Canon PowerShot N2 Review

April 22, 2015 | Jack Baker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


Back in 2013 we were rather underwhelmed with the original PowerShot N, but Canon is back with a second generation that boasts improved specs and more features. The PowerSHot N2 retains the same distinctive square style and 8x optically stabilised zoom lens as its predecessor, but now its tilting, touch-sensitive screen flips up 180° to face forwards, thereby making it a breeze to snap a selfie. There are changes inside too, with a 16.1-megapixel back-illuminated sensor replacing the original N’s 12.1MP device, and the N2 gets Canon’s newer DIGIC 6 processor that ups continuous shooting speed marginally to 2.7fps. There’s Full HD video for when stills just aren’t fast enough, and the N2 gets Canon’s Hybrid Auto mode that combines video clips with stills to create a pseudo time-lapse effect. Wi-Fi connectivity is also present for easy image sharing and remote camera control, and the N2 adds NFC pairing for extra convenience. The Canon PowerShot N2 is available now priced at £249 / $299.99 in white or black.

Ease of Use

Although the Canon PowerShot N2 now packs some new technology under the skin, that distinctive square style remains. It is slightly larger than the original N though at 80.9 x 62.0 x 32.3mm, and a 201g ready-to-shoot weight is also marginally up on the old model. To put that in perspective, a more conventionally-styled Canon IXUS 275 HS may appear larger than the N2, but its overall volume and weight are around 25% less.

The Canon PowerShot N2’s increased bulk is partly due to a new control ring design. As with the original N, two rings around the base of the lens replace a standard, top-mounted shutter release button and surrounding zoom ring. The N2’s zoom ring is slightly thicker than its predecessor’s and features more pronounced ridges for better grip. In front of this the shutter release ring which has also been sculpted for more control. The fundamental design is still hardly what you’d call intuitive though (to snap a shot, you press down on the top of the shutter ring) and thanks to there being very little resistance at the half-press autofocus point, it’s all too easy to push fully down and snap a shot before the camera has focussed.

You can configure the Canon PowerShot N2 to shoot by touching the screen instead, but this can often result in snapping shots unintentionally. In fact, the shutter ring design actually works best when taking a selfie, as your forefinger sits more naturally on top of the lens when the camera is facing you, whilst your remaining fingers and thumb grip the camera body. Get back behind the camera and it’s very hard to shoot one-handed, partly because there isn’t a great deal to hang on to, but mainly because the shutter ring ideally needs two hands to operate precisely from this position.

Canon PowerShot N2
Front of the Canon PowerShot N2

Aside from the tweaked control rings, the Canon PowerShot N2 is a very similar design to the original N. The glossy plastic shell is well made but has no specific gripping points, though if you’re used to clinging on to a current-gen, wafer-thin smartphone, you shouldn’t have much trouble keeping hold of the N2. Another feature familiar to smartphone users is the N2’s use of Micro SD cards to save physical space. This isn’t particularly unusual though, as quite a few ultra-compact and toughened cameras also record on this format.

You do get some conventional controls on the sides of the Canon PowerShot N2 to assist the touch-sensitive screen. Next to your left hand is the on/off button and below this is the playback control. On the opposite edge is a button to activate the N2’s wireless hotspot, and there’s a switch above to switch between standard shooting and Creative Shot mode. This feature is included with many Canon compact cameras and instantly captures one standard shot plus an extra five variations of it, each with a different filter effect and crop applied. It’s a useful feature when you want to get creative but don’t fancy wasting time hunting through menus to manually apply different filters (check out the image quality section of the review for examples). This feature also explains why the N2 only has five conventional filters.

Canon PowerShot N2
Rear of the Canon PowerShot N2

In addition to these effects, there’s also a Hybrid Auto mode that captures a 4-second video clip with each still and compiles everything into a 720p time-lapse movie. Other shooting modes include a standard Auto stills mode, and a Program mode for manually setting options like ISO sensitivity and white balance. There’s also a Self Portrait mode that activates the touch-screen shutter feature and provides easy adjustment of brightness, background defocus, the flash and self-timer.

