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Author Topic: Is MF Digital Just Too Risky?  (Read 10248 times)
Gary Ferguson
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« on: September 30, 2006, 07:36:47 AM »
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It seems like any medium format digital purchase is incredibly risky at the moment.  After the news of the last year and from Photokina who knows what other shock announcements are possible?

-Kodak may decide MF sensors isn't a business with a future

-The new Hy6 may never reach production

-Even worse the Hy6 may be launched but then discontinued (in one or all of its guises) if it fails to reach viable sales levels, leaving owners high and dry.

-Phase One may get absorbed within Mamiya.

-As above, but Mamiya then goes bump and takes Phase One down with them.

-Canon's deeper R&D pockets may trump the MF quality advantage in the 35mm arena, finishing off the entire MF market.

-Pentax or Mamiya may uncercut MF digital prices to such an extent that Hasselblad and Sinar/Rollei/Leaf bail out.

If I sat down and scratched my head I'm sure I could come up with many more doomsday scenarios that would leave a photographer holding an expensive white elephant. Given all this uncertainty what's the smart photographer's strategy for digital medium format?
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Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2006, 07:52:37 AM »
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"Given all this uncertainty what's the smart photographer's strategy for digital medium format?"

-Buy an e-motion style back which takes many mounts ?

-Only buy if you can cover the costs over three years ?

-Remeber that V mount hassies, second hand Hs, contax, rolleis and Mams all take perfectly fine pictures and there are millions of them knocking around used  
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Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2006, 07:59:15 AM »
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It seems like any medium format digital purchase is incredibly risky at the moment.  After the news of the last year and from Photokina who knows what other shock announcements are possible?

-Kodak may decide MF sensors isn't a business with a future

-The new Hy6 may never reach production

-Even worse the Hy6 may be launched but then discontinued (in one or all of its guises) if it fails to reach viable sales levels, leaving owners high and dry.

-Phase One may get absorbed within Mamiya.

-As above, but Mamiya then goes bump and takes Phase One down with them.

-Canon's deeper R&D pockets may trump the MF quality advantage in the 35mm arena, finishing off the entire MF market.

-Pentax or Mamiya may uncercut MF digital prices to such an extent that Hasselblad and Sinar/Rollei/Leaf bail out.

If I sat down and scratched my head I'm sure I could come up with many more doomsday scenarios that would leave a photographer holding an expensive white elephant. Given all this uncertainty what's the smart photographer's strategy for digital medium format?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=78406\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


I had  a very similar reaction to the "news" at Photokina. The thought of buying into the  HY6 camera  system from a cobbled together  group of companies , with the lead being taken on the camera front by a company---Rollei--- with little marketing capabilities, a marginal record of customer service in North America, and economic fortunes that seem to always be on the edge, does not engender in me a  sense of confidence about plunking down $50K. And, it's not even around for probably another year.
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2006, 08:20:57 AM »
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-Remeber that V mount hassies, second hand Hs, contax, rolleis and Mams all take perfectly fine pictures and there are millions of them knocking around used

I went the Hasselblad V system route with a P25, and it's been fine for the past two years. But when and if the next generation of digital backs comes out I'd think about upgrading to the P57 or whatever it'll be called, and I'll no doubt review the available camera system options at the same time.  Maybe there'll be something that meets my needs better than a V, maybe there won't. Maybe, at this rate, there won't be anything at all apart from Ebay's MF selection!

But good as the V system has been I'm sure the time will come when the rustic charm of lens to back cabling and no TTL flash control will start to wear a bit thin!
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JBM
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2006, 10:44:06 AM »
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Is MF Digital Just Too Risky?

This has been my burning question for some months now. Many, if not most, of you commenting here are seasoned pros with stable client bases and reasonable liquidity and have probably weathered similar hiccups and false starts before. In my case the decision is make or break. To say I'm cautious is an understatement. I'm also greatly disappointed in what I've read and heard about both Rollei and Hasselblad, venerable brands that mean more to me historically than megapixels and marketing spew. I've been heartened by the dealer feedback I've received from some of the brands but am all too conscious of the lack of channel support available to them and the cannibalistic tendency of the likes of Hasselblad. Too invest on faith alone is a fool's bargain, no matter what the client wants to pay for high MP. With the possibility of losing $60-100k in an uncertain platform (H system/Sinar/Mam) I'm beginning to warm to the idea of investing with Alpa/Schneider and having the client pay for drum scans. I never thought I'd be considering this option when I began the migration. It's either that or renting the back to suit the project and writing off the expense. I've invested with moderate risk before but having to look over my shoulder all the time takes alot of the pleasure out of the work.

I really appreciate the insights you've all shared here.

