The Best Cameras for Landscape Photography - A Buyer's Guide

As a landscape photographer, the question I get asked more than any other is what type of camera I use. This inevitably leads on to an interrogation on which camera is the best for landscape photography, and it’s a question that is impossible to answer simply.

It would be a beautiful world if this could be answered in a few words. If there was a camera that was the perfect balance between all the different criterion we staple on to our equipment.

In reality though, there isn’t a plain answer to this. Every camera is a compromise between various positives and negatives, and it’s our job to try and weigh those pros and cons up against one another and come to the best decision we can.

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Here, we’ll try our best to help you along the buying process with a number of very good options that should cater for anybody’s needs. Before we delve in though, there’s a very important quote from a legend of the landscape photography world. A quote that should always be at the forefront of your mind:

“The most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

Ansel Adams

What’s Important to You in Landscape Photography?

This is the first question you have to ask yourself. What are the most important things you need to consider when buying a new camera for landscape photography. Once you’ve decided that it’s much simpler to make your final decision, so here are a few things to mull over:

  • Budget

  • Megapixels

  • Sensor Size (Full-frame, APS-C, Medium Format)

  • Brand commitment (If you already own a bunch of lenses for a Nikon camera, it might be a lot more trouble than it’s worth switching to a different brand)

  • DSLR or Mirrorless? (You can read our guide for making that decision here.)

  • High ISO capabilities

  • WiFi and GPS connectivity

Of course, there are plenty of other factors you might want to take into consideration, but that’s a pretty good list to start from there. I’d suggest making a list of your three most important criteria, and then choosing the camera that ticks the most boxes.

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The Quick Guide to Sensor Size - APS-C vs Full-Frame vs Medium Format

One of the first things you should consider in your buying decision is the sensor size. This choice has knock-on effects across the board, including budget, lens choices, high-ISO capabilities, and overall image quality.

Since this is a quick guide we’ll focus on just three sizes - APS-C (cropped sensor), Full-Frame, and Medium Format. Generally speaking, the smaller sensor sizes don’t render enough image quality for any ‘serious’ landscape photography work.

That’s not to say they’re not good quality at all, but rather that if you aspire to have large, high quality prints on yours and others’ walls then the sensor size does make a real different.

 Chart showing the comparison between different sensor sizes. Image via Wikipedia.

Chart showing the comparison between different sensor sizes. Image via Wikipedia.

APS-C (Cropped Sensor)

As you can see from the chart above, this is the smallest size sensor that we’ll be covering here. This brings the cost of the camera down significantly, but as you would expect does have some drawbacks in other areas.

The APS-C sensors are used often in entry-level DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, but with advancing technology closing the gap in image quality between APS-C and Full-Frame we’re starting to see more mid to pro level camera bodies sporting the smaller sensor size. Obviously this comes with an increase in cost, which can make the choice between a Full-Frame and APS-C camera a very difficult one. Here are a few things to consider:

Effective focal length - I’ll spare you the science, but the smaller a sensor is the longer the effective focal length of a lens is. For example, Nikon APS-C camera bodies have a crop factor of 1.5x. In practise, this means that a focal length of 200mm will have an effective focal length of 300mm.

This can definitely be seen as an advantage, but at the other end of the focal range it can become a disadvantage. So, that 15mm lens you bought for some extreme wide-angle landscape photography is actually an effective focal length of 22.5mm.

Depth of Field - Another consequence of a smaller size sensor a greater depth of field. Basically, if you had a Medium Format and APS-C camera set to the same focal length and the same aperture, the APS-C shot would have a greater depth of field.

As far as landscape photography goes this isn’t usually an issue, and could actually be taken as a positive. However, it can be a major turn off if you want to do any work which requires shallow depth of field.

High-ISO Capability - The pixels in a Full-Frame sensor are actually larger than their APS-C counterparts, and this effects how well they gather light. The larger pixels in a full-frame camera will gather more light, and this makes them much better at higher ISO levels.

The technology is improving rapidly and many of the modern APS-C sensors can handle ISO values far greater than was ever possible just a decade ago, but if you want to get into astrophotography or anything which requires a high-ISO then getting a camera with a larger sensor should be one of your top priorities.

