Cameracraft magazine

One year ago we took the difficult decision to end the publication of Photoworld, though Photoclubalpha continues as an active and well supported site. dPhotoexpert, though a quiet site by comparison, was originally intended to be the companion website for a magazine called dPhotoexpert for which we did designs and content plans. But then along came literally dozens of how-to-Photoshop titles sitting on the supermarket magazine shelves, and we realised it just wouldn’t be much fun.

I’ve been missing making magazines with true editorial freedom for some time. So, a new quarterly – like Photoworld in quality, starting out with 44 pages and no advertising – is about to appear. The name is Cameracraft, harking back to the West Coast American title  (written as two words) which was published in the first half of the 20th century. That was Ansel Adams’s favourite mag. Maybe we will find the next Ansel Adams!

Cameracraft is an international magazine. Gary Friedman in Los Angeles is our US Associate Editor with a regular feature article. We’re looking for work of international interest, we have a small open picture gallery in each issue, and we are printing portfolios in classic style as an 8-page central section on heavier silk paper.

The first issue is scheduled for mailing before September 14th and has now gone to press. We will have a subscriber card, we plan a passworded private forum, and we offer optional magazine binders (fitting three years each). We plan to develop exclusive benefits for our readers in future. The subscriber card will be issued late 2012 and sent out with Issue 2 in December, once we’ve worked out a good way to ensure the right cards go to the right people…

        

Please take a look at the subscription page here:

http://www.iconpublications.com/cameracraft

On this page you will find a link to a downloadable PDF application form if you are interesting in subscribing and prefer not to use the Paypal payment method. At present the 3-year, 12-issue Cordex bookshelf binder is only offered on the webpage, but the address carrier sheet for the first issue has a form on the reverse for ordering. We expect to ship the binders mid to late October.

I hope you can join me on this new journey.

We’ve had comments along the lines that a 44-page magazine is too slim for a quarterly. Photoworld/Image was 36 pages, and in the last year or two, only 28. I have counted the editorial pages in magazines with 76 or 84 overall and find that most only have 44 (or so) with all the rest being advertising. We think it’s good value and if the readership grows we will take it as far as the printing and postage costs allow.

Best wishes – 

David Kilpatrick
Publisher and Editor, Icon Publications Ltd and Photoclubalpha 

Channel Islands VAT dodge to end in 2012

The story below may not seem very important to photographers, but actually, it affects suppliers including 7DayShop, MyMemory, and indeed all the digital and photo processing companies who have used the Channel Islands VAT loopholes.

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The group of retailers campaigning against an industrial-scale offshore VAT avoidance scheme that has destroyed scores of viable, job-creating businesses and cost the UK taxpayer over a billion pounds, is winding down its campaign, having accomplished its mission.

From the 1st of April 2012, Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) will no longer be applicable to Channel Island goods entering the UK. LVCR – the exemption from VAT of goods valued below £18 (now £15) originating outside of the EU – had started life in 1983 as an innocuous administrative measure to relieve governments from the expense of collecting incidental amounts of VAT. But from the late 90s it mushroomed into a huge VAT avoidance ruse. Major retailers deliberately circulated UK goods via the Channel Islands – which happen to be outside of the EU for tax purposes – in order to take advantage of the import relief.

The result was a huge competitive distortion, creating a market where the major, even sole, determinant of success became not quality or customer service but ability to route via the Channel Islands and avoid tax.

The exploitation of LVCR also saw the rise of giant online retailers including Play.com and theHut, leading to the demise of UK high street chains like Zavvi and Fopp, but the storm hit the online sector in the UK the hardest.

RAVAS founder Richard Allen explained: “By 2010 there were no online retailers of CDs left on the mainland. Some of the high-street guys could survive because they offered an in-store experience that the offshore websites didn’t, but purely online folk like me who had to pay VAT didn’t have a prayer.”

The impetus for RAVAS began in 2005 when online retailer Mr Allen became concerned at the impact of the abuse of LVCR on his specialist mail order music company, which had been very successful up to that point. By 2006, with the move of HMV’s online operation to Guernsey to compete with Play.com, it became apparent that the level of LVCR use was about to escalate. By 2007 only VAT avoiding businesses could compete in online music retail.

