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Nikon D100 vs Olympus E-520

The Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-520 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2002 and May 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D100) and a Four Thirds (E-520) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D100
versus
Olympus E-520
Nikon D100   Olympus E-520
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
6 MP – APS-C sensor 10 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-800 (200 - 1,600) ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
1.8" LCD – 118k dots 2.7" LCD – 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
370 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
144 x 116 x 81 mm, 780 g 136 x 92 x 68 mm, 535 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-520? 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 Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-520 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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 Nikon D100 vs Olympus E-520
Compare D100 versus E-520 top
Comparison D100 or E-520 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-520 is notably smaller (25 percent) than the Nikon D100. Moreover, the E-520 is markedly lighter (31 percent) than the D100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D100 nor the E-520 are weather-sealed.

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 Nikon Lens Catalog (D100) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-520).

Concerning battery life, the D100 gets 370 shots out of its EN-EL3 battery, while the E-520 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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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.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999ebay.com
4.
 
Nikon D90 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 n Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D40 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 470 n Nov 2006 499ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D50 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D70s 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D70 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-600 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699ebay.com
17.
 
Olympus E-510 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-520 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the D100, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.

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 Nikon D100 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-520 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-520 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-520 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D100 and Olympus E-520 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-520 offers a higher resolution of 10 megapixels, compared with 6 MP of the D100. 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 4.74μm versus 7.85μm for the D100). However, it should be noted that the E-520 is much more recent (by 6 years and 2 months) than the D100, 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 Olympus E-520 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-520 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D100 are 15 x 10 inches or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inches or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inches or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 800, which can be extended to ISO 200-1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-520 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the D100 is build around a CCD sensor, while the E-520 uses a CMOS imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

D100 versus E-520 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 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.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.49.939448
2.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
3.
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
4.
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
5.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
6.
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156
7.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
8.
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055
9.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
10.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
11.
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
12.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
13.
 
Olympus E-600 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.510.354155
14.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
15.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
16.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
17.
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.044252
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
The E-520 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The D100 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D100 and the E-520 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the D100 has a higher magnification than the one of the E-520 (0.53x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D100 and Olympus E-520 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y Y
3.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Nikon D90optical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5/s Y n
5.
 
Nikon D300optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s Y n
6.
 
Nikon D40optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
7.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
8.
 
Nikon D50optical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D70soptical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D200optical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y n
11.
 
Nikon D70optical n1.8 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
12.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
13.
 
Olympus E-600optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
14.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-420optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
16.
 
Olympus E-410optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
17.
 
Olympus E-510optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One feature that is present on the D100, but is missing on the E-520 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 D100 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-520 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-520 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D100 only has one slot.

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 Nikon D100 and Olympus E-520 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.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
2.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 10DY- / ----1.1---
4.
 
Nikon D90Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
5.
 
Nikon D300Y- / ---mini2.0---
6.
 
Nikon D40Y- / ----2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D50Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D70sY- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D200Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D70Y- / ----1.0---
12.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---
13.
 
Olympus E-600Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-420Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-410Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Olympus E-510Y- / ----2.0---

Both the D100 and the E-520 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D100 was replaced by the Nikon D200, while the E-520 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the D100 and E-520 can be found, respectively, in the Nikon D100 Manual (free pdf) or the online Olympus E-520 Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D100 better than the Olympus E-520 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D100:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.46x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

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Advantages of the Olympus E-520:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (10 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 26%.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (215k vs 118k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (136x92mm vs 144x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 245g or 31 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 370) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
  • 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 (65 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D100 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-520 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 3 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 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.

D100 03:12 E-520

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D100 and the Olympus E-520 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D100 or the E-520 perform in practice. 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], 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.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 10D......+ +.... Feb 2003 1,999ebay.com
4.
 
Nikon D90..+ +..+ +4/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D300..+ +..+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D40..81/100..+ +o4.5/5 Nov 2006 499ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D50..78/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Apr 2005 749ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D70s..........5/5 Apr 2005 899ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D200..+ +..+ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D70......+ +.... Jan 2004 999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-600..........4.5/5 Aug 2009 449ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699ebay.com
17.
 
Olympus E-510..89/100..+ +3.5/54.5/5 Mar 2007 799ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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.

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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: Nikon D100 vs Olympus E-520

    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 Nikon D100 Olympus E-520
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 May 2008
    Launch Price USD 1,999 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-520
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 6 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 2000 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.85 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 1.63 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 800 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 200 - 1,600 ISO no Enhancement
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 548
    Screen Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-520
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.46x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 1.8inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 118k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-520
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-520
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 1.1 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D100 Olympus E-520
    Battery Type EN-EL3 BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)370 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 144 x 116 x 81 mm
    (5.7 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    136 x 92 x 68 mm
    (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
    Camera Weight 780 g (27.5 oz) 535 g (18.9 oz)
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