Nov 122013
 

Steve,

I’ve never really been a landscape kind of guy. Let’s just say that I wasn’t until my wife and I spent a week in Moab, Utah.

I’ve always been into the outdoors. I was eleven years old the first time my folks dropped my twin brother and I off in the woods and said “Hike to your aunt’s house if you get into trouble. Meet us at this spot in a week.” It was the mid 1980′s and parents had much more freedom and didn’t have to worry regarding public criticism from the media as they do today.

Backpacking and hiking have always been a passion in my life. Other outdoor hobbies have followed. I do not bring many new hobbies into my life as it is already full and I’m not willing to lessen the time with loves I already have.

The great thing about photography is that it does not interfere with the activities that I do or the adventures that I take. It compliments them.

My love and I always take at least one week-long outdoor trip per year. We fill the rest of the year with weekend trips as one week a year isn’t enough for us. On occasion I sleep out in the back yard for a quick fix.

While planning for the Moab trip my wife asked “Are you going to take some landscapes for me?” My love doesn’t feel as much passion as I do for street photography or my attempts at documentary style visual story telling. I used this opportunity to reply back “I am. But….. if we want to print the photos big I should probably invest in a wide-angle for my M9.” I still can’t believe that she agreed without hesitation or question.

I ended up purchasing a Voigtlander 28mm Ultron f2. I made sure that I went to your site and clicked the link to B&H for the purchase. I visit your site everyday and want to give back.

I must say that after spending a week in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park I will definitely look forward to taking more landscapes. On a side note, many men ask how I get my wife to head out into the wilderness for a week at a time. I always respond…… Keep her gear light and comfortable. Keep her warm. Don’t forget to hold hands and snuggle in the tent. Tell her you love her.

A Leica M seems to be the perfect on trail, off the grid, landscape camera and here’s why I feel so:

SIZE: No explanation is really needed. Pack a DSLR on the trail with a battery grip attached and you’ll understand. On the trail no one has anything to prove. Carrying a heavy pack doesn’t make you any more tough. Have a good time. Pack light and enjoy the trip.

OPTICS: Corner sharpness? Micro contrast? I don’t really think about these concepts as I normally only care about composition and light when shooting street or documentary style. This matters when printing landscapes. I look at the landscapes I took during this trip and don’t really focus on a single subject but admire the composition as a whole. I actually look into the corners and into the details of the rocks. The quality from the M9 and M lenses amaze me.

TRIPOD: What are those for? With no mirror slap I shoot handheld. I’ve been known to shoot as slow as 1/8 of a second with my M9 in a dark bar while having pints with friends. I’m amazed that the photos actually turn out pretty sharp. I actually take a Zipshot Micro for the occasional self-portrait when on the trail. We occasionally run into people when out and about. When people ask to take our photo for us I’m nice, oblige, and hand them the camera. But….. we all know where that gets us.

CONNECTION: My buddy has a great saying “It feels right.” When I’m on the trail with a pack on, the pack feels apart of me. It feels right. When I’m on stage my guitar feels apart of me. It feels right. I hold a rangefinder to my eye with a finger on the shutter release. It feels right. Shooting a manual rangefinder feels pure. That’s also why I head out on the trail. It feels pure.

Attached are several photos from our trip. All photos were processed using Lightroom 4. I couldn’t resist converting them to black and white. I couldn’t get Ansel’s photos out of my head. My only two M lenses are a VC 28 mm Ultron and a 50 mm Summicron V4. I used both for these shots.

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You can view more of the photos at:

www.photographsbyben.com

www.photographsbybenmiller.tumblr.com

www.facebook.com/photographsbybenmiller

Thank you for keeping such a wonderful website and giving all of us something to look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben

May 222013
 

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How lucky can one guy be? By Steve Huff

For the past 20 years or so I have considered myself to have an unusual amount of luck in life. Today that lucky streak continues on for me as I am the happiest I have ever been in life and have everything I could ever ask for. While I do not ask for much, I have everything I could need. A small and modest home, a lovely & adorable super sweet and caring fiancée, an amazing Son who never gives me an ounce of trouble or worry, my health, great family dogs, and the basic necessities of life that make it all fun.

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I also have this blog/website that I have become quite fond of as it gives me the ability to share my photo experiences as well as allow the readers to share theirs so we can all learn, even me. I can share my passion and that is what I do every day when I wake up. Sometimes I am awake at 5AM, sometimes at 9AM. That is the beauty of running your own blog, you make your own hours! While I am far from rich or well off, I am happy with what I do and how I live. I do not stress about growing the blog, I just keep on doing what I have always done. To me, that is all that matters, staying happy and passionate about what you are doing. If it starts to feel like “work” then it is not fun anymore, and that would not be cool.

