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Contax N Digital vs Nikon D300S

The Contax N Digital and the Nikon D300S are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2002 and July 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (N Digital) and an APS-C (D300S) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon 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
Contax N Digital versus Nikon D300S
Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
6.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 720/24p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 200k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 7 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
100 shots per battery charge950 shots per battery charge
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 147 x 115 x 81 mm, 938 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D300S? 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 Contax N Digital and the Nikon D300S. 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.

Size Contax N Digital vs Nikon D300S
Compare N Digital versus D300S top
Comparison N Digital or D300S rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D300S is notably smaller (19 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the D300S is markedly lighter (5 percent) than the N Digital. It is noteworthy in this context that the D300S is splash and dust-proof, while the N Digital does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D300S, Nikon provides the MB-D10 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

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.
 
Contax N Digital 152 mm 138 mm 80 mm 990 g 100 n Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
3.
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 855 g 620 n Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Nikon D500 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i
12.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
13.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
14.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
15.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
16.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999i
17.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
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 D300S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 76 percent) than the N Digital, which puts it into a different market segment. 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 Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D300S an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D300S is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Contax N Digital and Nikon D300S sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the D300S offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the D300S is much more recent (by 7 years and 5 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D300S implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D300S for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D300S are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.

N Digital versus D300S 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"). 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.
 
Contax N Digital Full Frame 6.1 3040 2008none........
2.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
3.
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
4.
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704none21.811.095463
6.
 
Canon D60 APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none........
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
9.
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
10.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
11.
 
Nikon D500 APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
12.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
13.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
14.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
15.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
16.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........
17.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D300S indeed provides for movie recording, while the N Digital does not. The highest resolution format that the D300S can use is 720/24p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The N Digital and the D300S are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the D300S offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the N Digital (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Contax N Digital and Nikon D300S 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.
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y 2.0 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 n n
2.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon Rebeloptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
5.
 
Canon 1Dsoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n n
6.
 
Canon D60optical Y 1.8 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
9.
 
Leica SL4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n
10.
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
11.
 
Nikon D500optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
12.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
16.
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D300S has one, while the N Digital does not. While the built-in flash of the D300S is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D300S 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 N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D300S uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D300S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the N Digital only has one slot.

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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 Contax N Digital and Nikon D300S 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.
 
Contax N DigitalY-----FW---
2.
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 10DY-----1.1---
4.
 
Canon RebelY-----1.1---
5.
 
Canon 1DsY-----FW---
6.
 
Canon D60Y-----1.1---
7.
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
9.
 
Leica SLYstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D500YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYY
12.
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D100Y-----1.1---
17.
 
Nikon D1XY-----FW---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the N Digital and the D300S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300S was replaced by the Nikon D500, while the N Digital 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 Contax and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Contax N Digital better than the Nikon D300S or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Contax N Digital:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.63x).
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Nikon D300S:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 41%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 200k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x115mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (76 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 5 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D300S is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 3 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.

N Digital 03:14 D300S

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D300S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing 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 N Digital and the D300S in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

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.
 
Contax N Digital.......... Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
3.
 
Canon 10D....+ +.... Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel....+ +.... Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds....+ +.... Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60....+ +o.. Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5....4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL4/5..84/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9......4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Nikon D5005/5+ +91/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i
12.
 
Nikon D70004/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
13.
 
Nikon D700..89/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
14.
 
Nikon D300..+ ++ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
15.
 
Nikon D200..+ ++ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699i
16.
 
Nikon D100....+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999i
17.
 
Nikon D1X....+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999i
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.

Contax N Digital:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D300S:
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: Contax N Digital vs Nikon D300S

    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 Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 July 2009
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 1,799
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 6.1 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 70
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 787
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 7 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector Firewire USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D300S
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type 4xAA EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)100 shots per charge950 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    147 x 115 x 81 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 938 g (33.1 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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