Each mode is selected by tapping the mode icon in the upper left corner of the screen which reveals all the available shooting modes, spread over a two touch-friendly screens. Common shooting settings are accessed by tapping the ‘Func.’ Icon in the lower left corner and within this screen overlay is a button to activate the main menu. This displays a typical grey and orange Canon menu system like you’d find on a normal Canon compact camera, but which has been made touch-sensitive. On the whole it’s an easy system to navigate, once you familiarise yourself with which screen icon reveals each group of options.

Canon PowerShot N2
Tilting LCD Screen

The Canon PowerShot N2's 2.8” screen itself has identical specs to that used by the original N. It’s 461,000-dot resolution isn’t especially high, but it’s good enough to display reasonable detail levels and it has very good viewing angles and colour accuracy. The screen is also nice and responsive to your touch, allowing for smooth swiping between images and multi-touch pinch zooming. It’s not quite as slick to use as a current smartphone, but it’s almost as good.

As with original N, the N2’s screen also hinges at the top, but this time it’s able to flip up 180 degrees to face completely forward, rather than being restricted to a 90-degree rotation like the original N. This makes the N2 far more selfie-friendly, and though the screen can’t be tilted downward to help compose a high-angle shot, you can flip the whole camera upside-down to achieve the same result.

Canon PowerShot N2
The Canon PowerShot N2 In-hand

One area which hasn’t been improved from the original N, however, is its flash. With space at such a premium, the Canon PowerShot N2 has to make do with a tiny LED flash such as you’d find on a smartphone. This is extremely underpowered when compared to a conventional xenon flash on even an entry-level compact camera. Also compromised by the N2’s diminutive dimensions is its battery. The 870mAh cell is about the size of an AA battery, but is only good for 200 shots per charge, and we had trouble matching even that figure.

Canon has improved its wireless connectivity for the N2 though by adding NFC pairing. Now you’re able to simply tap an NFC-enabled smart device against the camera to create a connection, but pairing the old fashioned way is fairly painless too. Canon has replaced its old CameraWindow app with a revised version called Canon Camera Connect, although the two apps are quite similar on the surface. You’re still able to transfer images from camera to smart device, with each full resolution photo transferring in 4-5 seconds. You can also operate the N2 remotely from a smartphone or tablet, and whilst there’s a slight lag when operating the zoom controls, the autofocus and shutter commands are instant. The N2 also carries over the N’s ability to use your smart device to tag its images with GPS coordinates. This is less convenient than a proper built-in GPS system as you must sync the camera to your smartphone and rely on the accompanying app, but at least this method doesn’t eat into the N2’s already anaemic battery life.

Despite it’s questionable control design and ergonomics, the Canon PowerShot N2 functions rather well. It’ll snap a shot in approximately 1.7 seconds from power-on and has an excellent autofocus system. This is both fast and accurate, even in low light, where the LED flash comes good as a bright AF-assist lamp.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Canon PowerShot N2’s 16.1MP back-illuminated 1/2.3” CMOS sensor sounds pretty average on paper, but it actually generates surprisingly good image quality. Detail is very well resolved, even when shooting distant landscapes where many cameras are susceptible to smearing grasses and foliage. Detail is noticeably crisper than in shots captured by the 20.2-megapixel PowerShot SX610 HS which we tested alongside the N2, proving that more pixels don’t always mean better.

The other advantage of a lower pixel count is better light sensitivity, and here the N2 also outperforms the SX610 HS, producing impressively little image noise right up to ISO1600. Even at the topmost ISO3200 sensitivity images display well, with relatively low levels of grain and colour speckling. Canon hasn’t achieved this by cranking up the N2’s noise reduction processing either, so there’s still plenty of detail visible in high ISO shots.

Colours are also rendered well, being both vibrant yet accurate, and the camera’s exposure metering does a good job too by producing balanced exposures with reasonably good highlight and shadow detail.

Optical performance is more of a mixed bag, though not a let-down. There is some barrel distortion at the 28mm-equivalent wide angle setting, which itself is not that wide by today’s compact camera standards. Sharpness is high though, with very little drop-off towards the corners of frame. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is also well controlled and you’ll have to scrutinise shots at 100% image size to spot it.


