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Leica S1 vs Sony A7 II

The Leica S1 Pro and the Sony Alpha A7 II are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 1996 and November 2014. Both the S1 and the A7 II are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a medium format (S1) and a full frame (A7 II) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 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
Sony A7 II
Leica S1   Sony A7 II
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Leica R mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
26.4 MP, Medium Format Sensor 24 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-25,600 (50 - 51,200)
Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (2400k dots)
no LCD 3.0 LCD, 1230k dots
no rear screen Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.01 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
no shake reductionIn-body stabilization
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
339 x 214 x 119 mm, 2500 g 127 x 96 x 60 mm, 599 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro and the Sony Alpha A7 II? 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 Sony A7 II 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Leica S1 vs Sony A7 II
Compare S1 versus A7 II top
Comparison S1 or A7 II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 II is considerably smaller (83 percent) than the Leica S1. Moreover, the A7 II is substantially lighter (76 percent) than the S1. It is noteworthy in this context that the A7 II 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 Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

The power pack in the A7 II can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.

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.
 
Sony A7 II 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999i
3.
 
Canon RP 133 mm 85 mm 70 mm 485 g 250 n Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon SL3 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 899i
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.
 
Sony A7C 124 mm 71 mm 60 mm 509 g 740 Y Sep 2020 1,799 i
12.
 
Sony A9 II 129 mm 96 mm 76 mm 678 g 690 Y Oct 2019 4,499 i
13.
 
Sony A6400 120 mm 67 mm 50 mm 403 g 410 Y Jan 2019 899 i
14.
 
Sony A6100 120 mm 67 mm 59 mm 396 g 420 n Aug 2019 749 i
15.
 
Sony A7 III 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999i
16.
 
Sony A7 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699i
17.
 
Sony A7R 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299i
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 A7 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 91 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.

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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S1 features a medium format sensor and the Sony A7 II a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7 II 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 A7 II offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica S1 and Sony A7 II sensor measures

With 26.4MP, the S1 offers a higher resolution than the A7 II (24MP), but the S1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.01μm versus 5.97μm for the A7 II) due to its larger sensor. However, the A7 II is a much more recent model (by 18 years and 2 months) than the S1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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 A7 II has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.

The Leica S1 Pro has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A7 II are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-51200.

S1 versus A7 II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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. 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.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
2.
 
Sony A7 II Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
3.
 
Canon RP Full Frame 26.0 6240 41604K/30p24.311.9297785
4.
 
Canon SL3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/25p23.913.4179182
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 APS-C 26.0 6240 41604K/30p24.113.5189583
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p25.214.2282194
7.
 
Leica CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p24.013.3178882
8.
 
Leica TL2 APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p23.913.3175382
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
10.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.5222482
11.
 
Sony A7C Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7340795
12.
 
Sony A9 II Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.0343493
13.
 
Sony A6400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.013.6143183
14.
 
Sony A6100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.113.6194784
15.
 
Sony A7 III Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096
16.
 
Sony A7 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
17.
 
Sony A7R Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7 II indeed provides for movie recording, while the S1 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 II can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 II has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the S1 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica S1 and Sony A7 II 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
Specifications
(inch/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 nnone / none none n .. 0.01 n n
2.
 
Sony A7 II2400 n3.0 / 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y
3.
 
Canon RP2360 n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
4.
 
Canon SL3optical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T302360 n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y n
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
7.
 
Leica CL2360 Y3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
8.
 
Leica TL2optional n3.7 / 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 7.0 n n
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
10.
 
Leica S2optical Y3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
11.
 
Sony A7C2360 n3.0 / 922 swivel Y 1/4000s 10.0 n Y
12.
 
Sony A9 II3686 n3.0 / 1440 tilting Y 1/8000s 20.0 n Y
13.
 
Sony A64002359 n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
14.
 
Sony A61001440 n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
15.
 
Sony A7 III2359 n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y
16.
 
Sony A72400 n3.0 / 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
17.
 
