I am a neuroscientist and photographer who fell in love with the retina, then rediscovered photography. My scientific work involves the study of how the retina is wired together and how disorders of retinal degeneration affect the wiring and structure of the retina as well as efforts to rescue vision. My photographic work is a constant reminder of why I am engaged in vision research. Photographs have been shown in National Geographic, The Smithsonian Magazine, PBS, The Washington Times, Wired, World Politics Review, Warship International, Popular Mechanics and Combat Aircraft. Photographs have also been on display at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich as well as in art installations and performance art.
What kind of camera gear do you use?
While you cannot go wrong with a number of manufacturers including Nikon, Sony, Leica and others. That said, I’ve been shooting for the past few months with a Fuji X-Pro 1 camera and my mind has been blown. The Fuji is in my hand far more frequently now and it is returning spectacular images. I am very pleased and find it to be the future of photography.
Currently I use that Fuji X-Pro 1 with the following lenses:
Fuji 23mm f/1.4
This is perhaps my favorite Fuji lens. I wrote up a brief review here where I talked about first experimenting with a prototype lens in London. Because of the APS-C sensor size, this lens is a 35mm equivalent for the Fuji X-sensors and just the right size for a general use, walking around lens to capture everything from street photography to still life images. Saying that the Fuji lenses are spectacular might be an understatement. In fact, I’d argue that the Fuji lenses are perhaps the best optical bargains out there with designs that have very little, if any aberration, are crazy sharp particularly in combination with the X-trans sensor and they are small and compact.
Fuji 14mm f/2.8
For a wide angle lens, the Fuji 14mm (a 21mm equivalent on a full frame camera) is impressive. I’ve never seen such a lens with as little distortion… This is a truly stunning lens capable of wonderful landscape images and even night sky photography. If you are looking for a wide angle prime on your Fuji X-mount camera, this is it.
Fuji 35mm f/1.4
The Fuji 35mm f/1.4 is perhaps, the most elegant and pleasing lens I’ve shot with, ever. Ever… It is well built, is compact, has good macro performance, has pleasing bokeh, no aberration to speak of and is sharp as can be. The two images immediately above were made with the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens using the normal and macro focus modes and were really pleasant surprises with the level of detail, the color fidelity and sharpness, even wide open.
Fuji 55-200 f/3.5-4.8
I initially got the Fuji X-Pro camera with the idea of just having prime lenses. This is the first zoom lens I’ve tried with the Fuji system. I figured that at a 84-305mm equivalent on a full frame camera, it would be a good tradeoff for far off things that I might want to capture while traveling. So far, Its been on backpacking trips through the Wasatch Mountains and in the Pacific Northwest and it is absolutely living up to the performance I’ve been growing to expect from the Fuji X-Trans based systems. Images are tack sharp at all ranges.
Fuji 10-24 f/4 R OIS
This lens is the 16-35mm equivalent lens that all photojournalists should have with them. Completing the trifecta of photojournalists lenses would be the 70-200 and 24-70 equivalents. Those are the 3 lenses you can carry with you around the globe and practically never have any need for anything else. The amazing thing about this lens is how well corrected it is for a wide angle solution. It is incredibly rectilinear and a really nice solution for architectural photography in the absence of tilt-shift lenses. Don’t believe me? David Hobby, aka Strobist thinks so too.
Samyang 8mm fisheye
I picked this lens up for a specific trip, but early indications are that it is a very sharp lens, especially for a fisheye. I’ll have more to say on this lens at a future date, but for now, it is a manual focus only lens, its very sharp and quite compact.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
This is a perfect lens for portrait work and indoor shots where you might not want to use a flash. It is one of the fastest lenses you can buy and paired with the 1D Mk III or Mk IV, it is an amazing combination. Also, because of the speed, it should also make for one of the fastest sports photography lenses you can buy provided you can get in close enough. I elected the 50mm over Canon’s excellent 85mm to get weather sealing which the 85mm f/1.2 lacks.
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM
I am quite happy with this lens. For a 70-300 zoom, it is remarkably compact and draws much less attention than other equivalent zoom lenses while delivering good performance and remarkably sharp images for such a long zoom focal range. This makes it an ideal lens for people photography in areas/times where you may not want people to notice you or in crowds where a physically larger lens may get in the way. This lens is also remarkably sharp for a 70-300 zoom making it quite nice for bird photography.
