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At $255 (or less), the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II lenscombines powerful magnification (88mm-400mm), terrific image quality, four-stop stabilization, and impressive close-up performance in a compact, lightweight design. I've been testing the lens, and here is my hands-on review.

A Consumer Lens by Design

Don't get me wrong, as much as I like this zoom, it's a consumer design through and through. The lens mount is plastic, not metal. The autofocus motor is not the silent USM variety. And the front lens barrel rotates when focusing. But after that, the news is pretty darn good.

Medium Shot with Canon 50-250mm Zoom Medium shot with the Canon 55-250mm zoom set to 70mm (f/4, 1/25th, ISO 100, hand held). All images captured in RAW with normal post-processing in Aperture 3.4. Photos by Derrick Story.

Close Ups as Well as Scenics

I mounted the zoom on my Canon 60D and shot a variety of images, from very close up to full distance. The autofocusing was snappy and accurate. Image quality was high. Flare was well controlled, as was chromatic aberration.

Close Focusing with Canon 50-250mm Zoom Move the zoom setting to 250mm to take advantage of the lens close focusing ability - magnification 0.31x at 250mm. (f/6.7, 1/350th, ISO 1000, hand held)

The lens is also compatible with the Canon Extension Tube EF 12 II and EF 25 II for increased magnification. I have the EF 12 II and tested it with the 55-250 zoom. In all honesty, I had a blast with it.

Extension Tube 12 Canon 50-250mm Zoom African Daisy photographed with the EF-S 55-250mm zoom and Extension Tube EF 12 II on a Canon 60D - magnification 0.60x at 250mm (f/16, 1/45th, ISO 1600, hand held).

As for scenics and long shots, I was able to get separation between the subject and the background, even though the maximum aperture is f/5.6 at 250mm. This composition had strong backlighting, but I can't detect any noticeable flare.

Autumn Color with Canon 50-250mm Zoom Autumn color, captured at a distance with the zoom fully extended (f/5.6, 1/350th, ISO 125, hand held).

Who Is this Lens For?

I think the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II lensis best suited for travel and outdoor photography. By adding the Extension Tube EF 12 II, you have a super light 88-400mm zoom that's also capable of engaging close-up photography. Autofocusing is snappy, image quality is great, and it has a terrific 4-stop IS system.

The f/5.6 maximum aperture nixes this zoom for sports and indoor action. But if you want a feather-light companion for your outdoor adventures, you can't beat the value of this lens at less than $300. I particularly like it with the Canon 60D. I bet it feels pretty good on the Rebels too.

The Gift Guide for Photographers features 12 tempting goodies for the photographer in your life. Each item includes a background article about it and a direct link for the best price.


To celebrate the holiday season, I want to give away an Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS Digital Camera. It's one of my favorite compact cameras, and I think someone else should enjoy one too.

The TG-1 is what I used for my last trip to Maui to photograph the beauty both topside and underwater. It's fast f/2.0 lens combined with rugged performance makes it the perfect camera to slide into a pocket of your board shorts or day pack. Plus, I love the built-in GPS that geotags my photos on the spot. Check out some of my underwater images from the TG-1.

How to Participate

Participation is open from Dec. 9 to Dec. 16, 2012, PST. First, follow me on Instagram ( You'll have to set up a free account. Instagram is an app that you can download from the iTunes App Store. My Instagram handle is: derrickstory

Then post a photo of your favorite camera. Add hashtags #FavoriteCamera and #DerrickStory to the post. (I'm going to try to follow you back too!)

Personal note: My goal has been to post a photo a day on Instagram, and as a result I feel like I've added a new facet to my photography. It's a great outlet for pure creativity.

On the week of Dec. 17, I'm going to publish some of my favorite images from this event here on The Digital Story. The camera recipient will be randomly selected from participants who published Instagram photos that follow the criteria outlined in this post. The Olympus TG-1 will be shipped the week of Dec. 17, 2012.

Short Version of How to Participate

This is for fun! So I hope you join in the spirit that's intended. So, in short, here's a review of how to participate:

  • Participation is open from Dec. 9 to Dec. 16, 2012, PST.
  • Follow me on Instagram ( If you already follow me, you can skip this step :-)
  • Post a photo of your favorite camera on Instagram.
  • Add hashtags #FavoriteCamera and #DerrickStory to the post.
  • The recipient of the camera will be randomly selected from participants who meet the criteria outlined in this blog post.
  • The TG-1 giveaway is void where prohibited.

I can't wait to see the images you post...

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

Google was busy yesterday, releasing new versions of both Gmail for iOS and Snapseed. The most noticeable change in Snapseed, other than the white background replacing the black for its logo, is in the Share menu. Google+ is now at the top of the list, and Instagram has been removed. (You can still get to Instagram using the Open In command.)


I know some photographers were concerned when Google acquired Nik Software. But this is a harmless change. And if you use Google+, it's really easy to post from Snapseed to your account.


