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05-25-2011, 02:11 AM - 1 Like   #31
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Wikipedia: Pixie Dust

05-25-2011, 03:16 AM   #32
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I think pixie dust mainly has to do with out of focus rendering, particularly wide open. Sharpness should also be there, but it's more than that. That said, I have a hard time ascertaining the differences between lenses in most situations.
05-25-2011, 04:00 AM   #33
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
I dig the flower stuff, and you have some beautiful examples. I'm having real trouble identifying anything there I would call "pixie dust" ( as in a defining quality that is produced by the lens rather than the photographer that makes an otherwise ordinary image magical ). They're all excellent images, some better composed or representing a photographic solution I enjoy more than others.

Bear in mind that I'm serious, despite the jokes. I'm of the opinion right now (barring some sort of evidence to the contrary) that... how to put it? The photographer, not the lens, contains the "pixie dust". That there's a 'lower threshold' for quality equipment, beyond which the photographer's decision makes 99.99% of the image, and the hardware .01%. The magick, the star stuff, is in your eye, not the lens - I *think*.

It's nobody's responsibility to demonstrate it to me (or the OP); I'm just curious, trying to relate, to understand; and I'm perfectly willing to change my mind with evidence. What I've seen is when "magic pixie dust" lenses are shot with "no-dust" lenses in controlled conditions, the results are virtually indistinguishable. If I had, say, a 31mm, I'd do my best to produce a test that showed the difference, but I'm not going to choke up $1000 for a set of test shots

Oooh, wait... there's a place that rents 'em. I'll have to check it out.
Thank you for your compliments. I really do appreciate it.

Truth be told, I think 'pixie dust' is a joke someone started when being asked to compare the FA limiteds to 'regular' lenses and justify the difference between them. I got all of mine at what would now be considered stupid bargain basement prices (only the 43 was bought new). The Bokeh renders differently, they are sharper than cheaper counterparts in many cases (not all), they are sometimes better built. At the end of the day, just like any other lens, all they do is collect and focus light. In terms of sharpness though, at close range, a decent macro will blow them all away.

The photos taken with the Pixie dust lenses do take on a special quality at times but I tend to think it's because we know what Lens it was taken with. I ID the lenses in my filenames so I know what lens was used. If I could readily discern the difference, I wouldn't need to do that. Some people are good enough at spotting a difference though, usually, I'm not one of them. I just enjoy having the lenses. Would I buy them today? It would be hard for me to justify And hard to resist.

05-25-2011, 05:58 AM   #34
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If there's some hesitation to buy these seemingly overpriced lenses, I'd suggest looking around at other systems and seeing what is on offer there of the same caliber, then comparing prices.

I resisted going for the FA ltds myself, for quite a while, feeling like I couldn't justify getting the 43 to replace my FA 50/1.4 for example. When I started off with the 77, I realised how striking the results were and what difference the lens made. Hard to put a finger on it, but I can honestly say it caused me to appreciate the entire series greatly, and the 43 was a clear winner over the FA 50/1.4, which I did not keep for long after acquiring the 43.

I had the 50 for years beforehand and thought it was the best I could get, because it was so fast and gave me quite decent results. It's more than just a case of not knowing what I was missing; the FA ltds are special lenses. They are to me worth even more than their current resale value.

05-25-2011, 06:33 AM   #35
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
If there's some hesitation to buy these seemingly overpriced lenses, I'd suggest looking around at other systems and seeing what is on offer there of the same caliber, then comparing prices.

I resisted going for the FA ltds myself, for quite a while, feeling like I couldn't justify getting the 43 to replace my FA 50/1.4 for example. When I started off with the 77, I realized how striking the results were and what difference the lens made. Hard to put a finger on it, but I can honestly say it caused me to appreciate the entire series greatly, and the 43 was a clear winner over the FA 50/1.4, which I did not keep for long after acquiring the 43.

I had the 50 for years beforehand and thought it was the best I could get, because it was so fast and gave me quite decent results. It's more than just a case of not knowing what I was missing; the FA ltds are special lenses. They are to me worth even more than their current resale value.
That justification was easy for me. I didn't like the FA50 from the get go, especially on the K10d indoors where it constantly missed focus. Outdoors, it was a great lens (but I don't like the build of the regular FA primes).

If it was a matter of dollars and cents, the FA50 at the time I bought it was going for $199 new. Pentax was still offering lens rebates of $50 on that lens. $100 on the FA Limited Primes. IIRC, the 43 was $449 or something like that at the time. So I got the $50 rebate on the 50mm, sold it for $250 (everyone was out of stock and that's what someone was willing to pay). So the way I figure it, I'm $100 ahead on the 50mm bringing the cost of the FA43 down to $349, take the rebate, final cost, $249. Dollar-wise, the entire thing was a wash as I did get nearly a year of use out of the FA50 as well. Can't beat that on most days.

The 31 and 77 came at the prime time of the Bing (then Microsoft) cashback program but I did buy them used. There Are lenses I've paid the (used) going rate for and don't regret it for a second. The FA*24, the FA*85, and the K28 f2.0. All are fantastic lenses but I don't know if there is any Pixie Dust on or in them. On a slightly different note, I personally don't find a lot of value to comparing these lenses to other system lenses since I really don't know anything about them (no personal knowledge of the lenses).

