Book Review: Lensbaby: Bending Your Perspective

Lensbaby book cover for picture-soup.com book reviewCorey Hilz has written the definitive volume on Lensbabies, those selective focus lenses that often elicit curious wonder when seen for the first time—and have been known to reenergize their owners’ passion for photography. Lensbaby, Bending Your Perspective, published by Focal Press, an Imprint of Elsevier, ISBN: 978-0-240-81402-5, not only documents the swift growth of the line of lenses created by pro photographer Craig Strong—from the Original Lensbaby, to Lensbaby 2.0, Lensbaby 3G and Lensbaby Composer, Muse and Control Freak—but explains how each is used, with tips and techniques as well as a plethora of photography examples. In addition, the author also discusses use of the variety of accessories for the Lensbaby line. And, unlike a magazine article, which may explain how to use only one particular model, Hilz includes helpful information for each different Lensbaby. And, while the lensbaby.com website offers plenty of helpful tutorials and image galleries to view, I still love to read a book I can hold in my hand, (which is an added plus in this digital age).

Plenty of images are sprinkled throughout the book, from Hilz, a select group of Lensbaby gurus and photographers from the global Lensbaby community who submitted photos for possible inclusion in the book. Lensbaby incorporates both an instructional area and portfolios of work shot with various Lensbabies. And, one of the great things that Hilz has done, is mention which Lensbaby model and optic was used for each photograph, a great help for readers who might want to replicate an image they see in the book. Also nice to see is that the photographers included all work in different genres, so there’s a good variety of images, from weddings, portrait, fine-art, nature and commercial to view within the pages of the book.

For a photographer who has never used a Lensbaby, I think this book is an absolute must. It will give you the tips and tricks that are normally learned through trial and error—allowing you to quickly ramp up to mastering the nuances that come with working with Lensbaby lenses.

For someone like myself, who has used almost every Lensbaby that’s been introduced, the book offers inspiration. I also picked up a few new tricks from the pages of Lensbaby, Bending Your Perpective.

From subtle to strong effects, Hilz has included a little bit of everything there is to know about Lensbabies. Lensbaby, Bending Your Perspective is a great reference, one that I know I’ll turn to again and again. It’s definitely worth the $29.95 price tag.

For more information about the book, go to www.focalpress.com.

For more information about the author, go to www.coreyhilz.com.

For more information about Lensbabies, go to www.lensbaby.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld

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Lensbaby Unveils Lens Compatible with Micro Four Thirds Cameras

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer

By Diane Berkenfeld

Lensbaby today announced the newest addition to its product line-up, the Composer with Tilt Transformer available immediately for the Panasonic Lumix G Micro System and Olympus PEN digital cameras; and for Sony Alpha NEX cameras in Q4.

The Tilt Transformer will allow photographers to mount any Nikon mount lens onto their Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX camera and tilt up to twice the amount of standard tilt-shift lenses, delivering photos that have a slice of focus through the image, bordered by a soft blur.

The Tilt Transformer also serves as the foundation for the Composer Focus Front. When used together, they become the Composer with Tilt Transformer, for use on Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX cameras.

The Lensbaby Focus Front (top) combines with the Tilt Transformer (bottom) to form the Composer with Tilt Transformer.

This provides photographers using these cameras with access to the limitless creativity offered by the Lensbaby Optic Swap system.

The Tilt Transformer’s swivel ball is based on the design of the Lensbaby Composer DSLR camera lens. Tilting a Nikon mount lens on the Tilt Transformer will place the slice of focus in different orientations within the image. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal slices are possible depending on the direction the lens is tilted. Objects in both the foreground and background can be in focus within that slice. For those photographers who have had experience with large format, tilt-shift lenses are similar to the tilt/shift possible when using a view camera.

For example, a photographer can focus on one person close up in the left portion of the frame while also focusing on someone standing much further away from the camera on the right side of the frame. The ability to focus on several items at once (while blurring out the rest of the image) when each item is placed at a different distance from the camera, is typically possible only with traditional tilt-shift lenses or view cameras. The size of the slice of focus is dependent upon the aperture used.

