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Half Frames / Subminiatures This forum is for all half frame 35mm cameras, including the very popular Olympus Pens and their SLR cousins, the Pen F and Pen FT, as well as all smaller than half frame subminiature film cameras.

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Which PEN F to buy?
Old 10-01-2019   #1
shorelineae
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Which PEN F to buy?

I have a Ricoh Caddy that I love and decided I want a half-frame camera that will allow me to focus accurately in low-light (indoors) situations. The Caddy's meter works fine too, and I am able to shoot very fast with it (zone-focused).

So I looked at the smaller PEN models and they seem too similar to the Caddy to be of interest. Hence, the PEN F series makes sense for me. I'm a 50mm guy normally, so a Olympus PEN F with a 38mm seems the obvious choice.

The big question is: which should I go for: F or FT or FV :-O I have read about the differences and I can't make up my mind.

The meter would be useful to have. How badly does it affect viewfinder brightness?

How painful is double-stroke vs single-stroke (I've never used a double-stroke camera before).
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Old 10-01-2019   #2
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Condition of the sample you find is probably more important than any differences among the Pen F models. I have two FT and one FV and was a bit surprised that this FV's viewfinder isn't any brighter than the others. May need cleaning... These are old cameras from the 1960s so I would say just go with the best sample you find. The FT runs fine without batteries, and FWIW the FT metering is kinda weird anyway!

The double-stroke film advance is easy to get used to, and is a smart design decision... because there is right-angle gearing in there to cock the rotating shutter. The wind lever's shaft is vertical while the shutter rotates on a horizontal axis. This gearing tends to be a bit delicate I understand, and is prone to feeling pretty rough. Be gentle!
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Old 10-01-2019   #3
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If you want to actually use the camera (as opposed to show it off as a collectible item) then better stay away from the Pen F. Both the Pen FT and the Pen FV are more advanced designs and hence, more reliable. The F has one single spring to move mirror and aperture; the FT and FV have two. Furthermore, the F's rotating shutter hits a hard stop; FT and FV use a two-step brake.

The difference in viewfinder brightness is barely perceptible. So don't hesitate to go for an FT if you appreciate the slightly odd TTL metering system (which works without an aperture simulator, pretty unique!). Use an SR44 1.55 V silver oxide cell in a PX625 adapter. For a two-lens outfit, I recommend the G.Zuiko Auto-S 40 mm 1:1.4 and the G.Zuiko Auto-W 25 mm 1:2.8. Avoid the 25 mm 1:4, it's hard to focus. And yes, always advance the film gently, there's delicate gearing inside.
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Old 10-01-2019   #4
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I just tried FT and F, and the latter have visibly brighter viewfinder. Even double checked with second FT. Never tried the FV.

As for the lenses the 40/1.4 is wonderful.
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Old 10-01-2019   #5
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For low light usage I think fast-glass is beneficial. I have the FT and a 40/f1.4 and find it useable for low light indoor situations; it just takes a bit of extra time to find the focus point with some of the light being split and directed to the light meter.
Assuming you've not yet handed a Pen F at the time of writing, when you do be careful advancing the film as it gets close to the last frame or two as it can be difficult to feel any resistance. If the film is taught, ie it's at the end, and you wind on irrespective not knowing, there's a risk or tearing the sprocket holes. I've done it once, but now I'm very careful and probably err on the safe side by stopping at frame 70, or 71 if I'm feeling lucky.
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Old 10-01-2019   #6
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricoh View Post
.
Assuming you've not yet handed a Pen F at the time of writing, when you do be careful advancing the film as it gets close to the last frame or two as it can be difficult to feel any resistance. If the film is taught, ie it's at the end, and you wind on irrespective not knowing, there's a risk or tearing the sprocket holes. I've done it once, but now I'm very careful and probably err on the safe side by stopping at frame 70, or 71 if I'm feeling lucky.
Thanks for the tip. Does it happen only on the original F?
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Old 10-01-2019   #7
leicapixie
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my experience with Pen-F was a disaster!
Both models developed shutter problems..
The viewfinder was not that easy to use.
Due to (apparent larger depth of field) had reasonable images.
As they are now old, probably OK..
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Pen F choice
Old 10-01-2019   #8
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Pen F choice

