Digital Camera Buying Guide

Kimmy Jo By Kimmy Jo - updated May 10th, 2024
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On the hunt for a new camera? You're going to come into contact with a huge range of camera bodies, lenses and accessories that can all end up looking and sounding the same - especially if you're not clued up on all of the different features and specifications.

That's why we've compiled this beginner’s guide to buying your next camera. It covers cameras for all skill levels, different types of cameras, what to look for in a camera, a brief look at lenses, and more!

The best place to start when figuring out what camera to buy is to consider what you will be using the camera for predominantly. Will it be for photoshoots? For capturing memories of your friends and family? For creating video content? Keep these in mind and let's dive in. 

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Types of Cameras

To begin with, you'll need to decide what camera you want to buy. Lets take a look at the different types of cameras that you'll see on the market. The most popular options for a 'main' camera are typically Mirrorless, DSLR, and Point-and-Shoot so we'll start with those.

DSLR Cameras

Canon 6D DSLR Camera
DSLRs have larger sensors and great image processing capabilities
Man using Canon EOS 5D DSLR Camera
Manual controls offer greater creative freedom

DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) refers to a digital camera which has a movable mirror behind the lens; when you take a photo, this little mirror flicks up to allow the sensor to capture your glorious image. DSLR cameras offer exceptionally good picture quality with interchangeable lenses that make them excel in many situations, both for still photography and video.

DSLRs typically have large image sensors which allows for larger pixel size. A larger pixel size can significantly enhance picture quality, producing sharper, clearer images with less noise, especially in low-light conditions. These cameras are one of the most popular types amongst both amateur and professional photographers due to their versatility and image quality. They're becoming increasingly more affordable too with the rise of Mirrorless cameras to compete against. 

Pros Cons
  • Excellent Image Quality - DSLRs typically have large sensors and advanced image processing capabilities
  • Size and Weight - Bulky and heavier compared to other options
  • Great Lens Selection - A wide variety of interchangeable lenses for different shooting scenarios
  • Learning Curve - Steep learning curve for beginners compared to compact cameras or cellphone cameras
  • Optical Viewfinder - Offers a more natural shooting experience
  • Manual Controls - Extensive manual controls allows for more creative freedom

Who are DSLRs best for?

DSLR cameras are ideal for both amateur and professional photographers who value high image quality and want the flexibility to change lenses based on different shooting conditions. A balance of price and performance make them a fantastic first 'serious camera' for beginners, as well as users of all experience levels. Check out our range of DSLR cameras!

Mirrorless Cameras

Fujifilm X-T5 Mirrorless Camera with city landscape in the background
Mirrorless cameras often feature advanced image sensors and processing engines.
Sony A7C II Mirrorless camera with strap
Mirrorless cameras are compact and lightweight compared to DSLRs

Mirrorless cameras, unlike DSLRs, don’t use a reflex mirror, which makes them considerably compact and lightweight. This makes them a popular choice among photographers who require a travel-friendly option without compromising on image quality. One of the hallmarks of mirrorless cameras is their quieter operation. The lack of a flipping mirror mechanism results in a nearly silent performance. Mirrorless cameras do not compromise on image and video quality despite their compactness. They are equipped with advanced image sensors and processing engines that deliver high-resolution, sharp, and colour-accurate images.

Additionally, mirrorless cameras have gained significant popularity in the field of videography. They often come with superior video features like 4K or even 8K resolution, in-body image stabilization, and log color profiles, which are particularly beneficial for professional videography. Mirrorless cameras are widely picking up in popularity. Especially amongst those who consider video recording a significant part of their work - the advanced video features of mirrorless cameras may appeal more than a DSLR. 

Pros Cons
  • Excellent Image Quality - Mirrorless camera now feature larger sensors, like DSLRs, but in a more compact body
  • Price - Generally more expensive than other cameras.
  • Excellent Video Quality - Mirrorless cameras typically have advanced video features and superior autofocusing
  • Battery Life - Features like EVF can drain the battery more quickly.
  • Size and Weight - Lighter, smaller and more portable than DSLRs
  • Less Lenses - Fewer lenses compared to what's available for DSLRs
  • Can Be Faster - Mirrorless cameras can sometimes shoot faster burst rates because there's no mirror to flip up and down.
  • Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) - Offers real-time information while shooting

Who are mirrorless cameras best for?

