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05-30-2011, 12:35 PM   #256
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
I commend you on your scepticism. I am the same way. Thus I do not expect to be able to convince you, though I am surprised the FA Limited thread hasn't worked.
Well, snooping through that thread gives me the same problem. There are beautiful images there, but I can identify what makes them beautiful to me. The ones that are pedestrian, are, well, pedestrian. I don't see a magic lens, I see good photographers.

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I have no idea; I only know what I see. I wish Pentax would share more lens development data including full MTF curves. Like Leica does.
Fair enough.

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That is exactly what you should do. Buy the FA43 Limited on the used market and shoot magic. You will learn to love the focal length.
I might actually do just that. I have a new Helios 44m that I actually like better than the DA70, so I'm keeping it; it will cover some portrait sessions... my kid is old enough that I can say "Sit still for a sec!" So selling the FA50mm 1.4 and the DA70ltd should get me a FA43ltd, eh?

Then *I* can try and make some magic

05-30-2011, 03:04 PM   #257
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Steve, I hope you are an atheist, LOL.

You’re clearly a heathen with regard to pixie dust. But I will say again that if we are trying to be critical and scientific in our discussion, we really need to throw out the photographer.
Of course the photographer has to be reasonably adept. That is a given for pixie dust, and for those who see it, shoot it, etc., it’s well-established that it comes with some lenses and not others. It shows up when many other variables are held constant, including the photographer. So arguing that it’s only present in the photographer is simply untenable.

I’d also like to say that your requirement for “no false positives” in any “proof” of pixie dust is unreasonable, IMO. Certainly, inferior entities (whether people or inanimate) can occasionally rise above their normal game for some random or unidentifiable reason. I suspect Chaos Theory could be informative in providing evidence for the possibility of the existence of pixie dust. A photographic result in any circumstances is ridiculously complex when you factor in the gear, the photographer, the subject(s), the light, and a thousand other things most of us would never even consider. But a photograph would still be formally considered to be a “deterministic system,” meaning that the result of a shutter click is 100% determined by the sum of all conditions in place at the time of that click. What Chaos Theory says is that even in a deterministic system, and even where we have massive amounts of very precise data about the conditions, the result is not necessarily predictable. It’s not at all inconceivable to me that under such auspices, we might occasionally see a superior result from inferior gear (I have in fact seen this happen), and more importantly, it makes sense that some gestalt quality of an optic may be able to push a system (more often than random prediction) in a direction of what many (though certainly not all) would consider to be a visually pleasing result.


Maybe the Limited lenses are specifically crafted to yield a high frequency of
Strange Attractors. Haha, that was a joke, and to be honest, I don’t believe for a minute pixie dust could be revealed in a White Paper, because while specific quantifiable parameters may contribute to more general and “mundane” concepts of what is pleasant, I think pixie dust is outside of that. I don’t believe that any lens designer could set out to design a lens that had pixie-dust-like qualities, and hope to be dependably successful. If it were cookbook, we’d have many many pixie dust lenses, and thus, NO pixie dust lenses.

Next, I’d like to argue that the fact that most people are not great at picking out which lens was used for this image or that, is meaningless. If you have any scientific background at all, you know the meaning of the term “negative result.” People on these forums are of widely various skill and experience, and perception. And with prior knowledge of other photogs in that thread, and gear sigs, and totally unmonitored input with regard to the text of the posts, sources of bias are off the charts. I’m not saying a fairly scientific test couldn’t be constructed to address the existence/non-existence of pixie dust, but it would complex, difficult, and time-consuming, and have complicated controls. It would likely require the employment of psychologists to identify and eliminate non-obvious sources of bias; and in the end, the results would at best be suggestive. Not conclusive.


I could imagine starting with a large library of images, half of which were taken with a dusted lens, while the other half used a non-dusted lens. There would be some minimum definable requirements for an image to be of appropriate quality for admission to the test: exposure, accuracy of focus, lack of camera-shake, etc. Then the processing, in camera and out, would have to be equal. Each group would contain a crafted distribution of people shots, landscape, wildlife, etc., shot at a fair distribution of apertures, lighting conditions (backlit vs non-, studio vs outdoor, etc.), and camera-to-subject/subject-to-background distance. Include an even amount of images which conformed to classically-accepted ideas of compositional beauty, as well as those which departed intentionally and dramatically from such notions. So....yeah....we’re unlikely to see such an experiment. But what we have now available in the way of experiments, and what ones we could easily create (e.g. my earlier lame attempts at comparisons) are so flawed scientifically as to be completely uninterpretable. Which isn’t to say they can’t be fun, entertaining, evocative, and even useful.


