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Canon S120 vs XSi

The Canon PowerShot S120 and the Canon EOS Rebel XSi (labelled Canon 450D in some countries) are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2013 and January 2008. The S120 is a fixed lens compact, while the XSi is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/1.7-inch (S120) and an APS-C (XSi) sensor. The S120 has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the XSi provides 12.2 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon S120 versus Canon XSi
Canon S120 Canon XSi
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 Canon EF mount lenses
12 MP, 1/1.7" Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/60p Video no Video
ISO 80-12,800 ISO 100-1,600
No viewfinder, LCD framing Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 3.0 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed touchscreen Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
12.1 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
230 shots per battery charge500 shots per battery charge
100 x 59 x 29 mm, 217 g 129 x 98 x 62 mm, 524 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot S120 and the Canon EOS Rebel XSi? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon S120 and the Canon XSi is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon S120 vs Canon XSi
Compare S120 versus XSi top
Comparison S120 or XSi rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon XSi is considerably larger (114 percent) than the Canon S120. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the S120 nor the XSi are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the S120 has a lens built in, whereas the XSi is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the XSi and their specifications in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the S120 gets 230 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the XSi can take 500 images on a single charge of its LP-E5 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon S120 100 mm 59 mm 29 mm 217 g 230 n Aug 2013 449i
2.
 
Canon XSi 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 524 g 500 n Jan 2008 799i
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II 98 mm 58 mm 31 mm 206 g 235 n Jan 2017 529 i
4.
 
Canon G9 X 98 mm 58 mm 31 mm 209 g 220 n Oct 2015 529i
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 116 mm 74 mm 66 mm 553 g 240 n Feb 2014 799i
6.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
7.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799i
8.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499i
9.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429i
10.
 
Canon T4i 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 575 g 440 n Jun 2012 849i
11.
 
Canon T3 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449i
12.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799i
13.
 
Canon 40D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299i
14.
 
Canon XTi 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 n Aug 2006 799i
15.
 
Nikon P7800 119 mm 78 mm 50 mm 399 g 350 n Sep 2013 549i
16.
 
Panasonic LF1 103 mm 62 mm 28 mm 192 g 250 n Apr 2013 499 i
17.
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The S120 was launched at a lower price than the XSi, despite having a lens built in. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon S120 features a 1/1.7-inch sensor and the Canon XSi an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the XSi is 665 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 4.5 and 1.6. The sensor in the S120 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the XSi offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon S120 and Canon XSi sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the XSi offers a higher resolution than the S120 (12MP), but the XSi nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.19μm versus 1.89μm for the S120) due to its larger sensor. However, the S120 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 6 months) than the XSi, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Canon PowerShot S120 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS Rebel XSi are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

S120 versus XSi MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the XSi has a markedly higher DXO score than the S120 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 1.1 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon S120 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.311.924656
2.
 
Canon XSi APS-C 12.2 4272 2848none21.910.869261
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p21.912.552265
4.
 
Canon G9 X 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p21.512.349563
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 1.5-inch 13.0 4160 31201080/30p21.510.858158
6.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.723054
7.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
8.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.516546
9.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.217947
10.
 
Canon T4i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.272262
11.
 
Canon T3 APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
12.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
13.
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364
14.
 
Canon XTi APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.066462
15.
 
Nikon P7800 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/30p21.211.720054
16.
 
Panasonic LF1 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.811.621152
17.
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.714750

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The S120 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the XSi does not. The highest resolution format that the S120 can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the XSi has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the S120 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon S120, the Canon XSi, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon S120none n 3.0 922 fixed Y 1/2000s 12.1 Y Y
2.
 
Canon XSioptical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark IInone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 8.2 Y Y
4.
 
Canon G9 Xnone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 6.0 Y Y
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIoptional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 5.2 Y Y
6.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
7.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
8.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
10.
 
Canon T4ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
11.
 
Canon T3optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
13.
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
14.
 
Canon XTioptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon P7800921 n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
16.
 
Panasonic LF1200 n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 10.0 Y Y
17.
 
Panasonic LX7optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The S120 has a touchscreen, while the XSi has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The Canon S120 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The S120 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the XSi uses SDHC cards. The S120 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the XSi cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon PowerShot S120 and Canon EOS Rebel XSi and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon S120-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
2.
 
Canon XSiY----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon G9 X-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
7.
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon T4iYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
11.
 
Canon T3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
14.
 
Canon XTiY-----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon P7800YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic LF1-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
17.
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the S120 offers wifi support, while the XSi does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

Both the S120 and the XSi have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The XSi was replaced by the Canon T1i, while the S120 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon S120 or the Canon XSi – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot S120:

  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.1 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12.1 vs 3.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the XSi requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (100x59mm vs 129x98mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the XSi).
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 6 months of technical progress since the XSi launch.


Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS Rebel XSi:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (500 versus 230) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in January 2008).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S120 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S120 14:08 XSi

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon S120 and the Canon XSi place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S120 and the XSi in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon S120..+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 449i
2.
 
Canon XSi..+ ++ +4/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799i
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II4/5..75/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2017 529 i
4.
 
Canon G9 X3.5/5+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Oct 2015 529i
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II3/5+77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799i
6.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
7.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
8.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499i
9.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429i
10.
 
Canon T4i4/5+ +77/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849i
11.
 
Canon T3..80/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449i
12.
 
Canon T1i..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799i
13.
 
Canon 40D..+ ++ +4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299i
14.
 
Canon XTi..+ ++ +o4/5 Aug 2006 799i
15.
 
Nikon P78003/5....4/54.5/5 Sep 2013 549i
16.
 
Panasonic LF13/5+..4/54.5/5 Apr 2013 499 i
17.
 
Panasonic LX73/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon S120:
Check Ebay offers
Canon XSi:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon S120 vs Canon XSi

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon S120 Canon XSi
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 Canon EF mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2013 January 2008
    Launch Price USD 449 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Canon S120 Canon XSi
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/1.7" Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 7.6 x 5.7 mm 22.2 x 14.8 mm
    Sensor Area 43.32 mm2 328.56 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 9.5 mm 26.7 mm
    Crop Factor 4.5x 1.6x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4272 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.89 μm 5.19 μm
    Pixel Density 27.70 MP/cm2 3.70 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Image Processor Digic 6 DIGIC 3
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 56 61
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.3 21.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.9 10.8
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 246 692
    Screen Specs Canon S120 Canon XSi
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.54x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen no Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon S120 Canon XSi
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peakingno Peaking Feature
    Continuous Shooting 12.1 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inno Intervalometer
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Canon S120 Canon XSi
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon S120 Canon XSi
    Battery Type NB-6LH LP-E5
    Battery Life (CIPA)230 shots per charge500 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 100 x 59 x 29 mm
    (3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in)
    129 x 98 x 62 mm
    (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
    Camera Weight 217 g (7.7 oz) 524 g (18.5 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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