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Leica X1 vs Sony NEX-C3

The Leica X1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and June 2011. The X1 is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-C3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 12.2 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 X1
versus
Sony NEX-C3
Leica X1 Sony NEX-C3
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
36mm f/2.8 Sony E mount lenses
12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 100-12,800
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
2.7 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
260 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
124 x 60 x 32 mm, 306 g 110 x 60 x 33 mm, 225 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica X1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3? 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 X1 and the Sony NEX-C3 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The X1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the NEX-C3 is available in three color-versions (black, silver, pink).

Size Leica X1 vs Sony NEX-C3
Compare X1 versus NEX-C3 top
Comparison X1 or NEX-C3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-C3 is notably smaller (11 percent) than the Leica X1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the X1 nor the NEX-C3 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 NEX-C3 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-C3 and their specifications in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the X1 gets 260 shots out of its BP-DC8 battery, while the NEX-C3 can take 400 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. 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 1,995 i
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 599 i
3.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Fujifilm X20 117 mm 70 mm 57 mm 353 g 270 n Jan 2013 599 i
5.
 
Leica D-LUX Typ 109 118 mm 66 mm 55 mm 405 g 300 n Sep 2014 1,195 i
6.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295 i
7.
 
Leica D-LUX 6 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Sep 2012 699 i
8.
 
Leica X2 124 mm 69 mm 52 mm 345 g 450 n May 2012 1,995 i
9.
 
Leica D-LUX 5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Sep 2010 699 i
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 124 mm 80 mm 95 mm 520 g 410 n Sep 2010 849 i
11.
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499 i
12.
 
Panasonic LX5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Jul 2010 499 i
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599 i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699 i
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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. 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. 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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-C3 is 1 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 X1 and Sony NEX-C3 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the NEX-C3 offers a higher resolution of 16 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 4.78μm versus 5.51μm for the X1). However, it should be noted that the NEX-C3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 8 months) than the X1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

The resolution advantage of the Sony NEX-C3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-C3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.4 x 41.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.6 x 13.1 inches or 49.9 x 33.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.6 x 27.6 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 Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

X1 versus NEX-C3 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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
1.
 
Leica X1 APS-C 12.2 4272 2856none...... ..
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.21083 73
3.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.7230 54
4.
 
Fujifilm X20 2/3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p...... ..
5.
 
Leica D-LUX Typ 109 Four Thirds 12.7 4112 30884K/30p...... ..
6.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p...... ..
7.
 
Leica D-LUX 6 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p...... ..
8.
 
Leica X2 APS-C 16.1 4928 3264none...... ..
9.
 
Leica D-LUX 5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p...... ..
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i...... ..
11.
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.7147 50
12.
 
Panasonic LX5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p19.610.8132 41
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.51067 74
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.31114 73
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.71079 77
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.0830 68
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.2796 69

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The NEX-C3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the X1 does not. The highest resolution format that the NEX-C3 can use is 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The X1 and the NEX-C3 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 NEX-C3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica X1 and Sony NEX-C3 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
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
1.
 
Leica X1none n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y n
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
3.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
4.
 
Fujifilm X20optical n 2.8 460 fixed n 1/4000s 12.0 Y Y
5.
 
Leica D-LUX Typ 1092764 n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 n Y
6.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
7.
 
Leica D-LUX 6optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y
8.
 
Leica X2optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
9.
 
Leica D-LUX 5optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y Y
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y
11.
 
Panasonic LX7optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y
12.
 
Panasonic LX5optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y Y
13.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The X1 has one, while the NEX-C3 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 NEX-C3 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 X1 does not have a selfie-screen.

The X1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the NEX-C3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 X1 and Sony Alpha NEX-C3 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
1.
 
Leica X1Y----mini2.0---
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
4.
 
Fujifilm X20Ystereomono--micro2.0---
5.
 
Leica D-LUX Typ 109Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereomono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Leica D-LUX 6Ystereomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Leica X2Y----mini2.0---
9.
 
Leica D-LUX 5Ymonomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereomono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic LX5Ymonomono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the X1 and the NEX-C3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The X1 was replaced by the Leica X2, while the NEX-C3 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 Sony websites.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica X1 or the Sony NEX-C3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Leica X1:

  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the NEX-C3 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 on the market for longer (launched in September 2009).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-C3:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (16 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 15%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p 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 (920k vs 230k dots).
  • 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.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x60mm vs 124x60mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 260) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 8 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the NEX-C3 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 4 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 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.

X1 04:13 NEX-C3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica X1 and the Sony NEX-C3 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the X1 and the NEX-C3 in practical situations. 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 why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica X13/5..+..4/5 Sep 2009 1,995 i
2.
 
Sony NEX-C33/5+ +74/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599 i
3.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Fujifilm X204/5+ +77/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2013 599 i
5.
 
Leica D-LUX Typ 109......4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2014 1,195 i
6.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5....3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i
7.
 
Leica D-LUX 6......4/54/5 Sep 2012 699 i
8.
 
Leica X23/5....3/54/5 May 2012 1,995 i
9.
 
Leica D-LUX 5......4.5/54/5 Sep 2010 699 i
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2.......... Sep 2010 849 i
11.
 
Panasonic LX73/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499 i
12.
 
Panasonic LX54/5+73/1004.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499 i
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5....4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-F34/5..74/1004.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599 i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N3/5+ +79/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3....70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Leica X1:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-C3:
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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. 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 X1 vs Sony NEX-C3

    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 Sony NEX-C3
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 36mm f/2.8 Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 1,995 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Leica X1 Sony NEX-C3
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4272 x 2856 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.51 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 3.30 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1083
    Screen Specs Leica X1 Sony NEX-C3
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.7inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Leica X1 Sony NEX-C3
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 5.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica X1 Sony NEX-C3
    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 Sony NEX-C3
    Battery Type BP-DC8 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)260 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 124 x 60 x 32 mm
    (4.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    110 x 60 x 33 mm
    (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 306 g (10.8 oz) 225 g (7.9 oz)

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