I like that you have control over the Circles you post to right within Snapseed. So you can choose the picture, write the caption, and pick the Circles without ever leaving the app. In my test, everything worked great.

Google also added a "Paste" option to the Open Image menu, which is now a camera icon instead of a button in the upper left corner. There's also a new Retrolux filter: "Use one of the newly created film styles, combined with a range of different scratches and textures as well as light leaks to create a truly retro look for your photos." As far as I could tell, everything else was pretty much the same and worked as smoothly as always.

Oh, and just one more thing: Snapseed is now free in the App Store. That's a pretty good change!

The Gift Guide for Photographers features 12 tempting goodies for the photographer in your life. Each item includes a background article about it and a direct link for the best price.

The Color brick is one of the most powerful tools in Aperture 3. Not only can you adjust colors, you can change them all together. By way of example, I'm going to change this blue Rolls-Royce to a red model.


In the Adjustments inspector, add a Color brick by going to the Add Adjustment popup menu, then choosing Color. Once the Color brick is loaded, click on the eye dropper icon in the brick, then click on the color in the photograph you want to play with. Move the Hue slider back and forth to get as close to the new color as possible.


Since the Hue slider is constrained to neighboring colors, you sometimes can't get the exact color you want. In this case, I could go from blue to purple. But I want red.

So here's the trick, you can add a second Color brick and continue adjusting. To do so, click on the gear icon in the Color brick, and choose "Add New Color adjustment" from the popup menu. You now have two Color bricks.


Repeat the process you used before: click on the eye dropper, click on the color you want to change, then adjust the Hue slider. Once the color is close, you can fine tune it with the Saturation, Luminance, and Range sliders. You can turn off and on the adjustment via the checkbox in the upper left corner of the brick. (Notice how I don't have either Color bricks activated in the first illustration, then one Color brick in the second, and finally both bricks active in the third illustration.)

I now have a red Rolls-Royce!

The colors you want aren't always available using this simple technique. But it comes in very handy for adjusting clothing the clashes with the background, or an offending color in an otherwise good composition. You can also use this technique with the brushing tool to apply color changes to a specific area of the photograph.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

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


After weeks of testing, I learned that the Olympus 60mm Macro f/2.8 Lensis a surprisingly versatile lens. Yes, it is excellent for 1:1 macro photography. But I've also been reaching for it to shoot sporting events and portrait assignments. And in all of these conditions, the 60mm performed exceedingly well.

For a closer look at any of these images, click on them for an enlarged view. This will allow you to examine the details of the photos more closely. All pictures by Derrick Story.

Getting Close

On the side of the lens barrel is a four-position switch that allows you to set the focusing range for the type of work you're doing. The lens will focus closely regardless of where you have the switch set, but it will do so faster if you have it set for the range you plan on working.

Flower Close Up

Macro PB188650.jpg

For super close 1:1 photography, move the switch to the 1:1 position. It won't stay there; it's a spring switch that prepares the lens for this distance. After you focus, you can see the actual magnification you're using via the scale on the top of the lens barrel. It's easy to use and only took me a few minutes to get the hang of it.

Because the Olympus OM-D E-M5has excellent 5-axis image stabilization built in to the body. I was able to hand-hold these flower shots, even at high magnification. The 60mm does not have built-in image stabilization. It relies on the IS in every Olympus micro four thirds body.


As much as I like close-up photography, I love shooting portraits. And the Olympus 60mm is my new favorite lens for this work.


For this shot of Lovely LadyJ, I used the 60mm in the studio, shooting wide open at f/2.8. The images were extremely sharp. I didn't retouch this shot so you could see how the the model is rendered with the lens wide open. You can always soften an image in post, but you can't add detail that wasn't originally recorded. This lens gives you everything you need at capture. You take it from there.

As a side note, we shot a series in the rain too. Lovely LadyJ asked me if I was worried about using the camera under those conditions (as she looked at it covered in rain drops). Both the 60mm and the OM-D body are weather sealed. The rain did not bother either at all.


Covering basketball was a good test for the autofocusing capability of the 60mm lens. For this series of shots, I set the focusing limiter switch to 0.4m - Infinity. I was pleasantly surprised by the focusing speed and accuracy of the lens on the OM-D body. So much so, that I began reaching for it repeatedly for indoor sports assignments.


On the down side, maximum aperture is f/2.8 (compared to f/1.8 for my 45mm Olympus prime). But the extra reach was noticeable in the viewfinder. So I increased the ISO from my normal 1600 to 3200 when shooting with this lens. This shot was captured at f/2.8, 1/200th, in JPEG mode, in a fairly dark gym.

Final Thoughts

I rarely shot with this lens at the "default" 0.19m - Infinity setting that is highlighted in silver on the side of the barrel. I was either working close at 0.19m - 0.4m, or shooting portraits and sports at the 0.4m - Infinity setting. By working this way, I enjoyed fast autofocusing throughout the shoot. If you want to focus manually, the wide, well-dampened focusing ring is a joy to operate. In fact, it works so well in combination with the electronic viewfinder on the OM-D, that it's actually pleasurable to turn off the autofocus and work manually. I love lenses that give me this option.

