Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Discuss cameras, settings, composition, or anything related to photography - cactus or other subjects.
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LLLcacti
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Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

Im a total photo-noob(I have a cellphone that takes kinda crappy pix) I have $600 USD to spend on a camera and lenses(been saving for the new iphone, but this seems like a better use) I would like a camera in the realm of what the National Geographic guys use, But Im about 99.9% certain thats not happening on $600. So if someone could help with a name/features to look for in a camera I would be very much obliged. That being said I am a photo-freak. I love taking as many photos as possible to select the best(storage space doesnt matter. I have a 3TB HD dedicated to photos) I know I need a macro lens( I also collect and grow mushrooms so I need it for the gills) I would like a telephoto lens with a 150mm or wider opening for landscape shots(I do ALOT of nature hiking, I doubt thats happening though) Lastly I need something that that can take excellent still photos(I will randomly have a female friend want to have a photo-shoot to show off some clothes she designed). I understand that each of the options I want are pretty much in contrary to the other, and I'll most likely need a lens for each one(and that lens's are EXPENSIVE :-P) so thats why I'm coming to ask you all. If I can get the names/Types Or anything I can look locally in Pawn-shops and Cash Exchangers....Ect...ect.

Thank you for the help

Recalculated my budget, I can spend $738 after the 5th of next month :-D
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DaveW
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by DaveW »

Most of the National Geographic pictures you see were taken on cameras below the specification of DSLR's most armatures use now. Modern DSLR cameras are in fact "overkill" for most photography. I think you mean you want an 155mm + focal length or longer telephoto with a wide aperture for landscape shots since it's the f-number that indicates the aperture. In fact for landscape shots, which unlike birds don't move, wide apertures are not necessary since slower shutter speeds can be used on a tripod.

As telephoto's get longer their maximum apertures usually get smaller because very large apertures are too costly to produce. That is because in theory with camera lenses the f-number simply indicates how many times the diameter of the f-number or f-stop steps into the focal length to produce the same light transmission at the sensor/film plane. A 50mm lens for an f2 maximum aperture would therefore theoretically only need a 25mm sized front element (50 divided by 2) to pass the same quantity of light to the sensor, whereas a 1000mm lens with an f2 maximum aperture (1000 divided by 2) would need a 500mm front element to obtain the same illumination at the sensor/film, very expensive and not very portable!

The most flexible camera type for your needs is a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) since it takes detachable lenses. Bridge cameras are good but you are stuck with a fixed lens, though these are very good these days. Personally I would go for makes like Canon or Nikon as they have the greatest range of specialised lenses and a lot of quality lenses available second-hand.

Do not ignore the second-hand market, most amateurs do not abuse their equipment, either cameras or lenses, and you can pick up more for your money that way, probably including a macro lens. EBAY is a good source since people are obsessed with extra megapixels therefore must have the latest high megapixel camera, which makes no difference to their pictures if not printed out to house door sized prints since your computer screen only has the resolution of a two to three megapixel camera anyway. 8+ megapixels is more than good enough for usual sized prints and posting online. A friend of mine has bought a 24 megapixel camera and says his pictures are no different but the file sizes now being produced are horrendous for what he really requires.

A larger sensor (as in DSLR's) is in fact more desirable than more megapixels. A 10 megapixel DSLR will produce better pictures than a 16 megapixel compact camera, or a 41 megapixel smartphone. Too many small megapixel sites on a small sensor leads to more image noise, the equivalent of grain in film photography. Noise reduction software, either in camera or post processing, simply softens or blurs the image to hide it thus reducing resolution your supposedly trying to obtain with more megapixels.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/photograph ... y-cameras/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

This is from a 10 megapixel camera (click on image to enlarge) and you are viewing at about 3-4 megapixel resolution on your computer screen since that's all the resolution the screen can show even if a 24 megapixel camera were used.
Turbinicarpus polaskii.jpg
Turbinicarpus polaskii.jpg (49.2 KiB) Viewed 6412 times
I should have said, high quality lenses will make more difference to your images than expensive cameras with all their "bells and whistles" since it is the lens that produces the picture. The camera is virtually just a "black box" behind the lens it as long as it has a reasonable quality and sized sensor.
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LLLcacti
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

AWESOME! Thank you for this info!