Because the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer lets you tilt the lens at more of an extreme angle, up to twice as far as a standard tilt-shift lens; which will produce a more extreme angled slice of focus than possible with standard tilt-shift lenses.

A built-in mechanism allows Nikon G lenses to function properly at all apertures. Nikon G lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens itself. This mechanism allows the aperture to open and close by manually rotating the lens.

The Tilt Transformer with a Nikon lens on camera.

The Composer with Tilt Transformer is compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and ships with a Double Glass Optic installed. Additional optics can be swapped in and out, providing photographers with a range of creative effects including: Single Glass, Plastic, Pinhole/Zone Plate, and Soft Focus.

I asked Jessica Darrican, PR spokesperson for Lensbaby why the company chose to make the Tilt Transformer compatible with Nikon lenses, She explained that there were a number of reasons that made Nikon lenses ideal for use with the Tilt Transformer and these interchangeable lens digitals. In addition to Nikon’s lenses being known for their high quality, there are plenty of Nikon lenses in the Nikon F-mount available on the used equipment market. Also, the backfocus  distance of Nikon lenses is the longest of all the SLR systems, allowing the most amount of tilt in the Tilt Transformer.

For those Canon shooters wondering why Lensbaby isn’t offering a Canon compatible mount Tilt Transformer, one major reason is that Canon, uses an electronic aperture system, eliminating any possibility of controlling the aperture with the Lensbaby system, limiting photographers to only being able to shoot wide open with a Canon lens.

For more information, go to www.lensbaby.com.

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Lensbaby Shooters Get Appy

Creative Aperture Kit Contest Winners Announced

By Diane Berkenfeld

muse, composer, and control freak lensbaby models for picture-soup.com article

(l. to r.) Muse, Composer and Control Freak models of Lensbaby, selective focus lenses.

Lensbaby (www.lensbaby.com) recently posed a challenge to the photographic community— come up with a new shape for their Creative Aperture Kit. The grand prize winner’s image would be showcased on the packaging, while the winning aperture and those of the runners-up would be included in the new Creative Aperture Kit for photographers around the world to use.

For those who don’t know what a Lensbaby is, it’s a selective focus lens. The Lensbaby is the brainchild of pro photographer Craig Strong, who launched the creative effects SLR lens system in 2004. Many photographers credit the Lensbaby for bringing creativity back into their work, myself among them.

The grand prize winner is professional photographer Troy Eiffert. Four runners-up were chosen too; they are Ivan DeWolf, Jerrid Jones, Andrew Kua and Bjørn Rannestad.

Creative Aperture Disks

Lensbaby Creative Aperture Disks are blanks that users can cut custom shapes into, in order to add one-of-a-kind effects to their photos.

The shape of the cutout, like a regular lens aperture—allows specular highlights (in the shape of the aperture) to be seen, out of focus in a photograph. Bright points of light, like street lights or the sunlight on a lake, are examples of specular highlights

It is easy to cut your own shapes into the aperture disk material with an X-acto knife or craft store hole punch.

The Lensbaby Creative Aperture Kit 2 will feature nine disks in total, including the five winners’ designs and the following four which were designed by the Lensbaby staff: heart, star, bird, and sunburst.

The new kit are scheduled to be available by the holidays for $14.95 MSRP. The Lensbaby Creative Aperture Kit Blanks are available for $9.95 MSRP.

The aperture disks are compatible with the Muse, Composer, Control Freak, Lensbaby 2.0 and Lensbaby 3G lenses and with the Double Glass, Single Glass, Plastic and Soft Focus Optics.

And the Winners Are…

Each of the winners are excited that other photographers will soon be able to create their own photographs using apertures they created.

Troy Eiffert

troy eiffert slots winning lensbaby contest image for picture-soup.com article

Troy Eiffert's grand prize winning image which will be reproduced on the packaging for the Creative Aperture Kit, along with his "slots" aperture disk. Photograph © Troy Eiffert.

Troy and Heidi Eiffert (www.studioUphotography.com) are award winning professional photographers. Their Lensbabies of choice are the Original Lensbaby and the Lensbaby Composer. In addition to those lenses, the Eifferts also own the wide-angle and telephoto adapters, app kit and the optics kit.

