NEX-3N 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 X Vario does not have a selfie-screen.

The X Vario writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-3N uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) and Sony Alpha NEX-3N 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 X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereo / mono--micro2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX60Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Leica X-U Typ 113Ystereo / mono---2.0---
5.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Leica TYstereo / mono---2.0Y--
7.
 
Leica V-LUX Typ 114Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YY-
8.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Nikon DfY- / ---mini2.0---
10.
 
Panasonic FZ1000Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YY-
11.
 
Ricoh GRYmono / mono--micro2.0---
12.
 
Sony A5000-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
13.
 
Sony A5100-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
14.
 
Sony RX1RYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
16.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the X Vario has a hotshoe, while the NEX-3N does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

Both the X Vario and the NEX-3N have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The NEX-3N was replaced by the Sony A5000, while the X Vario does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the X Vario and NEX-3N can be found, respectively, in the Leica X Vario Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony NEX-3N Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica X Vario and the Sony NEX-3N? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Leica X Vario (Typ 107):

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 460k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the NEX-3N requires a separate lens.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 3 months after the NEX-3N).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-3N:

  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
  • 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 shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x62mm vs 133x73mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2013).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (7 points each). 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 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.

X Vario 07:07 NEX-3N

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica X Vario and the Sony NEX-3N place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the X Vario and the NEX-3N in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
2.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549ebay.com
4.
 
Leica X-U Typ 1133.5/5........3.5/5 Jan 2016 2,950ebay.com
5.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5....80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249ebay.com
6.
 
Leica T3/5......4/54/5 Apr 2014 1,850ebay.com
7.
 
Leica V-LUX Typ 114..........5/5 Sep 2014 1,349ebay.com
8.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5......3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon Df4/5....81/1004/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749ebay.com
10.
 
Panasonic FZ10004/5+ +..82/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 899ebay.com
11.
 
Ricoh GR5/5....79/1004.5/54.5/5 Apr 2013 799ebay.com
12.
 
Sony A50003/5+....4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2014 449ebay.com
13.
 
Sony A51004.5/5+....4.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549ebay.com
14.
 
Sony RX1R5/5......4/54.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799ebay.com
15.
 
Sony NEX-5R........4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2012 749ebay.com
16.
 
Sony NEX-F34/5....74/1004.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599ebay.com
17.
 
Sony NEX-3......70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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.

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Check X Vario offers at
ebay.com
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Check NEX-3N offers at
ebay.com

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 X Vario vs Sony NEX-3N

    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 X Vario Sony NEX-3N
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 28-70mm f/3.5-6.4 Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date June 2013 February 2013
    Launch Price USD 2,850 USD 499
    Sensor Specs Leica X Vario Sony NEX-3N
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.7 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 370.52 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.3 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 16.1 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4928 x 3272 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.80 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 4.35 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 12,500 ISO 200 - 16,000 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 78 74
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.4 22.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.7 12.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1320 1067
    Screen Specs Leica X Vario Sony NEX-3N
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Leica X Vario Sony NEX-3N
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/2000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 4 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica X Vario Sony NEX-3N
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI micro HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica X Vario Sony NEX-3N
    Battery Type BP-DC8 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)450 shots per charge480 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 133 x 73 x 95 mm
    (5.2 x 2.9 x 3.7 in)
    110 x 62 x 35 mm
    (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 680 g (24.0 oz) 269 g (9.5 oz)
    logo
    Check X Vario offers at
    ebay.com
    logo
    Check NEX-3N offers at
    ebay.com

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