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Canon SX50 vs Olympus E-PL3

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2012 and June 2011. The SX50 is a fixed lens compact, while the E-PL3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX50) and a Four Thirds (E-PL3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Olympus 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 SX50 versus Olympus E-PL3
Canon SX50 Olympus E-PL3
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5 Micro Four Thirds lenses
12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
1080/24p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 80-6,400 ISO 200-12,800
Electronic viewfinder (202k dots) Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 461k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
2.2 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
Lens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
315 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
123 x 87 x 106 mm, 595 g 110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and the Olympus PEN E-PL3? 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

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon SX50 and the Olympus E-PL3. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL3 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the SX50 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX50 vs Olympus E-PL3
Compare SX50 versus E-PL3 top
Comparison SX50 or E-PL3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL3 is considerably smaller (34 percent) than the Canon SX50. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX50 nor the E-PL3 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX50 has a lens built in, whereas the E-PL3 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 E-PL3 and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX50 gets 315 shots out of its NB-10L battery, while the E-PL3 can take 300 images on a single charge of its BLS-5 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 SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429i
2.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
3.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549i
4.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
5.
 
Canon S120 100 mm 59 mm 29 mm 217 g 230 n Aug 2013 449i
6.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799i
7.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499i
8.
 
Canon SX40 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 600 g 380 n Sep 2011 429i
9.
 
Canon SX30 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 601 g 370 n Sep 2010 429i
10.
 
Canon SX20 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Aug 2009 399i
11.
 
Canon SX10 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Sep 2008 399i
12.
 
Olympus E-PL5 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599i
13.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
14.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
15.
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499i
16.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599i
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 528 g 410 n Aug 2011 499i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The SX50 was launched at a lower price than the E-PL3, 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 SX50 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Olympus E-PL3 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PL3 is 704 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 2.0. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Canon SX50 and Olympus E-PL3 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the E-PL3 offers a higher resolution than the SX50 (12MP), but the E-PL3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 1.53μm for the SX50) due to its larger sensor. However, the SX50 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 2 months) than the E-PL3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

SX50 versus E-PL3 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the E-PL3 has a markedly higher DXO score than the SX50 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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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 SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.217947
2.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
3.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
4.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.723054
5.
 
Canon S120 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.311.924656
6.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
7.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.516546
8.
 
Canon SX40 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p........
9.
 
Canon SX30 1/2.3 14.0 4320 3240720/30p........
10.
 
Canon SX20 1/2.3 12.0 4000 3000720/30p........
11.
 
Canon SX10 1/2.3 10.0 3648 2736480/30p........
12.
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972
13.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
14.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
15.
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
16.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.410.913240

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the E-PL3 provides a faster frame rate than the SX50. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Canon is limited to 1080/24p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the SX50 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-PL3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the E-PL3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX50 and Olympus E-PL3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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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 SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
2.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
3.
 
Canon SX60922 n 3.0 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4 Y Y
4.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
5.
 
Canon S120none n 3.0 922 fixed Y 1/2000s 12.1 Y Y
6.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
7.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX40202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 10.3 Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX30202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.6 Y Y
10.
 
Canon SX20202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
11.
 
Canon SX10202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
12.
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
13.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
14.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
16.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0 Y Y

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The SX50 has one, while the E-PL3 does not. While the built-in flash of the SX50 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SX50 and the E-PL3 write their files to SDXC 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 SX50 HS and Olympus PEN E-PL3 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 SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX60YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
5.
 
Canon S120-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
6.
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon SX40Ystereomono--YES2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX30Ystereomono--YES2.0---
10.
 
Canon SX20Ystereomono--YES2.0---
11.
 
Canon SX10Ystereomono---2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereomono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo---mini2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo---mini2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo---mini2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic FZ150Ystereo---mini2.0---

Both the SX50 and the E-PL3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-PL3 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL5, while the SX50 was followed by the Canon SX60. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Olympus websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon SX50 better than the Olympus E-PL3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS:

  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the E-PL3 requires a separate lens.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 2 months after the E-PL3).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL3:

  • 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).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/24p).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.5 vs 2.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x64mm vs 123x87mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in June 2011).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-PL3 comes out slightly ahead of the SX50 (8 : 7 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision 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.

SX50 07:08 E-PL3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX50 and the Olympus E-PL3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SX50 and the E-PL3 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 SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429i
2.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
3.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549i
4.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
5.
 
Canon S120..+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 449i
6.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
7.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499i
8.
 
Canon SX40..+..4.5/54/5 Sep 2011 429i
9.
 
Canon SX303/5+ +..3.5/54/5 Sep 2010 429i
10.
 
Canon SX20..+ +73/100..4/5 Aug 2009 399i
11.
 
Canon SX10..+ +....4/5 Sep 2008 399i
12.
 
Olympus E-PL53/5+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
13.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/10074/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
14.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
15.
 
Olympus E-PM1..86/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 499i
16.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599i
17.
 
Panasonic FZ1503/5+ +76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2011 499i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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 SX50:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PL3:
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 SX50 vs Olympus E-PL3

    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 SX50 Olympus E-PL3
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5 Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2012 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 429 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon SX50 Olympus E-PL3
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.53 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 42.74 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/24p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 6,400 ISO 200 - 12,800 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 5 Truepic VI
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 47 52
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.3 20.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.2 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 179 499
    Screen Specs Canon SX50 Olympus E-PL3
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX50 Olympus E-PL3
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2.2 shutter flaps/s 5.5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX50 Olympus E-PL3
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX50 Olympus E-PL3
    Battery Type NB-10L BLS-5
    Battery Life (CIPA)315 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 123 x 87 x 106 mm
    (4.8 x 3.4 x 4.2 in)
    110 x 64 x 37 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 595 g (21.0 oz) 313 g (11.0 oz)

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