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Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GX1

The Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2010 and November 2011. The D3100 is a DSLR, while the GX1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D3100) and a Four Thirds (GX1) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 14.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 15.8 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3100 versus Panasonic GX1
Nikon D3100 Panasonic GX1
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Nikon F mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
14.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 15.8 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
1080/24p Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 100-3,200 (100 - 12,800) ISO 160-12,800
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
3 shutter flaps per second 4.2 shutter flaps per second
550 shots per battery charge320 shots per battery charge
124 x 96 x 75 mm, 505 g 116 x 68 x 39 mm, 318 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1? 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 Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic GX1 is provided 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.

The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the GX1 is only available in black.

Size Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GX1
Compare D3100 versus GX1 top
Comparison D3100 or GX1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GX1 is considerably smaller (34 percent) than the Nikon D3100. Moreover, the GX1 is substantially lighter (37 percent) than the D3100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3100 nor the GX1 are weather-sealed.

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 (D3100) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GX1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the GX1, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the D3100 gets 550 shots out of its EN-EL14 battery, while the GX1 can take 320 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLD10 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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
 
Nikon D3100 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599i
 
Panasonic GX1 4.6 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 11.2 oz 320 n Nov 2011 699i
 
Nikon D3200 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 540 n Apr 2012 599i
 
Nikon D5100 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D7000 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D3000 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749i
 
Nikon D60 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629i
 
Nikon D40X 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729i
 
Nikon D40 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 470 n Nov 2006 499i
 
Panasonic G6 4.8 in 3.3 in 2.8 in 13.8 oz 340 n Apr 2013 599i
 
Panasonic GM1 3.9 in 2.2 in 1.2 in 7.2 oz 230 n Oct 2013 749i
 
Panasonic G5 4.7 in 3.3 in 2.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jul 2012 599i
 
Panasonic G3 4.5 in 3.3 in 1.9 in 11.9 oz 270 n May 2011 599i
 
Panasonic GH2 4.9 in 3.5 in 3.0 in 15.6 oz 330 n Sep 2010 899i
 
Sony NEX-5N 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.5 oz 460 n Aug 2011 699i
 
Sony NEX-C3 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 7.9 oz 400 n Jun 2011 599i
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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D3100 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 14 percent) than the GX1, 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. 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3100 features an APS-C sensor and the Panasonic GX1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GX1 is 37 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 D3100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the GX1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D3100 and Panasonic GX1 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the GX1 offers a higher resolution of 15.8 megapixels, compared with 14.2 MP of the D3100. 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 3.77μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). However, it should be noted that the GX1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 2 months) than the D3100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

The Nikon D3100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 are ISO 160 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

D3100 versus GX1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 D3100 provides substantially higher image quality than the GX1, with an overall score that is 12 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.7 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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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
 
Nikon D3100 APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967
 
Panasonic GX1 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p20.810.670355
 
Nikon D3200 APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
 
Nikon D60 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.511.456265
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156
 
Panasonic G6 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p21.311.563961
 
Panasonic GM1 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i22.311.766066
 
Panasonic G5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p........
 
Panasonic G3 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i21.010.666756
 
Panasonic GH2 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i21.211.365560
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
 
Sony NEX-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the GX1 provides a faster frame rate than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/24p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D3100 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the GX1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the GX1 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the DMW-LVF2. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3100 and Panasonic GX1 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
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Panasonic GX1optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.2 Y n
 
Nikon D3200optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5100optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D60optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D40optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Panasonic G61440 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 1/4000s 7.0 Y n
 
Panasonic GM1none n 3.0 1036 fixed Y 1/500s 5.0 Y n
 
Panasonic G51440 n 3.0 920 swivel Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Panasonic G31440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Panasonic GH21534 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The GX1 has a touchscreen, while the D3100 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D3100 and the GX1 write their files to SDXC cards. The GX1 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the D3100 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 Nikon D3100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 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
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic GX1Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3200YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D5100YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Nikon D60Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D40XY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D40Y-----2.0---
 
Panasonic G6YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
 
Panasonic GM1-stereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Panasonic G5Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic G3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic GH2YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the D3100 and the GX1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3100 was replaced by the Nikon D3200, while the GX1 was followed by the Panasonic GX7. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Panasonic websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic GX1? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3100:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.7 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (550 versus 320) on a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2010).

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1:

  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/24p).
  • 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 burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.2 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (116x68mm vs 124x96mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 187g or 37 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 2 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GX1 comes out slightly ahead of the D3100 (9 : 8 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 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.

D3100 08:09 GX1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic GX1 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 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 D3100 and the GX1 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D3100+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599i
 
Panasonic GX1+77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2011 699i
 
Nikon D3200+ +73/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599i
 
Nikon D5100+ +76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D3000+72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
 
Nikon D6080/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Jan 2008 629i
 
Nikon D40X79/100+ +4/5o4/5 Mar 2007 729i
 
Nikon D4081/100+ +o5/54.5/5 Nov 2006 499i
 
Panasonic G6+ +..5/5..4.5/5 Apr 2013 599i
 
Panasonic GM1+78/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 749i
 
Panasonic G5+ +..4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jul 2012 599i
 
Panasonic G3+ +75/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2011 599i
 
Panasonic GH2+ +79/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Sep 2010 899i
 
Sony NEX-5N+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699i
 
Sony NEX-C3+ +74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Nikon D3100:
Check Ebay offers
Panasonic GX1:
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GX1

    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 D3100 Panasonic GX1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date August 2010 November 2011
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3100 Panasonic GX1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.1 x 15.4 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 355.74 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 27.8 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 14.2 Megapixels 15.8 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3072 pixels 4592 x 3448 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.01 μm 3.77 μm
    Pixel Density 3.98 MP/cm2 7.04 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/24p Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 160 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 12,800 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor EXPEED 2 Venus FHD
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 67 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 20.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 10.6
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 919 703
    Screen Specs Nikon D3100 Panasonic GX1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3100 Panasonic GX1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 4.2 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3100 Panasonic GX1
    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 Nikon D3100 Panasonic GX1
    Battery Type EN-EL14 DMW-BLD10
    Battery Life (CIPA)550 shots per charge320 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 124 x 96 x 75 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
    116 x 68 x 39 mm
    (4.6 x 2.7 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 505 g (17.8 oz) 318 g (11.2 oz)

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