Canon EF 100mm Macro f/2.8L Macro IS USM
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. If photography is fun to you, macro lenses will be high up on your list of lenses to acquire. The fun to dollar value of this lens is absolutely over the top. It is a wickedly sharp lens, that in addition to its value as a macro lens shows it’s flexibility as a very nice portrait lens. For those of you with some macro experience, you will also appreciate the fact that this lens uses inner focusing which in addition to providing a long working distance, also keeps the lens from poking out at your possibly skittish subject matter. There is a much less expensive Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8 that has optics that are also very good if not indistinguishable at times from the L lens. What you are missing with that lens are the image stabilization and the weather sealing that the L series lens provides.
Canon EF MP-E 65mm Macro f/2.8
This lens is unique in the SLR camera world. it is a manual focus lens that allows for full 1-5x magnification while avoiding the use of bellows. Technically it is a difficult lens to use as it requires a bit more time to set up, requires closer working distances to your subject matter and honestly, a focusing rail to get things *just right*. However, spending the time with it will reward you with images simply not possible with any camera system outside of a microscope or employing the use of bellows.
The Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM
This lens is an amazingly flexible and fast lens that is phenomenally sharp for a zoom lens. Looking at the images from this lens, I’ve seen images that are prime lens sharp. It is the lens that spends most of the time on the camera with the Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS USM running a close second. If this lens could be made with Image Stability, it would be one of the most perfect SLR lenses on the planet.
The Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM
I want this lens for times I don’t care about people noticing a big, white, lens pointed at them or for bird photography. This lens is ideal when you need sharp detail with good color fidelity or where things move fast. It is an amazing lens with good performance and like the 24-70, is razor sharp, yet lends itself nicely to handheld photography. I could travel just about anywhere on the planet with the 24-70 and the 70-200 and deliver with this combination.
The Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM
This lens is a fast, wide angle lens that also generates crisp images with excellent color fidelity and little to no vignetting.
The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L Fisheye USM
The Canon 8-15mm f/4 L fisheye is simultaneously an amazingly wonderful lens and one that is absolutely unique in the world of photography. I did not quite believe it when Canon announced this lens, it is that unique. This lens provides a very wide field of view, up to 180 degrees and can give you some interesting special effects. I wished that I had this lens on my embed with the crew of the USS Toledo. The lens is far sharper in the corners than I might have expected and very compact. It is not quite as fast as the previous 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens from Canon, but the tradeoff in flexibility from the zoom features more than makes up for it.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM I A
This lens really surprised me. When my local camera shop, Pictureline suggested I look at the new Sigma lens, I said “No way”. But after examining the lens and comparing its performance with the Canon 35mm solution and the Zeiss 35mm solution, it was a no brainer. I picked this lens up and had decided to take this lens, shooting for a week in Cuba where it helped to make some of my most favorite images of the trip.
I also use a Leica M9 camera with two Voigtlander lenses:
The Voigtlander 28mm Ultron f/1.9
This lens is described pretty well on the Ken Rockwell link. I think this is an underrated lens that is perhaps… a slightly bit less sharp in the corners than the Leica version. Many thanks to my friend Henry Wicker for the lens.
Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1
The verdict is currently out on this lens. I am waiting for a replacement as the first one was badly mis-calibrated.
Think Tank Photo (best camera bags around) bags and Pelican cases to carry it all around in. My wife accuses me of having a bag fetish and perhaps this is true, but there is a bag for every occasion, right?
Can I buy/use any of your images on your blog?
Are you available for….
Please contact me for specific requests. My work has appeared on PBS and in National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Science, has been discussed on NPR’s Science Friday, has appeared in the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich and The New West, Wired, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC and a variety of defense related publications as well as being used by a number of non-profit institutions.
Please contact me. I am always entertaining offers for interesting collaborative projects. However, be advised that we are currently engaged in many projects with a number of collaborators from around the world. So, I am having to be much more discriminating than I have been in the past, but if the project is interesting enough…..
Please contact me. I have given invited talks at Stanford, UCSB, USU, Medical University of South Carolina, ARUP, University of Utah, St. Louis University, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, GlaxoSmithKleine, the Torsten Wiesel Research Institute, Wissenschaftszentrum Center of Science and University of Michigan as well as at NIH, FASEB, NSF conferences and more. I also routinely talk with high school and college groups on science and scientific careers.
I have had a variety of consulting gigs for hardware and software companies related to scientific markets and digital imaging work as well as health care companies concerned with neurodiagnostics. Please contact me for specific inquiries.
No. Thanks for the inquiry though. I am happily married to a wonderful woman
and live with a delightful brown tabby in a quaint little neighborhood.
Young BWJones photo credit: Carolyn Jones