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Camera and Lens Repair Essentials

In this blog post I will outline to you all the essential tools that you need for restoring manual focus lenses so that you do not waste your time and most importantly money or gear.

Most of the tools that you will need can be bought in regular hardware stores however some of them are quite specialised and can only be bought in specialty stores or online. I live in Tokyo so camera repair equipment is readily available to me from shops, big chain stores and online shopping. These tools are an investment so buy the best that you can afford but do not go overboard and buy something that is insanely expensive but of very limited use.

Luckily, camera repair has a lot in common with watch repair since both deal with precision tools and small hand-held equipment. Going to the watch repair department of your DIY shop can also be fruitful. I grew up in a watchmaking family so the tools and skills are all familiar to me.

I strongly recommend that you follow my equipment advise as close as you possibly can because tools like screw drivers seem to be common across the board but in reality they come in different types. Using the wrong type will result in a stripped screw head.

Finally, I am not going to be responsible for any broken equipment, tools, gear or your health, so please use your common sense and follow safety procedures. Now, on with the tools.

Screwdrivers and Screws:

IMG_1477First, you will need a set of precision screwdrivers. These things are great for smaller screws. Be very sure that you only purchase screwdrivers that are JIS (Japanese International Standard). Any hobby shop with a mini 4X4 or radio control section should have these and chances are they will be JIS. Japanese brands are also more likely to be JIS (Like Tamiya). Never ever buy cheap precision screwdrivers, you will use these for a long time and the damage caused by using the wrong screw driver can be very expensive. If JIS is not available, buy crosspoint drivers. The Philips screwdrivers look similar but work differently so never use the Philips screw drivers on your Japanese brand lenses. The best brand is VESSEL. If you want to, you can also buy individual drivers.

IMG_1485You will also need precision micro screwdrivers. These micro screwdrivers are essential for screw heads that are too small for your regular precision screwdrivers. Always remember to “use the right tools for the right job”. These are VESSEL brand screw drivers. You definitely will want to stick to a brand and I recommend that you stick to VESSEL since they are reliable, inexpensive and of high quality. Most likely, the Japanese brand camera manufacturers use VESSEL as well.

IMG_1483For bigger screws, use regular screwdrivers. Be sure to buy 2 types for each screw type: a long shafted screwdriver and short shafted one. The 2 types of screws that you will encounter in camera lenses are crosspoint and flat. They are also called plus(+) and minus(-) drivers. Again, and I can never say this enough: stick to VESSEL! The most useful size for the plus driver is 0. The 00 can also be useful from time to time but 0 is what I use most of the time. These are used for bigger screws like that one in the lens bayonet mount. The long shafted screwdrivers are used for larger screws that are too tight and using the shorter general purpose one will just strip the head even if you use the correct size. The long shaft will give you the torque that you need for these screws. Camera manufacturers used to love thread lock (Loctite) a lot and they use this thing copiously. Also, since the lenses that you will restore will likely be old, the screw might just “fuse” with the thread due to corrosion or grime and extra torque is required.

IMG_1486You will want to scour the screws section of your DIY shop for a collection of screws. I am not familiar with the other Japanese brands but the most common sizes that you will find in Nikkor lenses should be 2mm(M2) and 1.4mm(M1.4).

Buy lengths from 2mm to 4mm. The screws found in the lens bayonet mount will most likely be 2mmX4mm (M2X4). The smaller screws in the lens are either 1.4mmX2mm (M1.4X2) or the 1.4mmX3mm (M1.4X3). There will be times when you will encounter the odd 1.7mm(M1.7) screws, these screws are used internally in parts where extra strength is needed like the helicoid key/s or to mount the optical assembly. They are commonly used in Ai-S lenses and later and less common on pre-Ai and earlier lenses.

You may also encounter sizes other than the ones mentioned but these will be 90% of the screw sizes that you will encounter.

Another important thing to take not is to only buy flat head screws with a very low head since you do not want the head of the screws to protrude from any surface in most cases.

