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02-04-2011, 06:57 AM   #31
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Pixie dust...

I think that it's often hard to show in a couple snaps in a forum, because you have to go through a lot of iterations with a lens in comparison with other lenses in the same shooting situations before you start to notice a difference.

Really, with telephoto and normal, what it usually is that strikes people is a high central sharpness, often a disparity with the edge sharpness (helps the '3-d' aspect,) nice contrast and microcontast (different - look it up, interesting concept), nice bokeh and a non-jarring OOF transition. All of these things can be measured individually with the right tests, but taken together they bring an effect that's very pleasing, sometimes surprising.... pixie dust. And it's pretty subjective too, so don't epect to always see it in examples unless you can look through someone else's eyes. But when the experience happens to you, you know it and it brings a lot of fun to photography.

With wide-angle, it's usually just sharpness and incredible color transmition and general contrast. I think that's why the DA 12-24 and DA 15ltd take so many great images - your colors just blow up, it's very sharp, and incidental light on the front element doesn't kill the contrast. Modern coatings play a big part of the WA pixie dust.

Anyway, my most dusted lens IMO is my 77ltd. I can just point it at anything and it looks interesting.


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02-04-2011, 08:46 AM   #32
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
Really, with telephoto and normal, what it usually is that strikes people is a high central sharpness, often a disparity with the edge sharpness (helps the '3-d' aspect,) nice contrast and microcontast (different - look it up, interesting concept), nice bokeh and a non-jarring OOF transition. All of these things can be measured individually with the right tests, but taken together they bring an effect that's very pleasing, sometimes surprising.... pixie dust.
That's what it is about indeed, IMO
The FA43 and FA77 are pixi-dust-lenses I think.
I don't own either but would apriciate them to be part of my team.
When you don't see the difference you'd be better of with technical exellent lenses as the
DA40 and DA70 and save your mony, but I'd prefer the FA lenses.
02-04-2011, 10:58 AM   #33
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While this thread contains many excellent pictures, what's lacking is a head-to-head comparison between two lenses. This is the only way to determine if one lens is more "special" than another. Of course, this would have to be two lenses of similar focal length and aperture, to eliminate as many variables as possible. For instance, the 31mm ltd could be compared to the FA 35mm f/2, and the 77mm ltd could be compared to the Sigma 85mm f/1.4. Or to shake things up a bit, the Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8 and the Canon 85mm f/1.8!

That being said, I think psychdoc made a good point with this comment: "After a certain point in quality of a lens, I think being in 'love' with an equipment is just one of those things that will bring out great pictures." Other parameters than just optical quality comes into play, things like visual appearance, build quality, feel of the zoom/focus rings etc.
02-04-2011, 11:01 AM   #34
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A while back somone did a study of WINE.
In any case, in that study the people in the study could not distinguish the decent wines from the 'legendary' ones.

It would be very interesting if someone would do a real controlled study, where the same photos are taken with the same setting say with two high quality lenses, [one with pixie dust and one conidered almost as good but no pixie dust] scramble the photos and have these pixie dust folks pick them by lens...

Any bets on what would happen? Or maybe I am wrong and someone has done something like that and proved the point otherwise.

02-04-2011, 12:45 PM   #35
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricT Quote
While this thread contains many excellent pictures, what's lacking is a head-to-head comparison between two lenses. This is the only way to determine if one lens is more "special" than another. Of course, this would have to be two lenses of similar focal length and aperture, to eliminate as many variables as possible. For instance, the 31mm ltd could be compared to the FA 35mm f/2, and the 77mm ltd could be compared to the Sigma 85mm f/1.4. Or to shake things up a bit, the Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8 and the Canon 85mm f/1.8!
There have been a number of practical comparison studies between similar lenses:

Pentax SMC-DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited - Review / Test Report - Sample Images & Verdict
The Pentax SMC DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited is an great lens with no really significant technical weakness. The resolution characteristic is generally excellent regardless of the (tested) aperture setting and the resolution distribution is much more harmonic compared to the SMC FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited although it sacrifices a tiny bit of peak performance. An interesting aspect of a large aperture tele lens is quality of the bokeh (the out-of-focus blur). Similar to its alcoholic counterpart it is a matter of taste to some degree - I'd say it is very good but not excellent. Now is it a "better" lens than the FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited? I'd be hard pressed to provided a real guidance here. Technically the DA 70mm is a bit better (more even resolution, less purple fringing) whereas the FA 77mm has a slight edge regarding the bokeh due to its larger max. aperture. Fortunately the choice is yours and not mine.

Digital SLR and Lens Review: By popular demand: Pentax DA 70mm Limited compared to FA 77mm

DA 70mm Ltd / FA 77mm Ltd Bokeh Images [Page 1]: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
DPreview forums user mskad has posted the Pentax DA 70mm F2.4 Limited and Pentax FA 77mm F1.8 Limited bokeh comparison. Three pairs of photos are speaking by themselves. Both lenses are excellent but the old FA 77mm has a little better, smoother, more beautiful bokeh.

Pentax DA70 Limited vs. FA77 Limited Photo Gallery by Richard Day at pbase.com for photo examples of these two lenses

FA77 Ltd vs FA85 F1.4 vs SMC-A 85 F1.4 [Page 1]: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/59101-fa-31mm-...omparison.html

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/128243-ned-tes...-da-35-al.html

...and the comparisons go on...
02-04-2011, 01:02 PM   #36
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Great examples Simon.

