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06-01-2011, 11:44 AM   #406
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
Sure. You've been very reasonable throughout, and if it wasn't fun, I'd have quit playing a long time ago. I wasn't ... "attacking" you in any way. I'm just curious how "But FA 43 is the worst good lens of the three good lenses, though" is an exaggeration, really.
*One* of the three must be, obviously - although like most things in life, choosing which is going to be subjective.


Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 06-01-2011 at 12:38 PM.
06-01-2011, 12:08 PM - 4 Likes   #407
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
As I have stated, I do not think there is "pixie dust" in the FA Limited lenses, for the reason that this would imply something unexplained, whereas Jun Hirakawa has in fact explained this thing.
Nice post, and I'll use the above statement as the baseline for further comments.

QuoteQuote:
But I certainly do believe, since I can see it plain as day, that there is a special rendering with these lenses.
In almost exactly the same way, there is a special quality to Coke as compared to Pepsi. If we knew the formulas, would could put that difference into words just as Jun did in explaining the FA Limiteds. But that doesn't make all people who prefer Pepsi wrong, nor would it mean that those who can't tell the difference, or who can tell the difference but still don't *prefer* one over the other, are missing out on anything particularly important in the grand scheme of things.

QuoteQuote:
Recognising and appreciating the differences in lens rendering is simply a matter of trained and attuned perception.
But still, in the end, subjective. It's like this in almost all fields. Recognizing and appreciating differences in the musics of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms (and the differences *within* their output) is similarly a matter of trained and attuned perception. The differences are real. But it's still the case that experts might disagree on preferences, or simply not have preferences. I can tell the difference between these three as easily as you can presumably tell the difference between the FA43, DA40, and FA50. But I won't claim that just because on any given day I might have a preference for listening to one over the other, that this has any significance beyond being just that - one person's preference on one given day.

BTW, I'd claim that the differences being discussed here are akin to the differences between Beethoven and Brahms than between Beethoven and Bach, in terms of magnitude and significance. That is, relatively subtle.

QuoteQuote:
In short there are the following categories of people in this thread:
1. Those who think lenses don't matter, or don't matter enough to care about.
2. Those who know lenses matter but don't believe the FA Limiteds are special.
3. Those who know lenses matter and believe the FA Limiteds to be special.
You left out category 4: those who think lenses matter and acknowledge the "special" qualities of certain lenses, but don't recognize that being "special" makes them "better" in any objective sense, because such things are subjective and not objective. Most of these people also happen to believe the magnitude of these particular differences are pretty small, and have trouble making the distinctions reliably themselves. But that's kind of beside the point.

To some extent, you could lump these people (obviously, I am referring to myself) in with class two, and in that case:

QuoteQuote:
We can further divide class 2 into:
2a. Those who are content with this and have perhaps found their own special lenses.
2b. Those who find it necessary to deride those in class 3.
I'd have to put myself in class 2a. But I would not be one to try to convince anyone that the lenses that are special to me must necessarily be the ones that are special to anyone else. In other words, I would be pointing out that the people in class 3 above could be divided into:

3a. Those who recognize the subjective nature of their own preferences
3b. Those who find it necessary to deride those who point out that such preferences are subjective

Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 06-01-2011 at 12:20 PM.
06-01-2011, 12:22 PM   #408
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
. . . what I see as poorly reasoned rhetoric in a fundamentally technical discussion.

. . . every example you can give must fall into one of two categories: Measurable, demonstrable ( colorblindness, aphasia ) and preference . . .


. . . I'll buy that sort of rhetoric when the subject can clearly be quantified. Otherwise, we're back to the two categories: measurable, and opinion.

. . . This is a separate, technical question that I find interesting. From a scientific testing perspective . . .
I quoted your references to measurability for a reason, but before getting to that let me say . . .

In another thread I postulated that some lenses seem to render certain 3D-like features to a 2D image, and possibly this is the "pixie dust" aspect some of us pick up on and appreciate (and of course the lens has to do the rest right, e.g., color, distortion, etc.).

