Sometimes in life, you don’t need the most expensive, optically superior lens in the world. A lens that produces good results is usually lightweight and doesn’t break the bank. This is the case with the Neewer 35mm f/1.7 or rebranded Meike lens. The Neewer naming is used for Sony E-mounts and Olympus and Panasonic M4/3 APS-C Digital Cameras.
On the surface, it has all the ingredients needed as a basic kit lens. An f/1.7 aperture for letting in lots of lights, a nice bokeh, and a 35mm focal length — which is just a bit wider than normal. In this regard let’s see how well the lens performs.
Neewer 35mm f/1.7 Design
At this end of the price spectrum, we cannot expect world-class lens construction, but the Neewer 35mm f/1.7 is actually built very well. The barrel itself is made of metal with plastic end rings. A very solid build for an inexpensive lens. Everything weighs in at a meager 6.4oz.
The manual aperture ring doesn’t have any indents and is just a smooth sliding operation. This makes it difficult to make on-the-fly aperture changes as you always have to be careful not to move the ring in the heat of action. Therefore, constant checking is always needed.
The aperture settings themselves go from f/1.7 – f/22. Inside the lens are six elements in five groups, which are multicoated to cut down on flare, with rounded diaphragm blades to give good quality highlights.
Being a fully manual lens, the focus ring on the Neewer 35mm f/1.7 feels old school and is very smooth in operation making it very easy to hit the sweet spot. It actually feels more solid and robust than the price dictates.
Lastly, at the front of the lenses is a 49mm filter thread with just a stick-on lens. The cap isn’t a center pinching thing, it just slots onto the end of the lens. This is quite secure when you first get the lens but starts to feel a little loose after some usage.
The Neewer 35mm f/1.7 in Use
The construction of this lens seems good, so what about in use? When fully open at f/1.7, the lens is definitely at its sharpest in the center, with noticeable soft edges until you hit around f/4 where things start to clean up. Stop down to f/8 and this is where the lens is at its sharpest throughout the frame.
Wide-open there is some noticeable vignetting which, just like the sharpness, goes away by f/8. Barrel distortion is also apparent, but it’s on the manageable side and is correctable in software. There are small amounts of chromatic aberration, but this is also easily corrected in postprocessing.
As the lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.7, this equates to good usage in low light. Coupled with a 35mm focal length means slow shutter speeds. Moody, lowlight images, either inside or at sunset seem to be a good use for this lens as the results give an almost old school look to images, which feel much more forgiving than the high key, ultra-sharp images you would expect from the more expensive lens.
The f/1.7 aperture can be good for throwing out the background when giving a shallow depth of field, but you’d have to use this in an artistic way to get the most benefit from this lens.
Being a manual lens means it’s not the greatest for fast-moving objects and in bright light can look a little hazy. It’s just ok for brightly lit shots, not quite wide enough for landscapes, but it does the job. Use the lens for portraits and once you nail the focus, it’s actually better than expected, with some nice blurred bokeh when you want to throw that into the mix. Again, think more old school lens with results – sometimes lower contrast, with a definite ‘look’ to the colors.
How Does It Compare?
This lens is really one of the cheapest on the market, which means for comparisons, you’re really at the budget end of the spectrum. One option is the Opteka 35mm f/1.7. Around the same price point with more or less the same features. As these lenses are so cheap, the next step up in quality is really going to be a more expensive lens. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM has been a long stay, cheap, and efficient kits lens which is good quality and still hits a reasonable price point.
|Neewer 35mm f/1.7||Opteka 35mm f/1.7|
|Elements||6 elements, 5 groups||6 elements, 5 groups|
|Aperture||f/1.7 – f/22||f/1.7 – f/22|
As with all cost-effective lenses, what you are getting for your money is always the front of your mind. If the lens performs even slightly better than average, then you’re overjoyed. If it’s only so-so, then it’s not a problem as you didn’t spend that much in the first place. For bright outdoor scenes, it would be better to spend that little bit more. If you want a go-to lens for portraits, general travel, or low light images, then you’d have to spend a few hundred dollars more to get better optical quality.
Overall, as a hobbyist photographer’s kit lens, the Neewer 35mm f/1.7 definitely produces pleasing results which are actually better than its price dictates. There are clearly more optically superior options on the market, but they also cost a lot more. In this way, it may be worth trying out one of these lenses and having it as a backup.