Good, Better, Best (Or are we just chasing our tail)

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by pdh, Oct 17, 2013.

  1. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I'm not part of that "we", and even if I had the money to belong to that club, I wouldn't join.

    But your second point is well taken, Jock. In addition, the game is no longer about photographs, it is about cameras, and only the players of the game care remotely about how much "better" the cameras are, because "better" is distinguished solely on the basis of pixel-peeping. Show a member of your family a shot from your latest holiday, and they'll be interested only in what's depicted in the photograph, not in how amazing the tiny details look when you zoom in to a vanishingly small area of the image.

    Of course it may be the emergence of a "new way of looking", a transition to a different kind of social cognition, so there's no value judgment involved here from my point of view; although of course for some men there will always be an element of dick-swinging involved (viz that witty video someone posted the other day here: "But I've got a 1D ..."

    The bottom line for me is that, however people justify it (whether to themselves or others), if you want something you want it; and if you want it enough, you'll find a way to pay for it, whether it's a Leica Herm├ęs or a NEX FF
     
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  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Very true, but the same would be true if you show them a treasured family photo from the 1960's and then compared it to a newer one from 2013 - they'd care about the people in the shot and how they'd aged and changed, not any technical improvements in the photograph. That doesn't mean the technical advances since that time have been irrelevant or a waste of time. The photographer would still know what went into making the photograph and how much easier it's gotten to take really good images (at least the technical part). Nobody has ever really shot better landscapes than Ansel Adams, but today's best landscape shooters surely have a much easier time of getting shots technically as good.

    The question of good enough will always be up to each photographer to decide for themselves. I never expected to care about what full frame added to the equation, but when I got to shoot for a month with the RX1, my mind was changed and it's gone on to be my favorite camera. The new cameras bring that same basic form factor to the full frame ILC. The lenses are still a question and may well keep me from buying one of these anytime soon. But as more lenses (and likely systems from other manufacturers) emerge over the next couple of years, I suspect many of us will include a full frame ILC in our camera systems. For me, probably only in the wide to neutral prime lens range, but that's what I use 90 plus percent of the time anyway. If anyone doesn't see the value of this system, it'll be easy not to buy it. But many of us will and I don't see a downside here....

    -Ray
     
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  3. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    And I haven't said they are; But I also think you grossly overestimate how important these advances are in the bigger scheme of things (the way a photograph looks), simply because you are rather interested in cameras in themselves, and your extremely detailed reviews and posts on how particular cameras operate reveal that very clearly.

    There's nothing intrinsically wrong with being interested in cameras for themselves, but let's not fool ourselves: If I showed someone two 10x8 prints of much other than a macro at normal viewing distance , or indeed two 1024x768 jpegs on Flickr, one made from my old Canon IXUS at 7.1mp and one made with an RX1 at whatever it does, would anyone really be able to tell much difference?

    If I look at the street pictures you were making a few years ago with your E-P2, Ray, they look no different to the street pictures you made with the RX1. See also Nic's point about FF vs APS.

    I simply don't buy this idea that it's somehow objectively "easier" with every new generation of cameras to make photographs. It's certainly physically less stressful to go to the Tetons with a compact camera than to haul a 10x8 + tripod over there; but how much easier is it to take a picture of the Tetons with a NEX FF than with an XPRO1 (or whatever the current rave Fuji is)?

    The difference is entirely about how you feel about using one rather than the other. If you feel better able to make good pictures with one camera than another, by all means buy one. But what I see is that (perfectly ok) motivation being dressed up with a big pink bow of "better than/superior to" to make it easier to swallow the price-tag.

    I realise I've mixed up my use of "you" in this post sometimes meaning "Ray Sachs" and sometimes meaning "people who aren't me" and it's not clear who I mean where. But frankly life's too short to go back and make it clear (the sun is shining and I want to go out and take snaps). SO if it appears I'm pillorying you (Ray) please don't take offence, it's certainly not an attack!
     
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  4. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I broke these comments out of a thread about the Sony mirrorless wonder cameras because I think it's a conversation that deserves it's own thread. Before Paul's second post I had already gone back to Ray's flickrstream and was looking at photos from 2010 and 2011. To me, his photos from then look pretty much exactly like his latest photos.

    I understand Ray's points and I appreciate the truth in them. But I think we (as cameraholics....not photographers) put a LOT more emphasis on improvements than they deserve.