The friends I have made due to this site are also a bonus. Yep, this blog has changed my life over the past 5 years. Crazy. In the 80′s when growing up all I had to read was Photo Magazines. Today we have instant information. It is a whole new world, one I embrace.

I also have other things going on that have taken off dramatically in the past 9 months and I attribute that to my passion and dedication as well as my luck :) Many years ago an old friend once accused me of having a horseshoe up my rear. Sure, I had some hard and very tough times over the past 5 years as well, but overall I feel very lucky and blessed to have what I have.

But this post today started out with me thinking about how I could be so lucky as something “fell in my lap” this week that I could not pass up! As many of you know, I sold my Leica M 240 a few weeks ago to keep my Leica MM. I knew I made the right call for ME at that moment and knew that I would  one day own that M again as it was indeed a camera I thoroughly enjoyed. I figured it would take 9-12 months for me to save money and to be able to get another one from a dealer. So away I went..shooting like a B&W madman with a Monochrom.

A few days ago I had an email come in from a very nice guy, Andrew Wonder. He is a reader here and also has his own pretty cool website here. He told me he ordered a Leica M 240 from B&H Photo months ago and it was coming in but he was going to refuse delivery…unless I wanted to buy it, at his cost. Andrew decided it was not for him and offered it to me.

Wow…what luck. While everyone else in Leica land is waiting months and months and months I had the opportunity to buy another M 240 NOW. New, untouched and still sealed in the B&H shipping box and I would be able to buy at normal price, not the $9000 price  they are selling for on e-bay. I am the kind of guy who looks at certain things in life as signs. I have followed these signs for 20 years and attribute most of my “luck” to instinct and the choices I make when presented with an opportunity. Not that shelling out $7k for a camera is really “opportunity” but in some ways it is, for me.

I knew there were many waiting for this camera and that it would be sold within minutes if I posted here for Andrew. I also remembered why I sold the 1st one. Money, expenses, my bank account :)

But I also had some luck over the past two weeks with some trade deals, lens sales and an odd surprise check in my mailbox that I had no idea was coming. It was all there, lined up for me…like it was meant to be. I always tell people who life is short and you have to live it, so… I bought it and I now have the M 240 once again in my hands and it feels good. I really did miss this camera along with the color shooting with a Leica. The Monochrom is a masterpiece but shooting only B&W for the past month for me was not fully cutting it. I have learned that I crave a mixture of both B&W and color as not every shot I want to take works in B&W and not every shot is best in color. I realized this a couple of weeks back when I rented a Leica M-E for a few days. I missed the Leica color experience :)

What I do with every camera that comes through my hands..the mirror shot. I do this because I have been doing it for 15 years and have a collection of them. When I am 80 it will be fun to look back at them all :)

The 1st shot with a classic 50 Summitar attached at 1.5

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So yea, I sat there and made excuses as to why I made the choice. I posted about this on my Facebook Wall and had those who were upset because many thought I found one at a dealer through “special connections” which was not true at all. It was luck. When you run a large blog such as this you are indeed in a way connected, but not to manufacturers and dealers..instead, I am connected to the thousands of readers here who frequent this site and it just so happened one of them decided against the M 240 and I was able to take it off of his hands. Some of you will ask “why didn’t you just buy a used M9″ ? Well, after using the M-E last week it made me appreciate the new M even more. I much prefer it along with the color and the files it produces.

As I always say, everything always works out in the end.

It has been a wonderful past few days. My buddy Ashwin Rao just got engaged and is happier than ever, I am planning a trip with my fiancée next week to spend some fun and quality time with her, the Palouse road trip is inching closer, my Son is excited about his trip to Japan in June, I am stress free and the M is back in my stable :) I am surrounded by happiness, and that is one of the secrets to a happy life!

I wrote this post for those of you who would be wondering why I am posting images from the M 240 again when it was sold a month ago, not to make any of you waiting for your own M upset or jealous. I also wrote it to let all of you who are waiting for your own M to know that my 2nd body was not obtained through any special dealer or Leica connection, but through a little luck, a load of cash and an awesome reader of this site.

PS – Those vintage lenses I have been testing look great on the M 240 so far!

The old Leica Summarit 1.5 on the M. A $500 lens with classic glow, bokeh and rendering. Soft in all the right places for the vintage vibe. 

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My recommended sources for the M or the MM:

Ken Hansen – Email him at [email protected]

PopFlash.com – They may have a MM in stock now, and they have the cool A&A straps in stock as well. 