I don't know exactly what such 3D features would be, I myself see it as detailed yet with edges that don't seem "hard," plus a slight softness of the highlights . . . i.e., a rendering that might be analogously described as closer to late afternoon sun rather than high noon sun. Are such lenses picking up certain shadows better, showing the natural roundness of edges instead of as crisp lines? I see posters all the time praising "sharpness," for example, but I find it a bland quality unless it is combined with the softening aspects I just described. I invested in all Voightlander lenses because I see that type of rendering by them, and I'd love to have the FA Limiteds for the same reason.

Regarding wanting to measure such qualities, is it a coincidence that engineers want to measure everything under the sun? I have an economist friend who tells me everything is economics, a spiritual friend who tells me everything is God, and a history professor friend who only sees history at work in the world. In the hobby of music, you see this ongoing fight between the so-called "golden ears" (so labelled by engineers), and the "lead ears" (so labelled by the golden ears). The lead ears say unless you can measure perceived quality, it is not real; while all the golden ears say they do detect subtleties that lead ears seem oblivious too (or just don't care about). Consequently, the lead ears freak out when they hear someone has spent $1500 on MIT speaker cables when Radio Shack 10g copper would (according to the lead ears) serve just as well.

The question becomes, how do we know all that is detectable by human consciousness can be measured by equipment? Plus, there are some qualities that no one even tries to measure (such as IQ tests that do not try to measure creative insight or broad generalizing skills); so, for example, even if the 3D effects were measurable, since everyone is so enthralled with sharpness, no one ever tries to develop a way to measure pixie dustness.

To summarize, I believe there is pixie dustness but I don't think we've agreed on what it is and therefore have been able to see if it is measurable; but even if it weren't measurable, I also don't believe that automatically means it doesn't exist.

Edit: I'd add (after reading Marc's post) that possibly if there is an objective aspect, part of what makes a lens "pixie dust" special is that is attains a degree of naturalness (since we live in a 3D world), and so jives with us better on a visceral level.

Last edited by les3547; 06-02-2011 at 07:34 AM.
06-01-2011, 12:25 PM   #409
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
I react poorly to what I see as poorly reasoned rhetoric in a fundamentally technical discussion.
So do I, at times. I just didn't find the gist of Robin's post "poorly reasoned." At least not grievously so. Another thing on which we can agree to disagree, sir.

QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
Perhaps you missed the part where he said:

X

or:

Y
No, I didn't miss anything. In reviewing the bits you quoted, perhaps 'X' was a tiny bit out of line. Not because there aren't people who fight the concept of PD purely out of insecurity (because I'm sure there are; I know there are those who are that way about "Zeissness"), but because I haven't detected that from anyone in this thread, certainly not you. But the part you quoted in 'Y' is absolutely true IMO, and in the context of the real world, it would be more remarkable if it were not true.

QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
This is a separate, technical question that I find interesting. From a scientific testing perspective, a false positive would demonstrate that the quality being measured was not exclusive to one lens... The experiment design would clearly illustrate the existence of PD and its relationship to a given lens with just a statistically significant detection ratio; but a false positive is a different animal altogether, it seems.. Why do you think a false positive would not be illustrative of the ... image-related (as opposed to lens-related) state? (Curious about your reasoning there).
I have been a member of the so-called "scientific community" long enough to have a pretty good grip on when, where and why a false positive might upend an experimental result enough to make it unpublishable, and I can assure the answer is not "always." It's moot, anyway, because a false positive in a pixie dust "experiment" is a completely different thing than it would be in, say, an immunological assay, or a cell colony screen (I only use life science examples because that's where my training is, and where my own publication record comes from). I guess that's about the best answer I've got. A false positive, as long as it were clearly an outlying data point, wouldn't bother me one bit.

QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
All of this is *true*, absolutely; my point is that great photographs predate the LTD series of lenses.
And my point is that we are talking about fairly esoteric concepts which didn't even exist for those people. If you are going to argue that lack of discussion of ethereal lens properties among long-dead photographers means those properties don't exist, at a very minimum you have to show they could have. I'm saying that with past technologies, they could not have been in play, so we would expect no discussion of them.

