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Olympus E-300 vs E-P1

The Olympus Evolt E-300 and the Olympus PEN E-P1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2004 and June 2009. The E-300 is a DSLR, while the E-P1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-300 has a resolution of 8 megapixels, whereas the E-P1 provides 12.2 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-300 versus Olympus E-P1
Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
8 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-400 (100 - 1,600) ISO 100-6,400
Optical viewfinder No viewfinder, LCD framing
1.8 LCD, 134k dots 3.0 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2.5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
750 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
147 x 85 x 64 mm, 624 g 121 x 70 x 36 mm, 355 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus Evolt E-300 and the Olympus PEN E-P1? 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 Olympus E-300 and the Olympus E-P1 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-P1 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the E-300 is only available in black.

Size Olympus E-300 vs Olympus E-P1
Compare E-300 versus E-P1 top
Comparison E-300 or E-P1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-P1 is considerably smaller (32 percent) than the Olympus E-300. Moreover, the E-P1 is substantially lighter (43 percent) than the E-300. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-300 nor the E-P1 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-300) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-P1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-P1, 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 E-300 gets 750 shots out of its BLM-1 battery, while the E-P1 can take 300 images on a single charge of its BLS-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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
1.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799i
2.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799i
3.
 
Canon XT 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
5.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
8.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699i
9.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799i
10.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699i
11.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699i
12.
 
Olympus E-510 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799i
13.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999i
14.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699i
15.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599i
16.
 
Olympus E-1 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699i
17.
 
Panasonic GH1 124 mm 90 mm 45 mm 385 g 300 n Mar 2009 899i
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 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. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Technology-wise, the E-P1 uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic V) than the E-300 (TruePic), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-300 and Olympus E-P1 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-P1 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 8 MP of the E-300. This megapixels advantage translates into a 24 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-P1 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 5.30μm for the E-300). However, it should be noted that the E-P1 is much more recent (by 4 years and 8 months) than the E-300, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-P1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-P1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-300 are 16.3 x 12.2 inches or 41.5 x 31.1 cm for good quality, 13.1 x 9.8 inches or 33.2 x 24.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.9 x 8.2 inches or 27.6 x 20.7 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Olympus Evolt E-300 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 400, which can be extended to ISO 100-1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-P1 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-300 versus E-P1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 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.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
2.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
3.
 
Canon XT APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
5.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
7.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
8.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
9.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556
10.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
11.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
12.
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.044252
13.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
14.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none........
15.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
16.
 
Olympus E-1 Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920none........
17.
 
Panasonic GH1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/24p21.611.677264

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The E-P1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-300 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-P1 can use is 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-300 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-P1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-300, the Olympus E-P1, 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.
 
Olympus E-300optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
3.
 
Canon XToptical n 1.8 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
5.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
7.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
8.
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
9.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
10.
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-510optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
13.
 
Olympus E-330optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-400optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
15.
 
Olympus E-500optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
16.
 
Olympus E-1optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
17.
 
Panasonic GH11440 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-300 has one, while the E-P1 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-300 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The E-300 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the E-P1 uses SDHC cards. The E-300 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-P1 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 Olympus Evolt E-300 and Olympus PEN E-P1 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.
 
Olympus E-300Y-----2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon XTY-----2.0---
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereomono---2.0---
5.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo---mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo---mini2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo---mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-520Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-410Y-----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-510Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-330Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-400Y-----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-500Y-----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-1Y-----2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic GH1Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---

Both the E-300 and the E-P1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-300 was replaced by the Olympus E-330, while the E-P1 was followed by the Olympus E-P2. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-300 or the Olympus E-P1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Olympus Evolt E-300:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 300) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2004).


Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-P1:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 8MP), which boosts linear resolution by 24%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic V vs TruePic).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 134k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (121x70mm vs 147x85mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 269g or 43 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 8 months of technical progress since the E-300 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-P1 is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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.

E-300 05:11 E-P1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-300 and the Olympus E-P1 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 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 E-300 or the E-P1 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], 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.
 
Olympus E-300....+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
2.
 
Olympus E-P1..+66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799i
3.
 
Canon XT..80/100+ +o.. Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3.......... Sep 2006 1,499i
5.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/10074/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
8.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/10072/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699i
9.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799i
10.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
11.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699i
12.
 
Olympus E-510..89/100+ +3.5/54.5/5 Mar 2007 799i
13.
 
Olympus E-330....+o.. Jan 2006 999i
14.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100..4/54/5 Sep 2006 699i
15.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100+ +.... Sep 2005 599i
16.
 
Olympus E-1....+o.. Jun 2003 1,699i
17.
 
Panasonic GH1..+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 899i
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. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Olympus E-300:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-P1:
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 use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-300 vs Olympus E-P1

    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 Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2004 June 2009
    Launch Price USD 799 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 8 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3264 x 2448 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.30 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 3.55 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 400 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 1,600 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor TruePic TruePic V
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 536
    Screen Specs Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.5x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 1.8inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 134k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2.5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XD cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-300 Olympus E-P1
    Battery Type BLM-1 BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 85 x 64 mm
    (5.8 x 3.3 x 2.5 in)
    121 x 70 x 36 mm
    (4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 624 g (22.0 oz) 355 g (12.5 oz)

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