At $499,the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 lens is a good value. Its quiet, precise operation makes it highly suitable for a variety of assignments, including macro, sports, portraits, and movie making. It is now an absolute "must have" lens for my OM-D kit.

Take a look at the Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide for an overview of cameras, lenses, and accessories.

Congratulations to Dean Ray who won the Lowepro Pro Messenger 160 AW bag and wrote: "My day to day my bag needs change. So in turn, I need lots of bags. I need a bag for a full day of shooting in the parks and at the resorts. I also need a bag that looks good while at a wedding. Disney weddings can be so formal, and I need a bag to fit in that world as well as my needs as a photographer. Help a shooter out, Lowepro..."


Well, luck of the draw smiled upon you, Dean. Please send your shipping information with phone number (for shipper only) to derrick [at] thedigitalstory [dotcom] and I will get that Pro Messenger in your hands.

As for those who didn't get lucky this week... stay tuned. I have even a bigger give away coming up. You won't want to miss out on this.

twitter.jpg Follow me on Twitter

The Return of Drobo, Part 1 - I introduce what will be my ongoing review of this multi-drive storage device that I had experience with in the past, but haven't been using for a while. But now a new Drobo is available, the 5D with a Thunderbolt connector, and I became interested again. In this first installment, here's how it all came about, and what we're going to do over the coming months.

Story Number Two: Your Studio Inventory - It's that time of year to think about getting a little better organized for 2013. In this segment, I discuss creating a studio or home inventory to catalog all of your equipment. I did some preliminary testing with an application for the Mac called "Home Inventory". It cost $20. But, it comes with an iOS app that really speeds up the process using your iPhone. With just a few hours investment, I can have all of my gear cataloged and backed up.

The Gift Guide for Photographers features 12 tempting goodies for the photographer in your life. Each item includes a background article about it and a direct link for the best price.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (29 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

Long Exposure is the Dec. 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Dec. 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 -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Special this month, order one SizzlPix and get the second one for 50 percent. Buy just one SizzlPix and get a 25 percent discount. Put "TDS" in the comments 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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Win a Lowepro Pro Messenger 160 AW

Here's your chance to win a Lowepro Lowepro Pro Messenger Bag 160 AW.

Lowepro Pro Messenger 160 AW. You can win it!

This soft-sided bag has the feel of traditional canvas, but it's really a high-tech fabric that is more weather resistant and durable. Its handsome styling makes it the perfect urban bag for you DSLR or CSC kit. The Pro Messenger also includes a built-in All Weather cover for additional protection when the climate becomes hostile.

The rules to enter are simple. And you have three different ways to participate. (And yes, you can choose just one way, or do all three.)

Send me a tweet saying why you want this bag. Be sure to include the hashtags #ProMessenger and #Lowepro. Not on Twitter? No problem.

Share a photo of your current camera bag and why you need the Pro Messenger on Instagram. Add the hashtags #ProMessenger and #Lowepro.

Not on Twitter or Instagram? Just add a comment to this blog about how you'd use the bag if you won. I'll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The winner will be posted here and on the TDS Facebook page.

This contest is open internationally, but void where prohibited. One winner will be chosen randomly. Good luck!

The Gift Guide for Photographers features 12 tempting goodies for the photographer in your life. Each item includes a background article about it and a direct link for the best price.

canon_55-250_is_zoom.jpg is offering the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens for $189.99 including filter and cleaning kit. This zoom features Canon's 4-stop compensation Image Stabilizer in a compact, lightweight package. Standard asking price is $299, so this is quite a deal.

Other features include f/4-5.6 maximum aperture, 7 diaphragm blades, one UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) lens element, and optimized Super Spectra lens coatings.

Terrific customer reviews too. It's a good choice for outdoor sports action and nature photography.

The Gift Guide for Photographers features 12 tempting goodies for the photographer in your life. Each item includes a background article about it and a direct link for the best price.

The Annual Family Portrait

Having the family gather once a year for portrait is a wonderful way to record "that moment in time." When done annually, you create a historical record that documents the evolution of the family as well as a photograph that is pleasing to the eye. These images can also be used for holiday greeting cards and to hang in the wall in the gallery at home.

The Family Portrait

When children are involved, you usually have to work quickly. For this assignment, I used a Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom, and a single flash fired by the CowboyStudio Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Triggerthat was hand held by one of the family members there to help.

We photographed for less than half an hour. And each "session" was just a few minutes long. Then we had to give the kids a break before regrouping. Keeping it simple is the only hope for success.

My approach is to find a great location, have an extra set of hands available, use a single fill light, and work quickly. The results? They can be quite beautiful, as well as a historical family record.

The Gift Guide for Photographers features 12 tempting goodies for the photographer in your life. Each item includes a background article about it and a direct link for the best price.