Sometime in the 1980s, I decided to act on my continuing interest in the Pen F system as a user camera. I bought an FT with several prime lenses and one zoom. As a collectible, the system has enough oddities to warrant retention. However after playing with it long enough to get familiar and taking it as my only photo gear on one trip, our love affair was over. The FT metering is a slow-working thing - better than no meter at all, but just. The viewfinder is dim, and the focusing is a pain compared to conventional SLRs. Thankfully, a large swap meet relieved me of most of my disappointment.
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Old 10-01-2019   #9
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I've owned all three of the Pen F SLRs, some of them more than once. The FV was my favorite, and the various Zuiko prime lenses outstanding. The zoom lenses of that era weren't really up to the grade needed for the half frame format, IMO, but the tiny 50-90mm f/3.5 zoom was very convenient and performed well enough (presuming you used a lens hood to hold down flare).

I didn't find the FT's meter to be much of a value add, regardless of viewfinder brightness ... a handheld meter (or metering app on your smartphone) does a lot better.

Like with other small format film, high quality can be achieved but it takes a good bit of work to gain the skill required and attention to details in exposure, processing, and rendering are essential. The Olympus Pen F series lenses, however, work beautifully on Micro-FourThirds digital cameras ... The 70mm f/2 was my favorite.


Panasonic G1 + Olympus Pen-F Zuiko 70mm f/2

enjoy!
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Old 10-01-2019   #10
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My Pen F has become my go to camera. Light or no light. That with the super common Zuiko Auto-S 38mm f1.8 (which is the equivalent of a 55mm) makes a great set up. Also, what I really dig about the lens is that minimum distance is 35cm/1ft so you can get real close and as long as you mind your DOF, well, you can get some amazing results. Amazing to me at least. The camera doesn't have a meter but that doesn't bother me one bit as I have a light meter with me at all time. But hey, all of this is me, ya know? To each their own so take everything I say with a grain of salt
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Old 10-01-2019   #11
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I have a PEN-M42 adapter that I can use with M42 mount lenses on the PEN. I have an F and an FT. The Pentax 85/1.8 becomes a 170/1.8 on the PEN.
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Old 10-01-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shorelineae View Post
Thanks for the tip. Does it happen only on the original F?
I've not used the gothic Pen F (the original). The sprocket tearing referred to happened on the Pen FT. Basically there's very little feel as the film is advanced. You'll be ok as long as you know.
Lens-wise, apart from the 40/f1.4 I also have the 70/f2 and recommend these, stunning performers.
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Old 10-01-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ka7197 View Post
... Both the Pen FT and the Pen FV are more advanced designs and hence, more reliable. The F has one single spring to move mirror and aperture; the FT and FV have two. Furthermore, the F's rotating shutter hits a hard stop; FT and FV use a two-step brake.
...
Good information - makes me feel better about my FT, though I originally wanted an F.
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Old 10-01-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
I have a PEN-M42 adapter that I can use with M42 mount lenses on the PEN. I have an F and an FT. The Pentax 85/1.8 becomes a 170/1.8 on the PEN.
Angle of view of a 85mm lens on a half frame would be approximately 1.4 X 85mm, or about a 120mm on a full frame.
However of course, the half frame negative will contain only 1/2 the information that a full frame negative contains.

I've shot with half frame for 45 years and my little Pen F has definitely the best focusing. The screen is a all matte surface and is brighter than a FV that I have. Go figure.

I'm also partial to the 3:4 aspect ratio.
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Old 10-01-2019   #15
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Auto-body shop paint stuff
Olympus Pen FV, 2.0/70mm Zuiko
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Old 10-01-2019   #16
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Farmers' market portrait

Olympus Pen FV, 1.4/40mm Zuiko
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Old 10-01-2019   #17
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Thanks everyone. Very helpful input, all around. I am leaning towards the Pen-FV. The lens is trickier because although I see the benefit of the f1.4, I can't see a good enough deal within my budget for the two. So I'll aim for a FV+38mm f1.8 and see how it goes!
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Old 10-02-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shorelineae View Post
So I'll aim for a FV+38mm f1.8 and see how it goes!
I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Old 10-02-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricoh View Post
Assuming you've not yet handed a Pen F at the time of writing, when you do be careful advancing the film as it gets close to the last frame or two as it can be difficult to feel any resistance. If the film is taught, ie it's at the end, and you wind on irrespective not knowing, there's a risk or tearing the sprocket holes. I've done it once, but now I'm very careful and probably err on the safe side by stopping at frame 70, or 71 if I'm feeling lucky.
I second that. I should have replied earlier on but the OG Pen-F with the gothic F can tear your film when you get towards the end of the roll. So when I am getting close to 70, I tend to be extra careful with winding.
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Old 10-10-2019   #20
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Thanks everyone for your help. I bought a Pen FV that arrived yesterday. I shot "half" a roll (i.e 24 half-frame shots on a TriX 400 24 exp) this morning. This is my first experience shooting a meterless camera and I loved it. (I'm using a light meter app until my physical meter arrives).