06-01-2011, 12:32 PM   #410
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote

All of this is *true*, absolutely; my point is that great photographs predate the LTD series of lenses. They didn't just start happening in 1997 (or whenever the LTDs were first released)...
I don't think that was your point all along Steve, or if it was it's been muddled.

QuoteQuote:
... I'd like to see any reasonable argument that says that great photographs are correlated with great equipment
Of course there's a correlation. That doesn't mean that great photographs have not been made (often, continually) with inferior equipment along the way.

Frankly I think you have a fatally flawed approach to this - you will not be able to see what people call pixie dust as long as you put the onus on them to convince you of anything with an image, because too much is dependant on their skill, or the light, etc. A great subject/setting/light/photographer in combo with an inferior lens will trump a worse combo of those attributes taken with a PD lens, which will lead you to the wrong conclusion about those lenses. It's a fool's errand - much like I thought your epic 'show me a FF image that convinces me it's worthwhile' quest was.

Also, at least the way I describe it, a great lens isn't always a PD lens. The DA 70 and 40ltd are pretty great lenses, but what makes them great is very apparent, describable, and built right into the design from the start (best possible MTF curve across the frame for the size, gave up max aperture to get there, very little CA & distortion, color and standard contrast very saturated.) I think Mr. Hirakawa mentioned that the MTF scores weren't his top priority in designing the 43 & 77ltd, that an ideal recreation of the 'object' was. This sounds suspiciously like what many of us describe seeing with those lenses. (and I for one have never seen that quote from him until a few days ago.)

I think you need to step back, take a break from worrying about it, maybe go back to the simple description of PD that worked for you a couple days ago and just stay with that.


.

Last edited by jsherman999; 06-01-2011 at 12:44 PM.
06-01-2011, 12:52 PM   #411
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QuoteOriginally posted by les3547 Quote

I quoted your references to measurability for a reason, but before getting to that let me say . . .

In another thread I postulated that some lenses seem to render certain 3D-like features to a 2D image, and possibly this is the "pixie dust" aspect some of us pick up on and appreciate (and of course the lens has to do the rest right, e.g., color, distortion, etc.).

I don't know exactly what such 3D features would be, I myself see it as detailed yet with edges that don't seem "hard," plus a slight softness of the highlights . . . i.e., a rendering that might be analogously described as closer to late afternoon sun rather than high noon sun. Are such lenses picking up certain shadows better, showing the natural roundness of edges instead of as crisp lines?
If someone said to me "pixie dust" is the "3D effect", I'd go, "OH, ok. No sweat." Not because everyone agrees on which images exhibit it and which don't, but because I understand why it happens, and to a certain extent, it's repeatable and demonstrable in much simpler media than photographs. It can be quantified, explained, even measured. We can even explain why some people cannot seem to see it at all. (Different topic, but it has to do with the way our visual/sensory system works).

QuoteQuote:
I see posters all the time praising "sharpness," for example, but I find it a bland quality unless it is combined with the softening aspects I just described. I invested in all Voightlander lenses because I see that type of rendering by them, and I'd love to have the FA Limiteds for the same reason (when I shot film, I've owned Leica and Zeiss lenses like that too). People over in the DA 15mm Limited lens club seem to think that lens has it, I don't, which is why I sold mine and bought the Voightlander 20mm instead (which does have the qualities I like). Why do they think that lens has it? I'd guess because it does everything right distortion and color-wise, plus is sharp, flare resistant, etc. A lovely lens no doubt, but not pixie dust to me.
I suspect that 'pixie dust' has become a catch all for "i really like that lens" in many cases - this would explain why there is so much disagreement on which lenses "have it".