The Canon PowerShot N2 has a sensitivity range of ISO100 to ISO3200 available at full resolution. Unlike many ultra-compact cameras, ISO3200 is completely usable thanks to the N2’s impressively low image noise levels.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600.jpg


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default setting ideally and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg

Focal Range

The Canon PowerShot N2’s 8x optical zoom lens gives you a focal range of 28-224mm (in 35mm-camera terms). Canon’s ZoomPlus feature can double this to 16x without considerable detail loss, whilst an additional 2x conventional digital zoom will give a combined maximum 32x reach, albeit at the expense of image quality.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon PowerShot N2 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


A 1cm minimum focussing distance makes the Canon PowerShot N2 very handy for close-ups.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


There’s no discreet way to say this; the Canon PowerShot N2’s flash is pathetic. It’s an LED flash such as you’d find in a smartphone and has a rated range of up to 1.7 metres, but in reality it’s only useful at very close distances and you’ll still need to use a high ISO sensitivity to get an accurate exposure.

Shooting a white target from a distance of 1.5 metres at ISO100 reveals some wide angle vignetting, but more obvious is the flash’s inability to fully light the scene. Zoom in and the problem is compounded and the shot is far darker than when compared to one illuminated by a conventional xenon flash.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Auto Flash - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (224mm)

Auto Flash - Telephoto (224mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Despite not having a red-eye reduction setting, the N2 doesn’t produce any red-eye. This shot is darker than normal thanks to the underpowered flash not being able to cope with a forced ISO100 sensitivity.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

ISO 64 ISO 64


Activate the Canon PowerShot N2’s Low Light mode and it’ll drop the recording resolution to 5MP to increase detail, counteract camera shake and minimise image noise. However, standard Auto mode usually produces comparable results, but at full resolution.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Anti Shake

Canon’s lens-shift image stabilisation system does a good job of compensating for camera shake. Shot at full zoom with a maximum telephoto aperture of f/5.9, this image required a slow 1/5-second shutter speed at ISO100, but the photo is still fairly sharp when IS is enabled. Turn it off and there’s no chance of avoiding considerable blur at the same settings.

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

Creative Filters

Five filter effects are selectable from the Canon PowerShot N2’s mode menu. These are: Fish-eye, Miniature, Toy Camera, Soft Focus, and Monochrome. All are previewed live and recorded at full resolution.

Fish-eye Effect

Miniature Effect

effects_01.jpg effects_02.jpg

Toy Camera Effect

Soft Focus

effects_03.jpg effects_04.jpg

Monochrome - B/W


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot N2 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 21 second movie is 63.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon Powershot N

Front of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Front of the Canon PowerShot N2 / Turned On

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N2 / Image Displayed

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N2 / Main Menu

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Tilting LCD Screen

Canon Powershot N

Top of the Canon PowerShot N2


Canon Powershot N

Bottom of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Front of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N

Front of the Canon PowerShot N2

Canon Powershot N
Memory Card Slot / Battery Compartment


Given the original N was clearly a niche product and its style hasn’t been widely replicated, it’s perhaps surprising that Canon has followed it up with the N2. Clearly this is a camera aimed at fashion-conscious smartphone photographers who want better image quality and also the versatility of optical zoom, but the Canon PowerShot N2 doesn’t really hit this mark.

Where smartphones get progressively slimmer to make them more pocketable and feature ever-expanding screens, the chubby N2 is noticeably harder to pocket than a regular compact camera. Its 2.8” screen is also down on the typical 3.0” size you’re likely to find elsewhere, and its 461k-dot resolution pales in comparison to the super-sharp displays on nearly every current smartphone. It’s not even like you need a conventional camera to get optical zoom these days, as Samsung’s Galaxy K Zoom packs a 10x zoom lens into a smartphone that’s 40% slimmer than the N2.

