The Ultimate Seeing Machine – The Fujifilm X100F Review

x100f-review

It was back in 2012 when I first got my hands on an original Fujifilm X100. It was not that I was seeking this encounter, not at all. Quite the opposite! For years I had been shooting with Nikon and Canon SLRs and I was quite content with these cameras – after all they were the expected choice for every serious photographer.  

Therefore, when my friend let me play with his X100 I was sceptical. What a toy, I thought. This just cannot be a serious camera – look at its size! Did I mention it was quirky and weird?! My first reaction was to give it back along with my usual dose of twisted humour – just enough to embarrass the hippie owner.

However, something strange happened. Each time I approached my camera hideout my hands failed to grab the serious Nikon SLR and instead went for the eccentric X100 – it was paranormal activity at play to say at least. Then everything just spiralled downwards for my Nikon. Not only did I shoot almost exclusively with the X100 but I started taking visual risks I had never dared to before. Strangely, my “seeing” regained a spark – yes in both eyes!

As my photographer friends watched in horror, I sold all my SLR gear and started shooting exclusively with the X-series cameras and lenses, with the X100 becoming my flagship camera. Yes, you’ve got it right. The X100/S/T/F is, in my view, the flagship or in other words the most important camera in the X-series.

Therefore, when I got an email from Fujifilm Canada that a preproduction version of a brand new X100F was on its way I felt like a teenager expecting his first car. Kasia, my wife and partner in seeing, immediately knew something was not right with me or that something was awfully right and it had nothing to do with coffee!

Although I genuinely like winter, the usual rainy Vancouver gave way to a white paradise at exactly the wrong time. Each time I anxiously typed in the tracking number I got a horrifying “delayed in transit” message. I didn’t say a word but even my dog knew something was off. Finally, after camping out in the freezing cold for three days to make sure I would not miss the delivery truck, it finally arrived.

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Unification

The first surprise was the type of battery I found in the box. It was the very same battery that X-Pro2 and X-T2 cameras use, that is, NP-126. Now, the entire X-series line-up runs on the same battery. For those of us who shoot professionally this is great news.      

The second surprise was the software. I had an opportunity to shoot with pre-production cameras before and trust me it was quite an experience. The installed firmware is usually not final. In some cases it was experimental to say the least, but not this time. Everything was running super-fast and smoothly. I was done with the set-up in no time. It wasn’t the only reason. The software was almost identical to my X-Pro2.

Thirdly, when I raised the X100F to my eye, my fingers could automatically find all the knobs and buttons as if I was holding my X-Pro2. Similarly, as with the X-Pro2, all buttons have been moved to the right thus allowing one-handed operation.

The focus point selector has been added and it is placed in almost exactly same spot as on the X-Pro2. I have written extensively about the importance of the joystick. Not only does it make the process of choosing the right focus point easy but its distinctive shape and destination make it a very easy target for your finger.

Another great change is the placement of the Q button on the right top corner. Since the Q button doesn’t have to compete with other buttons any more, finding it and pressing feels intuitive and natural.

As with the X-Pro2, there is the addition of a front dial, which can be programmed to your liking.   

The top plate is an exact copy of the X-Pro2. A new ISO shifter has been added. Although I read some complaints about its operations I personally like this solution a lot. One glance at the top place, a simple operation and my ISO is set and confirmed with no fuss.

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From our project the “Augmented Eye” – ACROS + weak grain

Lens

Even before the camera came out many people were calling for a new lens. Perhaps some would like to see F1.8 or faster, others are looking for “sharper” glass. Although I understand and fully support the first argument, I have to admit that the whole sharp and sharper debate makes me yawn. (I believe the next frontier for Fujifilm and other lens manufacturers should be to achieve a unique rendering/look/depiction.)

Going back to the X100F and its 23mm F2 lens, yes it appears to be the same lens used in previous versions. Wide-open, the lens displays some softness, especially at short distances, but we have learnt to take advantage of this rendering. At other apertures, the lens is tack-sharp.

