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Thread: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

  1. #1

    Default The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    The Ultimate Laser Buyers' Guide: Handhelds &Pointers

    Preface
    So I have decided with the numerous weekly posts concerning which handheld/pointer to buy, that I would make a thread with strictly this information. If you happen to see a picture that is yours, forgive me for stealing it; it was used b/c you either take awesome pictures, or it was the best quality I could find.

    When posting questions about your next, or first laser purchase, think about what you are asking. A word of advice for new users: A LASER'S POWER IS NOT MEASURED BY HOW FAST IT CAN POP BALLOONS, LIGHT MATCHES, CUT HOLES IN TRASH BAGS, OR BURN THINGS!!!

    All too often users post the same question that was posted the same day before, just worded differently regarding their new purchase and whether or not it will be able to perform these tasks. There are simply too many factors that go into a laser's output that specifies what it can and cannot do. If you are spending $500-$2000 to light matches and pop rubber balloons, not only do you have too much time and money on your hands, but perhaps you have taken up the wrong hobby.... But, we will leave that conversation for "The Cafe"... Let me repeat myself for those of you who like to ruin threads... *ehem*... WE WILL LEAVE THAT CONVERSATION FOR THE CAFE.

    When purchasing your first laser, there are a lot of things you need to ask yourself:
    • How much am I willing to spend on this?
    • How much will I actually use the thing?
    • How much power do I REALLY NEED?
    • Will I use this responsibly?
    • What are the laws in my area for this awesome new hobby of mine?


    You really need to answer all of the above honestly. If you can't be honest with yourself on these questions, you are going to make an impulse purchase, and potentially harm others if you are not ready to get into something like the world of high powered lasers. One thing you should do as a rule of thumb before buying a laser, or travelling with your laser is check the local laws AND ABIDE BY THEM!

    So, let's get on with the post and get to the good stuff!

    Here goes:


    Handhelds (green)

    PGLIII



    I start w/ this simply b/c it was the 1st popular handheld here in the forums. It was known to have driverboard/unstability issues, but I have heard this has been well taken care of w/ the newer models. It can be found under many names, but they are all about the same thing:



    Features/Specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant (notification LED, endcap dongle, key, shutter, and turn-on delay)
    • built in heatsink
    • 1.2W diode
    • constant-on switch
    • powered by 2 "C" cell batteries
    • outputs are sold in <300mW (and rarely get that high)


    Hercules



    This laser is just plain cool (as is Laserglow's customer service). It has the features of a tabletop module, with the (somewhat) portability of a handheld. It's about the size of a 3D Maglite: a bit bigger than the others I've gone over. This laser was designed more for scientific and industrial applications, but can be used for consumer purposes as well. Only a few people on the forums have this laser b/c of it's high price... this laser has a lot to offer though:



    Features/Specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant(notification LED, key, end dongle, shutter, and turn-on delay)
    • built in heatsink
    • built in cooling fan!
    • 2.0W diode
    • constant-on switch
    • powered by 3 "D" cells or AC wall adapter
    • outputs are sold in <450mW
    • auto-shutoff feature (when cavity temperature reaches >50 degrees Celsius
    • TTL modulation input
    • very stable


    PGLIIIA aka Envee



    Probably one of the best bang for the buck modules around (in terms of mW per dollar). These are made by CNI, the makers of the PGLIII (well duh!). The best way to obtain one of these is through Lucent Optics, started by one of our own here at CPF.



    Features/Specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant (notification LED, end dongle, and turn-on delay)
    • internal heatsink (surrounding diode) for extended use
    • 500mW diode
    • powered by 2 "AA" batteries
    • outputs are sold in >100mW and less


    Optotronics PPL



    These are sold by a fellow forum member, "bootleg2go" (JacK). He is a great guy to deal with, as many people here will attest to. You could say he is the Arnold Beland (owner of Atlasnova, which I will get to) of the handheld world. These lasers are known to be nice and stable for long periods of time, and have some great outputs for the money.



