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05-25-2011, 02:05 PM   #76
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Well, now I've spent more of my afternoon screwing around than I should have. What else is new. Got a couple more for you. I'll go ahead and say that one shot of each set was shot with a different camera, a full-frame body, so I am trying to compensate for the difference in DOF and get them as close as possible. I've missed by a little bit in either direction among these samples, so don't let more or less DOF send your guess in a specific direction.


And here's a tough one for ya.
LOL! In both pairs, I prefer the contrast of the top image and the bokeh of the second image, but if they're not at the same aperture, the bokeh doesn't matter much (for comparison, I mean).

05-25-2011, 02:07 PM   #77
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I don't see the pixie dust in your samples Todd, I guess I don't know what to look for. In the first set, I prefer the first photo for its higher contrast. In the second set I prefer the second flower shot for its bokeh. I prefer the first photo of the wood, it looks sharper (maybe due to contrast).

Side note, does the Voigtlander 125 2.5 macro have pixie dust? Surely pixie dust is not strictly limited to FA Limiteds?

Last edited by audiobomber; 05-25-2011 at 02:24 PM.
05-25-2011, 02:15 PM   #78
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
This certainly seems to be the central, defining character of "pixie dust". Perhaps that's because it's purely subjective?
When I say that others disagree, that just means that I'm not speaking for everybody. It doesn't mean that a central defining characteristic I call pixie dust is subjective. But I will say that some people have no subjective compass, and they will never learn to see the things that interest me. Just because we lack a unified vision does not mean that there is no basis from which to distinguish a pixie dust lens from a merely great lens.

Whether or not you can see the distinguishing characteristics of a lens is immaterial to my enjoyment. More precisely, the inability of others to see what I find pleasing does not prove that there is nothing to be pleased about.

Suppose we had a ball of lead and one of gold, and a blind person wearing gloves held each one but cannot tell the difference between them. That doesn't mean that the difference between lead and gold is subjective. It only means that not everybody can appreciate it.
05-25-2011, 02:22 PM   #79
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
If you say "pixie dust is something about a lens that make every image look good" I'll respectfully call BS.
I hope no one's claiming this, because I've taken gigabytes of shitty photos with my 77 Limited. Certainly no amount of magickal dust will rescue an unsalvageable image...

My person feelings are that the pixies stay in hiding deep in the lens barrel unless specific requirements amenable to the unfettered flitting of their delicate wings are met. I.e. the dust will not be apparent in all photos in all settings. There is probably a sweet spot (or collection of sweet spots) that is particularly conducive to exploiting the intangible optical qualities of any particular lens so dusted. People describe the 77 as having "higher highs" and "lower lows" than its little brother the 70; the fact that not every photo taken with the 77 is riding high on magic powder is probably more a testament to the vagueness inherent in the calculus necessary to release its enchanted fairies than it is evidence that pixie dust simply does not exist. You can tweak that sentence to accomodate any allegedly dusted lens.

This is one reason I find direct comparison shots in sterile settings between multiple lenses to be extremely uninformative and certainly no less misleading than only showing amazing photos taken through the same lens in the hands of an expert and visionary photographer. Photos of brick walls or pedestrian arrangements of still life under exacting conditions say little to nothing about how high the attainable highs are; photos rendered with the most exquisite three dimensional form, smoothest tonal transitions and ethereal, otherworldly bokeh may likewise blind the would-be consumer into thinking his upcoming purchase is incapable of producing uninspiringly flat, drab and lifeless images -- and how wrong he will be!


Last edited by v5planet; 05-25-2011 at 02:28 PM.
05-25-2011, 02:24 PM   #80
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
But the point I made is that it's not visible in the final product. It's about how I feel using it, not some characteristic of the lens that makes it "better" somehow.
If it's a shared experience, it lends some credence to it being partially inherent in the lens. If it weren't, it would be a completely random experience. We tend to see a soft consensus on what lenses have this special group of attributes.


QuoteQuote:
If you say 'pixie dust' is "something about a lens that makes me enjoy using it", I'm all in agreement. If you say "pixie dust is something about a lens that make every image look good" I'll respectfully call BS.
"every image look good" contains a bit of hyperbole. In the past I've said "Anyway, my most dusted lens IMO is my 77ltd. I can just point it at anything and it looks interesting." I should have said "interesting to me," because a shot of a salt shaker for example is not going to be interesting to 99% of viewers.