I looked up some canon's and nikon's(super pricey!) but I found a couple of local canon's on Craigslist(still waiting on the people to reply). I did get a little confused with all the options that some of them have(there were so many letter I thought I was reading a VIN # from a car) I know I want a Camera body that will allow me to interchange lenses. You're saying that one with the biggest light sensor would be best right? How would I check the light sensor size? Also, http://www.walmart.com/ip/Canon-18-MP-5 ... A/15754553" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; was listed on Craigslist for $175 but it is just the body with no lenses. The F/2.8 so with that I would need a (357.14mm) lens to capture what a 1000mm lens would do? Or is my math all wrong and I gotta re-read everything? :-P
I have yet to hit the pawn-shops and colleges(Digital photography students usually drop out after they realize how hard it is to use Photoshop) Furthermore, (in a conversation with my mother)I discovered that a distant cousin of mine is a wedding photographer somewhere in Arizona(So I was thinking of having him shop around for me and just send him the $ and get the part UPS'd...assuming he can find any second-hand) At the moment a new camera is not a priority, so if I shift around some things in my budget and drastically cut back on others I could save and save till I have enough to make a larger purchase(assuming I can find one second-hand) Thanks for putting up with all my questions.
The blind are truly blessed for there is no sight as marvelous as murals painted in their minds,
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DaveW
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by DaveW »

I will try and keep it simple. Generally speaking with DSLR's there are only two sensor sizes. When the DSLR was introduced to replace the 35mm film camera sensors were very expensive to produce so they settled on a smaller sensor than the size of 35mm film that was known as APS-C size (a term borrowed from an obsolete film of the same size known as Advanced Photo System - C). Most DSLR cameras amateurs use up to present are of this cheaper APS-C size sensor. However as sensors became cheaper to produce manufacturers are now stepping up to what is known as Full Frame sensors which equal the size of 35mm film, but they are still more expensive. Compact cameras and Bridge Cameras, along with smart phones, usually use smaller sensors, but you want a detachable lens camera so just the choice of two sensor sizes. My previous picture was taken on a 10 Megapixel Nikon D200 with an APS-C sized sensor. Whether you need the larger Full Frame sensor for your requirements is debatable.

http://www.gizmag.com/camera-sensor-size-guide/26684/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

As said before, modern cameras have many "bells and whistles" some of doubtful use to most of us. The advent of the computer chip in cameras has allowed them to make buttons multifunctional whose functions can be changed in the menu, unlike old film cameras when you knew a button or lever only performed a single purpose.

Do you need all the functions, it's doubtful but depends on your photography. My camera like most these days has a motor drive function for taking multiple fast shots like a machine gun, which being a single shot close up or macro photography I have never ever used in the all years I have had it. Many people buy "an all singing, all dancing camera" try all the options once and then never use them again. You have to remember photography is not about cameras or lenses, but recording the image before the lens as you want it. If a "Box Brownie" can do what you want you don't need a multi-thousand dollar Hasselblad.

Decide what are your real interests in photography then research the functions and lenses needed for it and ignore all the "useless bells and whistles". Unfortunately you get many of theses as standard these days, but don't let a few functions you will never use influence your buying choices.

http://digital-photography-school.com/h ... lr-camera/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Though when buying new, kits are often a cheap way to get started as they come with a standard zoom lens, I always buy body only and buy the lens I really need separately, often from a different dealer giving a better price on that lens, which is the advantage of detachable lens cameras.

There is a lot of confusion on lenses used on different sensor sizes. You will often see statements like "a 100mm lens becomes a 150mm lens on an APS-C sensor". No it does not, it's still a 100mm lens! The angle of view (often called the Crop Factor) changes to what a 150 mm lens would have produced on a full frame 35mm film camera or Full frame sensor. The reason is photographers have got so used to thinking in terms of lenses on 35mm film cameras they now think of that as the norm for that focal length, but a 100mm lens on a medium format camera produces a completely different angle of view to than on either a 35mm camera or an APS-C one. See:-

http://digital-photography-school.com/c ... explained/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://digital-photography-school.com/w ... lens-mean/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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LLLcacti
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

