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Nikon D300 vs D3S

The Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3S are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2007 and October 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D300) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The D300 has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the D3S 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
Nikon D300
versus
Nikon D3S
Nikon D300   Nikon D3S
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.2 MP – APS-C sensor 12.1 MP – Full Frame sensor
no Video 720/24p Video
ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400) ISO 200-12,800 (100 - 102,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD – 922k dots 3.0" LCD – 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
6 shutter flaps per second 11 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
1000 shots per battery charge4200 shots per battery charge
147 x 114 x 74 mm, 925 g 160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3S? 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 Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3S is provided 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3S
Compare D300 versus D3S top
Comparison D300 or D3S rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3S is considerably larger (50 percent) than the Nikon D300. Moreover, the D3S is markedly heavier (34 percent) than the D300. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

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 (as in the D3S) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D300). You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D300 gets 1000 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the D3S can take 4200 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3S 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 D300, Nikon provides the MB-D10 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on ebay).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199ebay.com
3.
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499ebay.com
4.
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D60 126 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 500 n Jan 2008 629ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D90 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 n Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D40X 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 n Mar 2007 729ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699ebay.com
16.
 
Nikon D2X 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999ebay.com
Note: 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 D300 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the D3S, 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 Nikon D300 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D300 and Nikon D3S sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Nikon D300 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3S. 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 8.43μm for the D3S). Moreover, it should be noted that the D3S is much more recent (by 2 years and 1 month) than the D300, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Nikon D300 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3S are ISO 200 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

D300 versus D3S MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3S offers substantially better image quality than the D300 (overall score 15 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, and 2.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
2.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
3.
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
4.
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
5.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/24p23.513.9116780
6.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
7.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
8.
 
Nikon D60 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.511.456265
9.
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
10.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
11.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
12.
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
13.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
14.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
15.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
16.
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D3S indeed provides for movie recording, while the D300 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3S can use is 720/24p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D300 and the D3S 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 (100%), but the viewfinder of the D3S has a higher magnification than the one of the D300 (0.70x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D300, the Nikon D3S, and comparable 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 D300optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s Y n
2.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
3.
 
Nikon D5optical Y3.2 / 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0/s n n
4.
 
Nikon D4optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
5.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s Y n
6.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0/s Y n
7.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
8.
 
Nikon D60optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D90optical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D700optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0/s Y n
11.
 
Nikon D3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
12.
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
13.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
14.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
15.
 
Nikon D200optical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y n
16.
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y2.5 / 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D300 has one, while the D3S does not. While the built-in flash of the D300 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3S both have 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.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D300 and the D3S write their files to Compact Flash cards. The D3S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D300 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 D300 and Nikon D3S 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 D300Y- / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo / ---mini2.0---
3.
 
Nikon D5Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0---
4.
 
Nikon D4Ymono / monoYYmicro2.0---
5.
 
Nikon D7000Ymono / monoY-mini2.0---
6.
 
Nikon D300SYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D3XY- / ---mini2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D60Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D90Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D700Y- / ---mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D3Y- / ---mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D40XY- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D2XsY- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D200Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D2XY- / ----2.0---

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

Both the D300 and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D300 was replaced by the Nikon D300S, while the D3S was followed by the Nikon D4. Further information on the features and operation of the D300 and D3S can be found, respectively, in the Nikon D300 Manual (free pdf) or the online Nikon D3S Manual.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D300 or the Nikon D3S – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D300:

  • More compact: Is smaller (147x114mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 315g or 25 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (65 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2007).


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3S:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.63x).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4200 versus 1000) out of a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D300 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 5 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.

D300 05:10 D3S

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3S 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D300 or the D3S perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.
 
Nikon D300..+ +..+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799ebay.com
2.
 
Nikon D3S5/5....89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199ebay.com
3.
 
Nikon D5....4/589/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499ebay.com
4.
 
Nikon D4........4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D70004/5....80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +..82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D3X......86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D60..80/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Jan 2008 629ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D90..+ +..+ +4/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D700..89/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D3......+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D40X..79/100..+ +4/54/5 Mar 2007 729ebay.com
13.
 
Nikon D2Xs............ Jun 2006 4,699ebay.com
14.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999ebay.com
15.
 
Nikon D200..+ +..+ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699ebay.com
16.
 
Nikon D2X......+ +.... Sep 2004 4,999ebay.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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, 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: Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3S

    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 D300 Nikon D3S
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2007 October 2009
    Launch Price USD 1,799 USD 5,199
    Sensor Specs Nikon D300 Nikon D3S
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.8 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4288 x 2848 pixels 4256 x 2832 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.53 μm 8.43 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 1.40 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 102,400 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 67 82
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.1 23.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 679 3253
    Screen Specs Nikon D300 Nikon D3S
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D300 Nikon D3S
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 6 shutter flaps/s 11 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations300 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D300 Nikon D3S
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D300 Nikon D3S
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL3e EN-EL4a
    Battery Life (CIPA)1000 shots per charge4200 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 114 x 74 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)
    160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    Camera Weight 925 g (32.6 oz) 1240 g (43.7 oz)
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