Look, build and portability

Although the original X100 certainly got my attention for its classic look, it was a quirky camera. Despite its early shortcomings, however, the X100 has become an instant classic. With such early success it would have been easy for Fuji to rest on its laurels. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. Over the last few years, it has been amazing to watch how solutions whispered among professional X-shooters found their way into subsequent versions of this camera. This time is no different.

Most photographers I talked to agreed that general design, feel and look of the X100 line should not be messed with. The key changes made over the years were more operational in nature. The aforementioned unification of the entire X-series line has become a priority. Among others, placing all the buttons on the right side and the introduction of the joystick or ISO wheel were a direct result of feedback from “the street” – photographers who use these cameras on a daily basis. Many professionals, including yours truly, often work with two or more cameras, so familiarity and unified operations are crucial especially in some fast-paced situations.

Also, some buttons at the back including selector pads and the Menu/OK button are larger and easier to press. Build quality remains high – unusually high. All knobs, buttons and switches feel solid – something that is missing from so many plastic cameras out there. Did I mention “Made in Japan” – an always assuring and desirable stamp, at least for my generation!

The size and weight of the camera, especially in comparison to many professional SLRs, is a huge asset. Elliott Erwitt once said, “Photography is an art of observation. It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.” It may sound strange but travelling or walking around with the X100F often puts me in just such a state of attentiveness and focus (not in a technical sense) that I even forget I’m carrying a camera. It feels as though I’m free – free of the heavy weight, free of a backpack full of distractions, and free of the need to scream out loud, “I am a photographer.”

While taking photos I want to be viewed as a regular guy you met on the street, someone you would have a chat with while waiting for the bus. I appreciate the fact that people see my face and hear me speak before they see my camera. Sometimes I think Dorothea Lange was referring to the X100F when she said, “A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”

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Viewfinder

Every time someone hands me their SLR to take their photo, I am amazed at how far behind these cameras are in terms of “seeing.” I recently held an SLR worth a few thousand dollars and I couldn’t believe how primitive its viewfinder was compared to the X100F.

I don’t try to be geeky here but “seeing” is the DNA of photography. Whether evaluating my final image in EVF (including colours and exposure) or anticipating my subject walking into the frame using OVF, the X100F offers a viewfinder that brings you a sense of closeness to the scene or your subject. It might be just me but the viewfinder in the X100F feels superior to the one in the X-Pro2 or even in the X-T2. Yes, the X-T2 EVF is much larger but there is no OVF and its central placement is definitely not to my liking. Even though the X-Pro2 has both, it feels much smaller and somehow cramped in comparison to the X100F.

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Image Quality

I have been shooting with the X-Pro2 and the X-T2, which have the same sensor as the X100F. Although the X-Pro2 and X-T2 were granted a higher megapixel count, the X100T was the only X-series high-end camera that was left at 16. Now, a brand-new 100F has joined its siblings with a 24.3-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor. As of writing, there is no LR support for RAW files so it is difficult to evaluate the sensor’s dynamic range but I fully anticipate it to be at least as good as it is in the X-Pro2. Also, I was asked not to publish high-resolution images, so maybe Fujifilm is still tweaking the sensor/lens combo performance. Let’s remember that since the X100F is not an interchangeable camera, placement of the sensor in relation to the lens could be optimized for image quality.

Looking at JPEGs (all images in this review), the image quality is excellent and well above what most of us need (take it pixel-peepers!).

Of course, as with the X-Pro2 and the X-T2 there is a range of Fujifilm film simulations to choose from. My personal favourites are ACROS + R + weak grain (street, travel), Classic Chrome (street, travel or even some portraits), Velvia (landscapes) and Provia (family, portrait).

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Who is this camera for?

Those of you who read our blog know that the X100-line is our camera-to-go. If I had a choice of only one camera this would be it!

New/aspiring photographer (on a budget or not)

Unfortunately, for many, the fascination with photography starts with gear. So often I see people being stressed out that they cannot afford to buy a “professional” SLR and this would somehow spoil their start in photography. Of course, this fallacy is being pushed by the industry, which wants you to believe that Photoshop + Nikon 810/Canon 5D + a full backpack of lenses is the ultimate start pack. Not only is this costly but more importantly such an approach is incredibly expensive in terms of the damage done to the new photographer’s mental and visual health.