Finally, let’s talk about the assertion that some people have the ability to see pixie dust, while others don’t. It’s very tempting to call Confirmation Bias here. Elitism, too. But I don’t believe that. Some peoples’ eyes are better than others’ in very measurable respects. There are some sounds that dogs can hear, but humans can’t. Then, there are some people who CAN hear those sounds along with the dogs. Is it so unreasonable to accept a variation in perception which extends to things which we cannot (yet) measure? Is it really out of line to extrapolate this variation and predict that there could be “meta” qualities to an optical product that only some people could pick up on? I don’t think so. I think one’s perception can be trained, and practice and experience can help us to eventually notice things that we might not, at an earlier time, have noticed at all. And further, I believe our senses are also subject to innate and environmental factors which supercede training and experience.


I could go on to make claims about my own ability to “see” pixie dust, and what level of success I would personally expect to have as a subject in such an experiment as I described above. I could also speak to the development of my own visual sense over time. But this post is ridiculously long already, and they would only be claims, not independently verifiable, so I’ll not do any of that. I’ve got two more (hopefully much shorter!) posts I’d like to add to this thread.
05-30-2011, 03:08 PM   #258
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In reference to a couple of the other lenses being mentioned: the Cosina-Voigtlander Nokton 58 is a phenomenal lens, and IMO very much has that extra quality that we refer to in Pentax lenses as pixie dust. As I said before, I sold it, and for a time regretted it. But the FA77 has completely filled that void.

I also had the DA*55 for a while, and recently sold it. It’s a fine lens, very sharp, technically nothing to complain about. But for me, it just didn’t have “it.” I’m open to the possibility that I didn’t keep it long enough, or use it often enough. But my current thinking is the lens, while excellent, is not “special.” The CV58 is special, IMO, and you ought to be able to find one for a couple hundred dollars less than the DA*55. The big drawback for some, of course, is that it’s a manual focus lens. For me, that didn’t matter at all. 90% of what I do now is manual focus, and most of the shots I’ve posted with the FA77 were focused manually.
05-30-2011, 03:14 PM - 2 Likes   #259
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OK, this post is completely anecdotal. In other words meaningless, speaking critically and scientifically. I am primarily a portrait shooter, and I used to post a lot on Fred Miranda forums (I no longer am a user there). The response to my posts was pretty predictable. There were always a couple of friendly people I knew who would say extra-nice things about my pics, and a few more who gave me the basic “nice shot” response. And of course, a few who said the pics were dull, uninteresting, etc. But by and large, the responses were normal, average, mediocre, which is roughly what I expect. I’m a capable photographer, but not an exceptional one. I make lots of good images; rarely do I make “great” ones. It is what it is.

But one day I got a much more lively than normal response to a portrait I posted. The people who normally responded to my posts responded with much more emphatic and effusive praise, and I got lots of similar responses from people who never normally responded to my posts. The thread stayed active for longer than usual. This sometimes happens when the post is an attractive, nude or semi-nude woman. But in this case it was just a basic headshot of an average-looking regular guy. Nothing at all special that I could see, and the response was surprising to me. Of course, full disclosure, I also posted it here and got almost no response. LOL.

Anyway, it was the first portrait I ever posted there from the FA77. It was probably the only one, or at least one of a very few FA77 pics I ever posted over there. There was no discussion of the lens, as I recall (no one on FM even shoots Pentax anyway). But it was clear to me that this one portrait was more enthusiastically-received by that community than pretty much anything else I’d ever posted. Maybe it was just a good session for me, and I somehow managed to produce a portrait that exceeded my normal level. Or maybe it was pixie dust. I’m sure I’ll never know, but I thought it was interesting in the context of this thread. Here’s the image:




05-30-2011, 04:01 PM   #260
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Steve, I hope you are an atheist, LOL.

You’re clearly a heathen with regard to pixie dust. But I will say again that if we are trying to be critical and scientific in our discussion, we really need to throw out the photographer.
Of course the photographer has to be reasonably adept. That is a given for pixie dust, and for those who see it, shoot it, etc., it’s well-established that it comes with some lenses and not others. It shows up when many other variables are held constant, including the photographer. So arguing that it’s only present in the photographer is simply untenable.


Note I have never suggested the lens is irrelevant. Only that equivalently capable lenses - say, similar focal length and similar aperture, similar camera, one "dusted", one not, would prove to be essentially indistinguishable to the viewer. I'm reasonably certain I could do research in reverse and identify certain foibles of certain lenses and create images exemplary of those foibles, and get a 100% hit rate. This is not the same as the lenses being distinguishable in real use.