    Features/Specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant (notification LED, key, shutter, and turn-on delay)
    • built in heatsink
    • 1.2W diode
    • constant-on switch
    • powered by 2 "C" cell batteries
    • outputs are sold in <300mW (and rarely get that high)
    • very stable


    Optotronics RPL

    This laser looks about the same as the PPL, except it is powered with an included rechargable type 18650 lithium battery. This eliminates the need for buying any Duracells, Energizers, etc. (it will save you a load of $$$ in the long run!). This laser is different from the PPL technically speaking too:



    Features/Specs:

    • Partially FDA compliant (notification LED, key, shutter, and turn-on delay)
    • built in heatsink
    • 2.5W diode
    • constant-on switch
    • powered by included rechargable type 18650 lithium battery
    • outputs are sold in <310mW
    • auto-shutoff feature if the laser overheats
    • very stable


    Spyder (532nm)



    The Spyder has had many improvements with stability issues according to many members, and hopefully with the excess IR as well (which causes them to be so powerful). The Spyder II is due any day now, which many users are looking forward to. Though the specs have yet to be publicly released, it seems that this new model will have many improvements over it's 1st gen brother.



    Features/Specs:

    • NOT fully FDA compliant (lack of safety features)
    • no external heatsinking
    • 1.0-1.2W diode
    • powered by 2 "CR123A" cells
    • outputs are sold in <300mW
    • waterproof (up to 5m)



    Handhelds (other)

    Yellow (593.5nm) DPSS Laser Module



    This is another one that I have yet to get my hands on. Cool color, and stable too! Not the same old same old.



    Features/Specs:

    • PARTIALLY FDA compliant (notification LED, key, shutter)
    • FULLY FDA compliant if purchased from LaserGlow
    • built in heatsink
    • unknown power pump diode
    • constant-on switch
    • powered by 2 "C" cell batteries
    • outputs are sold in <10mW


    GPL473



    This is CNI's blue (473nm) laser pointer. It's more the size of a handheld module, which is why it's being included in this section. Very few people have this laser. In fact, "The LED Museum" is the only user I have seen to have purchased one. His review says it all.

    *update: this unit has been completely redesigned due to stability and output issues. The new casing is no longer silver, but a smaller, glossy blue one. The new version of this unit is now powered by 1 "CR-2" battery



    Features/Specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant (depending on output purchased)
    • NO built in heatsink
    • diode output unknown
    • powered by 2 "CR2" batteries
    • outputs are sold in >10mW


    Spyder (473nm)

    This unit looks EXACTLY the same as the other Spyder units, except it outputs @ 473nm. I haven't heard much about this unit at all, as it it pretttty pricey. It is available through other retailers, but they simply purchased in bulk from Wicked.



    Features/specs:

    • NOT FDA compliant (b/c of higher blue output)
    • NO built in heatsink
    • powered by 2 "CR123A" batteries
    • outputs are sold in >40mW


    Wicked Sonar

    I group this new laser w/ the modules, simply because of its form factor. While it seems to be the smallest blue pointer yet, it doesn't quite fit the pointer profile. Call it what you want; it still functions the same regardless. It uses the infamous new Sony blu-ray diode, outputting a raw 20mW.





    Features/specs:

    • NOT FDA compliant
    • NO external heatsinking
    • powered by 2 "CR123A" batteries?
    • directly injected Sony blu-ray diode @ 405nm
    • output: >20mW


    Infrared (1064nm) Handheld

    I have yet to test this device, or hear of anyone's experiences with it, but I can imagine when used properly it would be a great tool for experiments. This device should NEVER be used for play (popping balloons, lighting matches, etc). This device looks and functions the same as the PGLIII, so no image is necessary (you cant see the beam anyway).



    Features/specs:

    • SHOULD BE USED W/ EXTREME CAUTION DUE TO HIGH INFRARED OUTPUT!
    • FULLY FDA compliant
    • powered by 2 "D" batteries
    • sold in outputs >500mW


    Red (660nm) Handheld

    I have yet to test this device, or hear of anyone's experiences with it, but it must be amazing to see in person. Deep into the red spectrum, it outputs a beautiful shade of color. I want one!



