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Panasonic L1 vs Sony NEX-F3

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-F3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2006 and May 2012. The L1 is a DSLR, while the NEX-F3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (L1) and an APS-C (NEX-F3) sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 7.4 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 16 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Panasonic L1
versus
Sony NEX-F3
Panasonic L1   Sony NEX-F3
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Four Thirds lenses Sony E mount lenses
7.4 MP – Four Thirds sensor 16 MP – APS-C sensor
no Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 100-1,600 ISO 100-16,000
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.5" LCD – 207k dots 2.5" LCD – 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (no touchscreen)
3 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
750 shots per battery charge470 shots per battery charge
146 x 87 x 64 mm, 606 g 117 x 67 x 42 mm, 314 g
Panasonic L1:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-F3:
Check Ebay offers

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-F3? 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 Panasonic L1 and the Sony NEX-F3 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The NEX-F3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the L1 is only available in black.

Size Panasonic L1 vs Sony NEX-F3
Compare L1 versus NEX-F3 top
Comparison L1 or NEX-F3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-F3 is considerably smaller (38 percent) than the Panasonic L1. Moreover, the NEX-F3 is substantially lighter (48 percent) than the L1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the L1 nor the NEX-F3 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 Four Thirds Lens Catalog (L1) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-F3). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-F3, 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.

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.
 
Panasonic L1 146 mm 87 mm 64 mm 606 g 750 n Feb 2006 999i
2.
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599i
3.
 
Canon XT 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Canon Rebel 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1 141 mm 86 mm 142 mm 734 g 360 n Sep 2006 849i
7.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999i
8.
 
Nikon D70s 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899i
9.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999i
10.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599i
11.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799i
12.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599i
13.
 
Sony A5100 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699i
Note: 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 NEX-F3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 40 percent) than the L1, 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Panasonic L1 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-F3 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-F3 is 62 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the L1 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-F3 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Panasonic L1 and Sony NEX-F3 sensor measures

With 16MP, the NEX-F3 offers a higher resolution than the L1 (7.4MP), but the NEX-F3 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 5.51μm for the L1). Yet, the NEX-F3 is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 2 months) than the L1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The resolution advantage of the Sony NEX-F3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-F3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.4 x 41.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.6 x 13.1 inches or 49.9 x 33.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.6 x 27.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic L1 are 15.7 x 11.8 inches or 39.8 x 29.9 cm for good quality, 12.5 x 9.4 inches or 31.9 x 23.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.5 x 7.8 inches or 26.6 x 19.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-F3 are ISO 100 to ISO 16000 (no boost).

L1 versus NEX-F3 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 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.
 
Panasonic L1 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.48052
2.
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
3.
 
Canon XT APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
4.
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
5.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none21.010.612753
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1 1/1.8 10.0 3648 2736480/30p18.49.5-72729
7.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
8.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
9.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.47352
10.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.710.34551
11.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.410.1-4048
12.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955
13.
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The NEX-F3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the L1 does not. The highest resolution format that the NEX-F3 can use is 1080/60i.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the L1 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-F3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-F3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-EV1S. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Panasonic L1 and Sony NEX-F3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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.
 
Panasonic L1optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
2.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5/s Y n
3.
 
Canon XToptical n1.8 / 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon Rebeloptical n1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
5.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1235 n2.0 / 207 tilting n 1/2000s 2.0/s Y Y
7.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
8.
 
Nikon D70soptical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Olympus E-330optical n2.5 / 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
10.
 
Olympus E-500optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
11.
 
Olympus E-300optical n1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
12.
 
Panasonic L10optical n2.5 / 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
13.
 
Sony A5100none n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0/s Y n
14.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0/s n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0/s n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.
The NEX-F3 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the L1 does not have a selfie-screen.

The L1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the NEX-F3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and Sony Alpha NEX-F3 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.
 
Panasonic L1Y- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon XTY- / ----2.0---
4.
 
Canon RebelY- / ----1.1---
5.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereo / mono---2.0---
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1Ymono / mono---2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D70sY- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-330Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-500Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-300Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic L10Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Sony A5100-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereo / mono--micro2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

Both the L1 and the NEX-F3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The L1 was replaced by the Panasonic L10, while the NEX-F3 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Panasonic and Sony websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Panasonic L1 or the Sony NEX-F3 – 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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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 470) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2006).

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-F3:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (16 vs 7.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 50%.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 207k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (117x67mm vs 146x87mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 292g or 48 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (40 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the L1 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-F3 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 3 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 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.

L1 03:16 NEX-F3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Panasonic L1 and the Sony NEX-F3 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the L1 or the NEX-F3. 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 (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.
 
Panasonic L1..85/100..+..3.5/5 Feb 2006 999i
2.
 
Sony NEX-F34/5....74/1004.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599i
3.
 
Canon XT..80/100..+ +o.. Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Canon Rebel......+ +.... Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Leica Digilux 3............ Sep 2006 1,499i
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1............ Sep 2006 849i
7.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
8.
 
Nikon D70s..........5/5 Apr 2005 899i
9.
 
Olympus E-330......+o.. Jan 2006 999i
10.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100..+ +.... Sep 2005 599i
11.
 
Olympus E-300......+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
12.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100..+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599i
13.
 
Sony A51004.5/5+....4.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N3/5+ +..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3......70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +..71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Panasonic L1:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-F3:
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 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: Panasonic L1 vs Sony NEX-F3

    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 Panasonic L1 Sony NEX-F3
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2006 May 2012
    Launch Price USD 999 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Panasonic L1 Sony NEX-F3
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 7.4 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3136 x 2352 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.51 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 16,000 ISO
    Image Processor Venus BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1114
    Screen Specs Panasonic L1 Sony NEX-F3
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.47x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 207k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Panasonic L1 Sony NEX-F3
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 5.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Panasonic L1 Sony NEX-F3
    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 Panasonic L1 Sony NEX-F3
    Battery Type CGR-S602 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge470 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 146 x 87 x 64 mm
    (5.7 x 3.4 x 2.5 in)
    117 x 67 x 42 mm
    (4.6 x 2.6 x 1.7 in)
    Camera Weight 606 g (21.4 oz) 314 g (11.1 oz)
    Panasonic L1:
    Check Ebay offers
    Sony NEX-F3:
    Check Ebay offers

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