Meike MK 35mm F1.7 E-mount lens review by Miranda F
|Miranda F#44330 date: Jul-4-2019|
flare control: 4
|ownership:||I own this lens|
|compared to:||Neewer 32mm f1.6|
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN A
Lots of film-era Miranda, PK and M42-mount MF primes.
Sony A-mount primes (30mm f2.8, 35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.8, 85mm f2.8)
Minolta A-mount primes (28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.7, 50mm f2.8 macro)
Plenty of longer MF and AF primes, MF and AF zooms, etc.
|price paid:||£42 CEx|
|positive:||Nice compact size|
Lovely traditional appearance and good 'feel'
Fast and useable fully open
|negative:||Non-traditional clickless aperture control|
some field curvature
|comment:||I’ve been looking for a non-adapted native E-mount lens for the Nex 6 which is compact yet has the charm, convenience, and optical quality of the classic film –type MF lenses, and the Meike 35mm f1.7 is the nearest I’ve found so far. In appearance it is very much like the Super Takumar (https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-S-M-C-Super-Takumar-50mm-F1.4.html) of the 1960s though the controls work the other way, which is no bad thing.|
Mechanically the Meike is superbly made and the controls operate smoothly with the damping/stiffness they should have, so they don’t rotate unintentionally. The aperture setting is non click-stop, but this isn’t the problem it is on the Neewer 32mm f1.6 because the ring stays where you put it, and because the markings are quite accurate on the Meike, which they aren’t on the Neewer. The key is that the iris has a linear mechanical action when it is more customary to arrange a logarithmic action to suit our use of (logarithmic) f stops. Someone forgot that when they designed it, I suspect! When correctly marked, this pushes apart the low f numbers and compresses the high ones, which is becoming quite common on Chinese lenses; it seems slightly annoying at first, but if you’re more interested in thin DOF images (which you can get with this lens) than in putting it at f8 and being there, it can be quite useful.
I was a bit indecisive about getting the Meike after reading so many reviews criticising the soft corners, heavy vignetting and clickless aperture, but actually trying it makes me wonder if they’re talking about the same lens! Actually, I suspect they may not be; there seem to be at least two different versions of this lens about as web images show. I measure the weight to be 220grams with caps, not the 170 quoted in most reviews. For what it’s worth, my copy looks like this one
https://cameracommons.ph/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/29354016_2037577499615635_977221015367057408_n.jpg with silver rings at each end and a 9-blade iris, not 8 as in some of the reviews, and a metal push-on cap not plastic.
I’m not convinced that all the Meike, Neewer and Kaxinda E-mount and M4/3 mount versions on sale all have only cosmetic differences. I don’t know whether some are updated versions or the others are inferior clones. It’s difficult to know who is designing and manufacturing lenses in China, but it’s pretty clear that the Neewer 32mm f1.6 that I tested is nowhere near as well designed or manufactured as the Meike 35 I have (it’s neither as heavy nor as solidly made), and the optics are nowhere near as good either. Different factories, or different designers? Who knows?
I’m not sure what the exact optical formula is, but I suspect it’s based on the classic Sonnar design. The lens is certainly not a retro-focus type like the A-mount 35mm lenses, and if you peer through it in your hand you can see the entrance pupil is the same size looking in both directions. See http://ilovehatephoto.com/2014/12/30/a-guide-to-optical-lens-design-and-zeiss-nomenclature/ and https://dacnard.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/sonnar-summer-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-sun-king-pt-4/
Overall I am very pleased with the Meike – it may well become my favourite E-mount lens. The lens is not perfect – frankly no 6-element lens is – and yes, the corners do show some softness and darkening near full aperture. But it’s not as bad as some other lenses of its size and type. CA and barrel distortion are small enough not to be noticeable unless you hunt for them, and I suspect some of the apparent softness sometimes seen in the corners is the result of field curvature.
If you focus on a flat building in front of you, the corners will be slightly out of focus. If you focus on a person standing just in front of the building, the corners could well be sharp. The lens doesn't seem to be badly off-centre (focus closer on one side than the other). This kind of thing is obvious if you use focus peaking rather than focus magnification, and means you can select which bits of the 3-D world you want to be sharpest.
Anyway, I find that the lens is perfectly usable between f1.7 and f2.8 and it spends much of its time there. It’s quite good on flower close-ups (though the magnification isn’t as good as the Sony A-mount equivalent), and the bokeh is nice and smooth too. The lens is multi-coated and images do seem to be quite clear at full aperture without any haziness. The filter thread is 49mm like many small lenses and the lens cap is the classic metal push-on type which I always liked, and which is much thinner than the pinch-type that always break.
So, if you can find the version I have with chrome rings, I can really recommend it. It fits inside a neoprene camera case like this: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/183098443225