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This guide will help you build an Olympus compact system camera kit, or add to an existing one. To assist you in making the best decisions for your photography needs, I'll discuss my experiences with these items, link to articles about their use, and recommend groupings that accommodate different budgets and shooting styles.

What is Micro Four Thirds (M4/3)?

To help you get your bearings, let's start with a few terms. "Micro Four Thirds" is a standard created by Olympus and Panasonic, with other partners joining in, including Sigma. The advantage of this standard is that you can interchange lenses and bodies within the system. So, for example, you can mount a Panasonic M4/3 lens on an Olympus M4/3 body, and everything works great.

What about the term Compact System Camera (CSC)?

Compact System Camera is a category term for high functioning, small cameras that have interchangeable lenses. This category includes the Micro Four Thirds offerings by Olympus and Panasonic, but also includes other brands such as the Sony NEX system.

The best way to think about this is: Compact System Camera is a generic term that describes an entire class of cameras, while Micro Four Thirds refers to a particular type of CSC.

Some advantages to the Olympus M4/3 Standard include:

  • Image Stabilization is built into the body of the camera. So any lens you mount on an Olympus PEN or OM-D series camera will be image stabilized. This includes lenses by Panasonic, Sigma, and others. Image stabilized cameras improve picture quality by helping to eliminate "camera shake."
  • A broad variety of camera bodies, accessories, and lenses. You can configure just about any type of kit that you would need for your photography.
  • Compact and light. Since these cameras don't have the mirrors and pentaprisms that traditional DSLRs use, both the bodies and the lenses are smaller and weigh less.
  • Can take advantage of technology from M4/3 partners. Panasonic for example, has developed some fantastic lenses that work perfectly on Olympus camera bodies.

Body Selection

There are two basic body systems within the Olympus M4/3 line: PEN and OM-D. The PEN series was the first compact system camera launched by Olympus. They are designed for entry level through intermediate level photographers.

In the Spring of 2012, Olympus added a new series to the M4/3 standard: the OM-D. The first body in the series is the E-M5. The E-M5 is also very compact, like the PENs, but aimed at intermediate to serious level photographers. Both PENs and OM-Ds use the same lens system and most of the same accessories.

Recommended PEN Bodies

olympus_17mm_pancake.jpg The Olympus 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens on a PEN Mini.

Currently there are two PEN bodies that I prefer. The E-PL3 and the E-PM1 (PEN Mini). Both are current generation cameras that provide an excellent balance between price and features.

The E-PM1 is the smallest PEN and a good fit for those moving up from a point and shoot digital camera. It's also a terrific second camera for OM-D photographers.

The E-PL3 is a bit more sophisticated and offers an adjustable LCD panel. Both cameras are available in a variety of colors. Resolution with the PENs is 12 megapixels, which is enough to make a 13x19 inch print.

Currently my favorite of the PEN series the the PEN Mini (E-PM1). I recommend the E-PM1 body (any color) with the 14-42mm zoom lens. Here is a selection of the recommended PEN kits.

Recommended Olympus PEN bodies with current best pricing.

Related Articles about the Olympus PEN

Olympus PEN mini

Olympus E-PM1 - Quality Nimbleosity

Morning Walk with the Olympus PEN Mini

On the Road with the Olympus PEN Mini

The OM-D E-M5

Olympus OMD Front Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm zoom lens that has macro capability.

The E-M5 is also very compact. It looks like a mini-DSLR. But inside it packs state-of-the-art sophistication. Highlights include fast auto focus, 9 frames per second burst rate, 5 axis image stabilization, adjustable touch screen LCD, built-in electronic viewfinder, weather sealing, and 16 megapixels of resolution. The sensor is manufactured by Sony and implemented by Olympus.

This camera is highly recommended for intermediate to advanced photographers who want a sophisticated tool in a compact body.

The EM-5 is my current favorite micro four thirds body. I think the image quality and feature set is outstanding. It is an excellent value for the money. My favorite combination is the black E-M5 body with 14-42mm zoom lens.

Recommended Olympus OM-D kits with current best pricing.

As you can see from the options above, the E-M5 kits offer four basic choices: black or silver body with either the 14-42mm or the 12-50mm zoom lens. Both lenses have excellent image quality.