Thanks DaveW, I have began checking our some specs....So far I think I like canon over nikon(pricey, but better reviews) I looked for DSLR with a full frame sensor(might aswell get the bigger sensor) most inexpensive one I found was the canon 6D. I need to begin looking around locally for one(I'm certain I will find one eventually) As far as lenses, I found a few macro's 50mm, 100mm and 150mm(if the price is any indication of the quality/ability to zoom for clarity I would want the 150mm, no?) keep in mind I take photos of mushrooms, hyphae(the webbing produced by spores, usually 1/10th the with of a human hair), Also I would like to print a few photographs to about 24'' x 32'' (in searching for a camera I found out that they have a photogallery where I can display some prints) Who knows, I could blow up a photo of mycelium and end up making a nice abstract photo?(typical day-dream :-P) anyways as far as standard photos(my "model" friend who wants her clothing line pix) just about any standard cheap lens will do. the landscape ones I will google for the info I need for that one. Again...Thanks for your patience and putting up will all my amateur questions(I know they can be frustrating....I used to do PC and MAC tech support...)
The blind are truly blessed for there is no sight as marvelous as murals painted in their minds,
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DaveW
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by DaveW »

Regarding macro lenses, there are no true zoom macro lenses these days, the last one by Nikon a 70-180mm Micro Nikkor was withdrawn years ago and now often sells for more second-hand than it did new. The so called macro zooms are all really just conventional zooms with a close up facility provided. Macro lenses are usually fixed focal length going down to 1:1 magnification or life size on the sensor. Macro lenses come in various focal length ranges as you say, 50mm-60mm, 100mm-150mm or 180mm-200mm. The longer lens the further you can be away from the subject for the same magnification (known as working distance).

The difference between a true macro lens and macro zoom is that conventional lenses are computed for optimum optical performance at infinity and get slightly worse as you focus closer. Whereas a true macro lens is usually computed for peak optical performance at around one meter and get's slightly worse as it focuses to infinity. As least that's the theory, but you are unlikely to see any difference in image quality either close up or at infinity from a proper macro lens since they are all built to a higher optical standard than most zooms and kit lenses.

As to focal length, shortest is always cheapest, so the 50mm-60mm range will cost less and 180mm-200mm the most. What you require depends on what you wish to take. For static subjects like mushrooms working distance is not a problem since they don't fly away if you get too close like insects. For insects however longer focal length macro lenses like the 100mm-150mm range are preferred since you don't have to get too close to spook the insect.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/gds/Macro-Lens-Bu ... 636/g.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I don't know if you have ever tried macro photography, but would warn you it's not point and shoot like conventional photography. The higher the magnification the more the depth of field decreases, sometimes to only a millimetre or less. Some conventional photographers can never get on with such shallow depths of field and give up even after buying all the gear required. It is quite a long learning curve at high magnifications and often you have to resort to things like Focus Stacking to get the depth of field you desire, particularly if you wanted to photograph a single hyphae with any clarity. Just pointing a macro lens at a single hyphae 1/10th thickness of a human hair with a hand held camera and blasting away is sure to be a failure, Focus Stacking on a proper stacking rig would pretty well be essential, then you may even need a microscope lens on bellows to achieve decent results.

http://www.dpreview.com/articles/306490 ... hotography" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.creativepro.com/article/how- ... epth-field" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The golden rule with macro photography is start at smaller magnifications and as you get used to dealing with small depths of field gradually increase the magnification. Try and produce a picture of a single hyphae with your macro lens from the start and you will be very disappointed. Also lighting control becomes even more important in revealing detail in macro work, just blasting away with on camera flash produces poor images. Afraid macro photography is one of those disciplines where you need to "hurry slowly", and "not run before you can walk".
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LLLcacti
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

Thanks, I figure with macro I'm not even at a crawl so walking would be an improvement. I do know that I need the gear so I can learn how to use it properly(Im a hand-on type learner) I would like one for insects and other creatures....But thats not necessary. as far as external lighting that is not a problem(I have some lamps with dimmer switches and different colored paper & gel covers. Old DJ equipment donated to me)
The blind are truly blessed for there is no sight as marvelous as murals painted in their minds,
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DaveW
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by DaveW »

Last thing I want is to suppress your enthusiasm, rather to save you disappointment and just avoid you spending money on equipment you don't need and may regret buying later. Best way is to ease yourself into the subject with a decent DSLR and a macro lens and then add equipment when you have mastered the basics and feel you need it. The 50mm-60mm macro lenses are basically OK for static subjects like plants etc. The classic focal lengths for photographing insects are the 100mm-135mm range which will photograph both insects and plants and is the most popular macro lens range.