Mirrorless cameras are best for photographers who need a camera that combines high-quality imaging capabilities with a compact, lightweight design, and those who require superior video recording features. Check out our range of Mirrorless Cameras!

Compact (Point-and-Shoot) Cameras

Canon Powershot G7X III Compact Camera for vlogging and photos
Compact cameras are easy-to-use and lightweight. Canon Powershot G7X III is a popular choice for vlogging.
Nikon COOLPIX P950 Compact Camera offers 83x optical zoom
Point-and-shoot camera, Nikon COOLPIX P950, while not compact, offers 83x optical zoom.

Compact cameras, aka point-and-shoot cameras, are all about simplicity and convenience. They are designed to be user-friendly, making photography accessible to everyone, without the need for specialised knowledge about camera settings. Ease of use is one of the main selling points of a point-and-shoot camera. As the name implies, you just point the camera at your subject and shoot. This simplicity comes from the automatic settings which control aspects like focus, exposure, white balance and ISO, reducing the number of decisions a user has to make before taking a photo.

They are also designed to be compact and lightweight, making them perfect for everyday use, travel, or any situation where carrying large equipment might be impractical. These cameras can easily fit in a pocket or small bag, so you're always ready to capture a moment. Despite their simplicity, point-and-shoot cameras have come a long way in terms of image quality, with many models offering high-resolution sensors, optical zoom lenses, and even some manual settings for those wishing to dabble in more advanced photography techniques.

Pros Cons
  • Lightweight - Their small and compact size make them extremely portable and convenient for everyday use and travel
  • Image Quality - Smaller sensor size can result in lower image quality, especially in low light.
  • Easy to Use - Automatic shooting modes makes them super easy to use with little to no learning curve - simply point and shoot!
  • Limited Control - Fewer manual controls places a limit on creative freedom
  • Affordability - Generally more affordable than other types of cameras, with various models and price points to choose from.
  • Fixed Lens - Shooting options are limited as the lens is fixed

Who are compact / point-and-shoot cameras best for?

Point-and-shoot cameras are excellent for beginners exploring photography, travelers or vloggers seeking a compact camera, and for those wanting better image quality than a phone without the complexities of a interchangeable lens camera. Check out all Point-and-Shoot cameras!

Action Cameras

GoPro Hero 12 Action Camera mounted on motorbike
Action cameras are compact and made for adventures.
DJI Osmo Action 4 being used in the sea
Rugged and often waterproof, ready to take on extreme conditions.

Action cameras are the go-to choice for adventure and sports enthusiasts wanting to capture their exploits. These small and compact cameras can go places others simply cannot. Crafted to withstand extreme conditions, they are typically waterproof, shock-resistant, and dustproof. This rugged build makes them ideal for capturing high-quality footage in activities like water sports, mountain biking, skiing, or even skydiving.

Action cameras are explicitly engineered for capturing fast-paced actions smoothly. Equipped with advanced image stabilization systems, they can record hyper-smooth videos, even in the midst of exciting, bumpy movements. High frame rate options also allow the capture of impressive slow-motion footage, enhancing the impact of your thrilling activities. An action camera is a great choice for those wanting to document their adventurous pursuits reliably and creatively.

Pros Cons
  • Rugged, Durable and Often Waterproof - Ideal for capturing action sports and adventures
  • Lower Image Quality - A smaller sensor size can result in lower image quality
  • Wide Angle Lens - Captures expansive views
  • Limited Control - A focus on durability means less control over settings
  • Compact Size - Super compact and lightweight + more discreet
  • Video Focused - Not as ideal for high-resolution photos
  • Easy Mounting - Can be mounted onto a wide variety things from a dog, to your helmet, to a car

Who are action cameras best for?

Action cameras are perfect for adventure seekers and sports enthusiasts wanting to capture dynamic and high-motion activities in varying environments, from surfing to mountain biking. Check out all Action Cams!

Instant Film Cameras

Polaroid Go Instant Camera
Instant film cameras offer that classic film aesthetic for your photos.
Instax Mini 12 Instant Camera printing rectangle polaroid
Photos print instantly, creating lasting memories.