“I created the slots aperture to achieve a vertical, horizontal or diagonal painterly effect depending on how it was placed in my Lensbaby Composer,” said Eiffert.  “This is by far my favorite and most versatile aperture I have cut from the blank disks.”

“We use it for our personal art and quite a bit at weddings and with seniors,” he says.

“We love learning and sharing, and have recently begun teaching,” he explains. The couple is AfterDark Education (afterdarkedu.com) mentors and will both receive their PP of A Craftsman degrees this year, to add to their Masters degrees from the association.

Jerrid Jones

Soft Focus with Step Up ND filter jerrid jones aperture and image for picture-soup.com article

Runner up Jerrid Jones' image along with his "diamond" aperture disk. Photograph © Jerrid Jones.

Jerrid Jones (http://web.me.com/jonesyjerrid and www.mudbrickmusicvideos.com/) is a semi-pro photographer; and audio/visual engineer. While he specializes in recording musicians he also creates music videos.

He currently owns the Lensbaby Muse and Composer models, and is looking forward to adding the Control Freak to his gearbox.

“I first was introduced to the Lensbaby about nine months ago, and I’m having a hard time taking it off my camera; in fact, the only time I take it off is when I’m switching from Composer to Muse and visa-versa,” says Jones.

“It’s been really exciting having my app chosen; I never thought out of all the photos submitted that I would have been in the top five,” he adds.

Andrew Kua

Runner up Andrew Kua's image and "swirly" aperture disk. Photograph © Andrew Kua.

Andrew Kua (www.ndroo.com) is a photography enthusiast who migrated from digital cameras to toy/plastic/analogue cameras. He first discovered the Original Lensbaby a few years back. “It was a result of my search for something more fun and versatile than the usual lenses in the market,” he says. As the Lensbaby line grew, Kua upgraded—to the Lensbaby 2.0 and then 3G. Now that he’s got the Composer and Muse, together with the optic kit, wide-angle lens and fisheye optic, he’s given the older models to friends.

“It has always been an obsession with things less perfect (in photography) and thus my love for toy/plastic/Lomo cams …  [which] led me to the idea of creating an aperture disc that is less than perfect. The rough curvy design was ‘born’ out of this idea,” Kua explains.

Kua hopes more folks will discover Lensbabies and stop trying to “Photoshop” the ‘effects.’ “Nothing can beat the real fun of using the lens itself,” he adds.

Ivan DeWolf

lensbaby winning image by ivan dewolf for picture-soup.com article

Runner up Ivan DeWolf's image and his "dripsplat" aperture disk. Photograph © Ivan DeWolf.

Ivan DeWolf (www.flickr.com/photos/7349106@N06/) purchased his first DSLR (Canon T2i) about a month ago and soon began researching lenses. He owns the Lensbaby Muse and the app kit.

He says, “I was impressed by what I saw of the Lensbaby, and decided I had to try it. The night I bought the lens, I cut two apertures and took the winning photograph.

“I think the thing I like about the lensbaby is it’s imperfections; you have to struggle with it to get a “normal” clean image. Most lenses are a struggle to get something a bit abstract, without resorting to Photoshop. And I really appreciate the tactile nature of the “Muse”, but I’ll probably get one of the other Lensbaby lenses for shooting video,” he says.

“There is a beauty to urban decay and grime, and I wanted an aperture that would imply this in a humorous way. I also really liked the idea of breaking down a photographic image into a literally painterly bokeh,” DeWolf explains.

I really look forward to seeing great images captured using my aperture, from photographers I’ve never met,” he adds.

Bjørn Rannestad

Runner up Bjørn Rannestad's image and "whirlpool" aperture disk. Photograph © Bjørn Rannestad.

Photographer Bjørn Rannestad (www.fotoaalborg.dk) considers himself more than an enthusiast but not a full-fledged pro. He first discovered Lensbabies with the Lensbaby 3G, then got the Lensbaby 2.0, Muse and Composer to his lens collection. He’s since sold the 3G.