    I would also like to echo Paul's statement that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting new cameras, just a reminder maybe to look back through your own work and see if there are truly discernable differences in the end result (no pixel peeping allowed). Are the photos you are taking with your latest camera quantifiably better than ones you were taking 2 years ago? (not counting tiny details)

    Maybe this should be a wake up call to myself (if nobody else). I have changed cameras more often than some people change underwear in the last year.... and if anything, we photographs have gotten worse.
     
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  5. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Glad you did this Luke, thanks.

    I was feeling uncomfortably aware that it was taking off in a direction not intended by the OP. However there is something to be said for incorporating a some discussion of the "philosophy of spending" into a pixelly thread :biggrin:
     
  6. Lucille

    Lucille SC Veteran

    324
    Aug 20, 2012
    Hepcat City
    When I process my files from my Rx1, I don't have to pixel peep to see ' how amazing the tiny details look when you zoom in to a vanishingly small area of the image.'

    It is obvious how superior the files are without zooming in on anything....
     
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  7. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Lucille, maybe you are misunderstanding the gist of what Paul is saying. The files from your RX1 ARE superior to the ones you were getting out of your RX100. But your RX100 photos are as great as your RX1 photos.

    I have started looking at a lot more old photos lately, and the greatness of the photo rarely has anything to do with "image quality"
     
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  8. Lucille

    Lucille SC Veteran

    324
    Aug 20, 2012
    Hepcat City

    Whenever I shoot with my Rx100, or Epl1, or Omd EM5, or my Sony A65, and I get a decent capture, I always wonder.."How would this have come out on the Rx1"

    The Rx1 has kinda ruined other cameras for me....as to me, it is that good....... and I never pixel peep, heck, I never shoot raw....
     
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  9. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    I don't have an RX1, but I do have a 6D. The full frame files just simply are richer, and a lot easier to work in post -- less color shift when adjusting, more saturated colors, richer blacks, etc. I don't take nearly the level of photos that Lucille and Ray do, but the obvious richness of FF is clear to me over smaller sensors without have to view at 100% (I actually think they all look terrible when viewed at 100%, except some DP Merrill photos and the new Sony 7r photos -- those look astounding at 100%). If I post to the web, quite a bit of the advantage (though not all) is lost, especially at 800 pix on the wide side and smaller. But when viewed on screen at screen size (which is generally 8X10 print size and larger), the differences are obvious to me.
     
  10. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    As I get more experience with the X100, I start to doubt wether or not it's the right camera for me. I come from small-sensor compacts, and the gap in IQ between a Samsung EX1 and a Fuji X100 is fairly massive. I also really like playing with shallow DOF, and having a jpeg engine that delivers awesome results is invaluable.

    But still I think I might have been more creative with the EX1 than with the X100. Partially I think this is because I tend to see in (super) wide angle (I find myself spending a lot of my X100-time making panoramas to increase the viewing angle, preferably while keeping shallow DOF). The other reason is probably the EX1's rotating screen, which is just a huge stimulus to go and use creative angles. The X100's OVF/EVF combo is really cool, but to me it doesn't add anything to the shooting experience or my creativity; I only use it when the light is too bright to use the rear screen. I'm still giving it some time; maybe I just need to learn to see in 35mm equivalent.

    But the Sony a7 announcement does have me dreaming; if they add a super-wide-angle prime that's fast enough to give some shallow DOF, that'd give me the look I dream about (that's an optical thing regardless of sensor performance), and the a7's relatively compact size, weather sealing and tilting screen are all features I will demand from any high-end camera I buy in the future. So in that sense, it really is a major step forwards, bringing the things I want in a camera much closer. If they'd put in a 2007-era FF sensor I'd be just as interested in it, simply because of what it makes possible optically and and because of the critical-to-me features it has.
     