Lenses - There are lenses that are specially made for APS-C sensors, and this is a major advantage in the system. These DX lenses are usually considerably cheaper, smaller, and lighter than their full-frame counterparts. However, your full-frame lenses are all compatible with APS-C cameras too!

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Disadvantages of APS-C

  • Reduced high-ISO capability

  • Crop factor isn’t as desirable on the wide-angle end.

  • Usually lower overall image quality

Advantages of APS-C

  • Usually cheaper

  • Smaller and lighter

  • Effective focal length can give greater reach

  • Larger depth of field

  • DX lens choice

Full-Frame

Full-Frame sensors, named so because they’re the same size as the traditional 35mm film, are the most popular choice for the enthusiast, semi-pro, and professional landscape photographers.

All of the above applies in reverse really, and most people find that a well chosen full-frame camera offers the perfect compromise between the incredible image quality of medium format systems and the budget and availability of the APS-C camera bodies.

Their high-ISO capabilities are increased and the image quality can be phenomenal, but they remain within the realms of affordability, have a huge range of lenses and support, and are still relatively portable.

Of course, there is no crop factor to consider when you select a lens, but the DX format lenses aren’t really for use with full-frame cameras. They can be used, but the smaller projection of the lens means that your image will only appear on the centre portion of your sensor and will have to be heavily cropped to be made usable.

Just for full disclosure’s sake, I personally use a full-frame DSLR and I find it’s the perfect middle ground for me.

Disadvantages of Full-Frame

  • More expensive than APS-C

  • Larger and heavier than APS-C

  • Must use full-frame compatible lenses

Advantages of Full-Frame

  • Superior high-ISO capability

  • Generally better image quality

  • Still relatively affordable

  • Wide range of bodies, lenses, and accessories to choose from.

Medium Format

If money is no object and you’re looking for the holy grail of landscape photography then you’ll find it in a medium format sensor.

Up until recently, they were simply too expensive and too cumbersome to use for the vast majority of landscape photographers. They’re still very expensive, but they’re creeping towards the realms of realism now and the advancing mirrorless technology is making them significantly easier to handle.

All of the differences between APS-C and Full-Frame we discussed still apply here, but with even greater magnitude. The effective focal length will apply in the opposite direction, and both full frame and DX format lenses won’t work here.

The same goes for the difference in depth of field, but the advantages are there in heaps too. The high-ISO capability continues to improve, and while the small range of available lenses can be a disadvantage it also gets very close to guaranteeing top quality lenses no matter what you buy.

Bear in mind that for a medium format camera with a couple of lenses you’re looking at a $10k outlay at the moment.

Disadvantages of Medium Format

  • Expensive. Like, really expensive

  • Small range of lenses available

  • File sizes can get ludicrous

  • EXPENSIVE

Advantages of Medium Format

  • Improved image quality

  • Incredible high-ISO handling

  • The professional level means lens quality is assured.


The Best Cameras for Landscape Photography

So, now we’ve thought about what’s important to us we can start actually taking a look at some cameras. We’re going to try and give you a balanced choice here featuring some of the top brands, both DSLR and mirrorless, but without overloading you with choices.

We’ll start at the more wallet-friendly end of the landscape photography spectrum:

Best Budget Cameras for Landscape Photography

Nikon D5300

Lens Mount: Nikon DX

WiFi/GPS: Yes

Sensor: APS-C 24.2 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch articulating

The Nikon D5300 isn’t the latest model in this line of cameras, having since been superseded by the D5500 and the D5600. However, these two upgrades have driven the price of the still excellent D5300 down considerably, and that makes it a fantastic purchase for the budget conscious.

The 24.2MP APS-C sensor is the identical one carried over to the D5500 and the D5600, and while it’s lacking on the touchscreen front it does have a handy articulating LCD screen for those close to the ground shots.

The sensor itself is excellent, which is why Nikon have stuck with it for the successive models. The lack of a low-pass filter resolves more fine detail, making it perfect for landscape photography, and despite the smaller sensor the ISO can be pushed up to 3200 without too many problems. The inclusion of built in WiFi and GPS is a bonus too!