The Pro Shop – They may also have an MM now and they may have a short M list, not sure. Call them at 561.253.2606

Dale Photo

B&H Photo 

$$$$ if you spend a fortune on the Leica body and want to get quality lenses while saving loads of cash I recommend some of the Voigtlander lenses like the 35 1.2 II, 50 1.5, and 21 1.8 at CameraQuest.com

Mar 292013
 

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Just arrived! A quick first look at the Leica 50 Summicron APO ASPH Lens on the Leica M

Well thanks to the guys over at I-SHOT-IT.com I have a Leica 50 Summicron APO ASPH in my hands to test for 3 weeks on the Leica M. Yep, Leica did not even have a loaner as this lens is super rare and hard to get and made in very small quantities. Coming it at just under $7200 I was super skeptical and upset when it was announced almost a year ago. I mean, how many of us can afford a 50 f/2 lens for $7195? I did not understand how the old cron could be improved upon as that was a lens I loved dearly for many years until finally settling on the 50 Summilux for the rendering at 1.4 that the cron could not do.

At nearly $4k, the Lux is almost double the cost of the old cron and at $7200, the new cron is getting close to 4X the cost of the old cron! How oh how could this be justified?

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Well I do know that the new APO Cron is claimed by many to be Leica’s best lens ever. Period. Leica has also said it has been very challenging to produce because they are accepting nothing less than perfection with each and every hand inspected copy that comes off the line.

When I saw the photos shot by the new Summicron at the Berlin Monochrom event I was blown away at the colors, the contrast, the details and super smooth Bokeh (that the old cron does not have). When I started seeing samples from another online blogger/reviewer I thought the lens was a but too sterile and lost interest. I decided I would be happy with my Lux. But after just a day of use I realized this lens is not sterile at all, quite the opposite.

When the lens arrived to me just yesterday and I snapped it on my M and fired off a few test shots I knew I would be in trouble. What I saw over the lux is richer deeper color, more contrast, more details and more 3 Dimensionality without being harsh or clinical at all, quite abit like what the Noctilux ASPH did over the previous F/1 version.. It does indeed have its own character and I am looking forward to full reviewing this lens. The new slide out twist hood is very nice and the lens comes packaged like the $11k Noctilux in it’s own small presentation case.

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Size wise it is smaller than the Lux and feels great on the M. I will stop now because I need to save my words for the review but even though this lens is $7200 it seems to be very high in demand. Dealers have wait lists for this bad boy and I can now see why. Below are 1st samples shots in my kitchen yesterday of my fiancée’, my feet and my friend Mike. I will be taking a road trip to shoot this lens and really get to know it and after that I will write my full review. Can’t wait!

Thank you I-SHOT-IT.COM for sending this lens out to me to review. Without your help it would have been a long time for me to get a hold of one. Be sure to check out their contests they run on their site as the main prizes are cash and cameras. The Monochrom contest is up to over $11k and the Leica MM. Damn!

 

1st off, a full size file from RAW – click it for the full size Leica M file – no editing or PP

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The following test snaps were done minutes after getting the lens in my hands. You can click them for larger 1200 pixel wide versions as the sizes below are compressed and do not look correct. All of these were shot on the Leica M 240. Full size pixel peeper samples will be in the review as well as comparisons with the Lux. These are just snapshots, in and around my house, and resized in low res for web. 

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The usual suspects are taking pre-orders for this lens but mostly all have lists going:

Ken Hansen – [email protected]

PopFlash.com 

The Pro Shop

Dale Photo

B&H Photo

Amazon

My full review will be up in 2-3 weeks!

Mar 132013
 

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DxO Leica M 240 test coming within a few days as per DxOMark

Just received this email from DxO as it seems they became aware of the post a made a couple of days ago regarding the M9 sensor and their results. (I defended the M9 as a capable tool with astounding IQ). In any case they tell me their M 240 tests is coming in the next few days and my guess is that it will test very good simply due to the fact that the way they test is best suited for a sensor like the one in the M240. So for those who follow these things, keep an eye on DxO over the next few days.

 

Message:
“Dear Steve,

Thank you for the interest you have shown in DxOMark and particularly
in the tests we carried out on the Leica M9, M9-P, and M-E. 

As you rightly observe, we promote our tests as giving photographers a
clear idea of the image quality of their cameras compared to equipment
of the same class or equivalent technology. 

We wanted to use these tests to analyze the quality of the CCDs of all
three cameras in order to compare them in the near future with the new
CMOS sensor of the Leica M. 

The results will be available within the next few days. 

Stay tuned!