JBM
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ericstaud
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2006, 10:51:50 AM »
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"Given all this uncertainty what's the smart photographer's strategy for digital medium format?"

For working professionals this is not much of an issue.  For enthusiasts or emerging professionals it is a real whopper.

I used to spend $15k per year on film, processing, and polaroids.  This is small by some peoples standards.  Many photographers are charging clients for digital equipment rental or digital capture.  When I tell clients that the cost of replacing several computers, and all my digital cameras every 2-3 years costs as much as it did to buy and process all the film, they are very understanding.  The amount of my expenses has not change, but the money now pays off a loan for a camera, or buys a hard drive.

My D2x was Crazy expensive compared to my previous cameras (ie:  a $500.00 4x5).  I had been charging clients $300.00 a day to rent the camera from a rental shop.  Now that money was paying off my own investment instead of the camera stores.  The camera was paid for in 3.5 months!

I just got into MF digital a few months ago.  It will take 2 years to pay of the $45,000.00 camera system.  If I sell it for $1.00 at the end of 2 years I will be in the same place I was after shooting film for 2 years, with just a bunch of pictures to show for it.  And remember, the money that paid for the camera system used to go to the camera store and the photo lab.  If I sell the system for $5K in 2 years it will be a $5K profit, not a $40K loss.  
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ericstaud
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2006, 11:01:06 AM »
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JBM,

Most people I know have rented the digital camera from stores on a per job/day basis until it becomes clear that they get enough work with the camera to justify buying it.  This is a smart approach instead of hoping the work will grow.

I rented a 1Ds MkII for 15 days the year it came out... $5250.00!!!
As soon as I put that math together I bought the D2x.  The income stream was already there.
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mikeseb
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2006, 11:13:08 AM »
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Eric, yours is as succinct a summary of the financials as I've ever seen.

I'm one of those "enthusiasts" or "emerging professionals" mentioned above; you can imagine the teeth-gnashing at my house when I told the Finance Committee Chairperson that I was buying a used ProBack to hang on my Contax! I just got to the point where developing and scanning film was taking too much time at my volume of work. Still, it was a big expenditure with some risk involved: obsolescence (beyond its baseline obsolescence being a discontinued back) and an uncertain payback before it has to be retired.

It would have made more sense to opt for an Aptus 17 refurb since the price difference was not that huge over what I paid for my hard-to-find C645-mount ProBack, illustrating once again that there's always something over the horizon waiting to trash your spreadsheet calculations; and that the brain rather than the softer organs should be in charge when evaluating such a purchase.
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michael sebastian
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« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2006, 11:29:28 AM »
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It seems like any medium format digital purchase is incredibly risky at the moment.  After the news of the last year and from Photokina who knows what other shock announcements are possible?

-Kodak may decide MF sensors isn't a business with a future

-The new Hy6 may never reach production

-Even worse the Hy6 may be launched but then discontinued (in one or all of its guises) if it fails to reach viable sales levels, leaving owners high and dry.

-Phase One may get absorbed within Mamiya.

-As above, but Mamiya then goes bump and takes Phase One down with them.

-Canon's deeper R&D pockets may trump the MF quality advantage in the 35mm arena, finishing off the entire MF market.

-Pentax or Mamiya may uncercut MF digital prices to such an extent that Hasselblad and Sinar/Rollei/Leaf bail out.

If I sat down and scratched my head I'm sure I could come up with many more doomsday scenarios that would leave a photographer holding an expensive white elephant. Given all this uncertainty what's the smart photographer's strategy for digital medium format?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=78406\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

the Hy6 was shown in several working variations at photokina, it is by far the safest product announcement i have heard in years....takes all lenses made for the entire 6000 system since 1974...even uses some of the same film backs as the 6000...it is a completely modular system...what more do you want?
mamiya did not buy phase or the other way around...
so if mamiya goes down it has nothng to do with phase....
i don't think canon even thinks about the MF market yet...they produce more rebels in a day then the entire MF industry produces backs in a year....but they will keep pushing upwards....but so will MF...
mamiya tried to "undercut" prices with the ZD...we see how that worked out....remember the kodak 14n? kodak treid to undercut canon with that one...we saw how that worked out....