    Features/specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant
    • powered by 2 "D" batteries
    • sold in outputs ~200mW



    Pointers

    Leadlight



    First up, is probably the most popular, and widely known greenie to date: the Leadlight. This pointer comes in 2 versions: the 105, and the 110. The 105, the original, is the highly moddable, more popular one. This unit has been known to exceed ouputs of 50mW and beyond. Some more experienced modders have gotten similar results with the 110. The 110 has the "APC" function... a part of the driverboard is dedicated to regulating output and stabilization of the laser. This APC function is the reason that the 110 is harder to modify for higher outputs.



    Features/specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant
    • powered by 2 "AAA" batteries
    • very stable


    Atlasnova Leadlight



    Atlasnova is the only destributor in the world who supplies ALL black leadlights. Also, his leadlights can be purchased at higher outputs (>60mW for example). After close examination of these pointers, some have said that larger diodes and crystal assemblies are used (in the 105 version). Arnold and Alvine Beland, owner and wife, are absolutely WONDERFUL to work with. Arnold makes the sale decisions for minors, as well as for high spec units over the telephone; Alvine handles the sales end. Enough cannot be said about Atlasnova.



    Features/specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant (until modified)
    • powered by 2 "AAA" batteries
    • outputs are sold in as available & on case to case basis
    • very stable


    Wicked Lasers' Pointers



    These come in several different outputs, ranging from 15mW all the way up to a whopping 125mW - quite an achievement for a pointer. Keep in mind that duty cycles are a must when dealing with the higher powered pointers, as the diode can easily overheat in such a small environment. These lasers are currently manufactured by CNI, but Wicked has announced that they will soon be producing them on their own, and a whole host of new features are due to come with the new model. You can read more about this new version here.



    Features/specs:

    • NOT FULLY FDA compliant
    • powered by 2 "AAA" batteries
    • outputs are sold in outputs >125mW or less
    • requires duty-cycle


    Atlasnova 650/635nm pointers



    Atlasnova also offers red pointers, available in the 650 and 635nm wavelengths. The casings look about the same physically. The 635nm version is the brighter of the two, and is one of the brightest red pointers on the market; it should NOT be used for lecturing, as it is much too bright. The 650nm is a more suitable pointer for lecturing and playing with pets; both are of the highest quality though.



    Features/specs:

    • FULLY FDA compliant (until modified)
    • powered by 2 "AAA" batteries
    • 2 different wavelengths available
    • very stable


    Pulsar



    This is the new 650nm pointer from Wicked lasers. it is available in 100 and 150mW versions. It appears very bright because of its high output. I don't have much information on these, but by visiting the pulsar forum you can gather more information if needed.

    Features/specs:

    • NOT FDA compliant (b/c of higher output)
    • powered by 2 "AAA" batteries
    • outputs are sold in <150mW


    I really hope this helps some of you; I will do my best to keep it updated as new products come about.
    Last edited by SuperBert; 12-17-2006 at 12:00 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Theres a typo, the spyder runs on 2 CR123As, not C cells. That's a really really nice little thing you've got set up. I hope this gets stickied. Good work!

    If anybody has any additional questions about the WL green/red lasers I've got some answers since not much was covered on the pulsar. PMs are welcome.
    Last edited by Black Sheep; 06-22-2006 at 03:41 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    thanks! let me know if there's anything else...

  4. #4

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    As the guy who organized the PGLIIIA group buy, I'd like you to make some changes.

    -I'd revise it to <80mw, since CNI informed me that 80mw is the highest power rating of this type of laser that they sell. Of course, they might test a little higher.

    -It has no big external finned heatsink, but the diode is housed in a big ol chunk of aluminum - enough heatsinking to sustain constant operation. The laser never heats up.


    BTW, excellent thread idea! This is a must sticky!
    Last edited by FNinjaP90; 06-22-2006 at 05:41 PM.

  5. #5
    Flashaholic nero_design's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Nice review Superbert. Good to see the lasers all grouped up like that.

    I would suggest that whilst you described the lasers supplied by WL as "NOT fully FDA legal", the correct term to use would be:
    "Not FDA compliant" or "Not FDA approved". But it's your review/comparison... I just though some of the points below might be worth mentioning.

    This is because the FDA only influences US imports & distribution and have not currently declared the lasers as illegal.... just "not compliant with FDA standards". Furthermore, the FDA told me last year (in a letter posted in these forums) that ANY laser in the Class 3B portable variety is "illegal" to use if the user/operator does not have a Variance authorising them to operate it. So, FDA compliant or not, all these lasers are equally restricted when it comes to authorised use.