QuoteQuote:
Regarding wanting to measure such qualities, is it a coincidence that engineers want to measure everything under the sun? I have an economist friend who tells me everything is economics, a spiritual friend who tells me everything is God, and a history professor friend who only sees history at work in the world. In the hobby of music, you see this ongoing fight between the so-called "golden ears" (so labelled by engineers), and the "lead ears" (so labelled by the golden ears). The lead ears say unless you can measure perceived quality, it is not real; while all the golden ears say they do detect subtleties that lead ears seem oblivious too (or just don't care about). Consequently, the lead ears freak out when they hear someone has spent $1500 on MIT speaker cables when Radio Shack 10g copper would (according to the lead ears) serve just as well.
LOL! Funny that you should bring those things up in this discussion. In every field of human endeavor where "discrimination" is prized, true, double-blind style tests have demonstrated that, while education and training can improve discretion, it increases overconfidence more than discretion. I've seen double-blind tests where people tried to identify guitars, amps, wines, coffees, vodkas, you name it. (interesting story about the vodkas, though). I have no reason to believe that photography is somehow special and unique amongst human endeavors. I'm not saying it's not possible; I'm saying I see no reason to believe that, and will happily change my opinion if someone provides evidence that it is.

I was an artist and musician before I was an engineer, incidentally. By profession, anyway. Hell, I was a bouncer before I was an engineer, an artist, or a musician.

QuoteQuote:
The question becomes, how do we know all that is detectable by human consciousness can be measured by equipment? Plus, there are some qualities that no one even tries to measure (such as IQ tests that do not try to measure creative insight or broad generalizing skills); so, for example, even if the 3D effects were measurable, since everyone is so enthralled with sharpness, no one ever tries to develop a way to measure pixie dustness.
Oh, no... many, many tests have been fielded to measure all facets of the human psyche. The reason you don't hear about all those other ones is because they completely fail as predictive tools. With all of the conceptual and logistical and social complications 'IQ' faces, it's still one of the only human metrics that has any real predictive value. People try to build tests that measure creativeness - they just fail miserably. Still, I think that creativeness is not fundamentally unmeasurable; it's just that we're still looking at it wrong. When we figure out the right angle...

QuoteQuote:
To summarize, I believe there is pixie dustness but I don't think we've agreed on what it is and therefore have been able to see if it is measurable; but even if it weren't measurable, I also don't believe that automatically means it doesn't exist.

Edit: I'd add (after reading Marc's post) that possibly part of what makes a lens "pixie dust" special is that is attains a degree of naturalness (since we live in a 3D world), and so jives with us better on a visceral level.
I think many people mistake me; I do not assert that pixie dust does not exist. I've said - and am - undecided on the point. What I believe to be false is this: "There is an objective quality about a lens that renders images 'better' than other lenses, yet is fundamentally unmeasurable". I think that either it's measurable, or it's not an objective quality of the lens, and I've seen no argument presented that would convince me that it could be an objective quality of a lens, but unmeasurable in principle.

Frankly, I think Marc's point is unassailable in a philosophical sense. Which is why I take umbrage with the assertion that, between two lenses that produce equivalent measurable values - that is, are both sharp, contrasty, well corrected, etc - one is an "inferior tool", when the remaining difference is, as Marc said, purely subjective.
06-01-2011, 12:58 PM   #412
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
If someone said to me "pixie dust" is the "3D effect", I'd go, "OH, ok. No sweat." Not because everyone agrees on which images exhibit it and which don't, but because I understand why it happens, and to a certain extent, it's repeatable and demonstrable
LMAO. I can find about 100 people who would argue against this even more vociferously than you argue against pixie dust.
06-01-2011, 01:06 PM   #413
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Steve. Dude. You wear me out, bro.
Glad to be of service

QuoteQuote:
I have been a member of the so-called "scientific community" long enough to have a pretty good grip on when, where and why a false positive might upend an experimental result enough to make it unpublishable, and I can assure the answer is not "always." It's moot, anyway, because a false positive in a pixie dust "experiment" is a completely different thing than it would be in, say, an immunological assay, or a cell colony screen (I only use life science examples because that's where my training is, and where my own publication record comes from). I guess that's about the best answer I've got. A false positive, as long as it were clearly an outlying data point, wouldn't bother me one bit.
Oh, ok. If we're talking a large enough sample size, I'm with you. But when I said "no false positives" I was talking about a 24-image test suite. Identifying 16 images successfully would be statistically significant, but one false positive (in that cohort) would, IMO, drop the test below statistical significance. If we're doing a real study, with controls and cohorts in different conditions, I accept your stance on false positives.