05-25-2011, 06:45 AM   #36
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
If there's some hesitation to buy these seemingly overpriced lenses, I'd suggest looking around at other systems and seeing what is on offer there of the same caliber, then comparing prices.
I'm not suggesting that they are overpriced. I'm not suggesting they aren't excellent lenses. As I've said, if I were a rich man, I'd own all of the LTD line - I'd own all of the Pentax lenses.

Lenses are, for most of us, artistic tools; there's no "right" or "wrong" artistic tool - there are only the ones that match your vision and the ones that don't.

In a pragmatic sense, I do challenge the advice to people just starting out to buy $1000 lenses because they have pixie dust. This is a sure-fire recipe for "confirmation bias" ( as timh so poignantly japed - lol ).

And I understand the value of fit and finish - hell, I'm a Mac user

I'm just challenging the idea that the 'pixie dust' is in the lenses.
05-25-2011, 06:53 AM - 2 Likes   #37
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QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
Personally I'm with those who say pixie dust is a myth. I'd even go as far as saying it's bucketfull of shit...

There is a bunch of good lenses and bunch of good photographers capable of getting the best out of the lenses by using them the way they were designed for. Lack of pixie dust is term devised by average and worse photographers to be able to justify their inability of getting results from their perfectly capable gear...

Now I'm not saying all lenses are so good that you can point them at anything and it'll look good even in experienced hands but on the other side I've seen pretty horrid (Albinar level horrid) shots from FA ltds by folks who think how great they are...
Well said---you hit the nails on the heads--countersunk them actually! Soooo glad I made you laugh--humor is a vital part of life.
05-25-2011, 08:28 AM - 1 Like   #38
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I would agree pixie dust is a myth.

I think it really means that one likes sharp lenses at wide apertures, something all of the FA ltds. are really good at. I've heard some stuff about colour rendition as well, which is true, but less important IMHO in the age of digital manipulation.

I think skill matter 95% and lenses matter 5%. People on here with real talent make some technically *undesirable* glass just shine... the pixie dust is in their fingers!

05-25-2011, 09:12 AM - 2 Likes   #39
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I'm with those who regard pixie dust as real; the problem is that it is often ill-defined and poorly explained. Pixie dust is merely those subtle, immeasurable qualities which distinguishes an outstanding lens from a slightly less outstanding lens. The qualities in question may involve bokeh, color rendition, the so-called "3d look," and the overall "beauty" of the rendering. The ability to perceive and appreciate such "pixie dust" involves a discriminating sense that has to be developed; it is not something that everyone automatically has. Therefore it is pointless to post photos which supposedly manifest pixie dust, as only those with the ability to appreciate such qualities will have a chance of noticing them.

QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
In a pragmatic sense, I do challenge the advice to people just starting out to buy $1000 lenses because they have pixie dust. This is a sure-fire recipe for "confirmation bias"
I agree with that. A novice user is unlikely to have the discriminating knack for noticing the extra subtle fine qualities manifested in pixie dust lenses and his belief that he nonetheless discriminates such qualities will probably be an illusion. Moreover, I would also note that pixie dust is of little (if any) practical use to professional photographers, since most (if not all) of their customers would be incapable of appreciating it. Appreciation of pixie dust is confined to connoisseurs of outstanding glass. For such people, the subtle qualities of an expensive lens can give real enjoyment, just as drinking fine wines or listening to exquisitely performed music gives enjoyment to connoisseurs of wine and fine music. To most people, however, such qualities are of little, if any, importance whatsoever.
05-25-2011, 09:24 AM   #40
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
I'm with those who regard pixie dust as real; the problem is that it is often ill-defined and poorly explained. Pixie dust is merely those subtle, immeasurable qualities which distinguishes an outstanding lens from a slightly less outstanding lens. The qualities in question may involve bokeh, color rendition, the so-called "3d look," and the overall "beauty" of the rendering. The ability to perceive and appreciate such "pixie dust" involves a discriminating sense that has to be developed; it is not something that everyone automatically has. Therefore it is pointless to post photos which supposedly manifest pixie dust, as only those with the ability to appreciate such qualities will have a chance of noticing them.



I agree with that. A novice user is unlikely to have the discriminating knack for noticing the extra subtle fine qualities manifested in pixie dust lenses and his belief that he nonetheless discriminates such qualities will probably be an illusion. Moreover, I would also note that pixie dust is of little (if any) practical use to professional photographers, since most (if not all) of their customers would be incapable of appreciating it. Appreciation of pixie dust is confined to connoisseurs of outstanding glass. For such people, the subtle qualities of an expensive lens can give real enjoyment, just as drinking fine wines or listening to exquisitely performed music gives enjoyment to connoisseurs of wine and fine music. To most people, however, such qualities are of little, if any, importance whatsoever.
Nicely said. I completely agree.
05-25-2011, 10:03 AM - 1 Like   #41
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Pixie dust is mostly seen in photos where the lens has been identified, and is known to be a pixie dust lens. ;-)
05-25-2011, 10:06 AM   #42
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
Pixie dust is mostly seen in photos where the lens has been identified, and is known to be a pixie dust lens. ;-)
+1

It's been proven that sommeliers like the same wine *better* when they're told it costs more. Two bottles, same wine, one labelled $12, one labelled $50, some 80% picked the $50 as a better wine, and none tweaked to the fact that they were the SAME wine.