The 14-42mm zoom provides a real world 28-84mm zoom range (you double the focal lengths for M4/3). It is very compact and focuses quickly. The 14-42mm is the better choice for those who want the most compact camera/lens combination.

The 12-50mm zoom offers a wider range: 24-100mm in real world terms. It also includes a handy "macro" mode for close up photography. And it has a "power zoom" option for those who like to zoom smoothly while recording movies. Keep in mind, however, that the 12-50mm is a bigger lens that adds an additional $200 to the kit price. But if you enjoy close-up photography and want a wider zooming range, it is worth the price. This lens is also weather sealed, matching the weather sealing on the E-M5 body.

Related Articles about the Olympus OM-D

Olympus OM-D Brings Pro Body to Micro Four Thirds

A Closer Look at Macro Mode on the Olympus 12-50mm Power Zoom

Giants vs Dodgers Shot with an Olympus OM-D

Pros and Cons of the Olympus OM-D

Podcast Featuring Discussion about the OM-D

Additional Lenses for Micro 4/3 Cameras

I've had excellent experiences with Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma lenses for micro four thirds cameras. My current favorites in terms of value/performance to augment your kit lens are the Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, and the Olympus 40-150mm zoom.

But there are many excellent options. Browse all of the selections (by clicking on the right and left arrows) to find the perfect accessory lens, or lenses, for your photography.

Recommended Micro Four Thirds lenses with current best pricing.

Related Articles about Micro Four Third Lenses

Olympus 17mm pancake lens

Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens

PEN Accessories

Olympus has created an extensive line of accessories to augment your PEN system. I recommend an extra BLS-5 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery for sure. I also think the electronic viewfinder VF-3 is a fantastic addition that I would be hard pressed to live without.

Recommended Olympus PEN accessories with the current best pricing.

If you don't want to invest a lot of money in interchangeable lenses, you might take a look at the Olympus lens converters. They offer fisheye, macro, and wide angle attachments that are compatible with the kit 14-42mm zoom. Personally, I prefer to have separate lenses for these functions. But for tight budgets, the converters may be just the ticket.

OM-D Accessories

OM-D with New Grip The Olympus Power Battery Holder mounted on the E-M5. The bottom part detaches if you want to use a lighter grip without the extra battery compartment.

For those with larger hands, I recommend the Olympus Power Battery Holder. It provides a secure grip that makes holding the camera more comfortable. It has two parts. The first part is the horizontal grip that I leave on the camera all the time. The second part attaches the to horizontal grip and provides space for a second battery, plus controls for using the camera in the vertical position. This Olympus Power Battery Holder is highly recommended, and it works great even if you don't use a second battery.

Recommended Olympus OM-D accessories with current best pricing.

Recommended Camera Bags

If you want an all purpose backpack that holds your laptop, tablet, and Compact System Camera, my favorite is the affordable Lowepro CompuDay Photo 250. It's my every day backpack that currently holds a MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display laptop, Olympus OM-D with grip, three lenses, and an iPad.

The Lowepro Event Messenger 100 is a stylish messenger-style shoulder bag that accommodates your camera with mounted lens, plus there's plenty of room for accessories. I like the Dual-Mode Flap design that can switch from maximum security mode to quiet working mode.

I also think that the Lowepro Passport Sling is a hip and versatile shoulder bag. It's been a hit with both men and women. It easily holds your Olympus gear, plus personal items. It does not accommodate an iPad or laptop, however.

I've also included a variety of smaller bags that I've tested with the Olympus cameras. I'm sure you'll find just the right bag for you.

Recommended Lowepro bags for Olympus cameras with current best pricing.

Ultimate Kits

Here are my recommendations for ultimate kits at the entry, intermediate, and advanced photographers.

Entry Level: Olympus PEN E-PM1 (any color) with 14-42mm zoom and 40-150mm zooms, and extra BLS-5 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Intermediate Level: Olympus PEN E-PL3 (any color) with 14-42mm zoom, 40-150mm zoom, 17mm f/2.8 lens, 45mm f/1.8 lens, VF-3 electronic viewfinder, and extra BLS-5 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Advanced Level: Olympus OM-D E-M5 (any color) with 14-42mm zoom and 40-150mm zoom, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens, Power Battery Holder, FL 36R flash, and extra BLN- Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Editor's note - purchasing your Olympus gear through the links in this guide help support this site!


