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Leica S2 vs Sony RX1

The Leica S2 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and September 2012. The S2 is a DSLR, while the RX1 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a medium format (S2) and a full frame (RX1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 37.5 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 S2 versus Sony RX1
Leica S2 Sony RX1
Digital single lens reflex Fixed lens compact camera
Leica S mount lenses 35mm f/2.0
37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor 24 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 80-1,250 ISO 100-25,600 (50 - 102,400)
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.0 LCD, 1229k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g 113 x 65 x 70 mm, 482 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S2 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1? 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 physical size and weight of the Leica S2 and the Sony RX1 are illustrated 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 S2 vs Sony RX1
Compare S2 versus RX1 top
Comparison S2 or RX1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony RX1 is considerably smaller (62 percent) than the Leica S2. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S2 is splash and dust resistant, while the RX1 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX1 has a lens built in, whereas the S2 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup.

The power pack in the RX1 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.

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
 
Leica S2 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 49.7 oz .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Sony RX1 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999i
 
Leica S3 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica S1 13.3 in 8.4 in 4.7 in 88.2 oz .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
 
Nikon D5300 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 16.9 oz 600 n Oct 2013 799i
 
Nikon D3S 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Pentax 645D 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.7 in 52.2 oz 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Sony RX1R II 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.9 oz 220 n Oct 2015 3,299 i
 
Sony A3000 5.0 in 3.6 in 3.3 in 14.5 oz 470 n Aug 2013 329i
 
Sony RX1R 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Jun 2013 2,799i
 
Sony NEX-7 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 14.1 oz 430 n Aug 2011 1,349i
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 RX1 was launched at a lower price than the S2, despite having a lens built in. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 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 Leica S2 features a medium format sensor and the Sony RX1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the RX1 is 37 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica S2 and Sony RX1 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the RX1 (24MP), but the S2 nevertheless has marginally larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 5.96μm for the RX1) due to its larger sensor. However, the RX1 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 11 months) than the S2, 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 S2 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica S2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 37.5 x 25 inches or 95.3 x 63.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 25 x 16.7 inches or 63.5 x 42.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony RX1 are 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm for good quality, 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm for very good quality, and 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica S2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 1250. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-102400.

S2 versus RX1 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. 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
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
 
Sony RX1 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.114.3253493
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744none24.012.0166380
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p........
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p........
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
 
Nikon D5300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.9133883
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282
 
Sony RX1R II Full Frame 42.2 7952 53041080/60p25.813.9320497
 
Sony A3000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.712.8106878
 
Sony RX1R Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791
 
Sony NEX-7 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i24.113.4101681

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The RX1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the RX1 can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the S2 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the RX1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the RX1 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-EV1MK. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica S2 and Sony RX1 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
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Sony RX1optional n 3.0 1229 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIoptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n
 
Nikon D5300optical n 3.2 1037 swivel n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n
 
Sony RX1R II2360 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
 
Sony A3000202 n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Sony RX1Roptional n 3.0 1229 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Sony NEX-72359 n 3.0 921 tilting n 1/4000s 10.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the S2, but is missing on the RX1 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 S2 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the RX1 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the RX1 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 Leica S2 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 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
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
 
Sony RX1YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIY-----2.0---
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica S1----------
 
Nikon D5300YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---
 
Sony RX1R IIYstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A3000Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony RX1RYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-7YstereomonoY-mini2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the RX1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S2 and the RX1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, while the RX1 was followed by the Sony RX1R. 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.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Leica S2 or the Sony RX1 – 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.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica S2:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (37.5 vs 24MP) with a 25% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More flexible: Can take a variety of interchangeable lenses, including specialty optics.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).

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Advantages of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1:

  • 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.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 460k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with an integrated lens, while the S2 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (113x65mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the S2).
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 11 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the RX1 comes out slightly ahead of the S2 (11 : 10 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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.

S2 10:11 RX1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S2 and the Sony RX1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Prime Lens Compact 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 S2 and the RX1 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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Sony RX1..79/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III..+ +4.5/5.... Aug 2007 7,999i
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007.......... Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490i
 
Nikon D5300+ +79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 799i
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X..86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3..+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Pentax 645D......4.5/5.. Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Sony RX1R II..82/100..o4.5/5 Oct 2015 3,299 i
 
Sony A3000+..4/54.5/54/5 Aug 2013 329i
 
Sony RX1R....4/5o4.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799i
 
Sony NEX-7+ +81/1004.5/55/55/5 Aug 2011 1,349i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Leica S2:
Check Ebay offers
Sony RX1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Leica S2 vs Sony RX1

    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 S2 Sony RX1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses 35mm f/2.0
    Launch Date September 2008 September 2012
    Launch Price USD 22,995 USD 2,799
    Sensor Specs Leica S2 Sony RX1
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 35.8 x 23.8 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 852.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 43 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 37.5 Megapixels 24 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7500 x 5000 pixels 6000 x 4000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm 5.96 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2 2.82 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,250 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 50 - 102,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 93
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 25.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 14.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 2534
    Screen Specs Leica S2 Sony RX1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 1229k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S2 Sony RX1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica S2 Sony RX1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S2 Sony RX1
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 NP-BX1
    In-Camera Charging no USB charging USB charging
    Body Dimensions 160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    113 x 65 x 70 mm
    (4.4 x 2.6 x 2.8 in)
    Camera Weight 1410 g (49.7 oz) 482 g (17.0 oz)

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