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05-25-2011, 10:24 AM   #46
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Well, that settles it then.
Yeah, I figured it was worth destroying $3000 worth of lenses so we could have a conclusive answer to this question

05-25-2011, 10:26 AM   #47
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
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.
That's another characteristic of pixie dust. There's no agreement on which lenses have it. I bet there are a lot of posts in this forum that include the DA Ltds as lenses that have pixie dust.
05-25-2011, 10:29 AM   #48
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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
05-25-2011, 10:29 AM   #49
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
That's another characteristic of pixie dust. There's no agreement on which lenses have it. I bet there are a lot of posts in this forum that include the DA Ltds as lenses that have pixie dust.
True. It's entirely possible that the trace amount of pixie dust I found in my DA limiteds were in fact meant to be there. Perhaps the vastly smaller amount in them compared to my FA limiteds is just a function of the tough economy we're in right now and this was just Hoya's attempt to save a couple dollars by reducing the amount of pixie dust per lens. Who knows, it's tough to say for certain.

05-25-2011, 10:35 AM   #50
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
True. It's entirely possible that the trace amount of pixie dust I found in my DA limiteds were in fact meant to be there. Perhaps the vastly smaller amount in them compared to my FA limiteds is just a function of the tough economy we're in right now and this was just Hoya's attempt to save a couple dollars by reducing the amount of pixie dust per lens. Who knows, it's tough to say for certain.
Are you getting warmed up for your stand-up career? Too funny!
05-25-2011, 10:42 AM   #51
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
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.
I love the Zeiss, but I can tell you *why* I like 'em, and from my medium format days, I can pick out with about 90% accuracy which images were shot with my Hassy and which were shot with my RB67. I can tell you why, too. If you were here, I could show you.

Zeiss doesn't depend on statistical sampling for QC; each lens is adjusted individually for MTF. I don't think Leica does, either. This means that their performance bell curve is much narrower than other manufacturers that *do* depend on statistical sampling methods. More Zeiss lenses are critically sharp, optimally so, with less sample variation.

When I switched to Zeiss, there was a clear, quantifiable difference in sharpness and contrast, both micro and macro. With Ektachrome and a meter, there was a clear difference in these things. Flare control, as well - light sources in the frame were completely different in rendition - you could read the print on fluorescent tubes with the Zeiss, for instance. The enlargements from my Hassy are noticeably sharper than the ones from my RB-67, even though it took nearly twice the magnification to make a given format.


One of the differences I saw consistently between Bavarian glass and japanese glass was rendition of skies. Skies with the Leitz, Zeiss, and Schneider glass looked like they were shot with a polarizer by comparison with my Canon, borrowed Nikons, Minoltas, Olympus... Same for other colors. Reds were electric, blues deep and rich. Repeatable and measurable on chromes.

Not pixie dust. CLEARLY visible on slide film, no subtle "If you get it I don't have to explain, if you don't, it won't do any good for me to explain" arguments. Lay 'em on the light table and marvel.

Digital processing has, to a certain extent, rendered this moot, as contrast and saturation is easily adjustable with a slider. I can pick up my chromes from the Hassy, lay 'em on a lightbox, and tweak my K-5 images to match in seconds. You couldn't do that with slide film, and that's where these lenses earned their very well deserved reputations. Not print film, where the second solution is so variable. On slide film - Kodachrome, to be exact.
05-25-2011, 10:43 AM   #52
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
That's another characteristic of pixie dust. There's no agreement on which lenses have it. I bet there are a lot of posts in this forum that include the DA Ltds as lenses that have pixie dust.
Schroedinger's pixie dust.
05-25-2011, 10:52 AM   #53
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.


As I said in another 'pixie dust' thread... I wish I could stop noticing it, because it's causing my analytical mind to make fun of my aesthetic mind.

It's a term that's thrown around a lot and means different things to different people, so it's not accurate to say that 'it doesn't exist', because you're talking about people's interpretation of what they see.

I think it's also impossible to look at a random set of shots and see it for sure, because you're seeing that photographer's talent level more than anything, the lighting conditions, and even the PP.

Where you can notice it is in personal iterations with various lenses - some lenses just consistently thrill you more, even when shooting the same subjects under similar conditions. It takes iterations to see for sure, and then when you try to lift an image out of that process for others to 'see', they just may not, because they weren't party to that longer-term iterative process.