MF has had the strongest signs of life in years...the backs are mature products, the mpix race has finally slowed down a bit, prices have come down....

a P20 will be offered at 7990 for any mount...that means a 16bit back producing files that are more then good enough for any commercial application is now the price of a 1DsmkII...with superiour imagequality...
if you look at film/processing expenses over 3 years, MF backs are a lot cheaper...even the absolut highest end....
the problem is that everybody thinks they need a P45...which is 4x5 sheet quality...nice to have but so not necessary...5 years ago people shot worldwide ad campaigns with 6mpix backs/cameras and now a P25 just does not cut it for weekend amateurs....the marketing machine has succeeded....
if you need the quality, it is more available now then ever in more mature products then ever...if this is a hobby...great for you that you can even think of spending 30000-50000 on a toy...but i guess you would ask questions like: is the Porsche just too risky? it will be worth half the price once you drive it off the lot....
a P45 will give you 4x5 quailty as long as you take good care of it adn it won't cost you a penny once paid off...no matter how many backs come after it, no matter how many pixels, how fast...

btw: kodak owns leaf (which uses dalsa chips)...just to add to your list...
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JBM
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« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2006, 12:27:00 PM »
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Thank you Eric. Your points are well taken.
Renting gear and passing on the costs I've done, with 35mm. I own top 35mm kit and continue to expand it at rates matching demand and desire. I'm less prepared to do that with MF. It's a question of availability, perception and acculturation, so to speak. Reserving MF gear in my market is not as reliable as 35mm. Owning your own MF conveys the right stuff to clients - this is a contentious point but is not negligible where I work. In terms of acculturation I mean mastering the machine so it can get out of my way asap. Perhaps I've treated the MF gear I have rented too gingerly. I don't mind learning curves but find that I conquer them faster when the device is at my beck and call 24/7. I'm finished with renting and will make a tough choice before Christmas because I need to. The only speculation I'm having to perform relates to the messy MF sandbox where bs, rough trade and betrayal seem to be de rigueur. In the end my calculus isn't just monetary. It's about supporting the vendors that deserve your patronage, making principled buying decisions that will inspire your children, and sound sleep.

as per pss
Quote
the marketing machine has succeeded

I wish clients and agents were more immune to this machine.

I admire you work Eric, the Lautner case study shoot must have been a dream job!  

JBM
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pss
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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2006, 12:35:50 PM »
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as per pss
I wish clients and agents were more immune to this machine.

I admire you work Eric, the Lautner case study shoot must have been a dream job!   

JBM
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=78444\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

i know...sadly it really is the only reason i will have to upgrade at one point...clients wondering if the P20 is good enough...funny thing is, nobody has ever comented after they receive the files....it is almost a way of letting me know that they "know" all the latest equipment....
btw: for architecture the coverage of the P20 is too limiting...without stiching, which gets to be a pain if it has to be done too often...
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vgogolak
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2006, 05:44:41 PM »
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I have a Contax 645, almost all lenses, and a good crop of Hasselbled V lenses. I am now looking to upgrade my P25 to P45. Yes, I see the advantage,to this and NO I do not see the Contax lenses, even wide open (though one rarely uses that) to be limiting the system.

It may be I am at a plateau. With film we reached it likely 20 years ago. Improvement? Yes. Needed for normal work - not likely.

A Contax 645 P45 with many lenses and even likely back up grades (same can be said for H1/2 as well) can keep many of us going.

Maybe we are our worst enemy chasing new technology, but maybe, as someone pointed out above, with care and maintence we may not need to change for 10-20 years. We may be close to having all the tools we need.

Our imagination, and clients will be the limiting factor!

Now, PRINTERS are another story...  

Regards
victor
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mcfoto
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2006, 08:00:20 PM »
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Hi
I switched from the Hasselblad 500 cm to the Mamiya 645 AF in 1999. I also started shooting digital for the first time with MF. I have always rented digital backs and let the client pay fot it and this has worked for me. We are not big volume shooters and tend to do AD campaigns and it still works out better for me to rent. However since Mamiya is an affordable MF system to get into I have about 4 lenses and 2 bodies plus a ZD camera. I shoot mainly studio so the 125 flash X is fine. We have had supersites shot with this system so the quality is there. I  now rent the Aptus 22 for jobs and I am confident with this set up. But this gives me the choice to use the PHASE backs if I wish to. I have a Canon 5D which I think is a classic however it just doesn't give me the quality I am getting with the Mamiya/LEAF or the ZD. If I want to shoot at iso 400-3200 I will use the Canon but most of my work is shot at iso 50 in the studio. When it comes to insurance I put a value of $5000.00 AUD for 645 AFD, 45mm,55-110 zoom.80mm & 150mm. My Canon 5D was insured for $4500.00 AUD. I find the Mamiya equipment on ebay a bargain! If something did happen to Mamiya I would not have big losses. So far I have been in this system for 7 years and am very happy. Plus they now have the 28mm & 75-150 zoom now. From what I read on the German Mamiya web site this 28mm will work with film and be an effective 32mm on the ZD,Aptus22,E motion22,and Phase. Even though I use Leaf backs I still think if Phase merged with Mamiya it would positive at least Mamiya would get some marketing & PR!!!
So I don't find MFD risky, shooting an AD campaign on 35 digital now thats risky!
Thanks Denis
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Denis Montalbetti
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2006, 09:12:55 PM »
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So I don't find MFD risky, shooting an AD campaign on 35 digital now thats risky!
Thanks Denis
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=78492\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hi Denis, just to play devil's advocate, can you look through Vogue or Martha Stewart Living or National Geographic and visually identify which ads (or editorial content) were shot with MF vs. which were shot with Canons and Nikons?
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2006, 09:24:11 PM »
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Hi Denis, just to play devil's advocate, can you look through Vogue or Martha Stewart Living or National Geographic and visually identify which ads (or editorial content) were shot with MF vs. which were shot with Canons and Nikons?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=78503\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