The instant camera, sometimes referred to as a retro camera or polaroid, prints the photos seconds after they're captured, allowing you to hold a physical print of your captured moment instantly.

While many instant cameras may seem designed with a more disposable concept in terms of features and image quality, for many people, this is all a part of the charm. It's like the good old days when you'd flick through a photo album and experience nostalgia and throwbacks via an image that in modern times, could easily get lost in your camera role or photo library never to be seen again.

That being said, there are a select few instant cameras that provide larger, superior quality images too. The instant camera truly shines at gatherings. From parties to weddings and other sociable events, instant photography amplifies the fun and people tend to love them!

Pros Cons
  • Unique Aesthetic - Film photography offers a unique aesthetic that many people love 
  • Cost of Film - Cost of film for the cameras can add up over time
  • Simple to Use - Great for parties and casual photography
  • Limited Control - Limited control over settings and image quality
  • Instant Prints - Provides instant lasting memories so they don't get lost on your phone or device
  • No Image Review - Photos are typically printed instantly so there's often no chance to edit or review images first

Who are instant cameras best for?

Instant film cameras are ideal for those seeking immediate physical prints and the nostalgic feel of traditional photography, proving especially popular at social events and parties. Check out all Instant Cameras!

Time-Lapse Cameras

Brinno EMPOWER TLC2020-C time-lapse camera at construction site
Timelapse cameras are uniquely purpose-specific.
Brinno Time Lapse Camera with plants in background
Designed to be left in place for hours, day, or even weeks.

A time-lapse camera holds a unique place among other camera types due to their purpose-specific feature. Known for creating stunningly visual and dramatic sequences, these cameras capture multiple images over a prolonged period, which are then stitched together to create a video that dramatically accelerates the passage of time.

Although technically, a variety of cameras (including DSLRs, mirrorless, or even smartphones) can create time-lapse videos, certain cameras are designed specifically for this purpose. These dedicated time-lapse cameras are typically robust, designed to be left in place for hours, days, or even weeks, and often sport features like long battery life and built-in intervalometers for easy setup and operation.

Pros Cons
  • Dedicated Use - These cameras are made with creating time-lapse videos in mind
  • Limited Use Case - Time-lapse cameras don't offer the same versatility as other cameras we've mentioned
  • Often Weatherproof and Compact - Ideal for long-term capture in many environments
  • Photo Quality - May not offer high-resolution photos suitable for everyday use
  • Extra Features - May have features such as intervalometre built-in for automatic shooting

Who are timelapse cameras best for?

Time-lapse cameras are best suited for videographers and photographers wanting to capture and highlight slow, subtle movements over extended periods, such as cloud movements, blooming flowers, or bustling cityscapes. Check out our range of Time-Lapse Cameras!

Key Features to Consider

Now that you have an idea of what type of camera is best for you, lets look at the key features you consider. These will matter most to those shopping for a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, and in some instances, are worth noting when buying a Point-and-Shoot too. 

Sensor Size

The sensor size plays a key role in the quality of images your camera produces. Cameras with larger sensors, such as full-frame or APS-C sensors, perform exceptionally well in low light situations and provide a better dynamic range. They also offer better control over the depth of field compared to cameras with smaller sensors. However, cameras with larger sensors tend to be more expensive and heavier than their counterparts with smaller sensors.

  • Full-frame Sensor: A full-frame sensor is the largest standard sensor size, equivalent to a 35mm film frame's size. Full-frame sensors are typically found in high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, offering the highest image quality, better low-light performance, and a larger dynamic range. They also provide a wider field of view, which is advantageous for wide-angle photography.

  • APS-C Sensor: APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors, with a crop factor of around 1.5x (Nikon) or 1.6x (Canon). Despite being smaller, they still deliver excellent image quality and are often used in many mid-range to high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Cameras with APS-C sensors are typically much cheaper than full-frame sensors.

  • 1-inch Sensor: Found in advanced compact cameras, 1-inch sensors are larger than those typically seen in point-and-shoot cameras. They offer a significant improvement in image quality over smaller sensor sizes.