Two comparison that spring to mind are the Sigma 70mm macro vs the 77ltd, and the Nikon 85 f/1.8 vs the 77ltd. In both cases the former are wonderful, sharp lenses, but they just never thrilled me the same way the 77ltd does. (And I thought that Sigma 70 was among the most optically perfect lenses I've ever shot.)

And it has little to do with personal price paid (at least for me) - my M 85 f/2 was not expensive, and it definitely has more pixie dust than the Sigma 70 and NIkon 85 1.8, both of which cost me much more.

I can see this concept bothers some folks, and maybe rightly so - it's hard to nail down and means different things depending on who you ask. Encountering it is one of the things I enjoy about photography, though - hopefully everyone can get the experience at some point.



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Last edited by jsherman999; 05-25-2011 at 12:27 PM.
05-25-2011, 11:10 AM   #54
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The thing about "pixie dust" is that it exists in lenses with large apertures and good rendering wide open. The FA 50 for instance is pretty soft wide open. By f2.8 (where it is sharp) it seems to have left the Pixie zone.

At the same time, there are plenty of blah photos in the FA limited section and plenty of stellar ones in the DA limited section. The presence of pixie dust does not guarantee a good photo, nor does its absence truly limit shot selection.
05-25-2011, 11:12 AM   #55
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
.
As I said in another 'pixie dust' thread... I wish I could stop noticing it, because it's causing my analytical mind to make fun of my rational mind.

It's a term that's thrown around a lot and means different things to different people, so it's not accurate to say that 'it doesn't exist', because you're talking about people's interpretation of what they see.
Oh, you misunderstand me. *I'm* not saying it doesn't exist. I just don't think it's something inherent to the lens. I think it's something else entirely.

I *love* my Tamron 180mm f2.5; love to look through it, love to take pictures with it. I spend a lot of time just looking through it at the scene. The pictures I make with it are, to my eyes, affected by that attachment to it. It "feels" special.

Then there's my D-Xenon 100mm f2.8 macro. It's a very workmanlike relationship. It's a tool; I look for the subject with the camera around my neck; once I spot it, I spend a lot of time getting the (macro) focus right, trying to chase down the bug and get the right perspective, etc. The lens is just a tool on the camera - an excellent one, no doubt. But I don't feel the same way about it.

Now, fast forward two months. I look at the images I shot on a day I used both of them, of the same kind of stuff. I can *guess* that one has a narrower FOV and must be the 180, but there's *nothing* about the images that makes it clear one is the 100 and the other is the 180. Yet, if I were to adopt the "pixie dust" metaphor, the lens I'd put it on first in my arsenal IS that 35th anniversary Tamron 180mm f2.5 IF ED beastie.

I suspect that "pixie dust" is a description for a photographer-lens combo, not a character of a lens. If you love the lens, you'll use it more, and pay more attention to the actual experience of using it. I think this is likely to produce "better" images.

You know that if exposed to the faint scent of vanilla, most people become more social and trusting?
05-25-2011, 11:49 AM   #56
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
It's been proven that sommeliers like the same wine *better* when they're told it costs more
All this shows is that the judgment of sommeliers is affected by considerations of cost. Human beings are suggestible. But not all people are suggestible to the same extent or degree. Nor is it true that connoisseurship is always fraudalent, or that the preference for the output of more expensive lenses is caused solely or even primarily by suggestibility bias involving price or reputation. Experience tends to wear down such biases, in any case. If a lens isn't as good as its price point would suggest, this will tend to be noticed over time, though the effects of price bias may blind some individuals at first.

The primary reason why lens connoisseurs tend to prefer more expensive lenses is that more expensive lenses tend to produce better results (for obvious reasons). If this were not the case, more expensive lenses would always be prefered; yet this is not what actually happens. There are occasions when the more expensive lens doesn't live up to its price point; and then it becomes noticed. A blatant example of this is the Canon 50mm f1.0, which, despite the high price of the lens, is generally regarded as a dog.
05-25-2011, 12:14 PM   #57
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
All this shows is that the judgment of sommeliers is affected by considerations of cost. Human beings are suggestible. But not all people are suggestible to the same extent or degree. Nor is it true that connoisseurship is always fraudalent, or that the preference for the output of more expensive lenses is caused solely or even primarily by suggestibility bias involving price or reputation. Experience tends to wear down such biases, in any case. If a lens isn't as good as its price point would suggest, this will tend to be noticed over time, though the effects of price bias may blind some individuals at first.
I wasn't suggesting that connoisseurship is always fraudulent - or even fraudulent at all! I'm pointing out that, nearly universally, human beings believe they are more discerning than they actually are. The gap between the belief and the fact narrows as expertise increases, but it just means that educated people overestimate their discrimination LESS than uneducated people do.