In the meantime, for someone who’s taking the first steps in “seeing,” simplicity should be the guiding principle. One camera + one lens is the right way to start. The camera that a newcomer should be looking for should be small, easy to carry (so it’s always with you), has manual controls and real knobs, a large viewfinder (EVF and OVF), a relatively simple menu, one lens (preferably 35mm or 50mm in FF), and produce great JPEGs. At this early stage you should learn how to concentrate (yes, you got it right!), observe (you need to concentrate), see the light and compose. Huge, heavy cameras, lens choices, tripods, filters and technical overload won’t get you there.

While starting in photography it is worth remembering Diane Arbus’s canny words: “Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” Try doing that with the thumping shutter of a huge SLR echoing through the kitchen, a clumsy tripod and an oversized backpack of lenses knocking over the dishes!

But I cannot afford the X100F! I hear you say.

Fine, get then used to the X100S or X100T. You can find them cheaper than even the least expensive SLRs.

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Enthusiast

“Photography is like sex. You know the ending. So how can you make it interesting?” Fer Juaristi

Unfortunately, many photographers start their journey on the wrong footing. The gear overload, Photoshop addiction, low-esteem and blind following of the latest trends quickly turn into frustration. The way out is to simplify your photography. Get a simple camera, reduce time in front of your computer and don’t be afraid to take risks in your “seeing.” I personally know photographers who sold backpacks of expensive lenses and SLRs, got an X100/S/T and they couldn’t believe how much their photography, “seeing” and photographic mind-set changed.

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Semi and/or professional

Although the X100T/F is my camera-to-go, I also shoot with the X-Pro2. When I need to travel lightly I grab my X100T/F (35mm lens in FF) and my X-Pro2 with the XF 56mm F1.2 (85mm in FF). These two focal lengths allow me to cover 99.9% of shooting situations, travel light and avoid switching lenses.

Should I upgrade from X100T?

Yes. Higher resolution sensor, joystick, ACROS etc…

Wish List

I really believe that the X100F should have been weather-sealed. For a camera that you always have with you, some rain and snow protection is a must.

Although the X-T2 is clearly aimed at a high-tech crowd who wants to have it all, in my view the X100-line should remain a photographer’s camera. What I mean by that is limiting non-photography-related functions to a minimum or eliminating them altogether. For example, I don’t see the point of video in the X100F or panoramas and filters…you name it. A plain, well-made, easy to use camera is all that’s needed.

I also envision a X100F sibling with a 56mm lens. Then I would own just two small, portable cameras and forget about everything else.

Then there is the strap. A camera of such quality, so well made, comes with a strap that would better fit a $50 plastic toy. It was the fifth time that I had to suffer a mental breakdown trying to put this hideous, low-quality strap on a $1000-plus camera. This camera deserves much better.   

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Look for our upcoming posts with more imagery from this photoshoot

Final Thoughts

Since the introduction of the X100, each successor has brought changes and improvements that photographers asked for. The 100F is not revolutionary but rather an evolutionary camera and that’s a good thing. With a new sensor, large EVF/OVF, improved and unified (with the rest of the X-series) operations (and battery) and the same, excellent 23mm F2 lens, the X100F is in my view a flagship X-series camera.

While I enjoy shooting with the X-Pro2 and X-T2, the 100F interconnects with and bridges my visual intuition, inner seeing and creativity with the mechanics of the photographic process the way no other camera can, so for me it is the ultimate seeing machine.

Yes, I will be buying one.

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Here is the entire family: an original X100, X100S, X100T and of course X100F

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A few images of the Fujifilm X100F – just a foolish attempt to match Jonas Rask’s excellent gear imagery – make sure to visit his website for a much better depiction of the camera.

All imagery shot with a preproduction Fujifilm X100F, all JPEGs, Classic Chrome, Acros and Velvia film simulations, with minor adjustments in LR.