Having been forced, like many other UK music retailers, to close his business and lay off UK staff, Allen began a campaign to end the abuse of LVCR. With help from the Forum of Private Business, including its former Brussels representative Martin Smith, Mr Allen submitted a complaint to the European Commission, focusing on wording in the original LVCR Directive showing that member states had a duty to crack down on avoidance or abuse resulting from LVCR. He was supported by retailers from many different sectors affected by LVCR abuse, including horticulture, cosmetics, computer peripherals, and gifts.

The website www.vatloophole.co.uk became a focus for the group, who eventually managed to make the EU and the new coalition Government realise the true scale of the abuse of LVCR in The Channel Islands. Whilst the Labour administration had completely ignored his campaign, George Osborne responded sympathetically to Mr Allen’s case.

In the UK Budget for 2011 Osborne announced that the government would work with the European Commission to find a way to halt the abuse of LVCR via the Channel Islands. The final instalment of these measures is the complete removal of LVCR from all goods entering the UK from the Channel Islands as of the 1st of April 2012.

Richard Allen said: “When we first initiated the complaint the odds were not exactly stacked in our favour. Many of the people affected had already gone out of business and so we were not a strong voice. We had no money to put into hiring expensive consultants or lawyers, but we argued our case directly with the conviction that we were in the right.

“After four years of communication with the commission, the submission of large amounts of factual data on the ongoing LVCR trade and a meeting with officials, the EU finally ruled that this practice was an abuse of the relief and a barrier to trade. We understand that the Commission has had lengthy discussions with the UK Government to put in place legal measures to prevent the abuse. Whilst it took a long time and huge amount of work the success of RAVAS is living proof not only that the EU complaints system works, but also that anybody can overcome the odds and overturn an injustice if they have a fundamentally sound case and the persistence to argue it thoroughly. ”

Mr Allen and Mr Smith are now encouraging any individuals or businesses affected by faulty policy or anti-competitive behaviour to get in touch and share in the secrets of their success.

Phil McCabe, Senior Policy Adviser at the Forum of Private Business, said: “This VAT loophole has been routinely abused by most of the UK’s large retailers for far too long and the Government’s decision to finally end it is good news for the vast majority of small traders across the UK.

“Allowing these large companies to have a significant price advantage on a range of goods for decades has caused a great deal of damage to high street shops and small online outlets. Many have closed – but others that are left have now been a fighting chance.

“An industry owing its existence to a tax avoidance scheme that is anti-competitive and classed as tax abuse under EU law because it is being exploited for reasons utterly different from its original purpose as an administrative relief, is simply unsustainable. Good riddance to it.

“RAVAS should be applauded for its continued courage, commitment and determination in bringing this damaging trade to an end, particularly by taking the complaint to the EU.”

Master Photography Awards – merits video

You can now watch a low resolution, 33-minute video of the original HD1080p movie slide show produced from all the 550-plus merits awarded for the 2011 Master Photography Awards.

From these merits, the Awards of Excellence and the category winners, the International Master Photographer of the Year, the UK/European/World Portfolio winners, and the UK and Overseas Best Image of the Year have been chosen and will be unveiled at the awards dinner on Sunday October 9th.

The dinner takes place at the Hilton Newcastle-Gateshead hotel on the south bank of the Tyne. To attend the event, call MPA on (+44)(0)1325 356555 – dinner tickets are still available. There will be a Hasselblad Broncolor studio for hands-on demonstration during the day, and the awards will be shown as an exhibition of over 40 large display panels.

The music for the video is from the two CDs of royalty-free soundtrack for use by professional photographers in their own client presentations and DVD delivery, commissioned from an independent composer-producer and available from the MPA shop.

Mapping the planes

Samsung has a patent and a plan for using two lenses with triangulation (image offset) depth detection between two images in what is roughly a stereo pair. Here’s a link:

http://www.photographybay.com/2011/07/19/samsung-working-on-dslr-like-bokeh-for-compact-cameras/

Pentax also have a system on the new Q range which takes more than one exposure, changes the focus point between them, and uses this to evaluate the focus map and create bokeh-like effects. Or so the pre-launch claims for this system indicate, though the process is not described. It’s almost certain to be a rapid multishot method, and it could equally well involve blending a sharp image with a defocused one.