QuoteQuote:
I mean I think there are two components: Objective, measurable ones, and subjective intangibles. The intangible ones are preferential or emotional, not characteristics of the lens itself.
Sometimes the 'intangibles' are just objective attributes that are just hard to define (and quantify) on the spot. Here's how I described pixie dust before - if you read carefully, everything in there can be seen as relatively objective:

QuoteQuote:
Pixie dust...

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

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

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

QuoteQuote:
For the record, I have a sneaking suspicion that bokeh *could* be quantified, and described algorithmically in such a manner as to predict whether most folks would like it.
I have actually seen that done somewhere, with impressive results. I'm glad you said 'most' folks, though, because that's a very subjective attribute.



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05-25-2011, 02:27 PM   #81
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How come people are shying away from Todd's pixie dust comparison?
05-25-2011, 03:46 PM   #82
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
How come people are shying away from Todd's pixie dust comparison?
i'll take a guess: as i read it, he shot each pair with 2 different cameras & varying DOF. i'd rather see comparisons made with the same camera at least. I also don't see any particularly special characteristics appearing in any of the 6 photos. I do see some heavy CA in the first wood railing shot, btw.
05-25-2011, 04:21 PM   #83
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
If it's a shared experience, it lends some credence to it being partially inherent in the lens. If it weren't, it would be a completely random experience. We tend to see a soft consensus on what lenses have this special group of attributes.
This is fair, but part of what I was getting at is that some of those things are *completely incidental* to the images and their quality. Like the weight of the lens, or how the focusing ring feels under your fingers. For instance, it can be demonstrated that in nearly every culture, people associate weight with a feeling of quality for many items. But the weight of a lens is incidental to the image quality it produces.

QuoteQuote:
"every image look good" contains a bit of hyperbole. In the past I've said "Anyway, my most dusted lens IMO is my 77ltd. I can just point it at anything and it looks interesting." I should have said "interesting to me," because a shot of a salt shaker for example is not going to be interesting to 99% of viewers.
Well I certainly won't tell you what's interesting to you! That's kinda what I was getting at, though... "interesting to me" != "better image because of lens".

QuoteQuote:
Sometimes the 'intangibles' are just objective attributes that are just hard to define (and quantify) on the spot. Here's how I described pixie dust before - if you read carefully, everything in there can be seen as relatively objective:

I have actually seen that done somewhere, with impressive results. I'm glad you said 'most' folks, though, because that's a very subjective attribute.
.
Mmm... I'll be happy to work with your definition, as long as we keep 'em on rational grounds. But those things should also be *visible*.

Here's the thing. I frequently go to flickr and go to explore, pick a random date, and start looking through images. There are millions of truly breathtaking images of all sorts out there. If pixie dust happens to exist out there in any quantities that matter, it's in the eyes of photographers, because there's no correlation between breathtaking image and camera or lens.

So even if I grant you that pixie dust as you described is *absolutely true*, I still don't see it affecting the final image in any way that can be seen, obscured by the vision of the photographer...

Really, that's my point. "Pixie dust" seems to be shorthand for "I like this lens" - a collection of objectively measurable things distributed in a subjectively pleasing fashion. But *that* isn't what makes the images magical. *You* do. Get a good lens, take some pictures, and don't sweat over whether or not your lens has any pixie dust in it...

05-25-2011, 04:31 PM   #84
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
How come people are shying away from Todd's pixie dust comparison?
Well, I'll bite: none of the images do that much for me. Nor should they - the subjects themselves weren't really that appealing. But if "pixie dust" existed, this would have been a good opportunity for it to have proved itself, by taking an unremarkable scene and making it special. As it is, they all look serviceable to me, but nothing more.
05-25-2011, 04:47 PM   #85
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Well, I'll bite: none of the images do that much for me. Nor should they - the subjects themselves weren't really that appealing. But if "pixie dust" existed, this would have been a good opportunity for it to have proved itself, by taking an unremarkable scene and making it special. As it is, they all look serviceable to me, but nothing more.
Marc, some you anti-Pixie Dust folk seem hung up on it in a literal sense. :Hysterical: However, if Pixie Dust doesn't exist, an argument could be made that art doesn't exist and the only real thing left for photography is the technicality of recording things and events. Or to put it another way, "what is art?" Or what is the difference between nudity and porn? Those are rhetorical questions of course but to one person Van Gogh was a Master and to the next 20 people he was a finger painter.