  • Compact Sensor: Compact sensors, such as 1/1.7" or 1/2.3", are commonly found in point-and-shoot cameras. They're significantly smaller than the above-mentioned sensor sizes, resulting in lesser image quality, but their small size allows for highly compact camera designs.

Megapixel Count

The Megapixel (MP) count represents that total number of millions of pixels a camera sensor can capture. A higher MP count generally means larger, higher-resolution pictures, while a smaller MP counts means lower-resolution pictures.

While it's easy to get swept up in the megapixel race, more megapixels do not always mean better images. They can provide more detail and allow larger prints, but other factors like sensor size and image processing also play significant roles in final image quality.

So, how many megapixels are good for a camera? It depends. If you plan on frequently cropping your photos or creating large prints, a higher megapixel count (24MP+) can be beneficial. If not, mid-range (such as 18-24MP) may suffice. Here's a breakdown of MP ranges:

  • Low Range (Less than 12MP) - Smaller file sizes for easy storage and sharing. Being lower-resolution, you may struggle to crop and zoom without sacrificing image quality. Best for casual everyday shots, social media sharing, or basic web content.
  • Mid Range (12MP-24MP) - A good balance between image quality and file size. Suitable to print photos up to medium or large sizes. For many people, this may be enough but it may not be ideal for professional-grade printing of very large photos. 
  • High Range (24MP+) - Captures exceptional image detail. Allows significant cropping & zooming. File sizes will be much larger. Best for professional photographers or those wanting to print very large photos. 

Speed (Frames Per Second)

FPS is a measure of capture speed.  For photos, it's the capture speed of individual images in burst mode. For videos, it's the capture speed of frames that make up the moving image. Keep in mind that the FPS for burst photos and video recording can be (and often are) different figures on your camera.

For action or wildlife photographers, FPS can make a significant difference. FPS refers to the number of images a camera can capture in a single second during burst mode, therefore, a higher fps allows you to capture a burst of images quickly, increasing the chance of getting that perfect shot of a moving subject.

When it comes to video recording, a higher frame rate enables you to capture slower motion footage. To capture slow motion footage, you'll need to record at a minimum of 60fps, while 120fps will allow for slower, smoother slow motion footage.

Autofocus System

A reliable and quick AF system ensures sharp focus on a subject, especially crucial if you plan on shooting moving subjects. Cameras offer varying numbers of AF points. Generally, more points can allow for faster (more speed) and precise focusing (more accuracy).

Some cameras also offer advanced features like face or eye-detection AF - which can be incredibly useful in portrait photography, along with tracking, which can be especially useful in videography.  

Most entry-level cameras will have slower autofocus capabilities and may be lacking tracking capabilities or features like eye- or face-detection. This can be fine for a casual photographer or those capturing still subjects, but if you're capturing moving subjects or video footage, keep AF capabilities in mind.

Image Stabilisation

This feature is designed to counteract camera shake, reducing blurry images and shaky video footage. This is especially useful when shooting handheld with slow shutter speeds, while using a telephoto lens, or while shooting video without a gimbal or tripod. Some cameras have this feature built into the body, while others rely on the lens to provide this stability.

ISO Range

ISO is a camera setting that will brighten or darken your photos. It plays a crucial role in determining how your camera absorbs light. When shopping for a new camera, consider its ISO range. The ISO range will fall between ISO 100 and ISO 51200 (or even higher on advanced models).

Cameras with a wider ISO range offer more flexibility in different lighting conditions. A higher maximum ISO number will allow you to shoot in darker situations without using a flash (though keep in mind, shooting at high ISO can also introduce more noise or grain into your pictures).

Something else worth noting is that full-frame sensor cameras generally perform better at higher ISOs thanks to their larger sensor sizes. This means less noise or grain, even when shooting at higher ISO settings. APS-C cameras, on the otherhand, may start showing more visible noise at higher ISOs.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed controls the amount of time the camera's shutter remains open when taking a photo. Fast shutter speeds allow you to freeze action, while slow shutter speeds can create a motion blur effect. Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras provide a broad range of shutter speeds to cater to different shooting scenarios, from fast action sports photography to long-exposure landscape photography.