As we get the hang of working with Solid State Drives that are much faster but tend to have less capacity than their mechanical counterparts, we can take advantage of a variety of supplemental storage options. Today I'm looking at the portable 1 TB hard drive.

There are a variety of portable, high capacity drives available for around $100. Currently I'm testing the Buffalo Technology MiniStation Stealth 1 TB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drivethat works great.

If you want to pay more, you can get Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 versions also. But since this is primarily a backup drive that runs in the background, paying extra for more speed isn't necessary for me.

The Buffalo drive, for example, is very light and about the size of a deck of cards. It uses a standard USB > Mini USB cord, which I like. The same cord can double for my other devices. And if I lose it, no problem. I have plenty laying around the house.

First thing I do after plugging it in to the MacBook Pro is format the device. I launch Disk Utility, which is in the Utilities folder (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utily) and choose "Mac OS X Extended Journaled." After completion, the Mac will ask if I want to establish this device as a Time Machine hard drive. I do! Then it will begin backing up the contents of my Solid State Drive.


Time Machine works in the background. So you can go about you work without any interruption. Yet, you have the peace of mind that comes with automatic backup. After the initial backup, which will take a while depending on the contents of your laptop, Time Machine only backs up items that change. So it's fairly efficient.

You can also use the hard drive for supplement storage of pictures, movies, music, etc. And since they are so light and take up little space, you can even carry two in your backpack.

Now you have the speed of an SSD for your everyday work, but additional capacity for backup and work files that you want available, even when on the go.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

Looks like Canon may finally be joining the Compact System Camera (CSC) party. Speculation is that they will announce their intentions on July 23. Their entry into the mirrorless market will shake things up. How? I start out the show by addressing the potential impact.

Then I switch gears to Solid State Drives (SSD) - those electronic wonders that are many times faster than the traditional mechanical hard drives they replace. The problem is, they don't have as much capacity. And for photographers, that's a challenge. I begin the conversation about how I think the tradeoff is worth it, and the adjustments I'm making along the way.

And finally, I have to say that I'm enjoying Pinterest. More about that, and other goodies, in this week's TDS podcast.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (30 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Hot is the July 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is July 31, 2012.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Get a 20% discount during July by adding "TDS" in the comment field of your order.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.

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A terrific workflow improvement with Aperture 3.3.1 and iPhoto 9.3 is the "unified library." This means that regardless of which application creates the library, it can be opened with either app.

I decided to see how one of my Aperture libraries would look in iPhoto on a MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display. To test, I held down the Option key and launched iPhoto 9.3. I was greeted with a dialog box listing available iPhoto and Aperture libraries. I chose the "Canon 40mm" library, which I had created previously in Aperture.

As you can see from the following screenshots, Apple has done a pretty good job of not only unifying the library structure, but also the user interfaces for both applications. So as you switch from one program to the other, the experience is relatively consistent.

Aperture 3.3 user interface


iPhoto 9.3 user interface


My star ratings, flags, keywords, and albums that were created in Aperture appeared in iPhoto. I then applied an image edit, added a keyword, and wrote a description in iPhoto. And yes, when I opened the library in Aperture, all of the changes from iPhoto appeared there.

aperture_edit.jpg My info and image edit changes from iPhoto appeared in Aperture. All screen captures are from a MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display. Photos by Derrick Story.

Overall, I had very few hiccups as I switched between the two apps. I did have one instance where my Aperture albums did not show up in iPhoto at first. So I created another album in iPhoto, then opened the library in Aperture. The new album was there, as it should. When I went back to iPhoto, now all the albums were then visible. I'm guessing this is a glitch that will be ironed out in an update.

Keep in mind that you can only have a given library open in either in Aperture or iPhoto, but not both apps at the same time.

A Few Feature Notes to Keep in Mind

I much prefer Aperture's importing process to iPhoto's, especially for Raw files. Aperture is a magnitude faster. Also, you can switch between libraries on the fly in Aperture. With iPhoto, the app has to relaunch.