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I agree that if you look at the street photos I made available for general viewing in 2010 or 2011 versus the ones I do now, the ones that make the cut look largely similar. But what you never get to see is all of the misses from back then and the relative lack of misses today. The other thing you didn't see much of in 2010 (although this changed with the X100 in 2011) is very much in the way of low light shooting and more or less NO low light street shooting. And this is mostly due to improvements in the gear, not in my technique or skill. I started playing around with street photography in 2010 with an EP2 and I have a number of shots done in that time with that camera that I still like today. But my keeper rate was abysmal, due to a lack of ability to zone focus (without workarounds I hated trying to use) and the lack of much useable ISO beyond about 800-1000. Then I started using an LX5 which added zone focus to the mix, but the sensor was less flexible yet. The improvements in high ISO shooting don't just make a difference in really low light either - they make a big difference in sort of marginal light when you're trying to maintain both a fast-ish shutter speed and a small enough aperture to ensure deep enough DOF - high ISO is the only variable left and if it's there you get the shot and if it's not your odds go waaaaay down. And the improvements in DR on the sensor make a big difference too. As I'm walking in and out of shadows and shooting variably into the sun, away from it, from a shadow into light or from light into shadow, I'm constantly working the exposure comp dial on any camera I'm using. But even two years ago, I really had to nail that setting to get it right. Today, the gear is so much more forgiving - I obviously still try to get it right, but shots where I didn't quite get there are much much more useable than they would have been with lesser gear. The bottom line is that today I very very rarely miss a street shot because of technical problems - I miss plenty because my timing is off or it just didn't end up looking the same in the frame as I anticipated, but when I get those things right, the shot is almost always useable. Two or three years ago, I can't tell you how many shots I nailed in terms of catching the moment and framing it well, but they weren't useable due to an exposure miss or some motion blur or just missing focus. That almost never happens now. And I almost take it for granted until discussions like this cause me to remember it. There have been a few incremental improvements along the way that have all really contributed to this change. The latest has been the auto-ISO setup in the Nikon A that absolutely frees me from thinking about one of the key exposure tradeoffs (between shutter speed and ISO) that I used to have to put a lot of energy into monitoring and adjusting on the fly. Overall, the changes in just 2-3 years have made a Big BIG difference in my shooting experience. And more critically, in my keeper rate - to the extent I get more good street shots today than I did back then, its probably because my keeper rate is higher, not that I snapped fewer good shots in those days.

    I agree that when it comes to shooting things like landscapes and architecture in good light, the differences between 16 and 24 megapixels doesn't matter much beyond the level of pixel peeping. But that's for me, because I don't print murals of my landscapes. I'm not gonna judge those who find that important for their own uses, but it's not a big deal to me. If it was I'd probably just own all three Sigma Merrills and nothing else because the resolution and detail on those is just scary, and I do enjoy looking at them at 100% as sort of a guilty pleasure. But they don't ultimately matter to me in the format I ultimately show and view my work, so I don't own any of them. But in low light or with big light/shadow discrepancies, shooting with the RX1 is an entirely different experience than shooting with the EP2 or EP3 would have been and is even a clear improvement over the OMD or Fuji X or Nikon A, although those are all very useable. But here's a somewhat extreme example of before and after of a quick grab shot I got with the RX1 this summer near Capri, Italy. Bright sunny day, shooting into a narrow opening in a rock, where the "tunnel" was very dark and the sky beyond was very very bright. This was no multiple exposure HDR shot - just a much easier time with highlight and shadow recovery than I've ever had with any other camera. I probably could have gotten something useable with a current m43 or APS camera, but not AS useable, and probably not as easily as with the RX1. The same thing applies in very low light shooting - I can get better results in more challenging conditions with the RX1 than I've been able to with any APS sensor. In some cases, by a little, in others by a lot.


    Capri RX1-49 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    9216111039_8acc9a1139_b.
    Capri RX1-49-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    To answer your other question (or perhaps statement), yeah, I'm into gear. I've said a number of times that I consider photography and gear two highly related, but different, hobbies. I've always loved gadgets of all sorts and cameras are no exception. But I wouldn't be into it if I didn't see any utility in it. I wouldn't be into the whiz-bang just for the sake of the whiz-bang. But when I see the difference it can make and then experience it for myself, I'm real happy that I'm into both. Maybe we'll get to a point someday where the gear is sooooo damn good it stops mattering. I've thought we might be there a couple of times recently and was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. I actually don't know when or how deeply I'll get into a full frame ILC system because I don't think there would be many lenses I'd want at a size I'd be happy with. But I suspect I will at some point when there are a few good wide angle primes out there, whether its a Sony system or Fuji, or someone else. For street shooting, I still find APS to be a better sweet spot because deep DOF is a real advantage and what the full frame gains in IQ and DR and even in low light, it gives up in DOF. But if the sensors in a couple of years are another stop or two better than the current ones, I'll find that useful too - not because of the ultimate appearance of the photograph, but because of the range it gives me for the light I can shoot in with both deep DOF and a reasonably fast shutter.

    So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I don't begrudge anyone else their preferences, whether for extreme resolution, extremely deep DOF (some street shooters may always prefer the small sensor GRD3/4 over the new APS pocket cams), great DR, lightning fast tracking AF for action, or whatever. I have my own criteria and so far the gear keeps getting better in ways that matter to me, as well as in ways that don't matter to me, but clearly do to others. I can't dismiss any of it just because only a small part of it applies to my shooting.
     