When you get to magnifications above about 5X (for say hyphae etc) you need precision equipment to move the camera in millimetre or sub-millimetre steps for Focus Stacking. Rigs you often have to construct yourself out of timber or metal and available parts since they are not available off the shelf, apart from parts like the very expensive micrometre camera slides etc. As an example:-

http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/v ... hp?t=17936" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art ... stack.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://extreme-macro.co.uk/stackshot/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

At high magnification camera shake can be a problem, even somebody walking in the next room can cause it, which is why flash is often used to freeze the subject since the flash duration is far shorter at 20,000th of a second or faster than any normal cameras fastest shutter speed.

As said before, not sure you need the expense of a full frame DSLR for your work rather than the more common ASP-C sized sensored ones, but of course full frame is the way DSLR's are going in future.
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LLLcacti
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

AWESOME, so for the time being single hyphea photographs are going to be out of my reach. Perhaps one day(day dreaming again :-P) well for my immediate goals basic macro is perfect. I would like to do some 100X Microscopic photos(but that will have to wait until I have a solid and stable rig) I figure that I spent $400 on a family Video camera(for birthdays mainly) and then $200 for each of the 2 little crappy pocket style cams. I could have purchased a good full-sized sensor DSLR body for that(used of course) I have a bit of good news also....I never play the lottery, but I decided to buy a $2 ticket yesterday for the hell of it...I won $50 :-D so Now Im $50 closer to my camera :-P More than anything I want the Camera for photographs that can be published in books.(I know a few college professors who publish Field-guides(Plants, Mushrooms, Rocks/stones, Fish, Birds, Insects...Ect.), art books(Building designs of Mexico, Machu pichu...Ect.), and other books that require great quality photographs) I'd like to be able to provide them those photos(also it never hurts to have your name published in books as a photographer.) But thats kind of a side goal....Not necessary but It would be nice :-P Plus an all expense paid trip to the Photograph site(assuming the Photo is not already in my Collection) :-P
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7george
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by 7george »

Buying a DSLR camera will not make you a professional or even semi-professional in this area. Even this could make you get disappointed of this hobby.

After using of cell phone camera you should go to a pocket one for $200 - 300, I recommend you Canon brand. These can make very decent images of everything having the right person behind. And after having some experience with that one you should move to those with exchangeable objectives. And of course you should read lot of theory about taking photos as well.
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LLLcacti
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

7george wrote:Buying a DSLR camera will not make you a professional or even semi-professional in this area. Even this could make you get disappointed of this hobby.

After using of cell phone camera you should go to a pocket one for $200 - 300, I recommend you Canon brand. These can make very decent images of everything having the right person behind. And after having some experience with that one you should move to those with exchangeable objectives. And of course you should read lot of theory about taking photos as well.
Well obviously I am not planning on becoming an expert over night [-X . I plan of having the gear then working on the art :-k (I'm a fairly patient person) I understand that it takes way more than just the equipment to make a professional(I never attested to be anything other than a newbie) I'm not a typical learner(I cant apply things I read directly) I'm a hands on learner(It really sucks...But I cant change that ](*,) ](*,) ](*,) ) While I retain about 80% of what I read I have to have a hands on type of environment in order to make things work(That being said once I grasp the concept hands on, reading will only help me to understand the theory and refine my actions/Method of Operation) At least that is what I have noticed with everything else that I learned(Mechanics, Diesel Mech, HVACR, Mycology, Aquaponics....Ect.)
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7george
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by 7george »

Well, it's up to you to decide how to practice photography. You should have several cameras in use - "all-in-one" approach doesn't work especially for these diverse areas you are aiming to. And hiking with a DSLR and all other stuff you should carry as well could be not (always) a good idea... Good luck and show us more breathtaking shots of yours....