sorry to jump in on this one...you have a point with your question and i am sure a lot might have been. shot with DSLR...and often it is impossible to tell..but you can show me a mag and i can probably tell you which  ads and editorials could NOT have been shot with DSLR....depending on the look or light you can get the very similar (especially in print) results, but there are some things you just can't do with DSLR...
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ronno
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« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2006, 09:26:23 PM »
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sorry to jump in on this one...you have  i can probably tell you which  ads and editorials could NOT have been shot with DSLR....depending on the look or light you can get the very similar (especially in print) results, but there are some things you just can't do with DSLR...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=78506\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I bet you'd be wrong more times than you were right :-)
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izaack
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« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2006, 11:23:35 PM »
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I agree with you, Gary. Seems as if I will be hanging on to my non-fashionable V-mount system for a long time to come.

Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.
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ericstaud
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« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2006, 02:07:52 AM »
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"Hi Denis, just to play devil's advocate, can you look through Vogue or Martha Stewart Living or National Geographic and visually identify which ads (or editorial content) were shot with MF vs. which were shot with Canons and Nikons?"

Hi Ronno,

Medium format is not about lowest common denominator.  I can drive to the mall and see countless 30"x40" posters of eyeware and fashion and tell you which ones where shot MF versus 135.  The same is true when I visit the architects I shoot for.  For every full page magazine shot I did there is a huge matching print in their office.  I was on the phone today with a client who insisted 2 years ago that the D2x shots I made for a job were for web only.  They now want 4 x6 foot prints of the 35mb files.  I don't think they will look very good at 60 dpi.  In this scenario the choice of Canon or Nikons LoRes files was too risky.

I had an important realization about shooting with the D2x..... the act of asking a client if they are O.K. with using the D2x is the same as telling them I'm O.K. with using the D2x (I would not be asking otherwise, right?).  So it follows... if it's O.K. with me it should be O.K. with them.  This is like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.  I cannot ask the question without changing their answer.  The day before if they had been asked by someone about 135 digital and they might have said "well, my photographer doesn't use digital, so it must not be good enough".

So I have stopped asking if, or telling my clients that, going from a 4x5 film camera to a 135 digital is O.K., and instead offer to bring over some 16"x20" prints from my 33mp camera made without retrofocus lenses.

p.s. :  photographers day rates have hardly gone up in more than 20 years.  Shooting a job with the same camera the art director just bought sounds pretty risky to me.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2006, 02:09:49 AM by ericstaud » Logged
mcfoto
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« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2006, 02:51:58 AM »
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p.s. :  photographers day rates have hardly gone up in more than 20 years.  Shooting a job with the same camera the art director just bought sounds pretty risky to me.

Hi
Thank You!!! THANK YOU!!!!!! Can I use that line ( with credit ) in our next talk to photography students in Perth!!! We shoot with AD that buy Canon 1DS or 5D's. I totally understand where you are coming from. Thank you again.
Denis
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Denis Montalbetti
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marc gerritsen
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« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2006, 03:05:34 AM »
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When I was photgraphing with a D2X the equipment cost me per year less than 5% of my total income from photography (cost spread out over 3.5 years) Now that I shoot with H2D39 that cost has gone up to about 9 % per year, At first I thought intuiatively, I would have to raise my prices by 20 or 30% to cover the cost and my clients would not like to see these prices go up that much.
When I did some simple arithmitics I came to the conclusion that a rise of more or less 5% cost is very do-able. Between a slight increase in my yearly price structure, and being able to sell the photos to new clients as 4x5 quality, I hope to not even see a change in end of the year profit.
So if you ask me should I go MFD? I would say; yes if you work a lot, no if you don't.
my other reasons for going MFD was
-shooting MF again
-better color
-sharper files
-crop-able
-large prints
and hopefully my clients will come to see these differences as well when they get published
and start paying accordingly
my 2 cents  
Marc
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