Pictures marked as "Hidden" in iPhoto will not be visible in Aperture. In a similar vein, images marked as "Rejected" in Aperture can't be seen in iPhoto. So if you're sharing a library between apps with others, you do have some control over what appears in each.

Smart Albums can only be modified in the app in which they were created, but they are visible in both Aperture and iPhoto.

Just like in many marriages, a name change is involved as part of the union. A few terms have been modified in Aperture. "Masters" is now originals, "metadata" has become info, and "presets" are effects.

And finally, if you have created a multitude of iPhoto libraries over the years, and you'd like to consolidate them, you can. First open the library in iPhoto to update it to 9.3. Then you can use Aperture's Import Library command to merge it with another updated library. You can do this as many times as you need until all of your iPhoto libraries are neatly organized in one unified library.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture 3, check out my Aperture 3 Essential Training on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

My next open Aperture Workshop is scheduled for Nov. 2012, in Santa Rosa, CA. You can get on the pre-registration list, plus learn about all the other photography workshops offered this season by visiting the TDS Workshops page.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

If you like world class BBQ, music, beer, wine, great setting, and of course photography, come hang out with the TDS crew at this year's Wine Country Big Q in Santa Rosa, CA on Saturday, July 14, 1-5 pm.

Guy Fieri on Stage with Pete Guy Fieri and Pete Stringfellow on stage at the Big-Q BBQ event.

Our workshop team is covering this Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) nationally sanctioned competition. We'll be capturing the images then publishing a story about the event the following day. We'd love to join you for some brisket and a beer, or maybe some "melt in your mouth" chicken and a glass of wine? Each TDS workshop member will have an official "Event Photographer" badge, so you won't be able to miss us. The DSLRs in hand might be a hint too.

Your paid admission provides you with event access plus food and beverage tickets for more BBQ than you can probably eat, plus great Sonoma County wines and beers to wash it down. (For those of us covering the BBQ, this is just one of the challenges we'll have to endure.) Parking is free. So one price covers everything for the day.

Complete details and a photo gallery from last year's competition are available on Wine Country Big Q site. Hope to see you there.

Going Manual, Focus that Is


Even though I would love to buy the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lensfor my OM-D, it's just not in the budget right now. But I do have a beautiful manual focus Carl Zeiss 85mm f/2.8 lens from the days when I shot film with Contax SLRs.

So I decided to take this challenge: Do I still have the chops to shoot basketball with a manual focus lens?

I used a Rayqual micro four thirds adapter to mount the 85mm Zeiss on the OM-D. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the combination of old and new looked together. In part, I think the retro styling of the OM-D lends itself to these types of lenses. So I quickly assembled the rig, and got into position to shoot.

Jump Ball

And with the jump ball, we were off. The gym lighting was marginal at best, as is often the case in high school facilities. But by capturing the action at its peak, I was able to get a sharp shot with a 1/80 shutter speed at f/2.8. ISO was set to 1600.

Free Throw

I decided to push the OM-D a bit further, and raised the ISO to 3200. An open door in the gym provided some rim lighting, which added elegance to the shot. Now my shutter speed was up to 1/250th.

I actually enjoyed using manual focus. I would prefocus on an area and capture the action as it flowed in that direction. At 9 fps, I was able to begin the sequences early and shoot all the way through. For the static shots, such as the "time out" below, I liked twisting the focusing ring back and forth to get just the look I wanted.

Time Out

Bottom line: this combination is a keeper. I've made the 85mm Zeiss a permanent member of my micro four thirds camera bag. This manual focusing thing isn't so bad after all.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.


Triggertrap is an ambitious app that enables you to control your iPhone camera, and with accessory dongle and connecting cable, your DSLR. Its functions range from the expected (cable release, sound trigger, and time lapse) to the impressive (eased time lapse and distance-lapse). It sells for $9.99 in the iTunes App Store, so expectations are high for its performance (as reflected in the user reviews on iTunes).

I tested Triggertrap on an iPhone 4S, and with a Pentax K-5 and Canon 60D. After my recent review of ioShutter, my expectations were "plug and play" for Triggertrap. But I quickly learned that this app is a bit more complex.


Triggertrap is an accessory for photographers who like to fiddle, experiment, fail, then ultimately succeed. You can do amazing things with it, like having the GPS in your iPhone measure your movement, and program the camera to release the shutter at a specified distance. That way, if you're documenting a road trip via time lapse, you don't burn a ton of useless frames while sitting in traffic.