QuoteQuote:
And my point is that we are talking about fairly esoteric concepts which didn't even exist for those people. If you are going to argue that lack of discussion of ethereal lens properties among long-dead photographers means those properties don't exist, at a very minimum you have to show they could have. I'm saying that with past technologies, they could not have been in play, so we would expect no discussion of them.
Again, you seem to mistake me... I'm not convinced that pixie dust doesn't exist - quite the opposite. The way I see it there are possibilities:

1. 'pixie dust' is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek name for a quality of some lenses that is difficult to explain, and can't be measured until we discover the explanation.
2. 'pixie dust' is an artifact of some people's fascination with some lenses, conflated with the tendency of excellent photographers to both use and publicize those lenses, all stirred in with peer pressure and the social dynamics of a forum.
3. Some combination of the two that renders it even more difficult to identify, much less measure.

This has been combined with a fundamental difference in philosophy in re: the role of the photographer vs. the role of the technology, and the definition of "good" photography. I've seen many images in my lifetime that were absolutely breathtaking and could not have been improved by better equipment. If you have ever seen such an image, then it cannot be the case that technically excellent equipment == artistic excellence, or even that artistic excellence is *dependent* upon technical excellence.

06-01-2011, 01:08 PM   #414
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
LMAO. I can find about 100 people who would argue against this even more vociferously than you argue against pixie dust.
Then they've not read books like "The Invisible Gorilla", "Predictably Irrational", and "A Beginner's Guide to Reality".
06-01-2011, 01:16 PM   #415
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QuoteOriginally posted by les3547 Quote
Consequently, the lead ears freak out when they hear someone has spent $1500 on MIT speaker cables when Radio Shack 10g copper would (according to the lead ears) serve just as well.
A fool and his money are soon parted.
06-01-2011, 01:25 PM   #416
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
What I believe to be false is this: "There is an objective quality about a lens that renders images 'better' than other lenses, yet is fundamentally unmeasurable". I think that either it's measurable, or it's not an objective quality of the lens, and I've seen no argument presented that would convince me that it could be an objective quality of a lens, but unmeasurable in principle.
On the assumption you are disagreeing with my assertion that a lens (or speaker cable) can convey and we can detect qualities that are not measurable, I'm sure you are aware that no human can ever know "objective" since all experience is subjective. Usually we assume most people's senses work the same (or close enough) so that it is possible to reach agreement about that which is externally perceived. So I assume by "subjective" you mean a reaction to sensory perception that is distinct from the actual perception itself.


QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
Frankly, I think Marc's point is unassailable in a philosophical sense. Which is why I take umbrage with the assertion that, between two lenses that produce equivalent measurable values - that is, are both sharp, contrasty, well corrected, etc - one is an "inferior tool", when the remaining difference is, as Marc said, purely subjective.
Of course there are subjective reactions to our perceptions, but that still doesn't tell us if our measuring devices are able to register some quality that we can nonetheless detect directly with consciousness, or if we would recognize some way that detection machinery actually does detect but we don't know how to read or is buried within another reading, or if all the people who designed the detection machinery were undeveloped consciously when it comes to pixie dust, weren't aware of those qualities, and therefore didn't even try to design their detection machinery to look for such qualities.