I think the same thing happens everywhere, including lenses.

This doesn't change the fact that people ACTUALLY ENJOY their wine more when they think it costs more...

Woops... here comes the hail (huddled in the basement)
05-25-2011, 10:09 AM   #43
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
I'm with those who regard pixie dust as real; the problem is that it is often ill-defined and poorly explained. Pixie dust is merely those subtle, immeasurable qualities which distinguishes an outstanding lens from a slightly less outstanding lens. The qualities in question may involve bokeh, color rendition, the so-called "3d look," and the overall "beauty" of the rendering. The ability to perceive and appreciate such "pixie dust" involves a discriminating sense that has to be developed; it is not something that everyone automatically has. Therefore it is pointless to post photos which supposedly manifest pixie dust, as only those with the ability to appreciate such qualities will have a chance of noticing them.

I agree with that. A novice user is unlikely to have the discriminating knack for noticing the extra subtle fine qualities manifested in pixie dust lenses and his belief that he nonetheless discriminates such qualities will probably be an illusion. Moreover, I would also note that pixie dust is of little (if any) practical use to professional photographers, since most (if not all) of their customers would be incapable of appreciating it. Appreciation of pixie dust is confined to connoisseurs of outstanding glass. For such people, the subtle qualities of an expensive lens can give real enjoyment, just as drinking fine wines or listening to exquisitely performed music gives enjoyment to connoisseurs of wine and fine music. To most people, however, such qualities are of little, if any, importance whatsoever.
Awesome post, great points, well-made. The part I've bolded sounds elitist as hell; bordering on Leica territory. But I agree fully, so I guess I am an elitist.

When I bought my first Zeiss lens, I was just highly curious to see if all of the hype was real. I was quickly caught up in the arguments about whether "Zeissness" was really a thing, or just some BS that people who dropped way too much cash on a lens needed to sell to themselves. Initial comparison testing with similar-but-way-cheaper glass led me to favor the "BS" theory; but over time, as I shot more and more with the lenses, and gained a feel for their rendering, I was swayed, and I firmly believe the Zeiss lenses I own have something outside and above the standard array of mass-produced lenses. I believe the FA77 also has that. It does take a familiarity with the results that can only come from spending a lot of time with the lenses, shooting under a variety of scenarios.

Could I always pick out the images shot with the "pixie dust" lenses under blind tests? Not likely. But I guarantee I would get it right more often that would be predicted by random guessing. The fact that I can see it/not see it in my own images is evidence enough for me that the quality resides in the lens and not the shooter, though I'd love to take credit for having pixie dust in my personal technique. The very fact that it's not objectively identifiable is sort of what makes it "pixie dust," so endeavoring to find actual hard evidence for it is of debatable value.

And of course, it's always possible that I am a textbook case of Confirmation Bias.
05-25-2011, 10:15 AM - 4 Likes   #44
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I actually decided to take my lenses apart last night to try and measure the actual amount of pixie dust each one had. It turns out that the FA limiteds indeed do have a fair amount of pixie dust in them. The FA31 has 15.6 micrograms, the FA43 had 27.2 micrograms and the FA77 had exactly 18.0 micrograms of pixie dust contained in the glass itself. By contrast, I was only able to find 0.2 micrograms of pixie dust in the DA40/2.8 and less than 0.1 grams in the DA35/macro. My best guess at this point is that the DA limited lenses aren't suppose to have pixie dust in them but perhaps there was some overspray in the factory during the pixie dust application process for the FA limiteds and some pixie dust was accidently deposited onto the DA limited glass before they were assembled. Hopefully tonight I'll have a chance to take the rest of my lenses apart and see if the I can find any other lenses with any pixie dust in them. I suspect I may find a little in the FA*85

Last edited by dgaies; 05-25-2011 at 10:30 AM.
05-25-2011, 10:17 AM   #45
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
I actually decided to take my lenses apart last night to try and measure the actual amount of pixie dust each one had. It turns out that the FA limiteds indeed do have a fair amount of pixie dust in them. The FA31 has 15.6 micrograms, the FA43 had 27.2 micrograms and the FA77 had exactly 18.0 micrograms of pixie dust contained in the glass itself. By contrast, I was only able to find 0.2 micrograms of pixie dust in the DA40/2.8 and less than 0.1 grams in the DA35/macro. My best guess at this point is that the DA limited lenses arent suppose to have pixie dust in them but perhaps there was some overspray in the factory during the pixie dust application process for the FA limiteds and some pixie dust was accidently deposited onto the DA limited glass before they were assembled. Hopefully tonight I'll have a chance to take the rest of my lenses apart and see if the I can find any other lenses with any pixue dust in them. I suspect I may find a little in the FA*85
Well, that settles it then.
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