Rannestad says he had a couple of ideas in mind for apertures: “I wanted to make an aperture which made a fuzzy bokeh, but didn’t draw too much attention to the design itself. I also wanted it to be independent of rotation of camera/aperture.” Rannestad is fascinated with astronomy and spiral galaxies, hence the name “whirlpool aperture.”

He says he’s addicted to the Lensbaby. “What I like the most about the Lensbaby is the feel of it. Can’t explain it, but shooting with the Lensbaby becomes a part of you. I like the muse and 2.0 the most. No other technique can compete.”

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What is a select focus lens that isn’t always a select focus lens? A Lensbaby with the Fisheye Optic!

By Diane Berkenfeld

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic.

One of the newest optics for the Lensbaby Composer is the Fisheye Optic, which isn’t select focus, but it does let you capture images with 160° field of view. At its ultra-wide 12mm focal length, the Fisheye Optic is an f/4 optic with aperture disks that range from f/5.6 to f/22. To use the aperture disks, you simply unscrew the front element and switch the aperture disk with the Optic Swap Tool; the aperture disk rests just above the bottom element. The lens itself is a six element multi-coated lens. Owners of the Lensbaby Muse can utilize the Fisheye Optic with an optional adapter. The Fisheye Optic is not compatible with the Lensbaby Control Freak lens.

One of the coolest features of the Fisheye Optic is that its minimum focus is only 1.3 centimeters (that’s a half inch) from the front of the optic to infinity. This means your subject can practically lean over and touch the optic. Because your subject is so close to the Fisheye, you really get a lot of great distortion. When you place the subject further away from the camera, you end up with the image inside of a 360° circle. Depending upon how close you are to the subject, part of the circle may be cropped out of view.

I love using this new Lensbaby optic, partly because I can now say I have a Fisheye lens, for much less than the cost of an actual Fisheye lens. Depending upon your aperture, you’ll have more or less depth of field. However by being only centimeters away from your subject, even at a wide aperture you can really see depth in your image—to the point of unreal distortion—but the effect can be way cool.

This image of Gracie, a four month old kitten was taken with the Lensbaby Composer and Fisheye Optic on a Nikon D300s DSLR. You can see that I was almost close enough for the edges of the circle to be cropped out of view (see corners of the image). Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

A second view of Gracie, also taken with the Fisheye Optic, at f/4, with the Lensbaby Composer on a Nikon D300s. Note the depth in her face almost makes this little housecat look like a baby tiger. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

If you were reinvigorated as a creative photographer when you first began shooting with a Lensbaby, give the Fisheye Optic a try—it will give you yet another boost of creative energy to experiment capturing photographs of all manners of subjects in yet another new way.

For more information on the Lensbaby system of lenses and optics, check out the website www.lensbaby.com.

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Photo Gadgets, Gizmos & Gifties Galore… Oh My!

Compiled by Diane Berkenfeld

In the last month or so we’ve seen so many cool new gadgets, gizmos tech and non-tech items that will appeal to any photographer—we knew we just had to share it all with our fellow photographers. Its enough to make a an adult want to beg Santa to deliver them all. Not wanting to wait till we can post full reviews, we’ve decided to whet your appetites with some information on each of these cool new items. Read on for more…

Finally, a photo vest for women.

For the Ladies

Pro photographer Marla Holden has created a product that makes me wonder why no one ever designed one before, but that’s ok, because Marla finally did. What product am I talking about? Foto Fashionista, the very first photographer’s vest designed just for women. Designed to fit a woman’s body, yet offer pockets to hold a variety of photo items, the Foto Fashionista vests come in a variety of casual designs. A more formal looking vest will be added to the line next year. Check them out at www.fotofashionista.com.

Products to Aid You in Carrying Your Camera Comfortably

The Spider Holster clips onto your belt.

New in the gadget arena is the Spider Holster, camera holster. Picture this, a secure plate connects to the bottom of the camera via the tripod screw threads and then is slipped in and out of the Spider Holster itself, which can either be slipped onto a regular belt or the durable belt the company offers. Once connected, the camera can’t slip out until the photographer takes it in his/her hands to shoot. By keeping the camera secure at the hip, you aren’t putting strain on your shoulders or neck. And, using the company’s belt, you can attach two holsters to carry two bodies, one at each hip. Most tripod quick release plates will attach to the bottom of the Spider Holster’s plate for use on a tripod during a wedding or other job that requires you to use a tripod or monopod. I’ve just begun using it myself and am very impressed. Check out the website at www.spiderholster.com to see exactly how it works.

