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Nikon D3500 vs Sony A850

The Nikon D3500 and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2018 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D3500) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24.4 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3500
versus
Sony A850
Nikon D3500 Sony A850
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
24 MP, APS-C Sensor 24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
1080/60p Video no Video
ISO 100-25,600 ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 921k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
1550 shots per battery charge880 shots per battery charge
124 x 97 x 70 mm, 365 g 156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3500 and the Sony Alpha A850? 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 D3500 and the Sony A850 are illustrated 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D3500 vs Sony A850
Compare D3500 versus A850 top
Comparison D3500 or A850 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A850 is considerably larger (52 percent) than the Nikon D3500. Moreover, the A850 is substantially heavier (145 percent) than the D3500. It is noteworthy in this context that the A850 is splash and dust-proof, while the D3500 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

Concerning battery life, the D3500 gets 1550 shots out of its EN-EL14a battery, while the A850 can take 880 images on a single charge of its NP-FM500H 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.
 
Nikon D3500 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 365 g 1550 n Aug 2018 429 i
2.
 
Sony A850 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999 i
3.
 
Canon SX740 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 299 g 265 n Jul 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon M100 108 mm 67 mm 35 mm 302 g 295 n Aug 2017 499 i
5.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399 i
6.
 
Fujifilm X-A5 117 mm 68 mm 40 mm 361 g 450 n Jan 2018 399 i
7.
 
Nikon A1000 114 mm 72 mm 41 mm 330 g 250 n Jan 2019 429 i
8.
 
Nikon D3400 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 445 g 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i
9.
 
Nikon D5500 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 420 g 820 n Jan 2015 899 i
10.
 
Nikon D3300 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 430 g 700 n Jan 2014 499 i
11.
 
Panasonic TZ95 112 mm 69 mm 42 mm 327 g 380 n Feb 2019 449 i
12.
 
Panasonic TZ90 112 mm 67 mm 41 mm 322 g 380 n Apr 2017 449 i
13.
 
Sony A99 II 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i
14.
 
Sony A7 II 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999 i
15.
 
Sony A99 147 mm 111 mm 78 mm 812 g 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799 i
16.
 
Sony A77 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399 i
17.
 
Sony A900 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 79 percent) than the A850, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.

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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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3500 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A850 is 135 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Nikon D3500 and Sony A850 sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the D3500 (24MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 3.91μm for the D3500) due to its larger sensor. However, the D3500 is a much more recent model (by 9 years) than the A850, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D3500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The Nikon D3500 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A850 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.

D3500 versus A850 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.
 
Nikon D3500 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p...... ..
2.
 
Sony A850 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.812.21415 79
3.
 
Canon SX740 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p...... ..
4.
 
Canon M100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.512.91272 78
5.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p...... ..
6.
 
Fujifilm X-A5 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/15p...... ..
7.
 
Nikon A1000 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34564K/30p...... ..
8.
 
Nikon D3400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.91192 86
9.
 
Nikon D5500 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.01438 84
10.
 
Nikon D3300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.81385 82
11.
 
Panasonic TZ95 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p...... ..
12.
 
Panasonic TZ90 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p19.110.6106 36
13.
 
Sony A99 II Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.42317 92
14.
 
Sony A7 II Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.62449 90
15.
 
Sony A99 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.01555 89
16.
 
Sony A77 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.2801 78
17.
 
Sony A900 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.712.31431 79

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D3500 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3500 can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D3500 and the A850 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 A850 offers a wider field of view (98%) than the one in the D3500 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.57x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3500, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.

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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.
 
Nikon D3500optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
2.
 
Sony A850optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y
3.
 
Canon SX740none n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/3200s 10.0 Y Y
4.
 
Canon M100none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.1 Y n
5.
 
Canon SX730none n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9 Y Y
6.
 
Fujifilm X-A5none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
7.
 
Nikon A10001166 n 3.0 1036 tilting Y 1/4000s 7.0 Y Y
8.
 
