09th April 2021, Singapore – As cheap Chinese lenses are flooding the worldwide market over the recent years, many of our readers had asked us if these lenses are of any good. While most seasoned photographers will tell you that cheap does not equals to quality while quality comes with a price, we decided to take a step further and went on to try and check out some of these lenses. We decided to start with the cheapest (almost), someone pointed us to the Meike 35mm F1.7 and we did.
Like most Chinese lenses, most of these lenses are constructed the same way from the yesteryears, with minimal parts, 1980s style and mostly made from metal. For those new to Meike, the brand is also known as Neewer in other market and had been manufacturing photographic equipement and accessories for a pretty long while before they added lenses to their brand line-up. Do you remember the popular battery grip “MK Battery Grip”? Suprise! That’s by Meike! MK is Meike.
With their HQ based in Hong Kong, it is unknown where the actual manufacturing is carried out. Then again, it doesn’t matter where it is made, if it works, it works right?
The Meike 35mm F1.7 is a tiny lens when compared to many other 35mm with a large aperture. Weighing just a mere 176gm and measuring just a 4cm x 6cm, this little lens has a Multi-coated front element with an optical set up of 6 elements in 5 groups which is pretty standard for a manual focus prime lens. Meike called it the “All Metal” lens based on its barrel construction all the way to the bayonet mount.
The front takes 49mm filters and this lens starts focusing from about 25-30cm and the magnification is not bad although no official information was available. This Meike 35mm F1.7 is designed as an APS-C lens so it gives an equivalent to about 53mm on 35mm format. Comes in various mounts (Canon, Nikon, Sony, M4/3 & Fujifilm) – we gotten a copy for Fujifilm X mount.
Pairing it with an old Fujifilm X-T100, I took it out for a walk and see how good is this lens as claimed to be by many netizens. I took a walk from Bugis to Gardens by the Bay with a group of friends and I tried to shoot whatever I can using this Meike 35mm F1.7.
I used a variety of aperture from F1.7 to F22 and it was a gloomy day right after a storm. So it became a little more challenging to shoot. And as Manual Focus lens, it just gets harder as I am relying heavily on the focus peaking function on the X-T100.
Let’s check out the photos!
The Meike 35mm F1.7 takes a little warming up for me before I can really use it properly. The handline feels almost identical to my old Minolta lenses from the previous era. The focusing was surprisingly smooth and easy to get my subjects into focus, the aperture control ring is smooth as butter.
There are however, some visible chromatic aberration if you cropped a little too much and and there is a strange purple outline that appears when I was shooting at F22. Then again, this happens only in about 4 images among 116 images that I had shot. So I guess this is negligible. This is like a SGD $129 lens, I shouldn’t expect too much right?
I was pleasantly surprised at the bokeh though. The below shot of an Ixora plant was shot at F1.7, blow this image up you will see how sharp the focused area is and how blue the background bokeh is. Unlike some Chinese lenses that gave you “structural bokeh” akin to those made by mirror lenses, this Meike 35mm’s bokeh is really something to shout about.
After a couple of hours of using the the Meike 35mm F1.7, I find it competent for a wide variety of use. It is also good enough to be a walkabout lens if you are into street photography. I shot quite a lot of buildings during this walk as I wanted to take advantage of the focal range (52.5mm after x 1.5 crop factor on the X-T100) to reduce distortion.
And the Meike 35mm did well for night photography too.
The Meike 35mm F1.7 may be a cheap Chinese-made little lens. There are certainly some flaws and some part which they did great. Price point is attractive, one of the cheapest new lens you can buy, small and well built, the large aperture and nice bokeh – super value for money in my view. The down side as mentioned earlier, there is the occasional CA becoming visible on your image, and it is a manual focus lens that many probably don’t even know how to use it properly.
If you are looking for a cheap lens that will another world war and all you need is nice bokeh, I will say get this lens.
Buying this Lens
If you have a few more thousands to spare & intend to buy new then buy from our accredited merchants for a peace of mind!
Renting this Camera – Please check for availability first.
For those of you who wish to try out the camera/ lens before purchase, we are pleased to share that this camera & lens is available for rental at our appointed rental merchant:
Camera Rental Centre is Conveniently Located at:
50 South Bridge Road, CMO Building, (very near to Clarke Quay MRT)
#02-18. Singapore 058682
Reviewer: Chief Editor AL Lee
Chief Editor & Founder of Ourshutterjourney.com Worldwide and Principal Trainer at Ourshutterjourney Photography Academy. AL is a commercial photographer as well as an educator who believes in the art of digital memories. An ambassador of several photography brands, AL is well versed in many camera systems. Someone once told us AL’s man cave looks more like a camera store than a bedroom.
Contributing Editor – Lee Shi Qing
A firm believer of Self-Sufficient living and gives no f**k to anyone getting in her way to reaching her goals in life. Kind in nature & Dangerous when provoked. Loves Mcdonald’s Fries and hates all the burgers there. While she helps out in gear reviews, Qing is currently serving as an Online Administrator for Ourshutterjourney.com Facebook Groups and Online Shop.