5 Reasons you Need a 50mm Prime

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Comments

  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member

    If you standing on the edge of precipice, zooming with your feet, is not really an option
    How often is that really the case in most normal shooting conditions?

    Keep in mind I say this as someone who often defies said precipices with a rope. I like to imagine what I want to shoot with a specific lens in mind and then adapt the shooting set up to accommodate the creative intent rather than simply getting what I can get from a certain vantage with whatever focal length "works".
    Mike
    D3 • D750 • 14-24mm f2.8 • 35mm f1.4A • PC-E 45mm f2.8 • 50mm f1.8G • AF-D 85mm f1.4 • ZF.2 100mm f2 • 200mm f2 VR2
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    Most modern lenses from Nikon and other good lens makers are pretty good.

    Fast lenses have narrow DOF and interesting bokeh, and from a personal point of view, some are more pleasing than others - something that one can't really access for another.

    Before zooms became popular, a 35mm camera kit would generally start with effectively doubling from or halving from the 50mm focal length - meaning 50mm, 24mm, 105mm, then 35mm, 200mm, then 18mm or 20mm, then specialty lens beyond that. Obviously, whatever you were covering might make your first purchases different priorities - and if you were an employee like me, you were working with OPE - other people's equipment. In my case 50mm, 24mm, 105mm X2 on 2F bodies.

    Wanting wider apertures is often desirable. I just finished a series this week in DX with 50mm f1.8 all at f1.8.

    It was 'easier' to shoot the shots of the subjects with the lens simply to get the narrow DOF, rather than use a zoom 17-55 f2.8 which would have shown a tad more of the texture of the concrete wall used as the background.

    image

    I don't the lens is 'sharper' than the 17-55, although it is lighter (and cheaper).

    Zooms usually just make sense. They make composition easier.

    And to want to make composition harder is... Well, say that aloud. A five-year-old will tell you how silly that is.

    My best,

    Mike
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    Last night I took 200 pretty good shots. With a zoom, it would have been 20 or 30.
    In your signature I only see one zoom and it is the wide lens. Just curious what your dislike or distrust in zooms comes from? Old habits and ways? Or the old conception that primes are (and were in the past) better?

    I have never considered my keeper rate due to my lens being a prime or zoom. I wonder why you feel your prime lens gave you more good pictures then a zoom would have.

    I do on occasion put my primes on and just carry that to shoot around. It limits what I can shoot but causes me too be creative if I want to take any pictures. However it isn't convenient and I know what I need to do to get what I want from my zooms. If I want the bokeh it is going to be at the long end with f2.8.

    If I have a more controlled situation or specific purpose it is likely I will put my primes on. Portraits, wildlife, macro...I will stick to my primes. My daughter running around, landscapes, architecture, walk around...it is my 17-55. The only thing I gain with the 50 f1.8 is a stop.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    i like 50s a lot, and will often just take that and nothing else if i want to be lightweight on a walk somewhere or something.

    its good for portraits, can do products, landscapes, well, anything really. i find it a pretty useful focal length, just right in the middle, and you can always shoot dx crop mode, or just crop in post, and you get a useable 50mm -> 70mm perhaps, maybe 80mm+ 'equivalent' on a d800 with its super cropping powers.

    if i could only have one lens, i think it would be a 50 ....
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,212Member
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    "zooms"? I get great results with the 24-70, but before I owned a digital cameras I kept a 50 f/1.4 on the front of my camera mostly and I changed to something else when I felt a need.

    This is probably due to me being an old guy, and the 50 mm lens was the only lens I could afford on my first SLR in the early years. (It was a Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/1.7.) So I know this focal length better than any other.
    Funny you say that because I have no 50 fetish like the older people on here do. It means nothing to me when everyone talks about 35 mm cameras and really I hate the FX vs DX discussion. It doesn't make any difference to me...my camera shoots what my camera shoots. But then again my first camera was a point and shoot kodak with no optical zoom.
    Obviously everyone's shooting style and preference is different, but I really like my 35mm 1.8 shot on DX. That with my 18-135 is pretty much around 90-95% of what gets me my shots. More so if it's a dim or low light area, or if I want some nice bokeh. I've even done great portraits of my family members and friends with it.

    The 105mm macro would be what I do the rest of my shots with, and that gives me great bokeh too, but it's not as general purpose as the 35mm is. Sometimes I find it too long, especially when I shoot it indoors.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 397Member
    DX shooter here - translate the following.

