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Leica X1 vs Olympus E-PM2

The Leica X1 and the Olympus PEN E-PM2 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and September 2012. The X1 is a fixed lens compact, while the E-PM2 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (X1) and a Four Thirds (E-PM2) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica X1
versus
Olympus E-PM2
Leica X1   Olympus E-PM2
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
36mm f/2.8 Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP – APS-C sensor 15.9 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 100-25,600
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
2.7" LCD – 230k dots 2.7" LCD – 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
3 shutter flaps per second 8 shutter flaps per second
no shake reductionIn-body stabilization
260 shots per battery charge360 shots per battery charge
124 x 60 x 32 mm, 306 g 110 x 64 x 34 mm, 269 g
Leica X1:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PM2:
Check Ebay offers

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica X1 and the Olympus PEN E-PM2? 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 X1 and the Olympus E-PM2 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The X1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the E-PM2 is available in four color-versions (black, silver, red, white).

Size Leica X1 vs Olympus E-PM2
Compare X1 versus E-PM2 top
Comparison X1 or E-PM2 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PM2 is notably smaller (5 percent) than the Leica X1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the X1 nor the E-PM2 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X1 has a lens built in, whereas the E-PM2 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 E-PM2 and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the X1 gets 260 shots out of its BP-DC8 battery, while the E-PM2 can take 360 images on a single charge of its BLS-5 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras 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 X1 124 mm 60 mm 32 mm 306 g 260 n Sep 2009 1,995i
2.
 
Olympus E-PM2 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 269 g 360 n Sep 2012 499i
3.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Fujifilm X100 126 mm 75 mm 54 mm 445 g 300 n Sep 2010 1,199i
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295i
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Sep 2012 699i
7.
 
Leica X2 124 mm 69 mm 52 mm 345 g 450 n May 2012 1,995i
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Sep 2010 699i
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 124 mm 80 mm 95 mm 520 g 410 n Sep 2010 849i
10.
 
Olympus E-M10 II 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 n Aug 2015 649i
11.
 
Olympus E-P5 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 n May 2013 999i
12.
 
Olympus E-PL6 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n May 2013 599i
13.
 
Olympus E-PL5 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599i
14.
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499i
15.
 
Panasonic LX5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Jul 2010 499i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699i
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. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica X1 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-PM2 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PM2 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the X1 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-PM2 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica X1 and Olympus E-PM2 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-PM2 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 12.2 MP of the X1. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 5.51μm for the X1). However, it should be noted that the E-PM2 is much more recent (by 3 years) than the X1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-PM2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-PM2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica X1 are 21.4 x 14.3 inches or 54.3 x 36.3 cm for good quality, 17.1 x 11.4 inches or 43.4 x 29 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.5 inches or 36.2 x 24.2 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica X1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PM2 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

X1 versus E-PM2 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. 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 X1 APS-C 12.2 4272 2856none22.611.8103769
2.
 
Olympus E-PM2 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.293272
3.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.723054
4.
 
Fujifilm X100 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/30p22.912.4100173
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.612.8149178
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p19.810.8-30343
7.
 
Leica X2 APS-C 16.1 4928 3264none23.212.4127574
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p19.510.4-58339
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i19.410.732139
10.
 
Olympus E-M10 II Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273
11.
 
Olympus E-P5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
12.
 
Olympus E-PL6 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.512.071768
13.
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972
14.
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
15.
 
Panasonic LX5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p19.610.813241
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-PM2 indeed provides for movie recording, while the X1 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-PM2 can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The X1 and the E-PM2 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. That said, the E-PM2 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-4. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica X1, the Olympus E-PM2, 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)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica X1none n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0/s Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-PM2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 8.0/s n Y
3.
 
Canon G16optical n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2/s Y Y
4.
 
Fujifilm X1001440 n2.8 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0/s Y Y
7.
 
Leica X2optional n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y Y
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2202 n3.0 / 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0/s Y Y
10.
 
Olympus E-M10 II2360 n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0/s Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-P5optional n3.0 / 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0/s Y Y
12.
 
Olympus E-PL6optional n3.0 / 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0/s n Y
13.
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n3.0 / 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0/s n Y
14.
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
15.
 
Panasonic LX5optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y Y
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0/s n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional 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.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The X1 has one, while the E-PM2 does not. While the built-in flash of the X1 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The X1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the E-PM2 uses SDXC cards. The E-PM2 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the X1 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 X1 and Olympus PEN E-PM2 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 X1Y- / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-PM2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon G16Ystereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
4.
 
Fujifilm X100Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Leica X2Y- / ---mini2.0---
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-M10 IIYstereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
11.
 
Olympus E-P5Ystereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
12.
 
Olympus E-PL6Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic LX5Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

Both the X1 and the E-PM2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The X1 was replaced by the Leica X2, while the E-PM2 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica X1 and the Olympus E-PM2? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Leica X1:

  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the E-PM2 requires a separate lens.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • 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 2009).

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PM2:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (15.9 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 12%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (360 versus 260) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years of technical progress since the X1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PM2 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 4 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 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.

X1 04:13 E-PM2

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica X1 and the Olympus E-PM2 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Prime Lens Compact 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 X1 and the E-PM2 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 where reviews by experts come in. 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 X13/5....+..4/5 Sep 2009 1,995i
2.
 
Olympus E-PM23/5....77/1005/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499i
3.
 
Canon G164/5+....4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Fujifilm X1003/5....75/1004/55/5 Sep 2010 1,199i
5.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5......3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295i
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6........4/54/5 Sep 2012 699i
7.
 
Leica X23/5......3/54/5 May 2012 1,995i
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5........4.5/54/5 Sep 2010 699i
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2............ Sep 2010 849i
10.
 
Olympus E-M10 II4.5/5+ +..80/1005/55/5 Aug 2015 649i
11.
 
Olympus E-P55/5+ +..78/1004.5/55/5 May 2013 999i
12.
 
Olympus E-PL6............ May 2013 599i
13.
 
Olympus E-PL53/5+ +....4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
14.
 
Olympus E-PM1..86/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 499i
15.
 
Panasonic LX54/5+..73/1004.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3......70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +..71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 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 X1:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PM2:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, 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 X1 vs Olympus E-PM2

    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 X1 Olympus E-PM2
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 36mm f/2.8 Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 September 2012
    Launch Price USD 1,995 USD 499
    Sensor Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PM2
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 15.9 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4272 x 2856 pixels 4608 x 3456 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.51 μm 3.76 μm
    Pixel Density 3.30 MP/cm2 7.08 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 72
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 932
    Screen Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PM2
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.7inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PM2
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 8 shutter flaps/s
    Image Stabilizationno shake reductionIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PM2
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PM2
    Battery Type BP-DC8 BLS-5
    Battery Life (CIPA)260 shots per charge360 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 124 x 60 x 32 mm
    (4.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    110 x 64 x 34 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 306 g (10.8 oz) 269 g (9.5 oz)
    Leica X1:
    Check Ebay offers
    Olympus E-PM2:
    Check Ebay offers

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