Now that Canon has made the N2’s screen fully tiltable through 180° and added NFC pairing, it’s certainly more appealing than the N in terms of connectivity and selfie-shooting. But its core design characteristics remain, and so do its ergonomic drawbacks. The camera really needs to be held with both hands to accurately operate its front control rings, and even then they feel unintuitive and awkward to use. Add to this the pathetic LED flash and disappointing battery life, and the benefits of the N2 over a smartphone camera aren’t all that compelling.

It’d be easy to dismiss the Canon PowerShot N2 as a gimmicky attempt to lure smartphone photographers back to a conventional camera, but it does have one saving grace. The N2 can produce very attractive images with crisp detail, punchy colours and impressively low levels of image noise. Its fast autofocussing and accurate exposure metering also help compensate for the N2’s ergonomic bugbears.

Inside, the Canon PowerShot N2 is clearly a good camera struggling to escape a compromised, flawed external design. If you want a camera that stands out from the crowd, performs well under the skin and you’re willing to accept frustrating ergonomics, the N2 could be worth considering, but trying before buying is a must. Otherwise, you’d be better off splashing the same cash on a well-sorted conventional camera with less overall bulk, more optical zoom, a longer battery life and a stronger flash.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3
Features 4
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Canon PowerShot N2.

Canon IXUS 265 HS

The Canon IXUS 265 HS (also known as the PowerShot ELPH 340 HS) is a stylish point-and-shoot compact camera that offers a 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 12x wide-angle zoom lens, full 1080p HD movie recording, 3 inch LCD screen and built-in wi-fi and NFC connectivity. Read our in-depth Canon IXUS 265 HS review to find out if this tiny camera is worth its £189.99 / $199.99 price-tag...

Nikon Coolpix S6900

The Nikon Coolpix S6900 is a stylish point-and-shoot compact camera that makes taking selfies easy. Featuring a 12x, 25-300mm lens and a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, the S6900 also offers a 3 inch screen, 1080p Full HD movies, built-in wi-fi and NFC and 8fps burst shooting. Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix S6900 review now...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ10

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ10 is a brand new travel-zoom compact camera for 2015. The stylish Panasonic SZ10 offers 16 megapixels, a 12x zoom lens (24-288mm), a 3 inch LCD tilting screen for easier selfies, built-in wi-fi connectivity, and 720p HD movies. Read our expert Panasonic DMC-SZ10 review now...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX220

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX220 is a slim and stylish compact camera with wi-fi and NFC connectivity. The WX220 also features a 10x zoom lens, 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting and Full 1080p HD movie recording. Priced at around £179, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX220 review to find out if it's worth considering...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot N2 from around the web. »

Faced with the constant onslaught of smartphones, Canon had the clever idea of rethinking the traditional digital camera. The result, the Canon PowerShot N, was modern and minimalist, a far cry from anything that had gone before. The Canon PowerShot N2, its successor, inherits the cuboid shape and incorporates a 16 Mpx sensor, a 180° adjustable screen, Wi-Fi and NFC.
Read the full review » »

The Canon Powershot N2 features an 8x optical zoom lens, tilting touch screen and built-in Wi-Fi and updates the Powershot N, with a 16.1 megapixel sensor and NFC. Its square design makes it an unusual looking camera. The Powershot N2 is available in black & white and costs around £269.
Read the full review » »

The Canon PowerShot N2 ($299.99) is a minor update to the original N. It increases the sensor resolution to 16 megapixels, improves video to 1080p30 resolution, and makes it a little bit easier to capture a photo using the shutter ring. But ergonomics are still a serious issue, and image quality lags behind the PowerShot N100, our Editors' Choice for compact cameras, and for just $50 more it's a much better buy.
Read the full review »



Type 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS
Effective Pixels Approx. 16.1M¹
Effective / Total Pixels Approx. 16.8M
Colour Filter Type Primary Colour


Type DIGIC 6 with iSAPS technology


Focal Length 5.0 – 40.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 224 mm)
Zoom Optical 8x
ZoomPlus 16x
Digital Approx. 4x¹
Combined Approx. 32x
Maximum f/number f/3.0 – f/5.9
Construction 8 elements in 7 groups (1 double-sided aspherical lens, 1 single-sided aspherical UA lens, 1 single-sided aspherical lens)
Image Stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), Approx. 2.5-stop¹. Intelligent IS