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I’d also like to say that your requirement for “no false positives” in any “proof” of pixie dust is unreasonable, IMO. Certainly, inferior entities (whether people or inanimate) can occasionally rise above their normal game for some random or unidentifiable reason.
I *completely* disagree. If "pixie dust" is 1) identifiable, and 2) a characteristic of the lens, I will believe that ineptitude or chance could cause it to be disguised, but I reject the idea that something could cause it to happen in a lens that "doesn't have it". A lens must either possess it, or not. A false positive is *proof* that the difference is in the photographer, IMO.

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I suspect Chaos Theory could be informative in providing evidence for the possibility of the existence of pixie dust. A photographic result in any circumstances is ridiculously complex when you factor in the gear, the photographer, the subject(s), the light, and a thousand other things most of us would never even consider. But a photograph would still be formally considered to be a “deterministic system,” meaning that the result of a shutter click is 100% determined by the sum of all conditions in place at the time of that click. What Chaos Theory says is that even in a deterministic system, and even where we have massive amounts of very precise data about the conditions, the result is not necessarily predictable. It’s not at all inconceivable to me that under such auspices, we might occasionally see a superior result from inferior gear (I have in fact seen this happen), and more importantly, it makes sense that some gestalt quality of an optic may be able to push a system (more often than random prediction) in a direction of what many (though certainly not all) would consider to be a visually pleasing result.
QuoteQuote:



Actually Chaos Theory wasn't the death knell of the deterministic universe; the results of Chaose Theory are only unpredictable in practice, not unpredictable in theory, and the chaotic universe remains deterministic. Quantum Mechanics made the universe probabilistic, prompting Mr. Einstein's famous objection.

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Maybe the Limited lenses are specifically crafted to yield a high frequency of
QuoteQuote:
Strange Attractors. Haha, that was a joke, and to be honest, I don’t believe for a minute pixie dust could be revealed in a White Paper, because while specific quantifiable parameters may contribute to more general and “mundane” concepts of what is pleasant, I think pixie dust is outside of that. I don’t believe that any lens designer could set out to design a lens that had pixie-dust-like qualities, and hope to be dependably successful. If it were cookbook, we’d have many many pixie dust lenses, and thus, NO pixie dust lenses.


I tend to agree, as I don't think a lens designer is what causes 'pixie dust'.

QuoteQuote:
Next, I’d like to argue that the fact that most people are not great at picking out which lens was used for this image or that, is meaningless. If you have any scientific background at all, you know the meaning of the term “negative result.” People on these forums are of widely various skill and experience, and perception. And with prior knowledge of other photogs in that thread, and gear sigs, and totally unmonitored input with regard to the text of the posts, sources of bias are off the charts. I’m not saying a fairly scientific test couldn’t be constructed to address the existence/non-existence of pixie dust, but it would complex, difficult, and time-consuming, and have complicated controls. It would likely require the employment of psychologists to identify and eliminate non-obvious sources of bias; and in the end, the results would at best be suggestive. Not conclusive.
QuoteQuote:


I could imagine starting with a large library of images, half of which were taken with a dusted lens, while the other half used a non-dusted lens. There would be some minimum definable requirements for an image to be of appropriate quality for admission to the test: exposure, accuracy of focus, lack of camera-shake, etc. Then the processing, in camera and out, would have to be equal. Each group would contain a crafted distribution of people shots, landscape, wildlife, etc., shot at a fair distribution of apertures, lighting conditions (backlit vs non-, studio vs outdoor, etc.), and camera-to-subject/subject-to-background distance. Include an even amount of images which conformed to classically-accepted ideas of compositional beauty, as well as those which departed intentionally and dramatically from such notions. So....yeah....we’re unlikely to see such an experiment. But what we have now available in the way of experiments, and what ones we could easily create (e.g. my earlier lame attempts at comparisons) are so flawed scientifically as to be completely uninterpretable. Which isn’t to say they can’t be fun, entertaining, evocative, and even useful.



Indeed, we can make the test as complex as you'd like to make it. It sounds to me like you're making the connoisseur's mistake, which is to believe that further education, further study, must needs always yield greater discrimination. It's simply not true. This has been demonstrated many ways - the most profound being the color discrimination test. I can show you two colors of green; we can keep swapping them out until they're as close as they can be and you can still tell the difference. We can label one "A" and the other "B". Then we put them in a drawer. I pick one at random and ask you to identify it as A or B... you cannot. And it doesn't matter how much training you get, or how much you practice. It's about the way our brains work.