In theory, the sweep panorama function of Sony and some other cameras can be used to do exactly the same thing – instead of creating a 3D 16:9 shot it could create a depth mapped focus effect in a single shot. 3D is possible with sweep pans by simply taking two frames from the multi-shot pan separated by a certain amount, so the lens positions for the frames are separated enough to be stereographic. 3D ‘moving’ pans (scrolling on the TV screen) can be compared to delaying the playback of the left eye view and shifting the position of subject detail to match the right. But like 16:9 pans, they are just two JPEGs.

All these methods including the Samsung concept can do something else which is not yet common – they can alter any other parameter, not just focus blur. They could for example change the colour balance or saturation so that the focused subject stands out against a monochrome scene, or so the background to a shot is made darker or lighter than the focused plane, or warmer in tone or cooler – etc. Blur is just a filter, in digital image terms. Think of all the filters available from watercolour or scraperboard effects to noise reduction, sharpening, blurring, tone mapping, masking – digital camera makers have already shown that the processors in their tiny cameras can handle such things pretty well.

Once a depth map exists there’s almost no limit to the manipulation possible. Samsung only scratches the surface by proposing this is used for the esoteric and popular bokeh enhancement (a peculiarly Japanese obsession which ended up going viral and infecting the entire world of images). I can easily image a distance-mapped filter turning your background scene into a Monet or a van Gogh, while applying a portrait skin smoothing process to your subjects.

Any camera with two lenses in stereo configuration should also, in theory, be able to focus using a completely different method to existing off-sensor AF – using the two lenses exactly like a rangefinder with two windows. So far this has not been implemented.

Way back – 40 years ago – I devised a rangefinder optical design under which you can see nothing at all at the focus point unless the lens was correctly focused. It works well enough for a single spot, the image detail being the usual double coincident effect when widely out of focus, but blacking out when nearly in focus and suddenly becoming visible only when focus is perfect. I had the idea of making a chequerboard pattern covering an entire image, so that the viewfinder would reveal the focused subject and blank out the rest of the scene, but a little work with a pencil and paper quickly shows why it wouldn’t work like that. The subject plane would have integrity, other planes would not all black out, they’d create an interestingly chaotic mess with phase-related black holes.

Samsung’s concept, in contrast, could isolate the subject entirely – almost as effectively as green screen techniques. It would be able to map the outline of a foreground subject like a newsreader by distance, instead of relying on the colour matte effect of green or blue screen technology. This would free film makers and TV studios from the restraints of chroma-keyed matting (not that you really want the newsreader wearing a green tie).

The sensitivity of the masking could be controlled by detecting the degree of matched image detail offset and its direction (the basic principle of stereographic 3D) – or perhaps more easily by detecting exactly coincident detail, in the focused plane. Photoshop’s snap-to for layers works by detecting a match and so do the stitching functions used for sweep and multi shot in-camera panorama assembly. Snap-to alignment of image data is a very mature function.

Just when you think digital photography has rung all the bells and blown all the whistles, the tones of an approaching caliope can be heard rolling down the river…

– David Kilpatrick

 

Hasselblad is new UK Broncolor agent

Hasselblad is set to become sole distributor of broncolor lighting products in the UK.

’We will use the same approach with bron as we have with the new-look Hasselblad UK’ – Chris Russell-Fish, Hasselblad UK MD and Global Sales and Marketing Director

Chris Russell-Fish, Hasselblad UK MD and global sales and marketing director, announced the move following months of negotiation with the Swiss-based lighting manufacturer.

Hasselblad will take over from JP Distribution on July 1st and promises ‘a dynamic array of new ideas and solutions‘ for bron customers nationwide in coming months.

Said Russell-Fish: “I believe we can do a great job for bron users in the UK. Like Hasselblad products, bron equipment sits at the top end of the market. We plan to make a great deal of noise in coming weeks and months around this excellent lighting range.”

Russell-Fish has appointed photo-lighting expert Chris Burfoot as the new broncolor UK manager.

Burfoot, who first started ‘working with light’ in the Eighties said: “Our objective is to create far more awareness around the award-winning bron brand and focus hard on customer service and support for existing users. We also plan a programme of ‘hands-on’ open days with broncolor partners in a non-selling environment – mirroring the success of the popular ‘Hasselblad Studiodays’ programme, and under the name of ‘The beauty of broncolor’.