Sincerely yours,
The DxOMark Team”

Mar 022013
 

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Leica M (Type 240) Video Overview – Very 1st look, Menu System, Shutter sound and more

As promised! My very 1st look at the Leica M Type 240! The video below is indeed the very 1st time I have touched the new M camera. You will experience the 1st look with me. In the video I show the unboxing, the menu system, and the shutter sound. I also share my very 1st early thoughts after shooting a few frames with the camera. I have not been out of my house with the camera and as I type this the massive battery is on the charger getting juiced up. Most have been asking me to do M9 vs M240 comparisons. I WILL do this, but later on. First I have to get to know the new M as it is a little different than the M9 in it’s settings and image quality rendering. I will be doing the whole range of comparisons and even some with the RX1. BUT I can state right now that the Leica M is a Leica. It does not feel like a new system or too complicated. While it is not as simple minded as the old M8 and M9 it feels…mature in the way the menu is set up and presented. The LCD no longer looks like it came from the 90′s and is gorgeous. I will have SO MUCH more to say in my review but patience my fellow camera geeks..I will have to shoot this camera before I review it. :)

Watch the video below and I go over the unboxing, menu system, and the shutter sound. More videos with more details will follow soon…

So far after just a few test shots outside and inside I have found the AWB to be improved, the shutter is sooo much nicer (no grit and it has a thump quality, very nice – see video) than the M9 and the electronic framelines are taken from the M9 Titanium and I welcome them. I have had ZERO issues using a basic Sony 32 GB SD card. So in the 1st few hours it has been bug free, as any camera should be. The RF may be a teeny bit off as the focus is not dialing in like it did on my old M9-P, unless that is some of the crispness I am missing.

What I am seeing is that the new M files are a bit smoother than the M9 and I remember saying that about the M9 coming from the M8. The M8 had a super crispness and film like rendering and the M9 lost some of that but still had incredible file quality at lower ISO. The new M has pushed it a little more into smoothland but the heart of ANY Leica is the lenses and when you use some of the best like the 50 Lux ASPH, 35 Lux ASPH FLE and 90 Cron APO you will get the Leica look regardless as it has not been lost in CMOS. It appears the files are rich, hardy and have more DR than the M9. But this is just VERY early thoughts and in no way final so be sure to check back for my review and photos to see where I stand in a couple of weeks.

Yes my friends, Stay tuned for much much more on the new M 240 including some REAL photos instead of silly test snaps. :)

BTW, if you are one of the jealous, bitter, and angry individuals that are upset that I received an M before you..get over it. No need to go cry to forums about it :) I was on the pre-order list on day 1 with Ken Hansen ([email protected])

One quick backyard test snap (remember, I have had this new M in my possession for 3 hours and it took 2 to charge the battery)  - click it for larger view and 100% crop

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Quick test snap of my bastard cat at 1.4 – click for larger

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Using live view on the LCD to focus..worked great and was easy to dial it in and more accurate than using the RF – click fort larger

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3D POP test

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Quick ISO 6400 test shot in my office at night – click image for full size OOC file

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ISO 500, 1.4

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Feb 052013
 

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OFFICIAL LEICA M 240 Samples posted – What do you think?

OK everyone! Official Leica M 240 photos have been posted BY LEICA and they have JPEG and DNG’s to download. I have downloaded the JPEGs and DNG’s and messed around with the files and they are as expected. MUCH better in low light high ISO than any previous digital M but what do you think of the other shots? The color in the flower looks beautiful, but it appears there may be some of the crispness missing from the M9 files, but then again, maybe not. The sensor looks fantastic to my eyes. Overall though it appears to me that the M 240 will be just as capable, as is to be expected with a camera from Leica.

You can go download the official samples HERE

I took a look at the ISO 2500 shot and added some crops and EXIF. Looks comparable to the current crop of full frame cameras for this kind of lighting. The photo below was taken by resident Leica M tester, Mr. Jonathan Slack and you can see many more of his samples HERE at the Leica forum blog.

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So go take a look and leave you comments here on what you think of the official samples from this new M, which is scheduled to hit the shelves soon. I have heard anywhere from end of Feb to mid April. I know I am on the list so we shall see!

Steve

a more of the samples..

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and one with the 50 APO (which is available NOW at Leica dealers) – this is a OOC JPEG but go to Leica’s site for the full download and to grab the rest of the samples.

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PS – A lot of people are writing me saying the samples are “lackluster”. I can say that I agree on that one but feel we can see the camera will perform. As a side note, I did offer to Mr. Kauffman a few months ago to take the new M 240 on a 30 day RV trip with 3-4 other Leica shooters to shoot the people of Route 66 and the old buildings. All at my expense. All they needed to do was provide a loaner for 30 days. That offer was turned down and ignored, which was fine with me. Saved me some cash but I do feel Leica should concentrate on putting out killer samples for something like this. They really confuse me with the way they do their marketing.