Set screws are the tiny (1mm) screws that hold the front element assembly to the front barrel. I am not sure if these can be bought. They are special and should be handled with care. They are also very brittle as well and can break under little stress.

Specialised Tools:

IMG_1478The workman’s compass is also used by the other trades like architecture and engineering but they are probably most used by the camera industry so I included it in this section. Be sure to buy good ones because a cheap one may slip and damage your glass element. Make sure that the ones that you will buy is not going to slip and has a good tension locking screw. They are used to twist open any metal fitting that hold the glass element to the barrel. Any part that has 2 holes or slots at opposite ends indicate that this tool is needed to open it.

IMG_1484The lens opener or lens spanner is seldom used but is so essential that you will want to buy a good set. The workman’s compass has the same general function to these but there will be times when a lens opener is the correct tool for the job. Usually, these are used to twist open the locks holding the front or rear elements. The cheap ones can be scary because the locking screws holding the points can be flimsy. If the part that you need to open is inside a barrel or is too narrow for this tool to properly access it then the workman’s compass is the correct tool, not this.

IMG_1491These are called friction wrenches. They are basically soft rubber stoppers that come in different diameters with a hollow centre or core. These are used to twist open the metal or plastic front rings holding the front element with friction and torque. While I got these as a set and I strongly recommend that you do the same as well, you can also fashion some yourself by using the rubber stoppers that the hardware stores sell to put on the feet or base of chairs and metal pipes. Just make sure that the middle part will never touch any glass element as this will damage your glass.

IMG_1476This is a lens sucker. These are basically rubber suckers that will hold the glass while you remove or place them into the lens. Some lens elements that are positioned too deep into the barrel like the case of long lenses will require these to access them or put them back. Make sure that the rubber part that come in contact wth the glass is always clean it can damage your glass. This is also a common watch repair tool to hold the crystal or cover for the back.

IMG_1482Buy the best blower that you can afford because you want a strong burst of air to clean any fibres from the surface of your lens or to remove junk and bits of metal from whatever that you are milling.

IMG_5677This is an alternative to a pipe key. It can be easily made and can be used gain with other lenses. A pipe key is very specialized and will only work with a specific lens. Check it out and read this guide on how to make a pipe key alternative to begin making one!

IMG_5679A lens vise is used to repair a dented front ring. Read this post on how to use a lens vise to see how dented front rings are repaired.

IMG_0318This is DIY lens spanner. It is easily made using scrap materials and can be very handy if you need remove a retainer ring seated deep inside something and is out of reach using a compass or you don’t want to scratch anything inside by using a metal tool. Read more about this tool here in this article on how to make a DIY lens spanner!

IMG_4275b

This tool is very important for those who wish to repair the earlier Nikon cameras. This A/R ring opener is needed to remove the lock for the collar of the shutter button. To read more about this tool and how to make one, read this important article on how to create and use an A/R ring opener.

IMG_1489Only buy helicoid grease that is made for camera lenses because using the wrong type will result in the grease migrating to parts of the lens that you do not want or may stiffen or run on extreme temperatures. I use 2 types of grease. One for general use like this S10 grease and another one that is more viscous if I want the helicoid to be stiffer. I consider this S10 grease to be a general purpose grease so I use this for most if not all of my prime lenses. S10 is a name used by my no-brand grease manufacturer, so other brands will call them differently.

IMG_1454Always remember that you should never ever mix grease of different types together as this will change the chemistry of the grease. You also need to clean any surface from the old lubricant and other impurities before you apply your new grease. The camera manufacturers use different kinds of lubricants for different parts of the lens but I use the same type of grease that I applied to the helicoids as my general lubricant so that there will be no chance of anything else mixing with the helicoid grease. This will also keep things simple. Remember not to apply too much grease or your lens will be oily again in no time or the helicoid will have too much friction. Another rule that I follow is to lubricate anything that has metal to metal contact and move regularly like the aperture ring, springs, bushings and helicoid keys.

