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Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-5N

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5N are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2012 and August 2011. Both the E-M5 and the NEX-5N are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-M5) and an APS-C (NEX-5N) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 16 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-M5 versus Sony NEX-5N
Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Sony E mount lenses
15.9 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-25,600 ISO 100-25,600
Electronic viewfinder (1440k dots) Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 610k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting touchscreen
9 shutter flaps per second 10 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
360 shots per battery charge460 shots per battery charge
122 x 89 x 43 mm, 425 g 111 x 59 x 38 mm, 269 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5N? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony NEX-5N. 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.

Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, silver).

Size Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-5N
Compare E-M5 versus NEX-5N top
Comparison E-M5 or NEX-5N rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5N is considerably smaller (40 percent) than the Olympus E-M5. Moreover, the NEX-5N is substantially lighter (37 percent) than the E-M5. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-M5 is splash and dust resistant, while the NEX-5N 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-5N). 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.

Concerning battery life, the E-M5 gets 360 shots out of its BLN-1 battery, while the NEX-5N can take 460 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

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, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Olympus E-M5 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g 360 Y Feb 2012 1,299i
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699i
 
Olympus PEN-F 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 n Jan 2016 1,199i
 
Olympus E-M5 II 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099i
 
Olympus E-M10 II 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 n Aug 2015 649i
 
Olympus E-M10 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 n Jan 2014 699i
 
Olympus E-PL7 115 mm 67 mm 38 mm 357 g 350 n Aug 2014 599i
 
Olympus E-M1 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399i
 
Olympus E-P5 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 n May 2013 999i
 
Panasonic G80 128 mm 89 mm 74 mm 505 g 330 Y Sep 2016 899i
 
Panasonic GX8 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199i
 
Panasonic GX7 123 mm 71 mm 55 mm 402 g 350 n Aug 2013 999i
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749i
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599i
 
Sony NEX-C3 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 599i
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

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 NEX-5N was launched at a markedly lower price (by 46 percent) than the E-M5, 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 generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 Olympus E-M5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-5N an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-5N is 62 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the E-M5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-5N offers a 3:2 aspect.

Olympus E-M5 and Sony NEX-5N sensor measures

With 16MP, the NEX-5N offers a higher resolution than the E-M5 (15.9MP), but the NEX-5N nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 3.76μm for the E-M5) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the NEX-5N, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5N are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

E-M5 versus NEX-5N 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-5N has a markedly higher DXO score than the E-M5 (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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
 
Olympus E-M5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i22.812.382671
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
 
Olympus PEN-F Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474
 
Olympus E-M5 II Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
 
Olympus E-M10 II Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273
 
Olympus E-M10 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472
 
Olympus E-PL7 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.487372
 
Olympus E-M1 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
 
Olympus E-P5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
 
Panasonic G80 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671
 
Panasonic GX8 Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675
 
Panasonic GX7 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p22.612.271870
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
 
Sony NEX-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M5 has an electronic viewfinder (1440k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-5N relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-5N can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-EV1S. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-M5 and Sony NEX-5N 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
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
 
Olympus E-M51440 n 3.0 610 tilting Y 1/4000s 9.0 n Y
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
 
Olympus PEN-F2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-M5 II2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-M10 II2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-M101440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-PL7optional n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-M12360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-P5optional n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0 Y Y
 
Panasonic G802360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 9.0 Y Y
 
Panasonic GX82360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y
 
Panasonic GX72760 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
 
Sony NEX-5optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

One feature that differentiates the E-M5 and the NEX-5N is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-M5 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the NEX-5N offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

The NEX-5N has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the E-M5 does not have a selfie-screen.

The E-M5 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-5N uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The E-M5 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-5N cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Sony Alpha NEX-5N 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
 
Olympus E-M5Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus PEN-FYstereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-M5 IIYstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-M10 IIYstereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-M10Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-PL7Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-M1YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-P5Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Panasonic G80YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--
 
Panasonic GX8YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-
 
Panasonic GX7Ystereomono--mini2.0YY-
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereomono--mini2.0Y--
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the E-M5 and the NEX-5N have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5N was replaced by the Sony NEX-5R, while the E-M5 was followed by the Olympus E-M5 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus and Sony websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony NEX-5N? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M5:

  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 5 months after the NEX-5N).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-5N:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 610k dots).
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • More compact: Is smaller (111x59mm vs 122x89mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 156g or 37 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (460 versus 360) out of a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (46 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2011).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the NEX-5N is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 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.

E-M5 05:09 NEX-5N

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony NEX-5N 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-M5 or the NEX-5N. 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 (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
 
Olympus E-M5+ +80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2012 1,299i
 
Sony NEX-5N+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699i
 
Olympus PEN-F..82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199i
 
Olympus E-M5 II+ +81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099i
 
Olympus E-M10 II+ +80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 649i
 
Olympus E-M10..80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699i
 
Olympus E-PL7+..5/54.5/54/5 Aug 2014 599i
 
Olympus E-M1+ +84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399i
 
Olympus E-P5+ +78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999i
 
Panasonic G80+ +84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899i
 
Panasonic GX8+82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199i
 
Panasonic GX7+79/1005/54.5/55/5 Aug 2013 999i
 
Sony NEX-5R....4.5/5..4.5/5 Aug 2012 749i
 
Sony NEX-F3..74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599i
 
Sony NEX-C3+ +74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
 
Sony NEX-3..70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599i
 
Sony NEX-5+ +71/1004.5/54/54/5 May 2010 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.

Olympus E-M5:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-5N:
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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-5N

    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 Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2012 August 2011
    Launch Price USD 1,299 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 15.9 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.76 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 7.08 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 25,600 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic VI BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 71 77
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.8 23.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.3 12.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 826 1079
    Screen Specs Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.58x
    Viewfinder Resolution 1440k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 610k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 9 shutter flaps/s 10 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-M5 Sony NEX-5N
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BLN-1 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)360 shots per charge460 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 122 x 89 x 43 mm
    (4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 in)
    111 x 59 x 38 mm
    (4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 425 g (15.0 oz) 269 g (9.5 oz)

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