What we use the term Pixie Dust for is in essence referring to the "Gestalt" of the lens. In other words, it is greater than the some of its parts.

Got to go. Think I hear the Tooth Faery at the door or possible the Faery God Mother.
05-25-2011, 04:57 PM   #86
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
...but if they're not at the same aperture, the bokeh doesn't matter much (for comparison, I mean).
Well, if I shot them at the same aperture, the DOF disparity between them would have made them radically different. Obviously it isn't a very critical test, but I chose to shoot them with a similar "effective" focal length; thus, 116 mm on the full-frame shots. I figured the DOF difference to be roughly 1-stop, so I shot the FF images at f/2.8 and the K-5 images at f/2.0. I also wasn't as careful as I should have been in making sure I was at precisely the same distance, so I wasn't able to get the DOF exactly the same. If I would have shot them both at f/2.8, the difference would have been more extreme.

QuoteOriginally posted by mikeSF Quote
i'll take a guess: as i read it, he shot each pair with 2 different cameras & varying DOF. i'd rather see comparisons made with the same camera at least.
I agree. I just didn't have another lens in that focal length for the Pentax. I made the assumption (possibly not one with which everyone would agree) that a big part of pixie dust would be associated with bokeh, so I wanted to use similar effective focal lengths and apertures.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Well, I'll bite: none of the images do that much for me. Nor should they - the subjects themselves weren't really that appealing.
Yes, they are pretty dull images, just quickie snapshots for fun. I wouldn't say there was anything dramatically pixie dust-ish about the second and third pairs, but in the first set, I do indeed see something I would identify as special about one of them. But again, that's a personal thing.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
But if "pixie dust" existed, this would have been a good opportunity for it to have proved itself, by taking an unremarkable scene and making it special.
Again it's only opinion, but I think in the purple grass shot I posted earlier, the lens really did that. HERE is a link to a small Flickr gallery which has six shots in which I think the lens made an unremarkable scene special.
05-25-2011, 05:01 PM   #87
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
Marc, some you anti-Pixie Dust folk seem hung up on it in a literal sense. :Hysterical: However, if Pixie Dust doesn't exist, an argument could be made that art doesn't exist and the only real thing left for photography is the technicality of recording things and events. Or to put it another way, "what is art?" Or what is the difference between nudity and porn? Those are rhetorical questions of course but to one person Van Gogh was a Master and to the next 20 people he was a finger painter.

What we use the term Pixie Dust for is in essence referring to the "Gestalt" of the lens. In other words, it is greater than the some of its parts.

Got to go. Think I hear the Tooth Faery at the door or possible the Faery God Mother.
Sorry, Blue, even though we share similar opinions of that Tamron lens, I think you've gone off the deep end here!

"Art" is *not* technique; lenses *are* technique. Art is created by the artist, not the manufacturer of the paint brushes. The art is not in the lens; it's in the eye of the photographer. In that sense, "pixie dust" is the antithesis of art.
05-25-2011, 05:05 PM   #88
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QuoteOriginally posted by jstevewhite Quote
"Art" is *not* technique; lenses *are* technique. Art is created by the artist, not the manufacturer of the paint brushes. The art is not in the lens; it's in the eye of the photographer. In that sense, "pixie dust" is the antithesis of art.
Just a guess here, but I would say many painters would say they can have higher "artistry" with some brushes, fibers, pigments, etc. than with others. I don't think you can separate art entirely from the tools that are used to create it.
05-25-2011, 05:07 PM   #89
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I still think twitch was right when he said that a lens with pixie dust is a lens that often times gives images that look better than the scene did with the naked eye. They "add" something to the image that can seem somewhat magical. No matter what anybody else comes up with, that is pixie dust to me.
05-25-2011, 05:25 PM   #90
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QuoteOriginally posted by DogLover Quote
They "add" something to the image that can seem somewhat magical. No matter what anybody else comes up with, that is pixie dust to me
And that is the quality I am seeing time after time in results from the FA ltd series. The images that have impressed me the most are produced by them. Few lenses I have shot with have that kind of attribute - the FA 100/2.8 macro does come close though...
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