General tools:

IMG_1488Lens cleaning tissues are valuable for cleaning the glass and metal surface of your lens. Remember never to use the same tissue that you use to wipe the metal surfaces of your lens to wipe anything that is glass. Another is to never wipe your glass with a dry tissue. While these are soft, they may be abrasive enough when dry. Also blow it with your blower before wiping. According to some people, the best brand  is “Kimwipes Scientific.” I have not tried them because they are not available locally.

IMG_1481A good pair of tweezers is essential.I do not think that there is a need to explain their importance.

IMG_1487I use lighter fluid to wipe or brush off old lubricants, grease or grime from my lens and it’s parts. These are very useful for cleaning helicoids with an old toothbrush.

IMG_1479A Dremel and it’s stand (Dremel Workstation) comes in handy when you need to drill or grind parts of your lens. I use this as my grinder when I need to mill new parts or modify existing parts. Sometimes, you will also need to use this to drill a hole in a stripped screw head and use a screw extractor to safely remove a ruined screw. The drill bits and other related attachments are also essential such as the sanding discs.

IMG_1490You will also need generic tin containers to put your cleaning fluids or just to organise parts so that they do not get lost.

screwextractor.jpgMicro screw extractor for removing stuck screws. Only buy the type that has a grooved point that bits into a hole in the screw. Never ever buy any gimmicky screw extractors such as Moody Tools’ screw extractors, they are expensive and useless. Only buy the ones that look and function the same as the one in the picture above. This is essential.

Others tools:

Drill bits for drilling new holes or for using with hand taps and the screw extractor.

Hand taps for fixing worn screw treads and for making new screw holes.

Denatured alcohol for bathing or dipping your metal and plastic lens parts prior to final wiping to remove lighter fluid residue and grime.

Nail polish remover / Acetone is essential for softening the glue that the Japanese camera lens manufacturers use.

Q-tips for initial cleaning.

Lens cleaning fluid for cleaning the surface of your lens. Use with lens tissue.

Hydrogen Peroxide & Ammonia for wiping away fungus. Mix in equal parts. You can also add a strong vinegar to make it more potent and broader spectrum.

Cerium Oxide for polishing damaged glass surfaces with a felt tip on a Dremel.

Lens cloth for doing the final wiping of your glass before re-assembling them. These should take care of the fibres and oils.

LED lamp to inspect if you left any fibres in the glass elements. Also to illuminate your work area. A blue light will show any fungus in your glass.

File to manually file out imperfections in the metal parts of your lens.

Micro hand taps to damaged screw holes as well as for making new ones.

Rubber gloves so that you will not leave finger oils on your glass when handling them.

Grippy safety gloves to protect yourself when you are twisting something that is stuck or to add torque.

Rubber mallet, just because sometimes some things just need a good whack!

Conclusion:

These are the tools that I generally use for restoring lenses. There may be some things that I may have failed to add into the list but otherwise you will not need anything more than what is outlined here.

Always remember to put safety first and that I am not responsible for anything that will arise from you following this article. Love, Rick.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my paypal.com account (richardHaw888@gmail.com). Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

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114 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ron
    Dec 25, 2015 @ 22:37:02

    Thanks for the great info Rick.
    I’ll be getting myself a set of those Vessel screwdrivers with the cushion grips.
    I’ve been searching for the brand name for ages as I’ve seen several Japanese camera technicians using them on YouTube videos.

    Cheers,
    Ron.

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Dec 26, 2015 @ 00:43:06

      Hello, Ron. Just stickbto vessel. Another japanese brand is WERA but vessel is more available to me. Tge german brand WIHA is also good but i would atick to japanese brands. They are cheaper too

      Reply

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  5. Angel
    May 10, 2016 @ 07:41:28

    Hello Rick,
    wonderful guides. Repairing old lenses is my hobby. Most of the steps in your repairs are the same as mine. Except the tools(mine are not good). I live in Europe and its hard to find any Vessel screwdrivers here. Also its hard to me to identify them in Ebay (especially the different shafts) . If you could help me and show me some items i will be happy.