QuoteQuote:
The primary reason why lens connoisseurs tend to prefer more expensive lenses is that more expensive lenses tend to produce better results (for obvious reasons). If this were not the case, more expensive lenses would always be prefered;
I disagree. I can list many, many circumstances where perfectly good items, products, or services were marked 'bad' and almost universally shunned despite the problem being misunderstood or blatantly false.

Even the first sentence isn't true, unless you define "Lens connoisseurs" as "people who like the same lenses I do". There are people on this forum that I believe qualify as lens connoisseurs who adore comparatively inexpensive lenses. Of course, 'comparative' is the key word, yes? Haven't many of the hotly debated lens comparisons been between expensive and less expensive lenses? (not often "inexpensive" lenses).

I once was talking to a fellow that won all kinds of championships at skeet shooting and trap shooting and virtually anything that can be done with a shotgun. I asked him how much the best shotgun in the world cost. He said "It depends on your definition of best. You can buy the best performing shotgun in the world for $4000. You can spend up to $40, $50 thousand on a shotgun, but after that first $4k, it's all about decoration and caché."

Back in the 80's and 90's, when we had droves of "me too" lenses, it was widely believed that any lens that didn't say Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, or Minolta on it (or, of course, any Bavarian brand) it was crap, pure and simple. They weren't, necessarily, but that was the general belief.

QuoteQuote:
yet this is not what actually happens. There are occasions when the more expensive lens doesn't live up to its price point; and then it becomes noticed. A blatant example of this is the Canon 50mm f1.0, which, despite the high price of the lens, is generally regarded as a dog.
And yet the Canon 50mm f1.0 is still highly sought after and sells for much more than it did new. Despite being a 'dog'.

I recommend a book by Dan Arielle called "Predictably Irrational"... to everyone.
05-25-2011, 12:26 PM   #58
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hmm, here we go with the pixie dust debate...

My other hobby is playing jazz guitar; a similar intangible phenomenon exists when comparing very high end handmade instruments. That is, once in awhile, a particular guitar will possess a special quality that transcends ordinary means of measurement, and place it far above other instruments within its category. I have personally experienced this a few times and find that playing said instruments can even inspire one to be a better musician.

OK, back to photography...though i really cannot say i have identified what i believe to be "pixie dust" in any photographs i have viewed online (sorry folks), I do believe such a phenomenon could conceivably inspire someone to take better pictures if they recognize it in their own gear.

That said, some of you who post up "magical" photos with your FA77's are simply damn great photographers with very good gear...no fairy involvement required.
05-25-2011, 12:27 PM   #59
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QuoteQuote:
= Originally posted by northcoastgreg
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.

QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
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.
I agree with both of these claims...of all the lenses I've owned only the FA limiteds pocess a healthy dose of the pixie dust (I've sold the FA31 and FA77 though). Not even the FA*'s have it (owned FA*24/2, 28/70/2.8, 80-200/2.8)...I've seen images taken with Leica lenses and some zeiss lenses that pocess this pixie dust quality as well......
05-25-2011, 12:40 PM - 1 Like   #60
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikeSF Quote
hmm, here we go with the pixie dust debate...

My other hobby is playing jazz guitar; a similar intangible phenomenon exists when comparing very high end handmade instruments. That is, once in awhile, a particular guitar will possess a special quality that transcends ordinary means of measurement, and place it far above other instruments within its category. I have personally experienced this a few times and find that playing said instruments can even inspire one to be a better musician.

OK, back to photography...though i really cannot say i have identified what i believe to be "pixie dust" in any photographs i have viewed online (sorry folks), I do believe such a phenomenon could conceivably inspire someone to take better pictures if they recognize it in their own gear.

That said, some of you who post up "magical" photos with your FA77's are simply damn great photographers with very good gear...no fairy involvement required.
EXACTLY! If you pick up an instrument that you LIKE, that FITS you, you play better; but it's about the relationship between you and the instrument, not some objective, ethereal, intangible characteristic of the instrument. Other people may even think they hear something special about *that* instrument *because* you play better when you're enjoying it. But that doesn't mean, at all, that the final product - the recording, say - is discernible in any way from a similar guitar of similar quality that doesn't fit you as well, nor that anyone else's playing might sound better on that instrument.

That's *exactly* what I'm saying about pixie dust...
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