This premium lighting brand has been built on a rock solid foundation of quality, consistency and reliability. The new-look bron customer care programme will work in exactly the same way as Hasselblad’s renowned ‘Hasselbuddy’ customer care support.”

Hasselblad UK owns the London-based Pro Centre, the photo-equipment rental company, but Russell-Fish insists the bron distribution deal will be no threat to any other brand they work with.

He said: “The Pro Centre acts completely independently as a rental centre. This will simply be an additional line. Bron will be a completely separate entity for us in the same way as our new Hasselblad studio and Didgeridoo services. And just as we have developed energetic new programmes for Hasselblad customers in the UK, we will do the same with bron over time. There will be a separate bron customer care and maintenance team in place in the near future.”

Hasselblad is currently in talks with broncolor with a view to new product launches.

A new website is to go live from the 1st July 2011 at www.ukbroncolor.com, with links to and from the Hasselblad (www.hasselblad.co.uk) website.

Alamy hits 24m images with added celebrity collection

Alamy.com has further strengthened its collection with the addition of over a million celebrity images, and now has over 24 million images on line. The company represents over 570 of the world’s leading stock and specialist agencies and over 25,000 photographers worldwide.

Rachel Wakefield, head of sales at Alamy, said: “We are extremely popular with newspaper and magazine customers and this additional entertainment and sports content cements our appeal. TV and film stars, royals and sporting celebrities will always be sought after”.

Alamy is well known for its quality and variety of imagery, from the obvious to the obscure. The combination of high profile stock agencies and 25,000 individual photographers gives an extraordinary blend of world class imagery, with a myriad flavours and themes. For these reasons, the company is considered the first, and often only, port-of-call for customers who value this mix.

Alan Capel, head of content at Alamy added: “Our collection has both freshness and variety and our customers appreciate that much of this imagery is unique to Alamy”.

Top ten most photographed buildings

Independent stock photo agency, Alamy, has the largest collection of images online. Here, the company provides its inaugural list of the top ten most photographed buildings across the world[1]. And, there are some surprising results.

Eiffel Tower (Paris) – currently 15,536 images on the Alamy website. No visit to Paris is complete without a trip to the world-famous Eiffel Tower and every visual of France is likely to include an image of the monument. The Eiffel Tower also has romantic connotations – from proposals to romantic weekends away. Unsurprisingly it is top of the list.

Big Ben (London) – currently 14,896 images on the Alamy website. From the world’s most visited city, Big Ben is sure to appear on nearly every London tourist postcard.

Empire State Building (New York) – currently 13,637 images on the Alamy website. The world’s second most visited city’s famous building, stands at 1454ft. Getting a close up just isn’t possible!

London Eye (London) – currently 12,734 images on the Alamy website. A surprisingly high entry on the list, which is dominated by traditional buildings. The London Eye opened in 1999, but already its image is embedded in the London skyline.

Statue of Liberty (New York) – currently 9,573 images on the Alamy website. We can all recall images of this monument standing tall where the East and Hudson rivers converge, with the famous New York skyline as its backdrop.

Great Wall of China (China) – currently 8,907 images on the Alamy website. Given China’s growing strength as a world economy and an increasingly popular tourist destination, are we going to see this creep up the list again next year?

Taj Mahal (India) – currently 8,544 images on the Alamy website. The finest example of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal became a World Heritage Site in 1983. We suspect it will follow in the footsteps of the Great Wall of China and become an even more popular building to photograph in the years to come.  India is growing as an accessible destination and the structure of the buildings and composition of the landscape  is a godsend to photographers

Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris) – currently 8,185 images on the Alamy website. Another famous monument of the Paris skyline, and widely considered as one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

Brooklyn Bridge (New York) – currently 7,990 images on the Alamy website. One of the oldest suspension brides in the United States, which was completed in 1883, and spans the East River. However, a surprising entry on this list.

Sydney Opera House (Sydney) – currently 7,848 images on the Alamy website. No image of Australia is complete without a picture of its world-famous opera house, which was conceived and built by a Danish architect in 1973. One would have thought this would appear higher on the list.