    Thanks!

    Reply

  6. Angel
    May 11, 2016 @ 16:18:14

    Do you use wrench like this http://www.tradecounterdirect.com/custom/images/products/hires/rolson-strap-wrench.jpg
    This was the only tool which helped me to open a stuck top ring of my nikkor-s 28mm f3.5.

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      May 11, 2016 @ 16:46:31

      Hello, Angel. Those drivers are too small but they are useful for smaller screws only. The long ones like the one I showed you is the most important one. Using these little drivers to open up bayonet screws and other bigger screws will only ruin the screws head.

      Reply

    • richardhaw
      May 11, 2016 @ 16:48:23

      Yes! I use and i love them! I even have 2! But only use them when you have to. Front barrels like the one you said should come off easily after putting acetone for an hour

      Reply

  7. Angel
    Jun 14, 2016 @ 08:06:27

    Hi Ric,

    Im using helicoid grease HELIMAX-XP (www.ebay.co.uk/itm//271194713421) which is exceptional quality but i found that its too sticky for some helicoids(ex. Micro-Nikkor 55/2.8 becomes a little hard to focus/stiff). Do you know another brand which is thinner. It seems that the heli gap of 55/2.8 is too short and needs different grease.

    Angel

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Jun 14, 2016 @ 09:19:04

      Hello, Angel. How are you? The lenses with crc needs to have a thinner grease used. You cannot use a thick grease on this lens because apart from the 3 helicoids you have a few more helicoids from the crc as well. All those will add up and you will get a hard turning lens. The usual grease that i am using is thin anyway. The first time i greased this, i used a thicker grease and it was difficult to turn. Ric

      Reply

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  11. Pablo
    Aug 04, 2016 @ 12:14:43

    Hi Richard, I am trying to find Micro screw extractor for screws of 1mm but cannot find any. What is the size of the one in the picture? Were you able to get those super small sizes?
    Thanks and best regards,

    Reply

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  44. INT
    Dec 16, 2016 @ 23:20:48

    Hi Richard,

    I really enjoy your site. Great job!
    You mention that you are not sure if the tiny screws that hold the front element assembly to the front barrel can be bought.
    Could they be these ones? http://www.del-screw.com/(sus)cone_point.htm

    INT

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Dec 20, 2016 @ 01:40:19

      Hello, INT!
      I have since found a supplier but they are only open on weekdays and will only accept volume orders of 1000 screws up. This is closer to my home so I may check this out. Thanks!

      Reply

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  61. Carlos Fernandes
    May 06, 2017 @ 20:24:15

    Hello

    Need some help on the tools. I did not follow your advice and I just messed up a bayonet JIS screw with a BAD quality Phillips screw driver…
    My mistake, my fault, my tears …

    So I need some guidance.
    On the picture I was able to Identify the following
    Vessel 9900 P0*150
    Vessel 9900 3*150
    Right ?
    I have two questions:
    Do I need additional ones ? and … Can I by the short versions that are 100 mm long, rather then the 150mm. The 150 are almost twice the price.

    Also it seems that the two rubber grip ones ( blue and green), on another picture, are part of a VESSEL set. It seem to be :
    Vessel TD-55 ou TD-56.
    Witch one is it ?

    Last question. The first picture show a set of 6 precision screw drivers. Do I need them ? If so I was not able to identify them. Can you tell me what is the brand and reference, please.

    Thanks

    Carlos

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      May 07, 2017 @ 00:58:04

      Hello, Carlos!
      Yes, you will need the additional ones. The long ones are the most important ones because they are used for the bayonet screws. The extra length are needed for added torque.

      The set of screwdrivers are necessary because they have different sizes suitable for the other screws in the lens. You can be sure if it is JIS by going to a remote control hobby shop and buying it there.

      In this craft, you will quickly collect a big set of drivers. I have almost 20 in various sizes and I use them all!

      If you have stripped the head then you will need a screw extractor just in case. The only one that works is the one in my site. Ric.