Here is a little bonus: Mike Marcinek followed me with a camera for a few hours and put this film together. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I have never been paid by Fujifilm, its subsidiaries or other camera manufacturers. We do receive some gear from Fujifilm Canada from time to time for a review with no strings attached (outside of typical disclosure agreements for pre-production cameras). This blog has never run any ads for the simple reason we want to stay 100% independent. The only bias in this review is my uncontrolled joy of shooting with the X100/S/T/F cameras but this state of mind is only of my own making. 

Update: The X100F we tested hasn’t got the final firmware therefore we haven’t commented on the speed of the AF system. To our knowledge there has been one firmware update since our handling of the camera.

 

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2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

 

55 thoughts on “The Ultimate Seeing Machine – The Fujifilm X100F Review

  1. I have the X00s and have been unsuccessful in re creating the lovely B/w contrasts you have in your excellent YouTube Video, and on this site. Would be grateful if you could explain what settings you used. I don’t have Lightroom. Regards John Sharp

  2. Thanks for your very good review Olaf! I just want to make a question. When i rotate or moving my x100f (on or off) i can hear a tik-tak.Is that ok or my camera has a problem?

  3. You and I walked the same path to Fuji! Was awfully tired of constantly dragging 40 pounds of gear around with me and had pretty much lost my zeal and zest for spontaneous photography. Fell really hard for the x100s after testing it on a three-week trip to Munich and Paris two years ago –only camera I brought with me. Came home with the best images of my life. Sold off all the Nikon gear, picked up an x-Pro2 when it came out and am now a very happy Fuji-x guy who found the joy of photography again in these soulful little image-capturing beasts! The new x100f brings it all together beautifully, as you have so eloquently shown here. And now I am helping a friend and fairly new photographer find his way to Fuji-land as I hand over my lovingly-used but still-wonderful x100s to get him on the path.

    Kudos to you for having some of the most gorgeous and helpfully illustrative photos to accompany your review of the x100f. This is what a review should be — how does it feel in use and what are the results! Most appreciated!

  4. Very interesting initial thoughts about x100f, and how it can be used by a new photographer to improve seeing through simplicity, thanks!
    And then the dilemma becomes, black or silver? I think I go black..

  5. I enjoyed reading your article on Fujifilm X100F. Plenty of stuff in the article. Shoot it right the first time. No need photoshop.

    I have a X100S. Can’t leave home without it.

  6. Thanks for your review Olaf. While I’m looking for advices to consolidate my choice about the x100f, I’m discovering great photographers. Keep going.

  7. Thanks Olaf for the review. I have been using the x100s for some years now. How is the autofocus speed of the x100f compared to the x100s ?

    Regards
    Marcello

  8. Olaf, superb pictures – some of the colour ones remind me Saul Leiter.
    Question: I have the X100T. Is the F significantly quicker to autofocus?
    many thanks David

  9. hi Olaf
    great article and many super shots – especially the yellow tiled wall with the light patterns and the black car in the foreground with the chrome trim!

    one key question: I’ve got the X100T – how much of an improvement is the autofocus on the X100F ? I read conflicting reports – and does it generally feel significantly more reactive?

    thanks! David

  10. Hi Olaf, nice article. I’m curious about your remark on the X100F viewfinder vs the Xpro2. You say the Pro2 finder is feels more ‘cramped’? I think the magnification is the same no? One of the reasons I can think of is that the Pro2 has to cater for several focal lengths and has two different lenses to do this. One lens optimised for a 35mm lens and the other for 18mm. That means that the 23mm frame lines are shown in the viewfinders ‘wide’ mode. Since this mode also accommodates for 18mm and actually covers all the way out to 16mm, there is a lot of space around the 23mm frame lines. Sometimes a good thing but probably means it’s a little bit more difficult to use a 23mm lens with the rangefinder compared to the X100 where the finder can be optimised for a single focal length.

    Same goes for 50 and 56mm. The ‘normal’ rangefinder mode is optimised for a 35mm lens so anything longer than that will appear smaller.

    Conclusion: the ideal focal lengths for the Xpro2 optical finder is 18mm and 35mm (28 and 50 equivalent). Personally I think 23mm also works fine but won’t be as perfect as the x100 which can optimise for that focal length.