Type TTL
AF System/ Points AiAF (9-point, Face Detection or Touch AF)
AF Modes Continuous, Servo AF/AE(in Auto mode), Touch AF
AF Assist Beam Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 1 cm (W) from front of lens in Macro


Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Touch AF frame)
AE Lock Yes
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments
ISO sensitivity AUTO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200


Speed 1 – 1/2000 sec. (factory default)
1 – 1/2000 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)


Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H.
Type sRGB


Monitor Tilt type 7.1 cm (2.8”) PureColor II G Touch screen LCD (TFT). Approx. 461,000 dots. Capacitive type
Coverage Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustable to one of five levels


Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off
Slow Sync Speed Yes. Fastest speed 1/2000 sec.
Built-in Flash Range 50 cm – 1.7 m (W)


Modes Smart Auto (58 scenes detected), Hybrid Auto, P, Creative Shot, Self-Portrait, Low Light (4.0 MP), Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome
Modes in Movie Smart Auto (21 scenes detected), P, Creative Shot, Miniature Effect, Monochrome
Drive modes Single, Auto Drive, Continuous, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 2.7 shots/sec. (until memory card becomes full) ¹²


Image Size 4:3 - (L) 4608 x 3456, (M1) 3264 x 2448, (M2) 2048 x 1536, (S) 640 x 480
16:9 - (L) 4608 x 2592, (M1) 3264 x 1832, (M2) 1920 x 1080, (S) 640 x 360
3:2 - (L) 4608 x 3072, (M1) 3264 x 2176, (M2) 2048 x 1368, (S) 640 x 424
1:1 - (L) 3456 x 3456, (M1) 2448 x 2448, (M2) 1536 x 1536, (S) 480 x 480
Compression Fine
Movies (Full HD) 1920 x 1080, 30 fps, (HD) 1280 x 720, 30 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6 fps, 3 fps, 1.5 fps
Movie Length (Full HD & HD) Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec.¹
(L) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour²


Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies MP4 [Video: MPEG4-AVC (H.264), Audio: MPEG4 AAC-LC (stereo)]


Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge
PictBridge Yes (via USB or Wireless LAN)


GPS GPS via mobile (linked to compatible smartphone)
Red-Eye Correction Yes, during playback
Intelligent Orientation Sensor Yes, with Auto Rotate
Playback zoom Approx. 2x – 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec.
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Romanian, Farsi, Hindi, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Hebrew


Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Computer/Other Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11b/g/n), (2.4 GHz only), with NFC support¹


Type microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC


PC & Macintosh Windows 8 / 8.1 / 7 SP1
Mac OS X 10.8 / 10.9
For Wi-Fi connection to a PC:
Windows 8 / 8.1 / 7 SP1 only
Mac OS X 10.8.2 or later / 10.9


Browsing & Printing ImageBrowser EX
Other CameraWindow DC
Map Utility


Batteries Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-9L (NB-9L battery and Compact Power Adapter CA-DC30E (USB) supplied)
Battery life Approx. 200 shots
Eco mode approx. 270 shots
Approx. 180 min. playback
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC70


Power Supply & Battery Chargers AC Adapter kit ACK-DC70, Compact Power Adapter CA-DC30E (USB), Battery Charger CB-2LBE


Operating Environment 0 – 40 °C (5 - 40 °C when using CA-DC30E), 10 – 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 80.9 x 62.0 x 32.3 mm
Weight Approx. 201 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)
Effective Pixels ¹ Image processing may cause a decrease in the number of pixels.
Zoom ¹ Depending on the image size selected.
Image Stabilisation ¹ Values at maximum optical focal length. Cameras whose focal length exceeds 350 mm (35 mm equivalent) are measured at 350 mm.
Continuous Shooting ¹ Under conditions where the flash does not fire.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
Movie Length ¹ The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: (HD) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 4 or above. (Full HD) 1920 x 1080 Speed Class 6 or above. (iFrame) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 6 or above.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
Computer/Other ¹ Wi-Fi use may be restricted in certain countries or regions. Wi-Fi support varies by device and region. For more information visit

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