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Nikon D800E vs Pentax 645D

The Nikon D800E and the Pentax 645D are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2012 and March 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (D800E) and a medium format (645D) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 36.2 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 39.5 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D800E versus Pentax 645D
Nikon D800E Pentax 645D
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Pentax 645 mount lenses
36.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor 39.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor
1080/30p Video no Video
ISO 100-6,400 (50 - 25,600) ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.2 LCD, 921k dots 3.0 LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 1.1 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
900 shots per battery charge800 shots per battery charge
146 x 123 x 82 mm, 1000 g 156 x 117 x 119 mm, 1480 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D800E and the Pentax 645D? 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 D800E and the Pentax 645D is provided 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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D800E vs Pentax 645D
Compare D800E versus 645D top
Comparison D800E or 645D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax 645D is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Nikon D800E. Moreover, the 645D is substantially heavier (48 percent) than the D800E. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

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 D800E gets 900 shots out of its EN-EL15 battery, while the 645D can take 800 images on a single charge of its D-LI90 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons 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 D800E 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299i
 
Pentax 645D 156 mm 117 mm 119 mm 1480 g 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Canon 5D Mark IV 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i
 
Canon 5D Mark III 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499i
 
Canon 1D X 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1551 g 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Canon 1D Mark IV 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999i
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Nikon D850 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i
 
Nikon D810 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299i
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749i
 
Nikon D610 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D600 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099i
 
Nikon D800 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999i
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
 
Pentax 645Z 156 mm 117 mm 123 mm 1550 g 650 Y Apr 2014 8,499 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 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 D800E was launched at a markedly lower price (by 67 percent) than the 645D, 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. 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 sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D800E features a full frame sensor and the Pentax 645D a medium format sensor. The sensor area in the 645D is 68 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 0.79. The sensor in the D800E has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the 645D offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D800E and Pentax 645D sensor measures

With 39.5MP, the 645D offers a higher resolution than the D800E (36.2MP), but the 645D nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.06μm versus 4.88μm for the D800E) due to its larger sensor. However, the D800E is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 10 months) than the 645D, and its sensor might 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

The Nikon D800E has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 50-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Pentax 645D are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

D800E versus 645D 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the D800E provides substantially higher image quality than the 645D, with an overall score that is 14 points higher. This advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 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 D800E Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282
 
Canon 5D Mark IV Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
 
Canon 5D Mark III Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
 
Canon 1D X Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682
 
Canon 1D Mark IV APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
 
Nikon D850 Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
 
Nikon D810 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
 
Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
 
Nikon D600 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
 
Nikon D800 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
 
Pentax 645Z Medium Format 51.1 8256 61921080/60i26.014.74505101

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D800E indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the 645D does not. The highest resolution format that the D800E can use is 1080/30p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D800E and the 645D 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 D800E offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 645D (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the 645D has a higher magnification (0.78x vs 0.70x), 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 D800E, the Pentax 645D, 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
 
Nikon D800Eoptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 Y n
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n
 
Canon 5D Mark IVoptical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 7.0 n n
 
Canon 5D Mark IIIoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 n n
 
Canon 1D Xoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Canon 1D Mark IVoptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Nikon D850optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0 n n
 
Nikon D810optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
 
Nikon D610optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D600optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
 
Nikon D800optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
 
Pentax 645Zoptical Y 3.2 1037 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D800E has one, while the 645D does not. While the built-in flash of the D800E is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D800E and the Pentax 645D both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The D800E writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the 645D uses SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. The D800E supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the 645D 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 D800E and Pentax 645D 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 D800EYmonomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---
 
Canon 5D Mark IVYmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-
 
Canon 5D Mark IIIYmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Canon 1D XYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Canon 1D Mark IVYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D850YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYY
 
Nikon D810YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Nikon DfY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D610YmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---
 
Nikon D600YmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D800YmonomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
 
Pentax 645ZYstereomonoY-mini3.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the D800E and the 645D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 645D was replaced by the Pentax 645Z, while the D800E was followed by the Nikon D810. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Pentax websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D800E or the Pentax 645D – 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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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D800E:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (14 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 1.1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 480g or 32 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (900 versus 800) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (67 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 10 months after the 645D).

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Arguments in favor of the Pentax 645D:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.78x vs 0.70x).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2010).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800E is the clear winner of the match-up (15 : 2 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 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.

D800E 15:02 645D

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D800E and the Pentax 645D 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D800E and the 645D in practical situations. 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 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 (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 D800E..84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299i
 
Pentax 645D......4.5/5.. Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Canon 5D Mark IV+ +87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i
 
Canon 5D Mark III+ +82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499i
 
Canon 1D X....4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Canon 1D Mark IV..89/100..5/5.. Oct 2009 4,999i
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Nikon D850+ +89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i
 
Nikon D810..86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299i
 
Nikon Df..81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749i
 
Nikon D610+ +87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D4....4.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D600+ +87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099i
 
Nikon D800+ +82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999i
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D70089/100+ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
 
Pentax 645Z....4.5/55/55/5 Apr 2014 8,499 i
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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Nikon D800E:
Check Ebay offers
Pentax 645D:
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: Nikon D800E vs Pentax 645D

    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 D800E Pentax 645D
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Pentax 645 mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2012 March 2010
    Launch Price USD 3,299 USD 9,995
    Sensor Specs Nikon D800E Pentax 645D
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 35.9 x 24.0 mm 44.0 x 33.0 mm
    Sensor Area 861.6 mm2 1452 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 55 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 0.79x
    Sensor Resolution 36.2 Megapixels 39.5 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7360 x 4912 pixels 7264 x 5440 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.88 μm 6.06 μm
    Pixel Density 4.20 MP/cm2 2.72 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 50 - 25,600 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor EXPEED 3 PRIME II
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 96 82
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 25.6 24.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 14.3 12.6
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 2979 1262
    Screen Specs Nikon D800E Pentax 645D
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.78x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.2inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D800E Pentax 645D
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 1.1 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy200 000 actuations50 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D800E Pentax 645D
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 3.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Headphone Socket Headphone port no Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D800E Pentax 645D
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL15 D-LI90
    Battery Life (CIPA)900 shots per charge800 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 146 x 123 x 82 mm
    (5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
    156 x 117 x 119 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 4.7 in)
    Camera Weight 1000 g (35.3 oz) 1480 g (52.2 oz)

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