This isn’t a complete entry-level camera. It’s a step up from the Nikon D3xxx range and as such has a slightly steeper learning curve. However, it’s a much better camera overall than those models, and the additional features mean there is plenty of room to grow into the camera, meaning you’re unlikely to need a swift upgrade.

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Nikon D5300 Cons

  • No touchscreen

  • Slow to focus in live view

Nikon D5300 Pros

  • Budget friendly

  • Excellent sensor

  • WiFi/GPS included

  • Articulating touchscreen

Buy the Nikon D5300 from Amazon Here

Canon EOS Rebel T6i / EOS 750D

Lens Mount: EF/EF-S

WiFi/GPS: WiFi, yes. GPS, no.

Sensor: APS-C 24.2 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.0 inch articulating touchscreen

Another slightly outdated model in the hunt for wallet friendly options is the Canon EOS 750D, their answer to the medium level beginner models from Nikon.

As far as performance goes, there is very little to choose between the two. The Nikon D5300 sensor does resolve slightly more detail and sports in built GPS, but neither of these are a reason to swap brands if you’re already committed with some Canon mount lenses.

The Canon EOS 750D does bring the power of touch to the LCD screen though, which is a very welcome addition to trying to navigate via the buttons alone.

As with the Nikon D5300, the 750D is a significant step up from the lower models of the 700D, but the release of the EOS 800D (or Rebel T7i) has brought prices down significantly and made this an excellent budget friendly camera for landscape photographers.

Canon EOS 750D Cons

  • No built in GPS

  • Image quality very slightly worse than the Nikon D5300

  • Slightly heavier than the D5300

Canon EOS 750D (Rebel T6i) Pros

  • Excellent image quality

  • Cheap thanks to the 800D release

  • Articulating touchscreen

  • WiFi and NFC built in

Buy the Canon EOS Rebel T6i from Amazon Here

Fujifilm X-T1

Lens Mount: Fujifilm X mount

WiFi/GPS: WiFi, yes. GPS, no.

Sensor: APS-C 16.3 megapixels

LCD Screen: 3.0 inch articulating

If mirrorless is more your thing, then the perfect budget friendly option is the gracefully ageing Fujifilm X-T1. There are a few compromises you have to make when trying to find a cheap mirrorless option, but the X-T1 deals with most of them admirably.

Firstly, their 16.3MP sensor looks rather small compared to the Nikon D5300 and the Canon EOS 750D, but it still delivers excellent image quality and will rarely feel limiting. The battery life, on the other hand, is limiting, with it lasting just over half the amount of shots as the D5300 and EOS 750D. The Fujifilm X-T1 also has a lower native ISO, making it struggle in areas such as astrophotography.

However, there are plenty of positives as well. The price is slightly cheaper than it’s DSLR equivalents due to the X-T1 being 4 years old now, and the retro design and analogue dials make it an absolute joy to use. The Fujifilm X series lenses, for the most part, are fantastic as well. The electronic viewfinder in the X-T1 is just beautiful as well, and I much prefer it to the optical viewfiners in DSLRs.

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This is all down to preference. If you’re on a budget and really want to go mirrorless then the X-T1 is your best option, but the DSLR equivalents at this price will give you slightly better performance. Save up a little more and the quality tradeoff narrows significantly.

Fujifilm X-T1 Cons

  • Significantly lower battery life

  • Reduced resolution

  • No GPS or touchscreen

  • Lower maximum ISO

Fujifilm X-T1 Pros

  • Gorgeous retro design with analogue controls

  • Weather sealed body

  • Fuji X mount lenses are excellent

  • Slightly smaller and lighter than DSLR equivalents.

Buy the Fujifilm X-T1 from Amazon Here


Best Mid-Range Cameras for Landscape Photography

If you have a little more money to spend on a new camera body for your landscape photography, then this is the place for you. This price bracket won’t quite get you to the very top end cameras, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything wrong with any of the cameras here.

Nikon D800

Lens Mount: Nikon F mount

WiFi/GPS: No

Sensor: Full frame 36.3 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch fixed

If you’re happy to forego all the bells and whistles that comes with modern digital cameras and just focus on image quality, then you can get an awful lot for your money with the Nikon D800.