Sony A7R2400 n3.0 / 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 4.0 n n

One feature that differentiates the A7 II and the S1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A7 II reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the S1 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

The S1 writes its imaging data to external storage, while the A7 II uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

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 Sony Alpha A7 II 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
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica S1-- / --------
2.
 
Sony A7 IIYstereo / monoYYmicro2.0YY-
3.
 
Canon RPYstereo / monoYYmicro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon SL3Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0Y-Y
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30Ystereo / monoY-micro3.1Y-Y
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono / ----2.0---
7.
 
Leica CLYstereo / mono----Y--
8.
 
Leica TL2Ystereo / mono--micro3.0Y--
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
10.
 
Leica S2Y- / ---mini2.0---
11.
 
Sony A7CYstereo / monoYYmicro3.2YYY
12.
 
Sony A9 IIYstereo / monoYYmicro3.1YYY
13.
 
Sony A6400Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YYY
14.
 
Sony A6100Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YYY
15.
 
Sony A7 IIIYstereo / monoYYmicro3.1YYY
16.
 
Sony A7Ystereo / monoYYmicro2.0YY-
17.
 
Sony A7RYstereo / monoYYmicro2.0YY-

It is notable that the A7 II offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the S1 does not provide wifi capability.

Both the S1 and the A7 II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S1 was replaced by the Leica S2, while the A7 II was followed by the Sony A7 III. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Sony websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica S1 and the Sony A7 II? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Leica S1 Pro:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • 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).

ilogo

Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7 II:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 339x214mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1901g or 76 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (91 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 18 years and 2 months of technical progress since the S1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7 II is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 4 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 sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S1 04:16 A7 II

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 and the Sony A7 II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens 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 S1 and the A7 II 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica S1............ Aug 1996 21,490i
2.
 
Sony A7 II5/5+4/582/1004.5/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999i
3.
 
Canon RP4/5+4/5..4.5/54/5 Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon SL3..o4.5/579/1004/54/5 Apr 2019 599 i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T305/5+ +5/584/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2019 899i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240............ Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica CL....4.2/5....4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica TL23.5/5..3/5..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.
 
Sony A7C3.5/5..3.5/586/1004/54/5 Sep 2020 1,799 i
12.
 
Sony A9 II....5/590/1005/55/5 Oct 2019 4,499 i
13.
 
Sony A64004/5+4/585/1004.5/54/5 Jan 2019 899 i
14.
 
Sony A6100....4/582/1004/55/5 Aug 2019 749 i
15.
 
Sony A7 III..+ +4.5/589/1005/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999i
16.
 
Sony A75/5+ +..80/1005/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699i
17.
 
Sony A7R5/5+ +..82/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299i
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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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
Sony A7 II:
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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica S1 vs Sony A7 II

    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 Sony A7 II
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica R mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date August 1996 November 2014
    Launch Price USD 21,490 USD 1,999
    Sensor Specs Leica S1 Sony A7 II
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 36.0 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 1296 mm2 855.62 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 50.9 mm 43 mm
    Crop Factor 0.85x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 26.4 Megapixels 24 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5140 x 5140 pixels 6000 x 4000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.01 μm 5.97 μm
    Pixel Density 2.04 MP/cm2 2.80 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 50 - 51,200 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 90
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 24.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.6
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 2449
    Screen Specs Leica S1 Sony A7 II
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.71x
    Viewfinder Resolution 2400k dots
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution no LCD 1230k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S1 Sony A7 II
    Focus System Manual Focus On-Sensor Phase-detect
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) .. 1/8000s
    Continuous Shooting 0.01 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Image Stabilizationno shake reductionIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium external MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica S1 Sony A7 II
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector no USB USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI micro HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Headphone Socket no Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Leica S1 Sony A7 II
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type external NP-FW50
    In-Camera Charging no USB charging USB charging
    Body Dimensions 339 x 214 x 119 mm
    (13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
    127 x 96 x 60 mm
    (5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in)
    Camera Weight 2500 g (88.2 oz) 599 g (21.1 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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