I actually did a similar experiment with FF vs APS-c. I took 12 images that I thought were excellent, from both formats. Printed them all at 8x10, full bleed, 300 dpi. Then shuffled them together and asked people who had assured me that FF was an absolute necessity for a 'serious photographer' (including a photography buyer that told me he could easily identify that "ff look" and that only Canon and Nikon could produce pro-level images - and that he could identify them) to sort them. Nobody even came close. Not even a little bit. Furthermore, when I told them they had gotten it wrong, they would re-sort, and get completely different ones wrong. There was no single image that was consistently identified either way.

Here's the interesting bit. When I tossed in a few prints from MF backs (Hassy and Phase One), even at 8x10, they had a far greater than chance selection as "full frame" images, even though no full frame images were selected consistently as such.

Now was this a scientific study? Nope. But I've got $10 that says if you repeated it, you'd get very similar results, no matter how great the controls you apply. I suspect the same thing applies to these lenses - I'd even go out on a limb and say if I slipped in MF images, THEY would be chosen as the pixie dust lenses.

QuoteQuote:
Finally, let’s talk about the assertion that some people have the ability to see pixie dust, while others don’t. It’s very tempting to call Confirmation Bias here. Elitism, too. But I don’t believe that. Some peoples’ eyes are better than others’ in very measurable respects. There are some sounds that dogs can hear, but humans can’t. Then, there are some people who CAN hear those sounds along with the dogs. Is it so unreasonable to accept a variation in perception which extends to things which we cannot (yet) measure?
Problem with this assertion is that we can prove the sound that they hear is actually there, as well as the things that they see.

QuoteQuote:
Is it really out of line to extrapolate this variation and predict that there could be “meta” qualities to an optical product that only some people could pick up on? I don’t think so.
Yes. Yes, it is. We're not talking about a resolution limited function, or a color limited function that colorblind people would be unable to see. We're talking about something that's claimed to be an objective property of the lens with certain significant subjective implications in real-world photography. That's the claim.

QuoteQuote:
I think one’s perception can be trained, and practice and experience can help us to eventually notice things that we might not, at an earlier time, have noticed at all. And further, I believe our senses are also subject to innate and environmental factors which supercede training and experience.
QuoteQuote:



Perceptions *can* be trained, to a certain extent, but there are limits. What kind of innate and environmental factors?

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QuoteQuote:
I could go on to make claims about my own ability to “see” pixie dust, and what level of success I would personally expect to have as a subject in such an experiment as I described above. I could also speak to the development of my own visual sense over time. But this post is ridiculously long already, and they would only be claims, not independently verifiable, so I’ll not do any of that. I’ve got two more (hopefully much shorter!) posts I’d like to add to this thread.
That's a lotta typin, there, brother. I appreciate you takin' the time to explain. And usually I am an atheist, although on more mystical days I'll claim to be a pantheist. I'm a Taoist, though, so it doesn't much matter.

edit: Not sure why the extra quotes are there... sorry.
05-30-2011, 04:09 PM   #261
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
But one day I got a much more lively than normal response to a portrait I posted. The people who normally responded to my posts responded with much more emphatic and effusive praise, and I got lots of similar responses from people who never normally responded to my posts. The thread stayed active for longer than usual. This sometimes happens when the post is an attractive, nude or semi-nude woman. But in this case it was just a basic headshot of an average-looking regular guy. Nothing at all special that I could see, and the response was surprising to me. Of course, full disclosure, I also posted it here and got almost no response. LOL.

[/SIZE][/FONT]
You got a good response because it's a striking image. Great catchlights, excellent subject separation, and an infectious smile. Combined with all the political crap that goes along with any collection of humans. Post a great image, at exactly the right time of day, the exact right person weighs in on it, and voila.
05-30-2011, 04:49 PM   #262
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LOL, there's no selling you, man. Imma be like a Jehovah's Witness at this point. I've done my door-knockin', and I'll sit back and relax, confident in my superior knowledge of the Universe.
05-30-2011, 05:13 PM   #263
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
LOL, there's no selling you, man. Imma be like a Jehovah's Witness at this point. I've done my door-knockin', and I'll sit back and relax, confident in my superior knowledge of the Universe.
No, no, the analogy doesn't quite work. The Jehovah's Witness can never afford to be smug, because he is too busy despairing for the souls who refused to be Saved.