    Got and love the 35mm f/1.8, but I have to admit, I don't shoot with it all that much, and rarely take advantage of its narrow DoF. I ask myself why? And I think that it's because most of the time, when I'm shooting and it's NOT low light, my 18-105mm zoom is good enough at 35mm. It's sharp, has VR, and more flexible to carry when I want wide angle and telephoto focal lengths. I guess I'm not shooting much moving stuff.

    I also have the 50mm f/1.4, so I pick it up when I want to shoot the artistic narrow DoF shots, or low light. It's just better at that. If I'm going outdoors, I put a ND filter on the 50, and pack it with my zoom. Not the 35mm. So the latter lives a sad life on the shelf. I've thought about selling it, but just can't. It's perfect for what it is.

    So I pull it out when I go to social events, b-day parties, dinners. Where I know I'll want low light ability, want to be discreet, and my subjects are all in a certain (limited) distance. I lived and shot through the 70's-80's and a 50mm, so it surprises me to say it, but the zoom ain't the crime it used to be. But maybe having lived through that period, I shoot a zoom with an appreciation of focal length and composition that younger photographers take for granted. Not sure about that... just thinking out loud.
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    Last night I took 200 pretty good shots. With a zoom, it would have been 20 or 30.
    In your signature I only see one zoom and it is the wide lens. Just curious what your dislike or distrust in zooms comes from? Old habits and ways? Or the old conception that primes are (and were in the past) better?

    I have never considered my keeper rate due to my lens being a prime or zoom. I wonder why you feel your prime lens gave you more good pictures then a zoom would have.

    I do on occasion put my primes on and just carry that to shoot around. It limits what I can shoot but causes me too be creative if I want to take any pictures. However it isn't convenient and I know what I need to do to get what I want from my zooms. If I want the bokeh it is going to be at the long end with f2.8.

    If I have a more controlled situation or specific purpose it is likely I will put my primes on. Portraits, wildlife, macro...I will stick to my primes. My daughter running around, landscapes, architecture, walk around...it is my 17-55. The only thing I gain with the 50 f1.8 is a stop.
    This is a complicated answer, so please bear with me.

    If you look closely at my earlier posts in this thread, you will see the answer for why I chose the telephoto lenses in my bag. When I combine the f-stop AND the transmission advantage (primes have fewer elements, so more light is transmitted through the lenses), a 1.4 prime will collect about 10 times the light of a 2.8 prime, not 4 like the f-stop suggests. Look on DXOMark for the transmission specifications, which is expressed in stops - it is amazing how much light is blocked even in a top rated lens.

    Regarding your comment "Or the old conception that primes are (and were in the past) better?", what "conception" is that? They have always been and still are better. The only thing that has changed is that zooms are no longer aweful or mediocre. The 50mm 1.4G gives the Nikon 24-70 2.8 a run for its money AT 50mm for a quarter of the price. The 70-200 2.8 can't compete against my 85 and 135 at the respective focal lengths. I am not saying that these zooms can't produce great pictures - you would be hard pressed to tell the difference with most media at the same focal length and f-stop. But when you pixel peek, they are not as sharp, they are inferior in low light, the depth of field is not as shallow and the bokeh is not as good (depth of field is only one ingredient of bokeh). Those are my four reasons.

    For the 50mm 1.4G in my bag, it is a fraction of the weight of the 24-70 2.8 and at 50 mm f/2.8 it is comparable in image quality and perhaps better (I am sure the new Sigma for half the price WILL be better). I never have to worry about a flash in almost any low light situation. It is just the right size where I can just fire away and crop later if I have to.

    The wide end of my bag is a slightly different story. The 14-24 2.8 is an incredible lens at 14mm, exceeding the quality of the 14mm 2.8 prime. This is the only example in the Nikon line where a zoom beats a professional grade prime on its own turf. I really bought the 14-24 2.8 because it is the best 14mm on the market.

    However, the 14-24 2.8 does not take filters and I started investigating the work arounds, like Photodiox and Lee. It occurred to me that unless I enlist a glass cutter, I will be investing in a filter system for just one lens that will probably cost me a thousand dollars when all is said and done and I will not even have glass filters. So I started thinking. What am I shooting at the wide end? Mostly scapes (land, sea, city) at f/8.0, where I will have a tripod and all the time in the world. I don't need a fast lens and I don't even need autofocus. I then investigated the image quality of the wide end at f/8.0 and the MF 20mm f/2.8 and 28mm in my bag are about the same as the 16-35 f/4.0. For a little less money, I can buy the 20 and 28 (I already had the 50). The 20, 28 and 50 manual focus lenses are my "scape set" that takes filters that I shoot at f/8.0 on a tripod.