      Reply

  62. Carlos Fernandes
    May 07, 2017 @ 15:32:25

    Thanks Richard

    I was able to find an online shop in the UK with reasonable prices, and bought the “standard” pack you recommend. All VESSEL …

    Can you recommend an online shop where I can find the screws ?
    It is not easy to find so tiny screen in “local Portugal” shops.

    And ..

    Is this the S10 grease you recommend ?
    http://www.ebay.es/itm/252833910796
    Helicoid Grease for Camera lens #10 15ml Made in Japan

    Sorry for all the question, but … opening and cleaning this old lens is fun. So fun !!!

    Carlos

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      May 08, 2017 @ 02:04:18

      Hello, Carlos!
      The screws are not sold online in small quantities. My screws were bought by the thousands from a factory. However, there are replacement screws being sold on the net and all you need is the right specs like pitch and diameter.

      Yes, that is the S10 grease that I like to use but for different lenses you would like to use different types of hardness. S10 is not so hard but good for general use.

      Be sure to read my previous posts because there are tips scattered here and there just in case. Have fun and just ask, Ric.

      Reply

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  64. Carlos Fernandes
    May 14, 2017 @ 12:57:45

    Hello

    On the first picture of this post you have a set of Pro’sKit screws. Do you know if this are JIS ?

    Carlos

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      May 15, 2017 @ 05:29:35

      Hello, Carlos.
      Yes, they are JIS. Although they do not have the JIS mark, I am pretty sure that they are JIS. Things that are sold locally in Japan by Japanese brands are almost always JIS. So if you go to a RC shop in Portugal and buy a Tamiya brand driver set, you will be sure that it is JIS. To be safe, you can ask the technician or repair guy there and if he doesn’t know about JIS then he should not be in that job hahaha.
      These are very handy and I use them all the time. Ric.

      Reply

      • Carlos Fernandes
        May 15, 2017 @ 20:42:21

        Hello Richard

        Thanks for your help.
        I have bought, at a very faire price, the vessel screwdrivers. I bought them online from a UK store.

        I have also bought the above set of small vessel screwdrivers, but has isolated pieces. Once again from the same shop. Very faire price. They have arrived this afternoon and they are, indeed, VERY nice pieces of hardware.

        Also I have been able to find the screws – bayonet screws ( around 5 euros for 50 pieces). Not sure if they are JIS – don’t think so. I have destroyed one bayonet screw with a Phillips screwdriver. I had read you post, and as probably many of the those that are starting, I did not pay enough attention to your advices. WRONG move …

        To all of you out there … follow Richard advice … You will spare yourself a lot to trouble.
        🙂

        I am now struggling to find the S10 and S30 grease. I have found the 250, 300, etc. But not the 10 and 30.

        Once again: Thanks from Portugal.
        This is indeed the best blog I have ever seen on Nikon lens repair.

        Carlos

      • richardhaw
        May 16, 2017 @ 02:18:29

        Glad you liked it, Carlos!
        Be careful,though. There are many fake VESSEL drivers coming out from China, the land of the fake merchandise!
        As for the screws, yes you have to be careful if the head is JIS or not but most important is the pitch of the thread. If it is wrong then it will destroy your screw hole and you will need to re-tap it.
        You can look for JapanHobbyTools in Amazon, they are my supplier for grease. I got some grease, the same ones that Nikon uses but they are not cheap so I use it carefully. Alternatively, you can use Super Lube if you like. Just make sure that you use fully synthetic grease and not petrol grease. Silicon and lithium based grease are the best. Ric.

    • richardhaw
      May 15, 2017 @ 05:37:08

      I searched Google and I got this.

      Reply

  65. Carlos Fernandes
    May 16, 2017 @ 19:47:41

    Hello

    I believe I got real VESSEL. I bought them from a online store on UK. They seem to sell just “good” brands. Fortunately the Vessel seem to be the less expensive.
    🙂

    I will be very carefully with the screws.

    I have already contact the JapanHobbyTools because they currently do not have the S10 and s30 on the shop.