The HoldSLR hooks on a belt and lets you slip your camera inside. A camera cover protects it outdoors.

It seems that when it rains, it pours. First there was only the camera strap, now there are multiple options for carrying a camera in a more ergonomic and comfortable way. The HoldSLR is a new product that uses a wire frame and removable boot and camera body cover, great for use outdoors. The frame is made from compressed steel wire that has a vinyl coating over it. A camera’s lens simply slips into the frame, which hangs off your belt. It can accommodate large lenses, with an opening of 3.75-inches. Gravity secures the camera in the HoldSLR, and the water resistant boot is collapsible to accommodate different size and length lenses. See the actual product for yourself at www.holdslr.com.

Sun Sniper lets you comfortably carry your camera.

The new Sun-Sniper Sniper-Strap “Steel” is a camera strap that features a steel wire insert, making it virtually impossible for thieves to cut the strap to steal the camera off your back. The strap was designed by a photographer, and is worn across the chest, with the camera hanging upside down, ergonomically, at your rear, instead of hanging off your shoulder and bumping into walls, or other objects. California Sunbounce is distributing the new Sun-Sniper strap exclusively in the U.S. Go to the website at www.sunbounce.com for more details.

Rock Steady Camera Stabilizers

SteadePod lets you stabilize a camera or camcorder when there's no room for a tripod or monopod.

Yet another new gadget we saw at PhotoPlus Expo is the SteadePod. Designed to steady a camera without the use of a tripod, it is a small gadget that consumers or advanced amateurs can use with a digital P&S, DSLR, or camcorder. The SteadePod, about the size of a tape measure, screws to a camera or camcorder as you would a tripod. A stainless steel cable extends from the SteadePod and is anchored by a footpad and with a slight amount of tension placed in the cable the photographer’s camera or camcorder is steadied. A ratchet and locking mechanism allows positioning of the camera for a steady picture nearly anywhere between 6” to 6’. It swivels smoothly, allowing for panning and tilting of the camera/camcorder. To see exactly what it looks like, go to the website www.steadepod.com.

Delkin's Fat Gecko uses 2 suction cups to adhere a camera to most any surface.

Delkin’s Fat Gecko Camera Mount was introduced earlier this year, but it is such a cool device that when we saw it again at PhotoPlus recently we decided to include it here. The Fat Gecko has dual suction cups that allow you to mount a camera securely to any smooth, flat, non-porous surface. It uses a regular 1/4 x 20 tripod mounting screw to attach to a camera or camcorder. That means you can use it to mount a camera to a car, boat, plane, or other moving vehicle. Check out the website www.fat-gecko.com that showcases user footage, both stills and video captured using the Fat-Gecko and its sibling models—the Fat Gecko Mini Camera Mount, with a single suction cup; and the Fat Gecko Bike Camera Mount designed to attach cameras and camcorders to the center handlebars of a bicycle.

Joby Ballhead.

Joby, the company that first introduced the flexible mini tripods that can wrap around practically anything updated its entire line earlier this year. In addition to updating the line, Joby added the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Ball Head for use with the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom. The ball head offers a full 360-degree pan and 90-degree tilt. It can hold up to 6.6 pounds of camera weight features a quick-release bubble level clip and is equipped with a standard 1/4-inch adapter. For more information go to the website at www.joby.com.

Cutest New Lensbaby [Optics]

Lensbaby—the cool manual, selective focus lens system developed a few years back by professional photographer Craig Strong—has added two new optics to the Lensbaby system: the Soft Focus optic and the Fisheye optic. Because of the selective focus capability of the lens, the Lensbaby lets you embark on a wonderful new direction in creative photography. If you don’t know what a Lensbaby is, you don’t know what wonderfully creative photography you’re missing out on. Go to www.lensbaby.com right now and check it out!