The D800 was released all the way back in 2012, but as far as image quality goes it’s a difficult beast to beat. It has a huge 36 megapixel full-frame sensor that delivers incredibly image quality. You won’t get WiFi, GPS, NFC, or articulating touchscreens to play with though, so that’s a decision you have to make here.

However, it took Nikon a very long time to surpass the D800 in terms of image quality, and the releases of the D810 and D850 have driven the price of the D800 down to near bargain figures. If pure image quality is what you’re looking for, then you simply cannot get better for the price.

Nikon D800 Cons

  • No WiFi, GPS, NFC etc

  • Fixed LCD screen

  • Relatively heavy

  • Low maximum native ISO (6,400)

Nikon D800 Pros

  • Incredible image quality from 36MP sensor

  • Weather sealed body

  • Excellent battery life (950 shots)

  • Full frame

Buy the Nikon D800 from Amazon Here

Canon 5D Mark III

Lens Mount: Canon EF Mount

WiFi/GPS: No

Sensor: Full frame 22.3 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch fixed

Canon’s answer to the Nikon D800 was the 5D Mark III, and while it can’t boast the same massive 36 megapixel sensor it is certainly no slouch when it comes to image quality.

For a long time, the 5D Mark III was Canon’s flagship full frame DSLR, and the 22.3MP sensor produces fantastic images. You may not be able to print quite as large as the D800, but for the vast majority of landscape photographers this resolution isn’t a limitation at all.

There are a number of clear advantages for the Canon 5D Mark III too. Firstly, it has a maximum native ISO of 25,600 compared to the D800’s 6,400, and it adds a few more focus points to the mix as well. The 6 fps continuous shooting speed is superior to the D800’s 4fps too, so there are tangible reasons to choose this over the D800.

Both are fantastic DSLRs for the price, and the decision will be swayed by which brand you are committed too or which you prefer.

Canon 5D Mark III Cons

  • Lower resolution than Nikon D800

  • Relatively big and heavy

  • Fixed LCD screen

  • No WiFi, GPS, NFC etc

Canon 5D Mark III Pros

  • Full frame sensor

  • High maximum native ISO (25,600)

  • Excellent battery life (950 shots)

  • Weather sealed

Buy the Canon 5D Mark III from Amazon Here

Fujifilm X-T20

Lens Mount: Fujifilm X Mount

WiFi/GPS: Wifi, yes. GPS, no

Sensor: APS-C 24.3 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.0 inch articulating touchscreen

Despite the larger pricetag, we’re having to downgrade to an APS-C sensor for our mirrorless option. However, as always, the Fujifilm X-T20’s 24.3MP cropped sensor still delivers fantastic image quality, just not quite up to the standards of the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mk III.

The fact that the Fujifilm X-T20 is half a decade younger than the two DSLRs on this list does bring some additional benefits though. It has built in WiFi, as well as a beautiful articulating touchscreen LCD.

The general advantages of being mirrorless come into play too. The 14fps continuous shooting dwarfs the D800’s 4fps, as does the 325 focus points compared to the D800’s 51 focus points.

The biggest difference is in the size and weight of the camera, though. The X-T20 weighs just over a third as much as the D800 and 5D Mk III, coming in at just 383 grams to the D800’s 900 grams. As you would expect, this translates into size as well, with the X-T20 taking 28mm off the width, 40mm off the height, and 41mm off the depth of the D800.

There are better mirrorless cameras out there for landscape photography, but if you’re trying to stay on budget this is about the best you can get. It’s very close in terms of image quality with the Sony A6500, but the beautiful aesthetics of the X-T20 make it our pick of the bunch.

Fujifilm X-T20 Cons

  • APS-C sensor is a downgrade from full frame

  • Lower resolution than Nikon D800

  • Massively reduced battery life (350 shots vs 950 shots)

Fujifilm X-T20 Pros

  • Very small and light compared to DSLR equivalents

  • Includes WiFi.