    For the 200mm macro, there really is no alternative in the zoom category.

    And finally, the reason that really counts for me. Shooting primes makes me a better photographer. I have to contemplate the shot more, zoom with my feet etc. As an example, when you have to zoom with your feet, there is more of an opportunity to think about the best angle, perspective, height, aperture, ISO, shutter speed etc. to take the picture with. For me the joy of photography is getting the best possible picture and embracing the challenge in doing so, even if it means that I am lying flat on my stomach in wet grass to get the best perspective with all the right elements in the shot. It is not simply "getting the shot" and if it was, I would probably be a news, action or sports photographer.

    Sorry for the long answer.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • safyresafyre Posts: 113Member
    edited April 2014
    I'm a DX shooter with both the 35mm 1.8 af-s and 50mm 1.4 af-d primes (in addition to a 17-55mm 2.8 midrange zoom).

    When I first started photography, I often shot with kit lens zooms and never really understood the big deal about primes. When I started to do portraiture, where I shoot at f2.8 most of the time, I noticed a significant improvement in quality with the primes over my 17-55mm zoom. I'm not talking about on a pixel peeping level, but in general there was quite a noticeable difference. Furthermore, using primes has definitely improved my eye as a photographer. When using zooms I used to be lazy and just zoom in and out instead of moving around and trying to get different backgrounds. Primes have definitely helped in terms of understanding how perspective and vantage point can make significant improvements in your photographs. I shoot almost exclusively primes for my portraits now (except for headshots where I still use my 70-200mm but I'd rather use an 85mm if I had one).

    A couple other things not pointed out, the lighter weight of primes cannot be underestimated. When you start doing shoots that last atleast several hours, multiple times a week, you're gonna start appreciating the small footprint and easy portability of primes. Secondly, as with many street photographers, having a smaller lens just attracts less attention anywhere you shoot. I can't tell you how many times I've been stopped by a park ranger, or security guard, or police because they thought I was shooting some commercial work because I had a "big professional looking lens", which happened to be my 70-200mm. Switching over to using primes has definitely helped me in terms of being more low key and under the radar.

    I disagree somewhat with this. The 85-105 range is fine for full body portraits. You just have to give yourself more room. So while it might not be ideal ina studio it is great outdoors.
    This really depends on where you shoot and for me the opposite is rather true. I tend to use longer lenses in studio because I know that I will have a consistent amount of space to work with. When I shoot outdoors, its usually in cramped urban areas where there is no room to consistently get full body shots with 85mm or longer; hence why I end up using a 50mm (or even 35mm) most of the time for these. If I'm able to shoot in a large open area or field with no people, then I might pull out a longer lens, but I still like the perspective of the 35/50 primes.

    Post edited by safyre on
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,432Moderator

    There is not a zoom on the market that can touch this lens' ability.
    18-35mm f1.8 Sigma can not only touch it, it can beat it.
    Always learning.
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014

    There is not a zoom on the market that can touch this lens' ability.
    18-35mm f1.8 Sigma can not only touch it, it can beat it.
    Perhaps you think I was talking about my 28mm 2.8 manual focus. F/1.8 on DX has about the same depth of field as f/2.8 on FX and the field of views are the same. If that is the case, I suspect that you are correct, except perhaps at f/8.0 (this is where I evaluate this lens as I use it there for landscapes).

    But I was talking about the 85mm 1.4G.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member

    If you look closely at my earlier posts in this thread, you will see the answer for why I chose the telephoto lenses in my bag. When I combine the f-stop AND the transmission advantage (primes have fewer elements, so more light is transmitted through the lenses), a 1.4 prime will collect about 10 times the light of a 2.8 prime, not 4 like the f-stop suggests. Look on DXOMark for the transmission specifications, which is expressed in stops - it is amazing how much light is blocked even in a top rated lens.
    Hmm, I'm not sure about that.

