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Nikon D100 vs Olympus E-1

The Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2002 and June 2003. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D100) and a Four Thirds (E-1) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 4.9 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D100
versus
Olympus E-1
Nikon D100   Olympus E-1
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
6 MP – APS-C sensor 4.9 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-800 (200 - 1,600) ISO 100-800 (100 - 3,200)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
1.8" LCD – 118k dots 1.8" LCD – 134k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
370 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
144 x 116 x 81 mm, 780 g 141 x 104 x 81 mm, 738 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-1? 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 Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D100 vs Olympus E-1
Compare D100 versus E-1 top
Comparison D100 or E-1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-1 is notably smaller (12 percent) than the Nikon D100. Moreover, the E-1 is markedly lighter (5 percent) than the D100. It is noteworthy in this context that the E-1 is splash and dust-proof, while the D100 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D100) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-1).

Concerning battery life, the D100 gets 370 shots out of its EN-EL3 battery, while the E-1 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-1 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999ebay.com
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D90 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 n Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D40 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 470 n Nov 2006 499ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D50 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D70s 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D70 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-5 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-3 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999ebay.com
17.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 E-1 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the D100, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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 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. 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D100 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-1 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 D100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D100 and Olympus E-1 sensor measures

With 6MP, the D100 offers a higher resolution than the E-1 (4.9MP), but the D100 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.85μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 4 months) than the D100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 15 x 10 inches or 38.2 x 25.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 12 x 8 inches or 30.6 x 20.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 10 x 6.7 inches or 25.5 x 16.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-1 are 12.8 x 9.6 inches or 32.5 x 24.4 cm for good quality, 10.2 x 7.7 inches or 26 x 19.5 cm for very good quality, and 8.5 x 6.4 inches or 21.7 x 16.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 800, which can be extended to ISO 200-1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-1 are ISO 100 to ISO 800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-3200.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CCD (Charged Coupled Device) 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.

D100 versus E-1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 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.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.49.939448
2.
 
Olympus E-1 Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920none20.09.7-14544
3.
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none21.010.612753
5.
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
6.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
7.
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156
8.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
9.
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055
10.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
11.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
12.
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
13.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
14.
 
Olympus E-5 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
15.
 
Olympus E-3 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.610.557156
16.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.47352
17.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.410.1-4048
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
Neither the D100 nor the E-1 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D100 and the E-1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the E-1 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D100 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the D100 has a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.48x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D100 and Olympus E-1 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.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-1optical Y1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
3.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
5.
 
Nikon D90optical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5/s Y n
6.
 
Nikon D300optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s Y n
7.
 
Nikon D40optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
8.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D50optical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D70soptical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
11.
 
Nikon D200optical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y n
12.
 
Nikon D70optical n1.8 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
13.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
14.
 
Olympus E-5optical Y3.0 / 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-3optical Y2.5 / 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y Y
16.
 
Olympus E-330optical n2.5 / 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
17.
 
Olympus E-300optical n1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y 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 D100 has one, while the E-1 does not. While the built-in flash of the D100 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The D100 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-1 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D100 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 Nikon D100 and Olympus E-1 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.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
2.
 
Olympus E-1Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 10DY- / ----1.1---
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereo / mono---2.0---
5.
 
Nikon D90Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Nikon D300Y- / ---mini2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D40Y- / ----2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D50Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D70sY- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D200Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D70Y- / ----1.0---
13.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---
14.
 
Olympus E-5Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-3Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-330Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Olympus E-300Y- / ----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Olympus E-1 (unlike the D100) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the D100 and the E-1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D100 was replaced by the Nikon D200, while the E-1 was followed by the Olympus E-3. Further information on the features and operation of the D100 and E-1 can be found, respectively, in the Nikon D100 Manual (free pdf) or the online Olympus E-1 Manual.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D100 better than the Olympus E-1 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Advantages of the Nikon D100:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (6 vs 4.9MP) with a 13% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.48x).
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2002).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-1:

  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (134k vs 118k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (141x104mm vs 144x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 370) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
  • 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 affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 4 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-1 emerges as the winner of the match-up (10 : 8 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 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.

D100 08:10 E-1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing 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 D100 or the E-1 perform in practice. 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 expert reviews 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.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-1......+o.. Jun 2003 1,699ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 10D......+ +.... Feb 2003 1,999ebay.com
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3............ Sep 2006 1,499ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D90..+ +..+ +4/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D300..+ +..+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D40..81/100..+ +o4.5/5 Nov 2006 499ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D50..78/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Apr 2005 749ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D70s..........5/5 Apr 2005 899ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D200..+ +..+ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D70......+ +.... Jan 2004 999ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-54/5....75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-3..88/100..+ +o4/5 Oct 2007 1,699ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-330......+o.. Jan 2006 999ebay.com
17.
 
Olympus E-300......+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799ebay.com
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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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.

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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: Nikon D100 vs Olympus E-1

    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 Nikon D100 Olympus E-1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 June 2003
    Launch Price USD 1,999 USD 1,699
    Sensor Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-1
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    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 6 Megapixels 4.9 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 2000 pixels 2560 x 1920 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.85 μm 6.78 μm
    Pixel Density 1.63 MP/cm2 2.19 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 800 ISO 100 - 800 ISO
    ISO Boost 200 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    Screen Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.48x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 1.8inch 1.8inch
    LCD Resolution 118k dots 134k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy50 000 actuations150 000 actuations
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 1.1 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-1
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL3 BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)370 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 144 x 116 x 81 mm
    (5.7 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    141 x 104 x 81 mm
    (5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 780 g (27.5 oz) 738 g (26.0 oz)
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