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  12. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    The key to image quality has always been and will always be: go somewhere worth photographing and photograph something worth printing.

    I established my "high end use" in the last few years when I started getting some 40" canvas prints made to hang around my apartment. I like the size (big without being over-the-top), I like the character from the textured surface, I find them cost effective, and they don't require a frame (which equals additional weight and cost). So far my two favourite prints have come from my old 8MP Canon EOS 350D. Not because that camera is a resolution monster (it's not) nor that it rates highly by the current measured standards of image quality (check out how it rates on DxOMark!), but because I had it in the right place at the right time. They are more than good enough that I don't find myself wondering or wishing that I had shot them with (benchmark at the time) a 5D, or gone back in time and shot them with an E-M5, or an NEX-7, or an X-Pro1, or an RX1, or a...you get the point. It's conceivable that I might be able to get sufficient image quality from something with an even lower measurable IQ but I've never felt comfortable at less than APS-C or 4/3, and if I don't feel comfortable I don't enjoy the process.

    I think you need to approach this hobby from whatever direction that you get the most enjoyment from. If it's ogling the extreme corners of a 24MP file, then so be it. I'm not immune from that level of scrutiny which is partly why I have the cameras that I do, and why I have experimented with raw processing as much as I have. What I am comfortable with in my own mind is where extra resolution, dynamic range, noise control ceases being important, and where the size, features, controls, speed and feel of a camera will make a bigger difference to the images I take with it than would a 36MP full frame sensor without AA filter (or somesuch). As much as I love being able to "rescue" a difficult image taken by a higher quality sensor, I've yet to reap a huge benefit from the ability besides ending up with a slightly higher keeper rate.

    My current best camera is not in fact the one that I think I could make the largest, highest quality prints from (in fact I rate it a close 3rd depending on the lens used), but it is my most usable camera with characteristics that will make it more likely to be the camera I have with me in the right time and at the right place.
     
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  13. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    Agree 100%. That's been my issue. Maybe I should do a series on the inside of suburban Marriott Courtyard hotels, lol. That seems to be where most of my travel time is. That's one nice thing about this forum -- even mundane pictures from people on the other side of the world are interesting to me, and you don't need a 7r to get them ;)
     
  14. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    This is always the case, has always been the case, and always will be the case. Any decent photographer would tell you he or she would much rather have an amazing photograph taken with crap equipment than a crap photograph taken with state of the art gear. But discussions of this basic fact of photography don't make discussions if or advancements in gear any less important. A great photograph is a great photograph but better gear can improve your likelihood of getting that great shot and might also have an impact of how you can process and present it to its greatest advantage.

    The fact that a great photo is a great photo doesn't make gear unimportant or unworthy of discussion any more than great gear makes the content of a photograph unimportant or unworthy of discussion.

    -Ray
     
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  15. Lucille

    Lucille SC Veteran

    324
    Aug 20, 2012
    Hepcat City
    Heh, and since the Rx1 is so tiny, it is always on me, so I have 'state of the art' gear at all times....

    We are living in exciting times!!!
     
  16. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I think people's responses so far just underline my sense (which I perhaps am not articulating clearly) that what people value is not the photograph but the activity; thus "richer, easier to handle in post", "better results in more challenging conditions", "not because of the ultimate appearance of the photograph" and so on.

    Now obviously I have a position too, which is that I don't care very much about what a camera does or how it does it, so long as I want to pick it up and take photographs with it, and I have almost zero interest in cameras as technology (but I do have an interest in their aesthetics - I don't like to use a camera I consider unattractive).

    But what I am also interested in is looking at pictures, thinking about photography, and how images look, and whether they work as images. Yet the endless threads I see devoted to the latest, newest, betterest, superiorest cameras (not just at the moment, it's been going on since the dawn of photography, but recent developments in imaging have boosted it almost beyond my comprehension) go on and on repeatedly and without cease about the "features" and specifications, sensors, pixels, bit depths, post processing, "sharpness", "100% crops", menu systems, AF speed ... well, you know, you name it, it gets discussed.

    Now all these discussions tend to get couched in terms of "IQ" - better IQ, superior IQ, improving IQ, unsurpassed IQ - while at the same time, as a non-participant in any of this discussion, I just look at the pictures and yet I can't tell from looking at a picture (without using "100% crop" mind, on Flickr, or on the wall in someone's home, or in a gallery) whether it was taken with a camera older than I am, with Kodachrome 25, with an RX1 or with a camera made out of toilet rolls and the bottom of a coke bottle.

