The 35mm focal length provides a wonderful, standard view of the world. This focal length is ideal for capturing environmental portraits or when a bit more width than the standard 50mm prime lens is needed. As the 35mm focal length is one of the standards, there are plenty of examples on the market. But if you have a limited budget, you have to be far more strategic with your choices. The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is a cost-effective prime lens designed specifically for the APS-C-format, which is ideal for the budget-conscious.
Like any cost-effective prime lens, the Meike is going to come with its own pack of pros and cons. But can the lens deliver for its chosen asking price, even though it is built to be a budget-friendly lens?
At this end of the price spectrum, a lens usually suffers from build quality and has a very basic optical make-up. Luckily, the Meike 35mm f/1.7 is built to quite high standards with full metal construction and all the movable rings are solid but easy to turn. All the focusing is done internally, which is all done manually via the easy-to-turn focus ring. The lens also features a manual aperture ring nearest the lens mount.
The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is also extremely lightweight, coming in at 176g and containing a basic optical arrangement. The six elements are arranged in five groups, with a multilayer nano-coating applied to increase overall image clarity. There aren’t any fancy corrective elements here, which should provide a more vintage look to the final image rendition.
The lens also benefits from a f/1.7 aperture, which may not go as wide as more expensive models, but is still respectable for this price point and for low-light capabilities. In total, this is a very simple and straightforward lens which should be ideal for street photography and relatively wide-angle views.
The Meike 35mm f/1.7 in Use
On initial use, the Meike 35mm f/1.7 doesn’t display any overtly bad characteristics as you would expect from a budget lens. There is clearly strong field curvature when the aperture is wide open, as with some clearly-seen lens anomalies. However, these are mostly minimal and not really distracting in the final images.
Sharpness levels from the Meike are clearly center-weighted, with the lens displaying a good level of central sharpness at f/1.7. The edges of the frame display softness at f/1.7, with the whole frame sharpening up by f/5.6. The sharpest images come in around f/8, with diffraction starting to take a toll after f/11. In other words, it’s best to keep the point of focus around the middle of the frame for the most resolution.
Vignetting can be clearly seen with the aperture at f/1.7, which mostly goes away by f/2.8. The corners are still soft at this point, which generally begs for more stopping down for most scenes. The lens does display small amounts of barrel distortion, which can be easily corrected in software. This is also the case with general chromatic aberration, which is handled quite well even with the aperture wide open.
The lens is also susceptible to flaring, which means you have to be careful with the position of the sun. Since light streaks can easily enter the lens, it’s a good idea to embrace this to a creative advantage, as long as it’s not overdone.
For a lens of this type, its overall characteristics are not just about its sharpness levels but also about how it renders images. The colors and contrast are very reminiscent of a vintage lens. The final images have a more painterly look, rather than the tack-sharp precision of most modern lenses. The bokeh rendition is also acceptable at f/1.7, although out-of-focus areas can look a little jittery at times. However, the rich and vibrant colors and contrast more than make up for nit-picking deficiencies.
How Does It Compare?
In this price range, there are a few options to choose from if you don’t mind spending a little more, with one possible example being the 7artisans Photoelectric 35mm f/1.2. This is also a fully manual lens, which also benefits from a very wide f/1.2 aperture and a very light overall weight.
The 7artisans is relatively well built, with a metal outer shell and solid workings. The lens is relatively sharp in the center wide open, but really needs stopping down past f/5.6 for the best results. The 7artisans can also suffer from lens flare and vignetting wide open, needing to shoot past f/5.6 for the cleanest images.
In ideal conditions, both lenses provide a more vintage look to images. But the Meike has more scope to be used in a wider variety of shooting scenarios. Meike also makes a respectable 85mm prime lens (the Meike 85mm f/1.8) which is worth checking out. Also of interest in the 35mm camp is the Neewer 35mm f/1.7.
|Meike 35mm f/1.7||7artisans Photoelectric 35mm f/1.2|
|Close Focusing Distance||30cm||35mm|
Does the Meike 35mm f/1.7 Measure Up?
At this price point, you cannot really complain about any of the results from this 35mm lens. But the lens still has to produce at least adequate images or there’s just no point. The Meike provides a roughly 50mm viewpoint on crop sensor cameras, which makes it very versatile. Once you learn how to focus, images are relatively sharp, especially when stopped down.
The lens does display a good deal of field curvature, but it could be argued that some of this effect is often seen on third-party 35mm prime lenses. The Meike is also relatively sharp in the center of the frame at the widest aperture but does suffer from soft edges. However, with this price of lens you have to turn its deficiencies into characteristics, as in the overabundance of lens flaring.
Images seem to look their best when you step back from the action and everything is on the same focal plane. At longer distances and with the aperture set to f/4 and above, images are produced with lots of character. The Meike 35mm f/1.7 isn’t going to be as versatile or sharp across the board as more expensive offerings, but when you consider its price point and what you get for the money, the Meike is an interesting little lens that can produce a nice final image.