    What’s your opinion on the Xpro2 electronic finder vs the X100F electronic finder?

  11. I ditched my DLSR Nikon almost a year ago. BEST decision EVER!!! I have the Fuji-Film XT1 and I absolutely love it. I will never go back. Excellent review and LOVE your work!! Bravo..

    1. Daniel,

      There is no question that shooting with two similar cameras (almost identical setup) is much easier. Fujifilm has done a good job trying to unify the X-series cameras. I would certainly get the X-T2 – along with your X100F – it should be a truly great combo. I personally shoot with the X-Pro2 and the X100F.

      All the best,

      Olaf

  12. Hi Olaf,

    I find myself in broad agreement with what you say a lot of the time. I also migrated away from DSLR and even the X-T1’s form factor in favour of the X-Pro2, but I got tired of waiting for an X100F. My hands got so used to the X-Pro2 ergonomics and performance, the X100S seemed like stepping back in time. So, I bought a 23/2, which I think is great. So great, in fact, I bought the 35/2 on a whim and run it in parallel with the 35/1.4.

    But the question now is do I sell the 23mm and one of the 35mm lenses to buy a X100F? I still like the idea of the X100 as a standalone camera and use that focal length more than enough to justify a dedicated camera for the task, but I like the 23/2, too. Also, I’m struggling with which of the two 35mm lenses to part with (a first-world problem if ever there was one): I like both in different ways: the 35/2 is weathersealed, and it focuses quieter and faster, but I prefer the contrast on the 35/1.4. I feel uncomfortable owning two lenses at the same focal length, and I don’t need back-up. What would you do, here?

  13. Thanks for the unique and unbiased perspective in both the review itself as well as the inspiring video. I was also inspired by your unique vision as it is shown in both the photos that you included as well as the video, you really take the extraordinary out of the ordinary. As a Fujifilm fan myself (still using the X100T, waiting for my F!) I’m working on a new website http://www.X100F.com where I try to only include curated and high quality content regarding this exciting new camera. I’ve just included this review (and video) there. Keep on the good work.

  14. Hi, great article. Thanks for the detail. I’m looking to buy a new camera. I can afford either the x pro 2 or x100f. What do you recommend? Can I get an x100f look shot from an x pro2? I like the idea of the weatherproofing, but the compactness of the x100f is tempting. I’d probably only by one x pro 2 lens initially.

  15. did you have a chance to test the new WCL and TCLs as well? I understand they have electronic contacts which is good but do they still have the same annoying screwing and unscrewing of rings or has the mechanism become easier?

  16. Thank you for your excellent review and interesting video. Your pictures are great as always! I shoot with the X-pro2 and 23mm f/2 now, so it is weather sealed. Still it is a bigger camera, and I am really happy that the X100 model has been update to the same great user interface and electronics. It’s an excellent camera. I came from the X100s and T.

  17. Thanks for a very informative review! One thing I didn’t like about the X100T, which is otherwise pretty much my favourite digital camera, is the way the menus are displayed in the Viewfinder modes – e.g., if you’re in Viewfinder Only mode and hit the Menu button, the menu also appears in the EVF, which is rarely what I want. I could change View Mode to use the menu, of course, then cycle back through all the other modes to get back to where I started, but this is rather fiddly. Or I could use the Eye Control mode, but that means the live image is continuously displayed on the rear LCD, which tends to drain the battery. I’d love either to have some way to override this (e.g. a ‘Menus always default to rear LCD’ option), or just have the menu display work the same way as image playback, which even in Viewfinder Only mode defaults to the rear LCD unless your eye is actually at the viewfinder. Does menu display on the X100F work the same way as on the X100T, or have they changed anything?

  18. Very interesting to see you walk around and photograph the same city where I spend my time – very inspiring! I agree with you my X100 (the original) and my X-t1 with the 56 are my favourite options (even though I have the 14 & 35f2 for the latter).