    Since a lot of attention & devotion to this subject has been mentioned in the Forums in the past, and the first point in your list of each item relates to the proposed legality of the item, then I'd venture to guess that it's worth mentioning that the FDA only relates to US users/purchasers/owners.

    Your mentioning of Leadlights being 'legal' (and subsequent disclosure in your lists of being able to easily modify these lasers to excessive outputs) neglects to mention that Modding the aforementioned lasers is indeed going to make them "overpowered" by definition of the FDA laser mandate charter itself - and therefore "Illegal" under your own terms of description.
    ________________

    The Red Pulsar laser at the bottom of the list doesn't require a heatsink. It can just go on and on until the batteries give out. I'd be tempted to add the words "Heatsink not required" to this particular laser. It's fun to work with for this reason... had it out last night.
    ________________----
    Having handled Prototypes of the Spyders in the past (I was asked to photograph them - as per your posted pics above) before returning them to the manufacturer, I note that you didn't mention that they were 'shock resistant' - also, they do not currently require a heatsink due to the design and materials used. Other models by other manufacturers seem to require heatsinks... and fans too.

    I haven't used the PGL III models myself due to their weight and size (and the safety features get in the way of my work)... but does anyone have a comparison pic of these lasers together to give any understanding of the various sizes?
    Last edited by nero_design; 06-22-2006 at 09:51 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Good call on the vocabulary mix-up... this was sort of thrown together, just for the heck of it. While some of the lasers may not require heatsinks or extra cooling, it is a nice added feature; some may need to use the laser for long periods of time, and extra heat dissipation may be a concern to them. W/o getting off topic (like these usually do, PLEASE, NO ONE, let it go there) the "no heatsink" is a typo on the pulsar... sorry for the confusion. When I made this I copied parts of the specs and code from other areas and models within this post to speed things up... I just missed it. I truly meant to put something under the leadlight area about modifications voiding warranty as well as FDA regulations... Guess I was trying to do this while doing too many other things. I also just noticed that I forgot to add the pointers that Wicked carries... they will be added soon.

    Thanks for the replies and tips. Just trying to help the laser newbies out here, just as much as everyone else!
    Last edited by SuperBert; 06-23-2006 at 11:49 AM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Excellent summary! thanks for taking the time to do this!
    Maybe you could include a link to the modification thread for the 105, 110, and GPL-3A with each laser (any others)? This will help people find the information and hopefully answer questions before they are asked.

    105

    110

    GPL-IIIA

  8. #8

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Bump! This still should be stickied!

  9. #9
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Might be a work in progress, but an excellent start I say.....

    A nice contribution to the community, and no doubt time consuming.

    Hat's off to you, SuperBert !........
    |Nuwai|GLP's|Aleph 3|PR-T w/E2e|Costco HID's|ARC LSH-S| Mr Bulk|Lumaray FL12|PocketMateW|MagHID|Mag85|AWR Nano|Amilite|SFIII Mc38-V|TnC Lithium Lux V XYOS 03/10|Fenix Trio|SuperNova|Illuminator|PGL-III-A's| Gatlight SS V2|Nitrous McLuxIII PD|USL|AN/VSS-3a|FM Ni Plt'd C Mag|FM 3.5" Mag Head|

  10. #10

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Why don't you add some cheapo eBay pointers and handhelds like the Novophone laser and the Newwish pointer... It would be good to know how they fair with better brand-name lasers.

  11. #11

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    let me do some info gathering over the next few days and I will update the thread as soon as I get a chance...

    thanks for the recommendations...

    -Brett

  12. #12

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    perhaps some prices, so that we can compare and such?