    Nikon 50mm/1.4G T-stop: 1.6
    Nikon 24-70mm/2.8G T-stop: 3.3
    F-stop difference: 2.00 stops
    T-stop difference: 2.08 stops

    Nikon 85mm/1.4G T-stop: 1.7
    Nikon 70-200mm/2.8G VRII T-stop: 3.3
    F-stop difference: 2.00 stops
    T-stop difference: 1.91 stops

    "10 times the light" would require 3.33 stop difference.
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    I stand corrected. I misread that as "Transmission Loss", whereas "DxOMark reports the T-stop, defined as the f-number of a lens with 100% perfect transmission". I will have to live with only a two stop advantage.

    Don't primes suck! Anybody want some cheap primes, lightly used??
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I stand corrected. I misread that as "Transmission Loss", whereas "DxOMark reports the T-stop, defined as the f-number of a lens with 100% perfect transmission". I will have to live with only a two stop advantage.

    Don't primes suck! Anybody want some cheap primes, lightly used??
    So they usually have a 1 stop advantage being f1.8 or faster, but it doesn't make a zoom unusable. Obviously you have your reasons for the primes. For low light they have an advantage and I don't think anyone will argue that, but I don't think the picture quality difference is as much as you make it seem. Of course I don't pixel peep.

    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    Never said that zooms were unusable. I was just pointing out that in that particular shot, where I was shooting handheld at ISO 6,400 with a hand held prime, I would have been shooting at 25,600 with a 2.8 zoom (I originally said 50,000 as I did not understand the T-Stop rating correctly).

    People can draw their own conclusions on whether that is usable.

    Same with the bokeh shot.

    As much as I make it seem? That is a tough one. How do you measure that? It is a matter of subjective opinion, not an objective measurable score, as much as we would like to distill it down to that.

    For me, the light gathering, general sharpness and bokeh advantages of primes are huge and people that shoot the way I do would agree. For other people, it is a trivial difference and it will seem that I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Great pictures are being taken with zooms, Spraynpray and others are a testament to that. But this thread is about primes (though really about a particular prime). The prime advantage is essentially picture quality and versatility in terms of light gathering power and depth of field. The zoom advantage is about convenience. I think that this logic holds regardless of whether your budget is $2,000 or $500.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    Some people don't need or use a 50mm prime. Art Wolfe, for example:

    "I limit myself to a few lenses most of the time, all Canon. More than half of my images are shot with either the 16-35f 2.8 Mk2 or the 70-200 f4, which is just as sharp as the much heavier and more expensive 2.8 version. If I need a more powerful telephoto, I reach for the 400 DO; if I know I’ll be shooting a lot of wildlife, the 500 f4 comes along. That’s it for 90% of my work."

    http://blog.artwolfe.com/2009/01/equipment/

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited April 2014
    The prime advantage is essentially picture quality and versatility in terms of light gathering power and depth of field. .
    I think the Nikon 70 -200 f 2.8 might be a prime in the disguise of a zoom

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    Some people don't need or use a 50mm prime. Art Wolfe, for example:

    "I limit myself to a few lenses most of the time, all Canon. More than half of my images are shot with either the 16-35f 2.8 Mk2 or the 70-200 f4, which is just as sharp as the much heavier and more expensive 2.8 version. If I need a more powerful telephoto, I reach for the 400 DO; if I know I’ll be shooting a lot of wildlife, the 500 f4 comes along. That’s it for 90% of my work."

    http://blog.artwolfe.com/2009/01/equipment/

    This is also a very logical and sensible point as presented by one of America's greatest landscape and nature photographers. He is only a two hour drive from me - someday I will go on his Mt. Rainier workshop.

    I am a little disappointed with Nikon's wide angle primes, which is why I find the 14-24 in my bag. I suspect that they can do a better job. For the most point, the advantage of primes over zooms is less at the wide end than the telephoto end. This point is often reinforced by the Sigma 35mm 1.4 commentary on this forum.

    Sometimes I wonder if wides are really so difficult an engineering and manufacturing challenge, or if Nikon is complacent because Canon is even worse. Is the critique fair or not? I don't know.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    Egh...as little as I use my 35 F1.8 I know I will never invest in the 50 F1.8. I looked back through my flickr pictures and it just isn't in my shooting style. I don't need the prime and my 17-55 covers the range of all of those. When I shoot something more specialized it goes to my 105 or 300, but can't find the need in the lower mm's.