Nikon D3400optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
9.
 
Nikon D5500optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
10.
 
Nikon D3300optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
11.
 
Panasonic TZ952330 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y
12.
 
Panasonic TZ901166 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y
13.
 
Sony A99 II2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 n Y
14.
 
Sony A7 II2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y
15.
 
Sony A992359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 6.0 n Y
16.
 
Sony A772359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y
17.
 
Sony A900optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D3500 has one, while the A850 does not. While the built-in flash of the D3500 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The D3500 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A850 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D3500 only has one slot.

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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 D3500 and Sony Alpha A850 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.
 
Nikon D3500Ymonomono--mini2.0--Y
2.
 
Sony A850Y----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX740-stereomono--micro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon M100-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
5.
 
Canon SX730-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
6.
 
Fujifilm X-A5YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y-Y
7.
 
Nikon A1000-stereomono--micro2.0Y-Y
8.
 
Nikon D3400Ymonomono--mini2.0--Y
9.
 
Nikon D5500YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
10.
 
Nikon D3300YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
11.
 
Panasonic TZ95-stereomono--micro2.0Y-Y
12.
 
Panasonic TZ90-stereomono--micro2.0Y--
13.
 
Sony A99 IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYY
14.
 
Sony A7 IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-
15.
 
Sony A99YstereomonoYYmini2.0---
16.
 
Sony A77YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony A900Y----mini2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A850 (unlike the D3500) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

The D3500 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the A850 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the A850 from Sony. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3500 and the Sony A850? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3500:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (124x97mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 530g or 59 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1550 versus 880) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (79 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years of technical progress since the A850 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A850:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (98% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.57x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • 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 heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2009).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (10 points each). 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.

D3500 10:10 A850

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3500 and the Sony A850 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 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 D3500 and the A850 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 table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
 
Nikon D3500....75/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2018 429 i
2.
 
Sony A8503/5..75/100..4.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999 i
3.
 
Canon SX740..+..4/54/5 Jul 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon M1003/5+..4/53.5/5 Aug 2017 499 i
5.
 
Canon SX730..+..4/54/5 Apr 2017 399 i
6.
 
Fujifilm X-A5..+..4/53.5/5 Jan 2018 399 i
7.
 
Nikon A1000..+ +..3.5/53/5 Jan 2019 429 i
8.
 
Nikon D34004/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i
9.
 
Nikon D55005/5+79/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899 i
10.
 
Nikon D33003/5+77/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2014 499 i
11.
 
Panasonic TZ95..+ +..4.5/5.. Feb 2019 449 i
12.
 
Panasonic TZ90..+ +..4/54/5 Apr 2017 449 i
13.
 
Sony A99 II....85/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i
14.
 
Sony A7 II5/5+82/1004.5/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999 i
15.
 
Sony A995/5..84/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799 i
16.
 
Sony A775/591/10081/100..5/5 Aug 2011 1,399 i
17.
 
Sony A900..+ ++ +4.5/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999 i
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.

Nikon D3500:
Check Amazon price
Sony A850:
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: Nikon D3500 vs Sony A850

    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 D3500 Sony A850
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2018 August 2009
    Launch Price USD 429 USD 1,999
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3500 Sony A850
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.5 x 15.6 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 366.6 mm2 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.2 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 24 Megapixels 24.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6000 x 4000 pixels 6048 x 4032 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.91 μm 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 6.55 MP/cm2 2.83 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 25,600 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED 4 BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 79
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 23.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1415
    Screen Specs Nikon D3500 Sony A850
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.57x 0.74x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3500 Sony A850
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or MS cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3500 Sony A850
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Bluetooth Support Bluetooth built-in no Bluetooth
    Body Specs Nikon D3500 Sony A850
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL14a NP-FM500H
    Battery Life (CIPA)1550 shots per charge880 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 124 x 97 x 70 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 2.8 in)
    156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 365 g (12.9 oz) 895 g (31.6 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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