When choosing a camera, consider its maximum and minimum shutter speeds, and whether it will meet your needs. For example, if you're interested in night photography or capturing moving water, you'll need a camera that supports very slow shutter speeds. Conversely, if you plan to do a lot of sport or wildlife photography, a high maximum shutter speed is essential.


In DSLR cameras, you will find optical viewfinders which are appreciated for their clarity and negligible lag. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras come with electronic viewfinders that can display more information including live exposure previews, which can be especially beneficial for beginners. 

Lenses and Compatibility

Lenses play an integral part in how your photos will turn out. Different lenses offer various perspectives and can drastically alter your image result. When buying a camera, consider the range and availability of compatible lenses. While most manufacturers offer a broad selection of lenses, not all lenses are compatible with all cameras, even within the same brand.

Video Capabilities

If recording videos is essential for you, consider the camera's video specifications. Many advanced DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer 4K or even 8K video recording. Look at the maximum frame rate as well, especially if you plan to shoot slow-motion footage.

Build Quality and Size

Consider the materials used, durability, weather-sealing, and the size of the camera. If you travel a lot, you might prefer a lightweight and compact model. On the other hand, if you shoot in rugged conditions, you'd require a weather-sealed and robust camera. 

Understanding Lenses

Fixed lens cameras offer either a zoom or fixed focal length - either way, the lens cannot be changed. There are found on compact cameras, actions cameras, and instant cameras.

Interchangeable lenses can be a zoom or fixed focal length, but allow you to swap, switch and interchange your lenses to suit subject matter, scenery, lighting and the overall vision you as a photographer have. These are found on DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

We're going to briefly cover lenses in this article but you can learn more about them in our Top Camera Lenses article. Lets look at a few basic terms + lens suggestions so you can get started on the right foot when choosing interchangeable lenses for your camera.

Sony ZV-1 Compact Camera with a fixed lens
Compact cameras, such as the Sony ZV-1, feature a fixed lens.
Fujifilm Mirrorless Camera with interchangeable lenses
Mirrorless and DSLR cameras feature interchangeable lenses.

What is focal length?

A lens’ focal length is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus, more often than not measured in millimetres. In the case of zoom lenses (those with two numbers eg. 18-55mm), they state the minimum and maximum focal length.  In layman’s terms, it’s the range of widths available to be captured by the camera with the lens.

The shorter the focal length (e.g. 18 mm), the wider the angle of view and the greater the area captured. The longer the focal length (e.g. 100 mm), the smaller the angle and the larger the subject appears to be. The easiest way to remember this calculation is the more focal length = the more reach you have on a subject matter, or the closer you can get. 

There are two types of lenses you can get:

  • A Prime Lens has a fixed focal length, such as a 55mm or 35mm lens.
  • A Zoom Lens on the other hand has a variable focal length, such as 18-55mm. 

What is aperture?

Aperture entails how much light a lens is capable of gathering. Apertures can be expressed in several different ways: F4, f/4, 1:4 and so on, but they all represent the same thing. The lower the number, the larger the aperture, and thus the more light the lens will allow to collect.

If you’re wanting to shoot in lower light (eg. at night, in dark places like clubs or bars, or do street/event photography) without a flash, go for a lens that has a lower number in its aperture.

Larger apertures also add a decreased depth of field to a photography (i.e. how much of the picture around the focus point appears blurred), which is an important aspect of creative photography and something to keep in mind. If you’re going to be primarily shooting portrait photography, it’s best to purchase a lens with a low number/large aperture.

What is a wide angle lens?

Any lens wider (with a smaller number) than 50mm (full frame) or 35mm (APS-C) is considered a wide-angle lens. It’s able to capture far more subject matter in a shot than your regular focal length lens. (See: Focal lengths 12mm and 24mm above.) A lens is considered wide-angle when it covers the angle of view between 64° and 84°. These lenses are fantastic for street, event and travel photography.

What is a telephoto lens?

At the other end of the spectrum is the telephoto lens. A telephoto lens is like a super zoom for your camera, bringing distant objects closer and making them appear larger in the frame. It achieves this by using clever lens design to magnify the image. They allow a photographer to produce a close up shot on a subject or object. These lenses are great for shooting wildlife, portrait, sport and street photography.