    All I ever used to want is more lenses, but I have been happy for a while now with what I have. My next purchase will be a new body and then who knows. Probably the kirk tripod collar for my 300 f4.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    This is 38 mm or 57 mm in FX shot with my 17-55:
    DSC_0028

    and I don't even have any other shots because I don't ever do it.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,212Member
    A few examples with the 35mm 1.8. I really like using it for automotive stuff because it is great for isolation and doesn't have much distortion. In a pinch it focuses quite closely too.

    Curves

    Curves.

    DSC_3169

    A Young Mantis- quite small, maybe an inch or so long

    DSC_6089

    Porsche Boxster
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    @NSX no doubt the 35 and 50 are nice lenses...I just wonder if the primes at those mm are really doing mich for anyone owning the 24-70 or 17-55 f2.8s. I know you might get a bit better subject isolation/low light performance, but enough to pay for, carry, switch lenses? It probably comes from me being slightly lazy and not wanting to constantly switch lenses, but the frequency at which I need that slight dof difference at that mm isn't worth the hassle...probably 1 out of 500 shots for me.

    So per the article I don't need the lens. I have been tempted to get rid of my 35 but keep it because of some of the reasons in the article despite never using it.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,432Moderator
    @NSXTypeR: Have you ever tried your car shots with something really wide in the 10-16 area? Your same pictures taken with an ultra-wide may give you some results you would find attractive. When among cars I usually use my Tokina 11-16. Just a thought.
    Always learning.
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,212Member
    @NSX no doubt the 35 and 50 are nice lenses...I just wonder if the primes at those mm are really doing mich for anyone owning the 24-70 or 17-55 f2.8s. I know you might get a bit better subject isolation/low light performance, but enough to pay for, carry, switch lenses? It probably comes from me being slightly lazy and not wanting to constantly switch lenses, but the frequency at which I need that slight dof difference at that mm isn't worth the hassle...probably 1 out of 500 shots for me.

    So per the article I don't need the lens. I have been tempted to get rid of my 35 but keep it because of some of the reasons in the article despite never using it.
    Ah, I get what you mean. For me it's my only way of getting isolation so I get much more use out of it, so I don't mind swapping out lenses.
    @NSXTypeR: Have you ever tried your car shots with something really wide in the 10-16 area? Your same pictures taken with an ultra-wide may give you some results you would find attractive. When among cars I usually use my Tokina 11-16. Just a thought.
    No, I don't own a super wide angle lens so I've never tried that. It's interesting you brought it up. When I started doing automotive stuff I used to shoot at the wide end of my kit lens- 18mm, but I hated the results. But I continued to shoot at that focal length because it allowed me to get the widest aperture in my kit lens. Bear in mind this was with the D40 so high ISO performance really was a problem for me.

    I realized it was the slight distortion that was throwing things off for me. Maybe if the distortion was extreme it'd be interesting, but I'd need to rent or try it out first before I plunk down around another $500 for another lens.

    The 35mm 1.8 kills two birds with one stone for me- as long as I can back up enough, I can shoot at relatively fast shutter speeds and have acceptable amounts of distortion for my uses.

    For auto show uses I find that the 35mm 1.8 is great too, but if there's too much people traffic I have problems with people showing up in my shots.

    I can see how the 17-55 2.8 would probably solve this problem for me, but then it's a $1,300 lens. So far, I've fixed that with the D7000, I can easily shoot at ISO 1600 with no problems really. I vary my kit lens to around 24mm to 35mm and I've gotten good results for auto stuff.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 704Member
    "Need" and "Better than" are necessarily subjective terms. Although I have spent more time shooting with a 50 mm normal prime lens than any other, so my views may be biased, I do think I need this focal length and that it is better in many ways.

    It is smaller and lighter than a zoom. I need light weight and compact size, especially on jobs at sea on small boats where I can't take that much gear, or where I have to walk a long distance to get to the site.

    It is faster than a zoom. Shooting at F/1.4 and fast shutter speeds can be a great help. I need that.

    It covers a lot of range. From 50 mm to 150 or more with cropping. I need that.

    Image quality is excellent. I am not really concerned with pixel peeping, but it is a good feeling to have great looking photographs, without distortion and with minimal vignetting. That is better than what most zooms will give.

    I was shooting yesterday and I used my 85 f/1.4 and the 24-70 f/2.8. All the 24-70 shoots were shot at around 50 mm, so I carried a lot of extra weight. But if I had any geography to cover on foot, I would have left the 24-70 on the shelf and taken a 50 instead.
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    Let's hope the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 fills the gaping hole.
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