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic.

The Lensbaby Composer is the ultimate in Lensbabies. The Composer lets users easily control the selective focus movements. And, when you’ve got the lens in the exact position you want it, the Composer holds the focus where you’ve set it. If you’ve only experienced a Lensbaby via the Original Lensbaby or Lensbaby 2.0, check out the Lensbaby 3G, revamped and going by the moniker Lensbaby Control Freak, or the Composer. Both of these models let you lock the lens in place so you can easily take more than one frame of a scene and get repeatable results. (The Muse is the optic swappable version reminiscent of the Original Lensbaby design.) The optics are the really cool part of the Lensbaby lenses. There are six different optics and each alter the way that images are captured.

Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic.

The optics include the single glass, double glass, plastic, Pinhole/Zoneplate—and the newest optics—the fisheye and soft focus. Each of the optics feature a 50mm focal length, but the fisheye optic has a 12mm focal length. The fisheye optic has a 160 degree angle of view and creates photos that are circular in nature. One of the cool things about the fisheye optic is that it offers a focus range from 1-inch away from the lens, all the way to infinity. The new Soft Focus lens gives you that dreamy effect you were used to when shooting film (back in the day).

Blazing Fast Media Cards

Speed and capacity of media cards are ever increasing, along with the ability of newer DSLRs to utilize the speed of these cards. Lexar recently added the Lexar Professional 600x CompactFlash cards to its line. These cards are fast, and are available in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB capacities. The 600x CF cards, when used with a UDMA 6 enabled device [read: DSLR], write speeds of 90MB/s are guaranteed. Pair the cards with the new Lexar Professional ExpressCard CF Reader for 80MB/s read speeds. The new cards are ideal for use with cameras like the Canon EOS 7D, Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Nikon D3x or D300S. All Lexar Professional media cards come with a free downloadable copy of Image Rescue 4, the latest version of the company’s image recovery software. Go to www.lexar.com for more details.

A few months back, SanDisk introduced the SanDisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash cards with capacities of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB that have read/write speeds of up to 90MB/s (600x). These UDMA-6 cards are designed for use with the latest DSLRs on the market. The SanDisk Extreme Pro ExpressCard Adapter is optimized to take advantage of the new card’s read speed, up to 90MB/s read speed. The company also introduced new SanDisk Extreme CF cards at 60MB/s read/write speeds (400x) in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB capacities. Check out www.sandisk.com for more information.

Lock Your Data in a Locker+

Kingston DataTraveler Locker+

Kingston Digital just launched the DataTraveler Locker+ USB flash drive. The DataTraveler Locker+ was designed for the consumer/prosumer or small business that wants to be able to secure their mobile data. The DataTraveler Locker+ features 256-bit hardware-based AES encryption. What this means is that you’ll need a password  to access the data, once you’ve set up this USB drive. Try incorrectly 10 times in a row and the drive locks down and reformats, wiping the data. Kingston is shipping these drives in capacities up to 32GB. The company also offers the DataTraveler Locker, which lets you set up a partitionable area for public sharing as well as an encrypted zone. Kingston also offers the DataTraveler Vault Privacy Edition for enterprise and government customers. The DataTraveler Locker+ is compatible with Mac and Windows-based PCs. Go to www.kingston.com for more information.

And Now For Something Really Different

Light Sculpture.

Want to offer your clients something really different? Shapeways is an online marketplace that allows creatives with various levels of 3D modeling skills—from none to very experienced—affordable access to the latest 3D printing technologies and the ability to create custom-made giftware in a variety of materials. Don’t worry if you’re not skilled at 3D modeling, there are plenty of artists selling their 3D designs through Shapeways Shops. There are a wide range of 3D items available, made from different plastics or stainless steel, from holiday ornaments to personalized cufflinks and jewelry to home décor, but the item of real interest to us is the Photoshaper. The Photoshaper creates a depth-layered 3D picture, based on the contrast of the picture. The Photoshaper accepts JPG, PNG and GIF files. The size of the output is 3.5”x5.11” and can be output either horizontal or vertical orientation. Check out the website at www.shapeways.com.

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