Leica S1 Contax Camera Comparison
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Leica S1 vs Nikon D700

The Leica S1 Pro and the Nikon D700 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 1996 and July 2008. The S1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D700 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a medium format (S1) and a full frame (D700) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica S1 versus Nikon D700
Leica S1 Nikon D700
Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica R mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
26.4 MP, Medium Format Sensor 12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 200-6,400 (100 - 25,600)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
no LCD 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
no rear screen Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.01 shutter flaps per second 8 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
339 x 214 x 119 mm, 2500 g 147 x 123 x 77 mm, 1074 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro and the Nikon D700? 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 Leica S1 and the Nikon D700 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Leica S1 vs Nikon D700
Compare S1 versus D700 top
Comparison S1 or D700 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D700 is considerably smaller (75 percent) than the Leica S1. Moreover, the D700 is substantially lighter (57 percent) than the S1. It is noteworthy in this context that the D700 is splash and dust-proof, while the S1 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica R Lens Catalog (S1) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D700). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Leica S1, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
2.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
3.
 
Canon RP 133 mm 85 mm 70 mm 485 g 250 n Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon 250D 122 mm 93 mm 70 mm 449 g 1070 n Apr 2019 599 i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 118 mm 83 mm 47 mm 383 g 380 n Feb 2019 899 i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica CL 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica TL2 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 399 g 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249i
10.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
11.
 
Nikon D810 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299i
12.
 
Nikon D800 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999i
13.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
14.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
15.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
16.
 
Sony A6400 120 mm 67 mm 50 mm 403 g 410 Y Jan 2019 899 i
17.
 
Sony A6100 120 mm 67 mm 59 mm 396 g 420 n Aug 2019 749 i
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 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 D700 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 86 percent) than the S1, 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. 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 size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 Leica S1 features a medium format sensor and the Nikon D700 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D700 is 34 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.85 and 1.0. The sensor in the S1 has a native 1:1 aspect ratio, while the one in the D700 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica S1 and Nikon D700 sensor measures

With 26.4MP, the S1 offers a higher resolution than the D700 (12.1MP), but the S1 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.01μm versus 8.43μm for the D700). Moreover, the D700 is a much more recent model (by 11 years and 10 months) than the S1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the S1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica S1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.7 x 25.7 inches or 65.3 x 65.3 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.6 x 20.6 inches or 52.2 x 52.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.1 x 17.1 inches or 43.5 x 43.5 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D700 are 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica S1 Pro has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D700 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.

S1 versus D700 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-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.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
2.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
3.
 
Canon RP Full Frame 26.2 6240 41604K/30p........
4.
 
Canon 250D APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/25p........
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 APS-C 26.0 6240 41604K/30p........
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p........
7.
 
Leica CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........
8.
 
Leica TL2 APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
10.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
11.
 
Nikon D810 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
12.
 
Nikon D800 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
13.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
14.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
15.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
16.
 
Sony A6400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p2413.6143183
17.
 
Sony A6100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p........
The D700 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The S1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The S1 and the D700 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica S1, the Nikon D700, 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.
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n
2.
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon RP2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
4.
 
Canon 250Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T302360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y n
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
7.
 
Leica CL2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
8.
 
Leica TL2optional n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 7.0 n n
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
10.
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
11.
 
Nikon D810optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D800optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
14.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
15.
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
16.
 
Sony A64002359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
17.
 
Sony A61001440 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the D700, but is missing on the S1 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The Nikon D700 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 S1 writes its imaging data to external storage, while the D700 uses Compact Flash 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 Leica S1 Pro and Nikon D700 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.
 
Leica S1----------
2.
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon RPYstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon 250DYstereomonoY-mini2.0Y-Y
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30YstereomonoY-micro3.1Y-Y
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono----2.0---
7.
 
Leica CLYstereomono----Y--
8.
 
Leica TL2Ystereomono--micro3.0Y--
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
10.
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D810YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
12.
 
Nikon D800YmonomonoYYmini3.0---
13.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony A6400YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY
17.
 
Sony A6100YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY

It is notable that the D700 has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The S1 does not feature such an accessory-socket.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D700 (unlike the S1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S1 and the D700 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S1 was replaced by the Leica S2, while the D700 was followed by the Nikon D800. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Leica S1 better than the Nikon D700 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica S1 Pro:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (26.4 vs 12.1MP) with a 42% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 1996).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D700:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x123mm vs 339x214mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1426g or 57 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • 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.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (86 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 11 years and 10 months of technical progress since the S1 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D700 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 5 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.

S1 05:13 D700

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 and the Nikon D700 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the S1 or the D700 perform in practice. 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 hands-on reviews by experts 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.
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490i
2.
 
Nikon D700..89/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
3.
 
Canon RP4/5+..4.5/54/5 Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon 250D..o79/1004/54/5 Apr 2019 599 i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T305/5+ +84/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2019 899 i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240.......... Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica CL........4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica TL23.5/5....4/54/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249i
10.
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
11.
 
Nikon D8105/5..86/1005/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299i
12.
 
Nikon D8005/5+ +82/1005/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999i
13.
 
Nikon D3S5/5..89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
14.
 
Nikon D3X....86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
15.
 
Nikon D3....+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
16.
 
Sony A64004/5+85/1004.5/54/5 Jan 2019 899 i
17.
 
Sony A6100....82/1004/55/5 Aug 2019 749 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica S1:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D700:
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica S1 vs Nikon D700

    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 Leica S1 Nikon D700
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica R mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date August 1996 July 2008
    Launch Price USD 21,490 USD 2,999
    Sensor Specs Leica S1 Nikon D700
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 36.0 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 1296 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 50.9 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 0.85x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 26.4 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5140 x 5140 pixels 4256 x 2832 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.01 μm 8.43 μm
    Pixel Density 2.04 MP/cm2 1.40 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 25,600 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 80
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 23.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 2303
    Screen Specs Leica S1 Nikon D700
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.72x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution no LCD 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S1 Nikon D700
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.01 shutter flaps/s 8 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium external CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica S1 Nikon D700
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector no USB USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S1 Nikon D700
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type external EN-EL3e
    Body Dimensions 339 x 214 x 119 mm
    (13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
    147 x 123 x 77 mm
    (5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 2500 g (88.2 oz) 1074 g (37.9 oz)

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