  13. #13
    Flashaholic COMMANDR's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    SuperBert:

    Super job on the The Ultimate Laser Buyers' Guide: Handhelds & Pointers.
    Many thanks, there are so many pointers out there, hard to make an informed decision, this will be a big help. Kudos

    Gary




    Phasers on Stun
    Flashaholic

  14. #14

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Very nice job

    Could you please add some info on the CNI pointers that wickedlasers distributes? Also, wickedlasers is starting to manufacture their own green pointers so they will be fully independent from CNI. When we learn more about those maybee you could add some info on them. I hear the divergence is at least twice as good on the previous pointers. Here is a photo from Marco Nero (he's the only one that has one so far). The new greenie is between a pulsar and a CNI pointer:


  15. #15

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    ****UPDATE****

    *Preface added
    *Wicked Lasers' pointers added



    ****COMING SOON****

    *Handheld meter information and links
    *brief pricing information
    *More upon request!


    Take care,
    -Brett

  16. #16

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Nice guide you have compiled there! This is very helpful, especially to questions that get asked over and over regrding particular models.

  17. #17
    Flashaholic GrooveRite's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Thank you Superbert for this wonderful guide of lasers. I'm new to lasers and this guide is a HUGE help in making a decision of which I should buy. Thanks!

  18. #18

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Great info, thanks to everyone for this thread!

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* senecaripple's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    i think there is a new player in town: dragonlaser, cheaper than wicked laser, but i believe are very similar in product!

  20. #20
    Flashaholic Ragnarok's Avatar
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    Question Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    In keeping with the "Buyer's Guide" theme, does anyone, including manufacturers/dealers have any data on duty cycles and failure rates that can be compiled here? I am planning on purchasimg a handheld laser in the near future and reliability, not power, is my main concern. Who's got the most "bombproof" laser, at any power level? Are there any handhelds (not pointers) that are capable of truly continuous operation?

    Any info would be greatly appreciated. TIA,

    Ragnarok
    Last edited by Ragnarok; 11-12-2006 at 11:41 AM.
    "Man, that's WAY too bright!!" "Yeah, and your point is...?"

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    Enlightened Chief117's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Hi, we have a new laser around. Its a blu-ray laser by WL, and could be added to this guide.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Some posts in this thread - old ones and a recent one - have disappeared. They have been deleted by me in order to clean this thread and preserve its usefulness.

    Again ... please keep this thread on topic with the "laser guide" theme. It is too valuable a resource to do otherwise.

    Thank you.

    bernhard
    There is a type of perfection that transcends the quest for lumens. Buying a $250 1-cell light for "lum factor" is like buying a $250 single malt Scotch for the alcohol content.
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  23. #23

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    updates in progress... Sorry I haven't been around to mess w/ this; things have been crazy.. I am updating a little at a time, as I am at work.

  24. #24
    *Retired* The_LED_Museum's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Yellow (593.5nm) DPSS Laser Module





    Features/Specs:

    • PARTIALLY FDA compliant (notification LED, key, shutter)
    • built in heatsink
    • unknown power pump diode
    • constant-on switch
    • powered by 2 "C" cell batteries
    • outputs are sold in <10mW

  25. #25
    Flashaholic GrooveRite's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Quote Originally Posted by SuperBert
    updates in progress... Sorry I haven't been around to mess w/ this; things have been crazy.. I am updating a little at a time, as I am at work.
    Your work in putting this thread together is much appreciated!! Thank you!!

  26. #26
    Flashaholic* benchmade_boy's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    any idea for a 123 powred green laser that has about 100mw to 200mw if you could piont me to a place i would be very gratfull. and if possible it needs to be under 400

    thanks guys


  27. #27

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    *****Updated on 12-15-2006*****

    • New lasers added
    • Updates to products added
    • Post cleaned up a bit

  28. #28

    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    I will be updating the list sometime in the very near future (hopefully before the end of the week) so keep an eye out for it. Been busy, so be patient. I havent forgotten about CPF haha.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic Hemlock Mike's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Bert --- Super ----

    A good collection of a lot of info. There will be a lot of Butt whats, Butt ifs and whatever -- expect it. As stated this is a good start.

    THANK YOU --

    Mike

  30. #30
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Laser Buyer's Guide: Handhelds & Pointers

    Just a small correction/update:

    Laserglow's Hercules now uses a 2.5W diode and improved crystal set. They are now regularly available in sustained output powers up to >400mW, and occasionally are available as high as >500mW. The divergence has also been improved to now fall between 0.8-1.2mRad.

    Thanks for the great comparison list, this will answer a lot of people's basic questions about the wide selection of lasers available out there. Good work!

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