Commenting on the top ten most photographed buildings, Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy, said: “As you would suspect, many of the buildings listed are predictable, particularly when we look at the world’s most visited cities and tourist destinations. However, there are a number of entries which came as a surprise – The London Eye, for example, is now hot-on-the-heels of Big Ben. Also would your average man in the street be able to name the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s so popular because almost every image of it has the distinctive New York skyline in the background.

“And, when it comes to monuments you would expect to be most photographed, I was surprised not to see The Pyramids featuring. On reflection, their desert location and the consistent climate of Egypt may provide the answer to this – there are only a certain number of photographs you can take.

“This list clearly indicates that photographers should not be afraid of clichés. They are clichés for a good reason; they are iconic and instantly symbolic of a country or city. When photographers visit a tourist destination, it goes without saying they should take a photo of the most photographed monuments – no matter the time of day, or the weather. Today, people are more widely travelled and more adventurous, travel photography has grown in breadth and diversity to reflect that. Remember, next time you take a shot of the Eiffel Tower, why not take one of the ticket guard at the bottom too, or the person selling souvenirs and ice creams. This will capture the essence of Paris without disregarding the world’s most photographed monument.”

A representative from Lonely Planet Images which supplies Alamy added: “Digital photography and high quality cameras have revolutionised our attitude to taking photographs.  Where once we would send a postcard (with a picture of an iconic building on), now we’re creating our own postcards.

“The world is becoming more accessible and with it more visual, as we share our photographs with the online communities.  You don’t need to leave your house in order to see exotic landscapes, festivals, and insights into other cultures.

“Professional travel photographers have had to step up their game, and now work even harder to get unique imagery.”

Perfect Layers – free trial download

onOne Software are announcing that a Public Preview of Perfect Layers is now available to download and try out, free of charge.

Perfect Layers is a standalone application that works on its own allowing you to create and edit layered Photoshop files. If you use Lightroom or Aperture and you’ve ever wanted to or wished you had the ability to create a layered file, then this is definitely for you.

Being able to take two or more files and combining them into a single layered file or taking a single image and duplicating it to create multiple layers and use blending modes to enhance them is very powerful and opens up all kinds of creative things you can do.

onOne have been working closely with Scott Kelby from the National Association of Photoshop Professionals on Perfect Layers to refine the feature set and get great ideas in general on Lightroom users need. Scott has been playing with early development builds of Perfect Layers and he (and the rest of his team including Matt Kloskowski and RC Concepcion) are very excited about the possibilities that Perfect Layers will bring to Lightroom users.

The Perfect Layers Public Preview will expire on June 30th, 2011. The final version, 1.0, will be available for purchase in mid-2011. At that time, Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 owners will receive a free product update that will include Perfect Layers 1.0. Suite owners and anyone interested in Perfect Layers can download the free public preview now.

Fuji use Backlit CMOS in raw G12-beater

The FujiFilm FinePix F550 EXR is the first serious competitor to the Canon G-series for professional backup shooting and travel, with 16 megapixels of back-illuminated (Sony but Fujifilm diagonally aligned matrix?) CMOS and raw shooting along with a massive zoom range, stabilisation, high ISO sensitivity, full HD at 30fps in a user-friendly .MOV format, GPS data recording, and various multishot modes including HDR. It’s also very favourably priced.

The FinePix F550 is available today from leading photographic retailers nationwide, with a list price of £329. Note to readers: our links to B&H lead to far more detailed specifications and feature lists than Fuji’s own press info.

New Backside Illuminated CMOS
Thanks to the hybrid sensor, the FinePix F550 EXR delivers fast, high-quality results in a wide range of lighting conditions. The EXR processing engine uses a combination of a bespoke 16-megapixel Back Side Illuminated CMOS sensor (BSI-CMOS) and Fujifilm’s new triple-core EXR processor, to deliver superior results, particularly in low light conditions – plus high-speed shooting facilities and Full HD movie capture. The sensitivity range is from 100-3200 EI, and the filesize options include 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios in three pixel densities.

Users can still select from three different EXR shooting modes, or can allow the FinePix F550 EXR to choose the best option by selecting Auto EXR (it’s an orange setting not green on that dial, too).