    All I'm noticing (because I'm interested too in the way people think and act) is that the activity of acquiring, discussing & comparing camera equipment and the activity of how photographs are captured, processed and compared technically is quite different from the way the photographs these cameras and camera owners produce are then discussed.

    Enormous amounts of heat are generated during this activity, to the point that sometimes personal abuse is hurled about when two people disagree about a camera ... yet the photographs themselves never seem to generate much more than "nice capture" (or if you're really lucky, "great capture"). And still, to repeat myself, those hot discussions are all couched in language that suggests that it is "IQ" that matters, that these features, this sensor, this algorithm, this lens, this really fast AF will lend itself to producing better photographs.

    So ... what I'm noticing is a disjunction between what people seem to think they are talking about, and what they appear (from outside the discussion) to be talking about. Not that this is a criticism, or a judgment: it really is just a noticing.

    What people seem to say is: "This camera is better because it makes better photographs" ... Whereas what seems to be going on is that this means: "I like this camera better because the activity of using it, talking about using it, taking photographs with it, talking about taking photographs with it, processing the photographs and talking about that is more fulfilling to me (or seems more likely to be more fulfilling, if I haven't bought it yet, or it isn't even on sale yet) than this other camera that I could buy (or you own and think is better)"

    And that is fine, it really is.

    It's sort of worth remembering, though, that it only matters to the person who owns the camera.

    Similar discussions probably took place in a hut circle about which flint-pit made better axe-heads, of course ... except of course whether you had a sharp axe might be a matter of life and death, whereas how "good" your camera is, isn't
     
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  17. Lucille

    Lucille SC Veteran

    324
    Aug 20, 2012
    Hepcat City
    Bottom line, the use of the Rx1 inspires me to shoot.....sometimes I do, just to see how the files come out.... I would shoot anyways if I only owned a e-pl1, as I did, and I enjoyed it, but the Rx1 makes it so much more enjoyable, because I get many 'wow' moments when I look at the files, and since I do a lot of low light non flash stage musician shooting, the gear does matter........

    I have bonded with the Rx1 in a way I didn't think possible, hopefully the a7r will be the same for me...
     
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  18. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    That's all true, and I never said that it wasn't worthy of discussion on some level. I can go into great detail about the particular nuances that I like about one camera compared to the next. OTOH, I also have a limit (as I'm sure do a lot of people) of when I feel clamouring for more this and more that becomes a non-productive exercise.
     
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  19. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    I am guilty of loving gear. I am guilty of loving the latest and greatest. I am a card carrying member of the camera of the month club.

    For me, my love of photography encompasses more than just the end product, i.e. the photo. I find photography to be an all encompassing experience that includes not only the photo itself, but also the time spent on reading photography books, looking at photos from other folks, researching gear, buying gear, pixel peeping, trying different types of prints, trying different RAW converters, dragging my wife along to photo excursions (our first date was "excursion"), sitting in bed in near darkness taking photos of my toe for high ISO test, etc, etc, etc.

    I like to talk gear. There's lots to talk about gear. When I see a photo, I either like it or I don't. I could sit there and discuss in length how the angles of the converging lines create this effervescent feel as sky clashes into the mountain in the horizon. But chances are that I don't think anyone who posts a photo wants to hear me say that.

    I have another thousand words of thoughts in my head about what's been discussed in this thread, but ... oh well. Time for me to go back to the A7 (and A7r) thread.
     
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  20. carlb

    carlb SC Regular

    101
    Jun 3, 2013
    Taken within the last week with an ancient-history 5 MP digital - that happens to get me a look I really like in photos. I chose to take this camera over the Fuji X-E1 because its photos have a quality I was looking for, trading that for the extra resolution that would have been available from the X-E1.

    10256403695_0bccd3fef0_c.
    up to the overpass by cbmn, on Flickr

    10200375134_f3f4a8686e_b.
    greens and golds by cbmn, on Flickr

    10163237845_4d8922a484_c.
    late on the river by cbmn, on Flickr

    Equipment: The four-thirds E1 from Olympus, a Pana-Leica 14-150mm zoom, and a Marumi polarizing filter.

    The E-1 is a such a great camera to shoot, a very enjoyable experience. The files it produces are almost always enjoyable to start with.

    Not to negate the beautiful photos I see from Lucille and her RX1 or Ray with his! Find the camera that "speaks" to you, and don't worry too much about why it does. :)

    (BTW, I'm wondering what that next camera will be for me - the X-E2, the GX7 ,the A7, the RX1, the GR ... Shees, too many choices!)
     
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