    When you say you have grease : “the same ones that Nikon”. Do you by any means refer to any of the following ?
    SANKOL CFD409Z
    FLOIL G-92KA

    Carlos

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      May 17, 2017 @ 01:25:18

      Hello, Carlos!

      No, I am using Nippeco’s grease. That’s Nippon Petrochemical corporation. 🙂

      Reply

      • Carlos Fernandes
        May 17, 2017 @ 16:59:14

        Hello

        I emailed JapanHobbyTools and they listed the grease again on ebay. It is already on the way to Portugal.

        I will open again my lens and change the grease I had put on them. The focus is more stiff then I like.

        I will start looking into second hand stores for cheap lens, because I bought most of mine on ebay. Not cheap and not all people are honest.

        Once again THANKS for all the help. I will continue to follow and advertise your blog. Best in class.

        Carlos

      • richardhaw
        May 18, 2017 @ 00:54:50

        Congratulations, Carlos!
        Be sure you have th proper lens openers because these are VERY important. I have to make special ones sometimes. Remember, S10 grease is multipurpose grease for lenses 50mm and up or lenses with a long helicoid throw. S30 grease works best for lenses 35mm and shorter or lenses with a short helicoid throw. Ric.

      • Carlos Fernandes
        May 18, 2017 @ 10:16:10

        Richard

        I understand what you mean about the grease.
        I already have a 35, a 50 , a 135, and a 200. Starting Slow.
        🙂

        What do you mean by lens openers ?
        Do you mean this
        https://richardhaw.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/img_1491.jpg?w=600&h=600

        Carlos

      • richardhaw
        May 18, 2017 @ 12:50:35

        Hello, Carlos!
        Those are the rubber cups. They are also important. Lens openers/spanners are important. You need at least 2 types. Ric.

      • Carlos Fernandes
        May 18, 2017 @ 14:09:55

        OK…
        I know what you mean.
        I already have the “workman’s compass”. It work fine but I have to be very careful not to slip during the operation.
        I will order another one equal to the one you have in the pictures above. Indeed working with the right tools is MUCH better.

        The rubber cups have just arrived … a couple of minutes ago.

        Carlos

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  69. seeingthrough35mm
    Jun 11, 2017 @ 03:39:52

    Hi Richard, thank you for your guide, it is most helpful.
    Would you happen to have a ebay link to the micro screw extractor?
    Many thanks

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Jun 11, 2017 @ 05:04:36

      Hello, I do not have an ebay link but you can try copying and pasting the name and see what you can find. I remember somebody who got one from amazon. Try it. Ric.

      Reply

      • seeingthrough35mm
        Jun 11, 2017 @ 12:16:57

        Thank you Richard. I’ve tried many combinations of the words. As I live in the UK, frustratingly, many of the tools easily obtainable are not available to us, I will keep looking

  70. Carlos Fernandes
    Jun 11, 2017 @ 20:08:38

    I have the same issue finding the micro screw extrator.
    If you find them … please post.

    Fot the other tools I was able to get all of them. Even some of them in Europa.

    Reply

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  83. http://conneelysbedandbreakfast.com/
    Sep 07, 2017 @ 07:05:08

    Thank you for some other informative site. Where else may just
    I get that kind of info written in such an ideal way?
    I’ve a undertaking that I’m simply now operating on,
    and I’ve been on the glance out for such info.

    Reply

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  86. John A. Koerner II
    Sep 30, 2017 @ 17:35:38

    Nice blog, but it would be a thousand times more useful if 1) you actually posted links to some of the products you use, and 2) you made those links open in a new tab (e.g., target=”blank”) rather than links taking a person away from the page they’re viewing.

    Reply

    • Carlos
      Sep 30, 2017 @ 17:40:34

      It took me some time, but now I have almost everything.

      USE THE RECOMMENDED TOOLS.Otherwise you will make some damage to the lens. I have learned this the wrong way. I messed up some of lens.

      Indeed this is a very very very good blog.

      Reply

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