  • EXR High Resolution mode utilises the full 16-megapixel resolution of the sensor for high quality results that can be printed out at A3-size, and without the need for any re-sizing by software.
  • EXR Dynamic Range mode employs dual capture-technology to provide a dynamic range of up to 1600% – almost a full stop wider than any other camera. Two images are captured at different exposures and are then merged to produce superb results on high-contrast scenes.
  • EXR Signal to Noise mode utilises Pixel Fusion, pairing pixels to increase sensitivity. Coupled with the BSI sensor technology, this mode delivers superb images in low lighting conditions.

RAW image capture
With the ability to shoot in RAW or JPEG format (or both simultaneously), the F550 EXR has appeal for stock photography, wedding candids and professional backup generally. It remains to be seen whether Alamy puts it on the approved or rejected list – bear in mind the Canon S90 type models are blacklisted when nearly identical G-series models are accepted. Both shoot raw and have similar sensors. Will the Fuji lens be up to the mark?

GPS embedding
Regardless of where you are in the world, the FinePix F550 EXR will recognise your location and display it either as longitude and latitude co-ordinates or by place name – thanks to the camera’s embedded list of locations. A tag is placed on the image which can then be easily searched for, allowing shots of a specific location or point of interest to be found quickly and by name.

Additional functionality is also provided by the Photo Navigation mode, allowing users to find their way back to where a particular photo was taken. The FinePix F550 EXR can store location data every 10 minutes* and, once the images are downloaded to a PC, a map of the route along with the pictures taken along the way can be created using Google Maps.
* Anytime On or Only Power On must be selected for data to be logged.

Keep up with the action
At the full 16-megapixel resolution, the FinePix F550 EXR is capable of delivering up to 8 frames per second for up to 8 frames – and without compromising picture quality (note: some websites state 3 frames and 3 fps). Select the Best Frame Capture mode and the FinePix F550 EXR automatically starts recording images the moment the shutter release is half-pressed and focus locked. Once the picture has been taken, the F550 EXR records the seven frames before or after the shutter was fully released to allow the choice of at least one shot that’s (hopefully, as in our experience both rarely coincide) pin sharp and perfectly framed.

Huge zoom range, tiny camera
Despite having a body that measures only 22.9mm deep, the f/3.5-5.3 zoom lens range extends from a wide-angle setting of 24mm through to 360mm (35mm equivalents) giving users a huge range of shooting options. Image quality and sharpness is also assured thanks to the combination of a high quality Fujinon lens and the new triple core EXR processing engine that automatically reduces colour fringing and boosts corner resolution for uniform image sharpness.

Triple Stabilisation tactics
Using longer focal lengths can cause camera shake, but the FinePix F550 EXR has its bases covered on three fronts. First, the sensor moves to counter any hand movements. Second, sensitivity is boosted using Pixel Fusion to allow faster shutter speeds, and third, users can select Advanced Anti-blur when in EXR Auto mode giving a sequence of four images which are then combined to provide one, shake-free result.

Full HD video
The FinePix F550 EXR records videos in Full HD (1080p) at 30 frames per second, with stereo sound, and outputs the files in H.264 (MOV) format. Fuji’s EXR Signal to Noise mode is now also available when shooting Full HD videos, using Pixel Fusion Movie technology to fuse pixels together for extra sensitivity, and therefore much crisper low-light videos with lower levels of noise.

The F550 EXR also offers a class-leading selection of high-speed video capture options including a class-leading 320 frames per second capture at 320 x 100 pixels.

Fujifilm also offers a second model, the F500 EXR with a similar specification – excluding the GPS and RAW capture capabilities – and in the same super slim design but in a range of five stylish colours.

The Fujifilm FinePix F550 is available now for £329 in black.
The Fujifilm FinePix F500 is available now in a choice of five colours for £279.

Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR key features:
•        All-new 16 megapixel EXR CMOS sensor
•        15x optical zoom covering 24-360mm (35mm equivalent)
•        3.0 inch rear LCD with 460,000 pixel and new Rich User Interface using Vector fonts and graphics
•        GPS functionality
•        RAW shooting
•        Advanced Anti-blur technologies
•        1600% wide dynamic range
•        Full resolution high speed shooting at 8fps
•        Full HD movie capture (H.264 MOV file format)
•        Advanced 27 scene mode EXR Auto
•        Film simulation modes
•        360° Motion Panorama mode
•        Photobook Assist function