QuoteOriginally posted by psychdoc Quote
After a certain point in quality of a lens, I think being in 'love' with an equipment is just one of those things that will bring out great pictures. Because people are likely to take better pictures when they 'feel' good. One way to fuel creativity. Or add to it. At least that's my theory...
You had to go and bring the psychology of gear passion into the mix!
Good thought, but I'm not sure it's that simple - under the same conditions, the 31 ltd consistently produces images that outshine my kit lens at 31mm, my Tamron 28-75 at 31mm and any of my 28mm primes I've had in the past. Plus of course the ability of the 31 ltd to be opened up significantly wider than any of the other lenses enables the increased creativity...

There are no doubt some magical results around not captured by these cultish Pentax lenses, but one would suppose that the hit rate on creating such magic on photographic media with a 'pixie dust' lens is greater than with other lenses, independent of subject/lighting conditions, etc.
02-04-2011, 01:06 PM   #37
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QuoteOriginally posted by psychdoc Quote
A while back somone did a study of WINE. In any case, in that study the people in the study could not distinguish the decent wines from the 'legendary' ones.
Were those people in the study wine connoisseurs, or just ordinary wine drinkers? Sometimes it takes a bit of skill, built up from years of experience and trial and error, to develop the appreciation of the subtle differences between a "legendary" wine or lens and merely a very good wine or lens.

QuoteOriginally posted by psychdoc Quote
It would be very interesting if someone would do a real controlled study, where the same photos are taken with the same setting say with two high quality lenses, [one with pixie dust and one conidered almost as good but no pixie dust] scramble the photos and have these pixie dust folks pick them by lens... Any bets on what would happen? Or maybe I am wrong and someone has done something like that and proved the point otherwise
Since the differences between a "pixie dust" lens and a lens "almost as good" are going to be very subtle, I doubt that anyone could infallibily distinguish between the two. But if you're talking about someone who has developed a keen appreciation of the finer points of light rendering through years of using some of the best lenses, I would bet that such an individual could distinguish the products of the two lenses in the majority of cases.
02-04-2011, 03:14 PM   #38
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Thank you for compiling that list, Ash. I have in fact read most of those comparisons before. The 31mm/35mm comparisons are not very good, IMO, since they don't focus on the important aspects like bokeh, OOF transitions etc. All we learn is that the 31mm is slightly sharper with slightly better microconstrast. No pixie dust to be seen! How would the 31mm fare against the Canon L 35mm f/1.4, for instance?

The 70/77 debate has been raging here in a large number of threads, and I think it is fairly well established that the 70mm is slightly more "digital", i.e. better CA control and better AF, while the 77mm has smoother bokeh. Of course, the 77mm is a stop faster as well. I think a more interesting comparison with respect to the presence of "pixie dust" would be with the Sigma/Nikon/Canon 85mm lenses.

02-04-2011, 06:03 PM   #40
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While comparisons of lenses in a technical sense are all well and good, they could never show the pixie dust because such dust, by definition, is not amenable to testing. However, as I think Jay said above, use and familiarity with different lenses soon indicates which have it and which don't. Though, truth be told, the phrase is not one I use except in response to others in threads such as this.

While I think the DA12-24 and Vivitar Series 1 105mm are top-of-class lenses that produce excellent results for me, I can generally explain why in each case. However the FA Limiteds are beyond my power of explanation. And this is not simply for the three-dimensionality, as perhaps these images illustrate.















(Some of these have been subject to significant PP but that does not alter the intrinsic nature of the rendering.)
02-04-2011, 09:45 PM   #41
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Well, this thread went from fun to serious real fast..
02-04-2011, 10:45 PM   #42
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Words cant describe the pixie dust, this might sound silly but when I take a fantastic photo with one of these pixie dusted lenses and look at the result for the first time on the rear LCD, I almost feel like I'm about to fall over because the image just blow's you away! The only lenses that have had this effect on me are the FA43 and FA77.

Has anyone else felt that way too?
02-04-2011, 10:45 PM   #43
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricT Quote
How would the 31mm fare against the Canon L 35mm f/1.4, for instance?
IMO on full frame the FA31mm f/1.8 Limited easily beats the canon 35L in regards to flare tolerance and across the frame sharpness. The 35L has a higher peak sharpness but the corners are quite weak on full frame. In a recent non-scientific test I did with the full frame Leica M9 with a Leica M > to pentax K mount adapter from novoflex I tested the 35mm f/2 summicron ASPH, against FA 31 f/1.8 Limited and the Pentax lens comfortably held it's own though the leica lenses I tested it against produced results that consistently showed more contrast*. In a test against the Leica 35mm f/1.4 summilux ASPH the FA31 had to run for it's money but I can safely say the FA31 and the summilux performed identically at f/4 an over. The FA31 was visibly smoother than the Pre-ASPH Leica 35mm f/1.4 summilux in terms of bokeh production.


*I suppose this could be chalked up to the focus flange differential rather than any deficiencies in lens coatings.

Last edited by Digitalis; 02-04-2011 at 10:58 PM.
02-05-2011, 12:25 AM   #44
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You bet Simon. On all the FA ltds - often. With the DA* 16-50 quite a lot also.
02-05-2011, 01:06 AM   #45
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QuoteOriginally posted by psychdoc Quote
Superb pictures!

However, how many publications do you see where it says that the picture was shot with any of these 'pixie dust' lenses?

After a certain point in quality of a lens, I think being in 'love' with an equipment is just one of those things that will bring out great pictures. Because people are likely to take better pictures when they 'feel' good. One way to fuel creativity. Or add to it. At least that's my theory...
An astute observation: what one believes tends to drive one's results--indeed. The psychological literature is full of studies, with statistically relevant conclusions, which support precisely what you are saying. Also, there is a fascinating psychology to buying, showing clearly how perception is governed by cost. The scary part to all of this is the sellers are usually more tuned to this than are the buyers.
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