A small 50mm prime lens has always been a good addition to a camera kit bag. Either as a backup lens or a do it all focal length, a 50mm covers a lot of bases. Now there is another option on the market in the form of the Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7. A fully manual, full-frame mirrorless lens that has a reasonable price tag and reasonable optics for most occasions.
The brand Meike may not with the most familiar, but as an affordable lens, it goes up against the likes of the Canon f/1.8 50mm, which has been a standard prime kit lens for many years.
The Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7 looks old school, being fully manual and having a turning distance and aperture ring. The outer barrel has a solid metal construction with a predominant red ring for selecting apertures.
Inside the lens are six elements in five groups with Nano Multicoated elements up front. The aperture range goes from f/1.7 – f/22 with 12 aperture blades. The front filter is 52mm and everything here weighs in at 310g, which is a little heavier than you would expect from a small lens.
The lens does come with a petal hood, which doesn’t always click into place securely, but it does a reasonable job of keeping out stray light and minimizing lens flare.
As a cheaper 50mm lens, the construction feels very solid, with the lens barrel rings all turning smoothly without a hitch.
This lens can be fitted to a good variety of third-party cameras, which include Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fujifilm. It also has an M43 mount option.
Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7 in Use
For a cheap Chinese lens, expectations are usually not very high, which can be a good or bad thing. Good in that any positive characteristics are a big positive, while negatives are not critiqued as harshly as this is a budget lens.
Firstly, the Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7 is a fun lens to use once you get into the mindset of the full manual way of working. Resulting images have a unique character, rather than a truly faithful rendition of what you see.
Tested on a full-frame body with a lens wide open, contrast is diminished and in bright sunlight, there can be some ghosting. The simple set of internal lens elements may have a lot to do with this, which means some experimentation is needed to see which environments this lens performs best in.
Once the lenses stop down a little, sharpness vastly improves. Center sharpness hits its zenith around f/5.6, with edge sharpness being at its best at f/8. There is also a small amount of barrel distortion which only becomes apparent when shooting flat surfaces.
A small amount of vignetting is apparent when wide open at f/1.7 but completely clears up by f/8. Chromatic Aberration does creep in a little in high contrast areas but can be easily gotten rid of in postprocessing.
Stopping down a little with this lens to f/5.6 clears up a lot of the clarity and when the light is more controlled, like indoors, near a window, or with artificial light, results are far more controlled. Generally, it’s advisable to shoot at f/2.8 and above to get the most control and best results across the board.
One nice feature of this lens is the 12 aperture blades. A few more than you are traditionally finding in a small lens like this one, which means highlights are very rounded and background blur is supersmooth. Wide-open has the tendency for softness, and background blur is very easy to achieve if that’s your thing.
When images are processed in black-and-white, softness when wide open actually becomes a feature, you just need to be aware of how this lens renders images to get the results you need.
With such a low number of elements in this lens, there is a definite character to all the images. Colors transition very well and when you get close up to a subject the character images punch out far better than from distance. This lens can focus to infinity wide-open, but the results are far better at close range.
How Does It Compare?
As the Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7 is compatible with a bunch of different camera brands, this lens goes up against their own 50mm offerings. For the Nikon Z-mount there is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Z. The Meike currently compares to the Nikon which produces far better results with better contrast and sharpness across the range.
The Sony 50mm f/1.8 is a possible lens to look at for the Sony E-mount and the Canon RF-mount is a bit thin on the ground in the 50mm range at present, so this lens could be a cheap option.
|Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7||Nikon 50mm f1.8 Z|
|Elements||6 elements/5 groups||12 elements/9 groups|
It could be quite easy to be dismissive of the Meike MK FE 50mm f/1.7 if you’re used higher end lenses, but there is a lot to like about this little performer.
It has a solid build quality and apart from the softness when wide open, it can render some very good images. As this is a small lens, it renders subjects better at closer distances than far away, but those close images are rendered with a nice character and quality.
In total, for casual images, street photography or a cost-effective prime lens for the mirrorless format, you can’t really go wrong with this lens as long as you know it’s character and limitations.
The 12 blade aperture is also something to consider in the equation. This renders highlights faithfully without any onion rings and gives a lovely smooth background in the right situations.
More expensive lenses will have a wider range of uses, but don’t discount the Meike is it can bring different views of the world and a different look.