Jan 162013
 

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More Leica M Porn: It’s getting closer! More info and Brochure available on the “Milestone”

Woohoo! It is getting closer! The new Leica M appears to be almost ready to ship. Why do I say this? Well, there is a certain buzz in the air, and my inbox from excited Leica shooters who have pre-ordered the camera. No one really knows though when this new “M 240″ will hit the streets but it should be by the end of Feb. Yes, that is a month and a half away but maybe Leica will surprise us with an early delivery. Me, I am excited as it has been a long time since a fresh new M has been in my hands, and if we go by specs and what the paper tells us, this one will be flat-out amazing.

*You can download the new M brochure HERE.

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Sure we have seen some rotten “examples” that were supposedly taken by this camera but I have zero doubt that once it is in the right hands it will produce some magic. THIS new M is the “R Solution” all of you “R” guys and gals have been waiting for. It is the first M ever to shoot HD video and paired with these Leica M lenses I have no doubts that it will produce stunning quality HD footage (as long as you are on a tripod).

It is splash proof, it is high res with the all newly designed Leica “MAX” CMOS 24 MP sensor and it even has LIVE VIEW so those pesky back or front focusing lenses will no longer be a problem. The Maestro processor trickled down from the S series so this M should be nice and speedy.

Yes ladies and gentleman, the future of the M is finally getting closer. Leica even put up a new page devoted to it with more images and even a video, which you can also watch below:

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My favorite part about the new M? The price. It is the same as the M9 was at launch. Sure it is a huge chunk of change but at least Leica did not pull a $10k mistake. This new M comes in at $6995 and pre-orders are being taken by Ken Hansen ([email protected]), Popflash Photo, Pro Shop and Dale Photo – ALL amazing dealers who help keep this website alive.

BTW, most Leica lenses are in stock at all of the dealers above. I think once the new M hits, if it is as good as Leica claims we may see another wait for the popular glass like the 50 1.4, 35 1.4, etc.

See more at the official Leica M page HERE

Jan 042013
 

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The new Leica M 240. Sample images on the web. What do you think?

Well January is upon us..it is now 2013 and I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday. Me, I had a GREAT one and spent it with loved ones though I wished I could have had my Mom here this year. In any case, 2012 was a rocking year and I am guessing 2013 will rock even harder, in fact, I will make sure it does. One camera I am excited about is the new Leica M “240″. This camera is either going to be HUGE or be a big flop. I am guessing it will do very well for Leica as on paper it seems incredible. But being an M camera it is also going out on a limb with all of these extra new features and I have heard it through the grapevine that the new M may be coming out later rather than sooner. To those who pre-ordered I am hoping these cameras come in within a couple of weeks but in reality I am thinking it may be a couple of months. The B&H Pre-order page says Feb 28th, which may extend to March 28th :)

Leica has a way of announcing things well before they are ready to rock and roll out the door. In fact, when did they announce the 50 APO Summicron? See what I mean?

Anyway, some of you may or may not have seen the leaked pics from the new M 240. I did and when I saw them I was not sure what to think. The pics are basic snapshots inside of a horribly lit Costco store and to top it off they are JPEGS. So that right there is going to ruin ANY shot from ANY camera :)

You can see those images HERE if you have not yet seen them. Me, I think they lack that pop that comes from the M9 files but it is much to early to judge, especially with these images and pre-release firmware. This camera is such a beautiful instrument and I am confident that when it is released that it will blow our minds with its feel, operation and quality of files. If it doesn’t then it could be a problem for Leica because there is so much competition out there now with more on the way to challenge the mighty M. None will be an M of course and nothing will give you that RF experience quite like an M but the image quality coming out of this camera has to be a notch above everything else, like the M9 was at launch. If the quality is below the M9 then I feel many will go back  to the M9. If it surpasses the M9 (some on the inside are saying it does indeed) then we will have a very special camera on our hands. Personally, I can not wait to test it out.

The cool additions to me are the weather sealing, new cosmetics (I like the larger red dot), the plain “M” on the front and the newly redesigned back side and larger LCD. Sucks that it does not have a built-in sensor cleaner but Leica says it would not fit. This will also be the first digital M with high ISO capability that is usable. The M9 was good but the M will be better. My favorite thing is that it is the same price as the M9 when it was released and Leica stayed out of the insane price hike mode they have been on for years.

Do you think the Leica M 240 will beat the M9′s IQ and POP? Take the poll below!

 

 

 

 

 

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