05-30-2011, 05:33 PM   #264
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
There's a part of me that really wants to lay hands on an FA LTD for some length of time so I can draw my own conclusions
To me, you haven't lived (photographically) if you haven't used a limited lens. The FAs are great, and the 43 would be right as a replacement for your fast fifty.

I'm another one to encourage you to get it and see what it can do for yourself.
I went the same way (sceptically getting the 43 to try and convince myself that the 50/1.4 would be better since it was faster and physically had larger glass elements) and I was amazed at how much more vibrant and 3D my images looked with the 43.
05-30-2011, 05:38 PM   #265
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
OK, this post is completely anecdotal. In other words meaningless, speaking critically and scientifically. I am primarily a portrait shooter, and I used to post a lot on Fred Miranda forums (I no longer am a user there). The response to my posts was pretty predictable. There were always a couple of friendly people I knew who would say extra-nice things about my pics, and a few more who gave me the basic “nice shot” response. And of course, a few who said the pics were dull, uninteresting, etc. But by and large, the responses were normal, average, mediocre, which is roughly what I expect. I’m a capable photographer, but not an exceptional one. I make lots of good images; rarely do I make “great” ones. It is what it is.

But one day I got a much more lively than normal response to a portrait I posted. The people who normally responded to my posts responded with much more emphatic and effusive praise, and I got lots of similar responses from people who never normally responded to my posts. The thread stayed active for longer than usual. This sometimes happens when the post is an attractive, nude or semi-nude woman. But in this case it was just a basic headshot of an average-looking regular guy. Nothing at all special that I could see, and the response was surprising to me. Of course, full disclosure, I also posted it here and got almost no response. LOL.

Anyway, it was the first portrait I ever posted there from the FA77. It was probably the only one, or at least one of a very few FA77 pics I ever posted over there. There was no discussion of the lens, as I recall (no one on FM even shoots Pentax anyway). But it was clear to me that this one portrait was more enthusiastically-received by that community than pretty much anything else I’d ever posted. Maybe it was just a good session for me, and I somehow managed to produce a portrait that exceeded my normal level. Or maybe it was pixie dust. I’m sure I’ll never know, but I thought it was interesting in the context of this thread. Here’s the image:



Lovely headshot photo you have there Todd. Was it shot at f2.8? Considering it was shot with the legendary FA77ltd, I can see why.

Here's mine. It was shot at a smaller aperture of f4/4.5 I believe, thus you can make out the background a bit, but the 3D quality remains. Would you say the lens has the qualities similar to one with "pixie dust"?

05-30-2011, 05:52 PM   #266
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinceloc Quote
Lovely headshot photo you have there Todd. Was it shot at f2.8? Considering it was shot with the legendary FA77ltd, I can see why.

Here's mine. It was shot at a smaller aperture of f4/4.5 I believe, thus you can make out the background a bit, but the 3D quality remains. Would you say the lens has the qualities similar to one with "pixie dust"?
Thanks! Mine was shot at f/2.2, actually.

I would say yours is a gorgeous portrait, but I wouldn't say that it has pixie dust. Everything good about that portrait comes from the photographer. "3D" is something argued as fervently in Zeiss threads on FM as pixie dust is here, but it's somewhat subjective. I have a buddy who shoots with some Zeiss lenses, and we frequently check with each other to see if an image is "3D." We often agree, but not always.

To me, your portrait does not look 3D. It looks like it was shot at a longer focal length (150+?), and thus has some focal length compression. To many, this distinct separation of subject and background is often what 3D means to some people. But to me, 3D is more microcontrast-based than DOF-based, so that the subject looks like they have real depth on their own, rather than in relation to the background.
05-30-2011, 06:19 PM   #267
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You have provided an interesting argument. True, the focal length is longer than 77mm, the photo was taken at 133mm to be exact. But I continue not to be convinced with your argument, and disagree with your take on the 3D effect. Obviously our opinions and observations differ due to subjective conditions and justifications based on a difference in taste and preferences.

May I share a couple of more shots, taken wide open and using a focal length shorter than the 77mm. Both are basically candid "snapshots" with not very ideal lighting conditions. Your comments would be greatly appreciated.





05-30-2011, 06:23 PM - 1 Like   #268
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Obviously the first one is with pixie dust and the second without.

Before and after.
05-30-2011, 06:28 PM   #269
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aegon Quote
Obviously the first one is with pixie dust and the second without.

Before and after.
Maybe you mean the first one is a pixie?
05-30-2011, 06:45 PM   #270
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The second one (older lady) is as 3D as I've seen in a photograph. I expected her to move.
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