  • Articulating touchscreen

  • Impressive continuous shooting speed

Buy the Fujifilm X-T20 from Amazon Here


Best Professional Cameras for Landscape Photography

If you’ve saved hard and want the very best and most up to date gear, then this is the section for you. These cameras are top of the range and recently released, and they have the price tag to prove it.

There are better cameras out there, but very few of them and they come with mind boggling prices. The most landscape photographers, this is about as far as they’re willing to push their wallets.

Nikon D850

Lens Mount: Nikon F Mount

WiFi/GPS: WiFi, yes. GPS, no.

Sensor: Full frame 54.4 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch articulating touchscreen

If you want the ultimate landscape photography DSLR, then there really isn’t much out there that comes close to the Nikon D850.

Building on their flagship D810, Nikon have brought the megapixel monsters into the 21st century with the D850. It has all the creature comforts such as WiFi and an articulating touchscreen, but inside the camera body is where the difference is made. The D850 boasts a huge 45.4 megapixel full frame sensor with incredible high ISO capability.

In terms of image quality there aren’t many, if any, DSLRs that can match it. They also introduce in-camera focus stacking, focus peaking, and the same excellent autofocus system that the Nikon D5 harbours. This is all wrapped in a weather sealed magnesium alloy body to make it the best DSLR out there.

Nikon D850 Cons

  • Expensive, obviously

  • Live view focusing is slow

  • Nikon SnapBridge is poor

Nikon D850 Pros

  • Incredible image quality

  • Host of useful features

  • Advanced autofocus system

  • Huge battery life

Buy the Nikon D850 from Amazon Here

Canon EOS 5DSR

Lens Mount: Canon EF Mount

WiFi/GPS: Yes

Sensor: Full frame 30.4 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch touchscreen

The Canon 5d Mk IV may not have the 50MP sensor that it’s older brother, the 5DSR, holds, but the image quality from this 30.4MP full frame sensor is hard to fault.

Does it live up to the quality of the Nikon D850? In a word - No. However, if you’re committed to the Canon brand then this is a very, very good camera for all types of photography, landscape included.

It comes with all the technology you could ever want such as WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, which is something Nikon seem intent on omitting from their flagship models. The Canon 5D Mk IV is also a bit lighter and smaller than the D850, which can be an important factor for the wandering landscape photography.

In short, if you’re tied to the Canon brand through your lenses then this is a stunning camera. If you’re not tied to Canon, get the Nikon D850. Or, choose one of the beauties below.

Canon 5D Mk IV Cons

  • Image quality doesn’t match the D850

  • LCD screen is fixed

  • Almost half the battery life of the D850

Canon 5D Mk IV Pros

  • Slightly lighter and smaller than the D850

  • Dual Pixel AF system is excellent

  • An excellent all round DSLR

Buy the Canon 5D Mark IV from Amazon Here

Sony Alpha a7R III

Lens Mount: Sony E Mount

WiFi/GPS: WiFi, yes. GPS, no

Sensor: Full frame 42.4 megapixel

LCD Screen: 3.0 inch tilting touchscreen

The high end of the market is where the mirrorless and DSLR cameras start to converge, with the Sony Alpha a7RIII coming in at around the same price as the D850 and 5D Mk IV and boasting very competitive specifications.

The 42.4 megapixel full frame sensor marginally better than the D850’s and considerably better than the Canon. Not only that, but it also performs better at high ISO levels and has added features such as built in Image Stabilization.

The D850’s autofocus is incredible for a DSLR, but the Sony Alpha a7RIII boasts almost three times as any focus points and also shoots 3fps more than the D850. You also shave nearly 400g off the weight thanks to the lack of a big mirror box.

However, the lenses are more expensive and the battery life of the Sony Alpha a7RIII is about 30% that of the D850. The Nikon D850 also has in built timelapse recording and focus bracketing.

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It’s all about weighing up the options here. If you want a mirrorless camera in the same price bracket as the top end DSLRs though, then this is the one you want.