IOW, your principle that experienced qualities are either measurable or they are subjective cannot be an either-or type of principle . . . . it is just a "sometimes" principle.
06-01-2011, 01:26 PM   #417
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
I don't think that was your point all along Steve, or if it was it's been muddled.
Oh, yeah, it's been muddled. Because we've had several threads of discussion going on throughout. Marc addressed the subjective nature of lens "uniqueness" quite well, I thought. I've rejected the idea that good equipment == good art, or any variant of that equation, throughout, but it's a separate discussion as to whether pixie dust exists. Does that make sense? To summarize:

1)I do not believe that equipment/technique == art.
2)I do not believe that an objective characteristic of a lens is (or can be) objectively "good" or "bad" in an artistic sense.
3)I am still ambivalent about the idea of 'pixie dust' -
4)I disagree with many members about the relative importance of pixie dust, if indeed it does exist. Equipment is *never* more important than the photographer.

Even though I accepted your definition early on, many others seem to reject it, so what is a poor skeptic like me supposed to think?

I think if you consider those points with my ... sometimes too long-winded posts, the threads will become clear.

QuoteQuote:
Of course there's a correlation. That doesn't mean that great photographs have not been made (often, continually) with inferior equipment along the way.

Frankly I think you have a fatally flawed approach to this - you will not be able to see what people call pixie dust as long as you put the onus on them to convince you of anything with an image, because too much is dependant on their skill, or the light, etc.
Claims are frequently followed by challenges, no?

I thought I made it clear I'll be joining the FA LTD club soon enough, and I'll be closely on the lookout for pixie dust. I *do* talk a lot, but I'm not *all* talk, if you see what I mean

QuoteQuote:
A great subject/setting/light/photographer in combo with an inferior lens will trump a worse combo of those attributes taken with a PD lens, which will lead you to the wrong conclusion about those lenses. It's a fool's errand - much like I thought your epic 'show me a FF image that convinces me it's worthwhile' quest was.
See statements 1,2, and 4, above.

QuoteQuote:
I think you need to step back, take a break from worrying about it, maybe go back to the simple description of PD that worked for you a couple days ago and just stay with that.
.
LOL... I don't *worry* about it. I think about it when I read posts. I think about it when I write posts about it. Then I go back to work, because I can't leave my computer and TAKE PICTURES. Pixie dust is an intellectual curiosity to me, not an earthshaking visual phenomenon. By far the most interesting - and persuasive, and enjoyable! - posts in this entire thread were images. Todd's second set, TOUGEFC's set, some you posted. I enjoy the back-and-forth (as long as people don't get pissed off) and I'm perfectly willing to admit I'm wrong when I am - if I find pixie dust under the lens cap of my 43, I'll be the first to admit it.
06-01-2011, 01:27 PM   #418
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QuoteOriginally posted by les3547 Quote

On the assumption you are disagreeing with my assertion that a lens (or speaker cable) can convey and we can detect qualities that are not measurable, I'm sure you are aware that no human can ever know "objective" since all experience is subjective. Usually we assume most people's senses work the same (or close enough) so that it is possible to reach agreement about that which is externally perceived. So I assume by "subjective" you mean a reaction to sensory perception that is distinct from the actual perception itself.




Of course there are subjective reactions to our perceptions, but that still doesn't tell us if our detection machinery is able to register some quality that we can nonetheless detect directly with consciousness, or if we would recognize some way that detection machinery actually does detect but we don't know how to read or is buried within another reading, or if all the people who designed the detection machinery were undeveloped consciously when it comes to pixie dust, weren't aware of those qualities and therefore didn't even try to design their detection machinery to look for such qualities.

IOW, your principle that experienced qualities are either measurable or they are subjective cannot be an either-or type of principle . . . . it is just a "sometimes" principle.
Soon I'll make a killing with my new line of E.S.P. homeopathic lenses. I guess there may be demand...
06-01-2011, 01:29 PM   #419
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QuoteOriginally posted by asdf Quote
A fool and his money are soon parted.
Yep, the same sort of fool that buys Limiteds, Voightlanders, Zeiss, etc.
06-01-2011, 01:35 PM   #420
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QuoteOriginally posted by les3547 Quote
Yep, the same sort of fool that buys Limiteds, Voightlanders, Zeiss, etc.
Nah. ...although, I can't really think of an analogy to stereotypical audiophile wackiness.

My earphones are Sony MDR-V6, btw.
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