  19. Hi– I have one on order and have been devouring reviews– I really am blown away by the photographs you included in this post. They really solidified my faith in this new camera (using the old lens from previous x100t). Really, really amazing eye and photographs. Would you be open to sharing more about your presets/post processing. How did you achieve the contrasty look in your photos?

  20. I sold my X100s a bit more than a year ago (feeling slow, no wifi, stressful AF, a bit annoying to change the adapters) and went for a used X-E2 with the XF16-55 f2.8 and the XF55-200. It was really great to have zooms during our vacation: I could take many pictures absolutely impossible to take with the X100s.

    However, I miss the simplicity and compact size of the X100s for all the other times when I am not really traveling.
    Now I am hesitating wildly between adding the X100F or a couple of primes…

    Having a second small body is very nice, especially when the 55-200 is mounted (the 23mm of the X100 then covers most wider opportunities).
    But for the price of the X100F I could also get an XF23mm f2 (or even the f1.4) and a second hand XF56mm.
    (I am probably going to sell the XF35mm f2 I had: I am not very comfortable with this focal length after all)

    Any thoughts?

  21. Fantastic stuff Olaf. I really enjoyed the video showing your process as well. I sadly sold my beloved x100T, with really good resale I might add, in order to fund the new x100F though. Cheers.

  22. I have been using an X10 and an X30 for about 3-4 years and it gives me the same sense of joy and freedom as you are describing. These have provided me with some beautiful photos and you can see my galleries of some of these at pbase.com. But I want a larger sensor so I have returned to my Canon dslr with a 35mm f2 lens to have at least an APS-C sensor size. Now I am in Europe for a month with only the Canon and I really miss my little X30. Here I am with the heavy DSLR that is no fun to carry around and gives me so much less joy. Thank you for your article which has helped me realize these things and get me one step closer to getting an X100(f).

      1. I have to agree with Olaf’s comments about the 100 series viewfinder seeming “larger” than any other x-series camera.

  23. What a great article! I also “bond” with my camera equipment. The “seeing” through the camera is that bond. If I don’t it gets sold. It is a difficult state of mind to describe, but you have done a great job. I’m probably a bit crazy, but I take pictures “in my mind” even when I don’t have a camera.

    Which brings me to the point of wanting the X100, it is smaller than my other Fujifilm cameras. I’d be more likely to have the X100 with me all of the time.

    Thanks for the great preview/review of the X100F. It is next on my list.

  24. Excellent review! I’ll be headed to Vancouver first week in February and wondered if you could recommend a camera store that would have most of the Fuji gear. I’ve been a long time follower of your blog and it’s the main reason I picked up the x100S. Have yet to see a Xpro2 in person. Thanks for your input and your awesome blog!

    Chris

    >

  25. Thanks, Olaf. Great review and, as always, great pictures. I agree to that the X100F should have weather sealing. Still, it would make a nice companion for my X-T1. However, beside the impressive price tag, I’m a bit sceptical regarding the firmware update policy, since the X100T (and I believe the X100S too) received not many updates for being a top-of-the-line model.

    For the time being, I’ll wait and save money 🙂

    1. Peter,

      Appreciate you kind comment. I don’t think you should worry about the firmware policy. The firmware on the copy I tested was excellent (the best in any pre-production camera I have ever tested) and I know there was at least one update since then.

      Saving money is always good 🙂

      Cheers,

      Olaf

  26. As an X100S owner and former Vancouver resident, I was really interested in your review and pictures; thank you for your effort. The thing that caught my eye was your comment about an X100 with a 56mm lens, That’s what I’ve long been hoping for: an X100 that offers a wide view, complemented by another reaching out to 80-90mm (35mm equiv). My solution right now is to carry the X100 and my X-T1 with the 56, but wouldn’t it be great to have an X100 over each shoulder?

    Will I move up to an X100F? Sorry, despite the improvements in the new camera, I’m still more than satisfied with my “old” -S technology!

    1. Phil,

      It is always great to hear from a fellow Vancouverite. You are right with your observations regarding a 56mm lens. Let’s hope that Fujifilm will go this route. It would be so nice to have two small cameras!

      All the best,

      Olaf

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