Sony Alpha a7RIII Cons

  • Battery life is dwarfed by D850

  • No timelapse or focus stacking in camera

Sony Alpha a7RIII Pros

  • Top of the range image quality

  • Smaller and lighter than DSLR equivalents

  • Autofocus system is the best out there

Buy the Sony Alpha a7RIII from Amazon Here

Nikon Z7

Lens Mount: Nikon Z Mount (adaptors availabable)

WiFi/GPS: WiFi, yes. GPS, no

Sensor: Full frame 45.7 megapixels

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch tilting touchscreen

That is, unless, you want to be the early adopter for Nikon. Landscape photographers have been waiting an age for Canon and Nikon to finally get serious about mirrorless technology, and Nikon have been the first to strike out and try to challenge the full frame mirrorless monopoly held by Sony’s fantastic Alpha range.

The 45.7MP full frame sensor is slightly higher in resolution than the Sony Alpha a7RIII and most of the other technical specifications stack up well to the Sony. However, where the Nikon Z7 could really come into it’s own is in it’s backwards compatibility. Despite officially releasing the new Nikon Z Mount lenses for the Z6 and Z7, you can buy an adaptor to make all your Nikon F Mount lenses work with the Z series too. This could be the turning point for many Nikon shooters, who can now move over to mirrorless without having to restructure their entire lens selection.

The Sony Alpha a7RIII does have some advantages over the Nikon Z7 though. The autofocus system is still better, for instance, and has dual memory card slots where the Z7 doesn’t. Continuous shooting and battery life are both better on the Sony too.

Again, both are fantastic cameras and offer various advantages over their competitors. However, if you’re a Nikon shooter looking for an excuse to move to mirrorless, then this is it!

Nikon Z7 Cons

  • Autofocusnot as good as Sony

  • Native lens range very limited at the moment

  • Battery life

Nikon Z7 Pros

  • Image quality rivals Sony a7RIII

  • Adaptor means that Nikon F Mount lenses work perfectly

Buy the Nikon Z7 from Amazon Here


Best of the Best Cameras for Landscape Photography

If money is no object and you want the very best, then the rapidly advancing technology has some very interesting options for you.

You could opt for the traditional Hasselblad or Leica medium format systems, but with incredible medium format sensors being crammed into much smaller mirrorless bodies now then we feel they are the route to take right now. These are portable enough to be used every day but offer absolutely insane image quality.

As we’ve mentioned, they also make your wallet cry.

Fujifilm GFX 50S

Lens Mount: Fujifilm G Mount

WiFi/GPS: WiFi, yes. GPS, no

Sensor: Medium format 51.4 megapixels

LCD Screen: 3.2 inch tilting touchscreen

So, you want the best of the best do you? Enter - Medium format. With a sensor size almost twice as large as a standard full frame sensor, the 50MP Fujifilm GFX 50S blows anything even close to this price bracket out of the water.

Simply due to the exclusivity of this type of camera, the lenses you can buy are absolutely top quality. It has most of the creature comforts you could wish for, but this camera is all about the images rather than the bells and whistles.

It’s slower in terms of autofocus and continuous shooting than it’s full frame brethren, but if you’re using a 50MP medium format beast then you’re better off taking your time with every shot anyway.

It’s only direct competition is the Hasselblad X1D, and while that does have some advantages over the Fujifilm GFX 50S none of them are useful in landscape photography (flash sync speed, for example). In every other department the Fuji comes out on top.

If you have a big chunk of change to play with and want the very best in terms of image quality, then the Fujifilm GFX 50S could be right up your street.

Fujifilm GFX 50S Cons

  • Slow autofocus

  • Expensive compared to anything else.

  • Limited lens selection

Fujifilm GFX 50S Pros

  • Breathtaking image quality

  • Cheap compared to most medium format options

  • Smaller than you would expect

Buy the Fujifilm GFX 50S from Amazon Here


Conclusion

So there you have it, a definitive list of the best cameras for landscape photography, and there is sure to be something that suits your budget.

Whether you want to spend $500 or $10,000 there is something out there for any willing landscape photographer, all with their own advantages and drawbacks. It’s up to you to make the final decision on which compromises you’re willing to accept.

For me, I’d say my overall winner is the incredible Nikon D850. For me, it’s the perfect blend of incredible image quality, additional features, and a price that doesn’t make me want to be sick!