But simple functions, such as using your iPhone as a cable release, have a degree of difficulty too. Suddenly I found myself reading the mobile manual trying to figure out delay settings and pulse lengths. If you like this stuff, you'll love the control that Triggertrap allows; if not, you'll feel the app is unnecessarily complicated.

There were some performance inconsistencies too, especially when controlling the DSLRs via the cable. Sometimes one tap would equal a single exposure, other times multiple. I double-checked my camera settings to make sure I was in single frame mode, but it didn't seem to make a difference.

For some functions, such as time lapse, this wasn't an issue. Everything worked great. But the sound trigger (Bang) and simple cable release were sometimes more of an adventure than I expected.

trigger_trap_dongle.jpg Triggertrap accessory dongle and connecting cable. Check the Triggertrap site to get the correct cable for your camera.

Bottom Line

If you're looking to create something out of the ordinary with your DSLR, take a look at the Triggertrap functions. For a $30 investment ($10 for the app and $20 for the cables), you can use your camera in ways you might not have imagined.

But, you if want a simple remote release with a handful of expected functions that doesn't require any fussing, Triggertrap probably isn't for you. It requires engagement, experimentation, and sometimes frustration before providing you with the rewards you're seeking.

I'm planning a project with it where I'll use the eased time lapse function with the StarLapse motor mount to create a new time lapse movie. I'll keep you posted on the results.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

To 40mm or not? Canon's $199 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens seemed like a no-brainer to me. But some in our audience weren't impressed. I start out the show explaining why I think this little prime is just flat out fun.

Metadata-Smetadata: despite the adolescent title, I think adding IPTC information to your photos before releasing them into the wild is important. And I say why in the second segment.

SizzlPix 20" test from an iPhone 4S photo. I sent in an iPhone picture and got back a 20x15 inch SizzlPix. How did it look? All of this and more in this week's episode.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (27 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Hot is the July 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is July 31, 2012.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Get a 20% discount during July by adding "TDS" in the comment field of your order.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.

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Canon 40mm Lens: Flat Out Fun

After a week of shooting with the Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM lens,I have to say this is one enjoyable little prime. At half the size of the 50mm f/1.8, it focuses quieter, is built sturdier, and is ever bit as sharp.

Canon 40mm Lens Canon 40mm prime mounted on a EOS 60D. Photo by Derrick Story.

The 40mm will focus as close as 1 foot. It's not macro (even though Canon says that on the side of the lens), but it is close enough for interesting compositions.

Bougainvillea Flowers Close up of Bougainvillea flowers captured with the Canon 40mm wide open on a Rebel T1i. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

The pancake lens also performed well in the studio. I used it to take a series of product shots.

olympus_with_sigma.jpg Olympus E-M5 with Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens captured with the Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake on a Canon 60D. Photo by Derrick Story.

And finally, with the 40mm twisted into a Canon Rebel T1i, I crashed the Lowepro Summer picnic for some candid work. I also passed the camera around to see how others liked it. In the process, they took a photo of me.

derrick_story_picnic.jpg Photo of Derrick Story captured at the Lowepro summer picnic.

I like to call this lens the "optical body cap" because it virtually adds no thickness to my 60D when packed in the camera bag. I know this type of lens isn't for everyone. But I'm having a blast with it. Currently they're available for $199 US.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

For the May 2012 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters fired up their motor drives and captured the world moving around them. See for yourself in our gallery, Action. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?


Photo by Ron Boyd. "When I heard the assignment 'action,' the first thing I thought about was this photo captured at Bosque Del Apache. I really like the contrast of the two engaged in intense competition while the other birds are seemingly unaware." To see all of the other terrific shots from May, visit the Action gallery page.

Participate in This Month's Assignment

The July 2012 assignment is "Hot." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is July 31, 2012.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: July 2012." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Good luck with your July assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for May.

SizzlPix Pick of the Month for March and April Photo Assignments

Congratulations to Brian Reynolds for his "Eyes" photograph, and to Ruth Cooper for "Macro." Each will receive a SizzlPix for his winning image, selected by the good folks at SizzlPix.

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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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