The viewfinder is ... dimmer than I expected (I'm used to the FM3A's K3 screen) but it's fine.
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Old 10-10-2019   #21
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Beautiful...
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Old 10-10-2019   #22
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Congrats man, enjoy and shoot the **** out of it
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Old 10-10-2019   #23
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Pen-F
pen-f.jpg

Pen-W
pen-w.jpg

Pen-S
pen-s.jpg
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Old 10-10-2019   #24
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Bad news: the self-timer stuck and now I can't release the shutter button. I can send it back but I'm going to try to open up the bottom plate to manually trigger the shutter release. Need to find an appropriate size screw driver... those screws are tiny.
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Old 10-11-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shorelineae View Post
The self-timer stuck and now I can't release the shutter button.
A common problem. When you push up the self-timer lever and let it go from there, it will slowly run down to the point where it should fire the shutter but doesn't, even though the shutter is cocked. Instead, it just stalls. Right? If so then the remedy is easy; no screwdriver required.

Push the self-timer lever up as far as it will go. While holding it there with one finger, carefully advance the film. Release the self-timer lever. Now it should run down fully and click the shutter. The procedure will cost you one or two frames of film if the camera is loaded.
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Old 10-11-2019   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ka7197 View Post
A common problem. When you push up the self-timer lever and let it go from there, it will slowly run down to the point where it should fire the shutter but doesn't. Instead, it just stalls. Right? If so then the remedy is easy; no screwdriver required.

Push the self-timer lever up as far as it will go. While holding it there with one finger, carefully advance the film. Release the self-timer lever. Now it should stay up. After that, you should be able to fire the shutter, either via the regular release button or the self-timer release button. The procedure will cost you one frame of film if the camera is loaded.
I love you!! It worked ... albeit in a slightly different way. When I advanced the frame and let go the lever, the self-timer actually ran down fully and the shutter clicked! Now why did it need an advanced frame for that? Did I try to use the self-timer without advancing a frame?! I don't get it.
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Old 10-11-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shorelineae View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka7197 View Post
Release the self-timer lever. Now it should stay up. After that, you should be able to fire the shutter, either via the regular release button or the self-timer release button.
It worked ... albeit in a slightly different way. When I advanced the frame and let go the lever, the self-timer actually ran down fully and the shutter clicked!
Right. Obviously I didn't remember that part of the procedure correctly. I shall edit my explanation above (for future reference).


Quote:
Originally Posted by shorelineae View Post
Did I try to use the self-timer without advancing a frame!?
No. The film was advanced and the shutter cocked but the shutter-release mechanism 'got lost' for some reason. Well, that's how a former Olympus technician explained it to me when I had the same problem with my Pen FT. Re-cocking the shutter with the self-timer lever up brings the gearings inside back on track. And no, it doesn't hurt the camera in any way.
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Old 10-11-2019   #28
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My solution to self timer woes was to remove the entire self timer mech from inside the camera. Covered the hole in the front with a bit of masking tape. Makes the camera, an FV, really clean looking. Would like to print up on gummed paper a gold colored 'f' as it appears on the original Pen F and use that as a cover for the vacated self timer lever but never got around to it.
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Old 10-11-2019   #29
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Here's how my FV came, said to have had a former scientific use...