Image
Sometimes sell phone cameras make decent photos like this one. And some of the leading cactus books could be full of low-quality illustrations.
If your cacti mess in your job just forget about the job.
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DaveW
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by DaveW »

Most modern entry level DSLR's are more than good enough to provide book illustrations. Modern entry level DSLR's are streets ahead of the cameras that were providing double page spreads in publications like National Geographic only a decade or so ago. The equipment is not the limitation, it's the photographer and their technical ability as George says.

Whilst macro photography of the type you aspire to is hands on to a certain extent, you do need to be able to read and apply the theory, particularly for problems like diffraction limitation at higher magnifications. If you only intend to stick to magnifications less than 1X there are not to many problems for the average photographer, but at higher magnifications it becomes increasing more science than conventional photography.

https://fstoppers.com/studio/fstoppers- ... appen-6022" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/te ... ction.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.janrik.net/insects/ExtendedD ... deoff.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I suggest you read up on the subject as George says before committing yourself to buying equipment. Here are two very good free to download primers on the subject:-

http://www.macro-photography.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.wildstockphotos.com/pdfs/Mac ... graphy.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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LLLcacti
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by LLLcacti »

Thank you both, I understand a bit more now. I would still need a camera body and reasonably decent Macro lens(to tinker with to locate the "sweet-spot")

@ George, I know, Hiking with a full survival pack is bad enough. I'm the Boyscout type too(Semper Paratus) so I usually over pack things.(fortunately Im a HUGE guy :-P) I really should lighten my load, but you never know what you might need that you cannot improvise. I really hate seeing people spend money on field-guides with crappy drawings.(That is why I would like to help these professor friends of mine.) I'd hate for them to publish a field-guide with low-end photos or crummy drawings they do not reflect what is found in nature(most wild plants look nothing like the drawings). Also message me a list of some of the hiking gear you recommend...Perhaps I have overlooked a few things? I really wouldnt mind you critiquing my survival pack! Lord knows it needs some help :-P

@DaveW, I have read the 3 top links...I get the diffraction concept, I get that I would need to keep f/ low but not too low. I havent read the primers yet. Because my lunch time is almost up. I'll try and hit them tonight after work.(unfortunately today is a working Saturday :-/) on the plus side when I work on holidays I charge and extra fee :-P(more camera money). Also, I will be working on macro shots of static items so that is pretty helpful.

P.S. My very first cactus(thelocactus setispinus) is about to give it's firs bloom...I'm pretty excited about that :-D so hopefully I can use the camera's I got to take something decent enough to post :-P
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SnowFella
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Re: Newbie upgrading from cellphone cam

Post by SnowFella »

I'd have to echo Dave and George's suggestions, take a step back and really figure out what you want to shoot before you dive in headfirst. A fancy new camera doesn't take fabulous shots, it's the nutter behind the camera that does!
Full frame DSLR's are mainly only of benefit if you are aiming towards low light, portraits or landscape style shooting.
Low light due to the lower noise the larger sesors bring, portraits due to the smaller depth of field and landscape from the wider field of view.
APS-C on the other hand comes in handy for things like wildlife with narrower field of view and I'd say macro shots due to the longer depth of field.

I do mainly wildlife, birding, and need the extra reach and high continuous shooting rate so I went with a camera that matches that style. For what you are looking at with fungi spores and the likes you would most likely have to rely on flashes or longer shutter speeds, a Canon 6D blows your budget by a fair margin even without a lens and likely wouldn't produce any better results than a T3i in capable hands.
Same with longer dedicated macro lenses, they cost a fortune and all they give over a shorter lens is extra distance to your subject. A 50mm 1:1 macro can be had new for a few $100 while a 150-200mm 1:1 macro will set you back more than 10 times that. I lust over Minolta's 200mm macro, haven't been made since the mid 90's and even a lens of that age will go for over 2 grand secondhand.

If you desperately want to go full frame in today's day and age the most affordable at the moment would be a Sony A7, it's mirrorless and full frame and allows through the use of adapters just about any old school manual lens..ideal for macro as it's almost always going to be done with manual focus anyways.

Take a step back, slow down and figure out exactly what you want before you buy something that you will regret. :wink:
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