24mm Wide Angle Lens
Wide angle lens - 24mm.
Canon 800mm Telephoto Lens
Telephoto lens - 800mm.

We won't go into all of the lenses available but if you're after some recommendations, be sure to check out our Top Camera Lenses article!

Need more help?

We hope this guide has shed some light on the different camera models available for different skill levels and the features of each model. Check out some of our other guides to help you find the best camera and accessories:

We'll continue to update this guide as new technology becomes available to keep you up-to-date and confident as you shop for your next camera. Check out our full range of cameras available over at PB Tech!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right camera?

Before you can decide what camera is right for you, there are some questions you should ask yourself. These include (but are not limited to):

  • What kind of photography are you interested in? (e.g., travel, portraits, sports, action). This will help determine the features most important to you.
  • Do you value portability or image quality more?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is your experience level? Beginner, enthusiast or professional?

These questions can help to narrow down your options based on the features and specifications each cameras offer, such as:

  • Build Size & Weight
  • Sensor Size & Resolution
  • Speed (FPS)
  • Autofocus Capabilities
  • ISO Range

With all of this in mind, refer back to our section on Key Features to Consider if you haven't read it already.

What is the difference between mirrorless and DSLR?

While there are a number of differences between the two, the primary difference is the mechanism they use to capture light. A DSLR uses a mirror to reflect light coming through the lens up to a viewfinder. The mirror flips up just before the picture is taken, directing light onto the image sensor.

A mirrorless camera, as the name suggests, doesn't use a mirror. Instead, light travel directly from the lens to the image sensor. The image you see is an electronic preview on the camera's screen of electronic view finder (EVF). The lack of mirror also means they're typically smaller and lighter than DSLRs.

What camera has the best image quality?

Image quality is influenced by factors like sensor size, lens, and more. However, top-of-the-line models that are sure to deliver impressive high-resolution images include the Sony A7R MK V Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera and the Canon EOS R5 Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera.

What is the best digital camera to take film like photos?

While there isn't a single contender that we can state as the 'best', Fujifilm's X series is worth checking out! These mirrorless cameras are renowned for their "film simulation modes" that replicate the look and feel of classic film stocks. They offer a range of styles, from vibrant Astia to muted Classic Chrome.

Does it really matter what camera you use?

Better gear doesn't necessarily mean better photos. Things such as as composition, framing, and lighting are all factors that play a role in quality images and video, and don't rely on the specific camera. If you're just starting out, an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless, or even a simple point-and-shoot camera, is a good way to practice those things before splurging on a big ticket item. 

If you're sporting an entry-level interchangeable lens camera, a quality lens can make a world of difference, so it may be worth investing in a better lens as you progress in your photography journey. When you're ready to upgrade your camera, your lenses can generally come with you too.

What zoom lens should I start with?

Often when buying a new DSLR or Mirrorless, you have the option to purchase one that comes with a kit lens - a great option for those starting out. These are often the standard 18-55mm zoom lens. Almost all entry-level camera bundle kits will include this lens, but if you’ve just bought a body alone then worry not – you can purchase a seperate zoom lens to add to your kit!

The 18-55mm is a great lens to start learning with. The ‘standard’ of beginner lenses, it suits most immediate photographic needs with a decent wide-angle range and the ability to zoom in on faraway subject matter. This lens is great for learning about rule of thirds, placement of subject matter, cropping, angles, aperture, and all the other basic principles of photography. 

What prime lens should I start with?

Upgrading to a prime lens is usually the next step for a photography enthusiast looking for a lens past the standard beginner options. The most popular first prime lens amongst camera owners is typically a 50mm. With a fixed focal point, the 50mm comes in two aperture modes: f/1.8 and the f/1.4 – the latter being more expensive. 

Coined the “nifty fifty” by photographers worldwide, the 50mm lens gives you eight times more light capture than that of a typical lens kit in the 1.8 alone. Prime lenses typically produce nicer bokeh than standard lenses, sharper focal points, and are light in weight so they won’t weigh you down in terms of portability and ease of use. 

Written By

Kimmy Jo

Waiting for the day I can download food.

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