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Old 10-11-2019   #30
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I kinda like how the self timer looks, to be honest
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Old 10-12-2019   #31
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Annoyingly, the self-timer-lever on my FT often gets snagged when I put the camera away in the bag. Since it seems to be a very flimsy affair waiting to break, I've thought about anchoring it using sticky tape (not got round to it yet, probably because it's not an elegant solution).
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Old 10-12-2019   #32
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And that's why I like my Pen-F/S/W, no meters, no nothing to get in the way. Same reason why I like my M4, it is simple and to the point. But, as they say, variety is the spice of life and to each their own.
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Old 10-12-2019   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guy Pinhas View Post
And that's why I like my Pen-F/S/W, no meters, no nothing to get in the way. Same reason why I like my M4, it is simple and to the point. But, as they say, variety is the spice of life and to each their own.
Lovely collection you have there!
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Old 10-12-2019   #34
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Quote:
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Lovely collection you have there!
Thanks man. All three work and get put to work and have film in them at all time.
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Old 10-13-2019   #35
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Lots of good information in this thread.

For the past few days I've been using my FT with 40/1.4 and it is so much fun - I can't stop making photos. At first I thought the Pen's natural "portrait" orientation would confine me, but I very quickly adapted and it's opened up a new way of seeing things.

My advance lever is a bit stiff at about 90 degrees, then loosens up again. On my first 24 exposure roll, I stopped at frame 32, thinking I'd somehow reached the end. Later discovered I just needed a bit more effort. On this second roll, I think I'll stop at 46 to ensure no sprockets get torn.

I didn't realize the take-up spool turns counterclockwise, with the emulsion facing inwards, rather than clockwise like more modern film SLR's.

As for the metering, I wish the viewfinder scale was in F-stops and not 0-7. After 50+ years of photography, well even after 1 year, I have an inherent intuitive feeling of what my aperture should be and the effect I want. I actually do very well not using a meter. Best to get an FV, actually.
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Old 10-13-2019   #36
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Lots of good information in this thread..

As for the metering, I wish the viewfinder scale was in F-stops and not 0-7. After 50+ years of photography, well even after 1 year, I have an inherent intuitive feeling of what my aperture should be and the effect I want. I actually do very well not using a meter. Best to get an FV, actually.
I believe you can pull the ring forward and turn it until the aperture values become visible. I dont know how to describe it as I have a normal lens but if you google it or youtube it, you’ll be able to do it...

Edit: Nevermind, I notice that you're referring to the EV value display inside the viewfinder. My bad.
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Old 10-13-2019   #37
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Yes, I've already swapped the ring back and forth on the lens to see which scale I want to live with. For now, using the meter, I've selected the 0-6 scale on the lens (40/1.4).

The next time I use the camera, I'll probably not put in a battery for the meter and then I'll switch to the normal aperture scale.

One thing I forgot to mention is just how much I enjoy the sound of the shutter. It's a bit loud, but very satisfying. Considering the obscene number of cameras I have, that says a lot for the Olympus Pen FT.
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Old 10-14-2019   #38
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I can't remember who it was who posted this on RFF but an effective way to interpret the light meter of the FT is as follows:
1/ Set your desired shutter speed
2/ Set lens to widest aperture
3/ Look at the meter and then close down as many stops as the number you read

Let's assume an f2 lens.
If at the selected SS the meter reads '0' then shoot at f2
If it reads '1', shoot at f2.8
If it reads '4', then stop down to f8
etc.
In following the method outlined I meter fully open, then count the aperture 'clicks' by feel and sound.
Although I've not tried it, if aperture priority is important for whatever reason I can not see why the same methodology can be applied to adjusting the SS or a combination of SS and aperture. Just a bit more mental arithmetic required.
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Old 10-14-2019   #39
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The Pen FT metering setup is weird and unwieldy... After the FT was introduced, all new lenses had dual aperture scales, one for the actual f/stops and one for the meter numbers. These are 180 degrees apart on the lens barrel, and rotating the aperture ring 180 degrees brings the other scale to the top, changing the click-stops to suit. (And the f/stop clicks do not correspond exactly to the meter number clicks; they're in slightly different positions, not that it matters much!) Thus one has a choice of what to use, one necessary in order to use the FT meter, and the standard other for use on the original F and later FV. Thus no mental gymnastics needed... unless one is stuck with an older lens on an FT!
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Old 10-14-2019   #40
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For me it's like zone focusing and adjusting the critical focus point by feel using the tab; it becomes automatic. W.r.t FT metering I like to see the f# by glancing rather than having to invert the camera with the aperture ring inverted. It works for me and quickly too. With so much latitude using film, slight errors are acceptable.
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