Meike, who probably is most well known for it’s third party camera battery grip, has recently started making camera lenses for various camera systems. They have just sent me a pre-production sample of their new 50mm f/1.7 lens for the Nikon Z mount. This is a manual focus prime lens with pretty fast f/1.7 maximum aperture. While it’s a fully mechanical lens with no electronic contacts, the very affordable price (under $150USD) could be a very attractive choice for Nikon Z shooters where there isn’t too many affordable native lens options. But how is the performance in real life? Let’s find out in this review.
Build quality and body design
The Meike 50mm f/1.7 lens is made of metal. The lens weights 310g. So it’s not the lightest 50mm lens but it’s not really heavy either. The lens feel very solid and all the components fits together nicely. The manual focus ring is very smooth and the travel is just over 90 degree from end to end, which in my opinion is just about perfect for this lens. It allows you to perform precise manual focus, yet when you need to turn the focus ring from one end to the opposite, it can still be done relatively quickly.
However, when you turn the ring to the “far” end (i.e. infinity focus), you can actually turn the ring pass infinity focus. It means you actually have to rotate the ring back slightly once you reached the end if you want to capture objects at far away distance and have the photo perfectly in focus.
The aperture ring is a de-clicked one. I personally prefer the one with clicks as I’m primarily a photographer but my videographer friends would love the de-clicked one. It would be great if Meike can make it user selectable to satisfy both type of users.
The lens comes with a reversible lens hood which offers good physical and lens flare protection to the lens. However, with my pre-production sample at least, the lens hood is a bit loose when fitted onto the lens and could fall off easily with a tiny touch or knock. I’ve reported this issue to the manufacturer and I was told they will definitely look into this issue and would improve that for the production version.
Apart from that, there isn’t much I can complain about the lens’s build quality. It definitely has exceeded my expectation for a lens that costs less than US$150.
I’m very impressed by how sharp the Meike 50mm f/1.7 is. Center sharpness is very good even at f/1.7. Stop down to around f/2.8 and you can get even better center sharpness. For the corners, at f/1.7 the sharpness is acceptable but won’t call it very sharp. Stop down to f/2.8 would increase the corner sharpness quite a bit. From f/4 onwards, sharpness become very good.
For a lens that is just a bit more USD$100, I was surprised by how sharp the lens is especially the center sharpness.
According to Meike, the lens has Nano multicoating which should provide excellent lens flare resistance. However, in real world, I found the lens’s flare resistance to be average. When you are shooting with a bright light source in front of the lens, quite often you can see some noticeable lens flare in your photo. Stopping down the aperture to around f/2 seems to help reduce the lens flare issue quite a bit under a lot of situations but you really have to be careful if you want to minimise the amount of lens flare in your photo. Contrast could also drop quite a bit when there is a bright light source visible in front of the camera.
The lens has a bit of distortion which is noticable in my brick-wall test photo. If this is a zoom lens, I would call the distortion is quite well controlled. But for a 50mm prime lens, I was expecting a bit less distortion. Having said that, I don’t feel distortion would cause too much issue when shooting real life photos.
There is a small amount of vignetting at maximum aperture f/1.7. You need to stop down to f/4 if you want to get rid of most vignetting. While vignetting is quite noticeable at/near maximum aperture, this is not a lot worse than a lot of fast aperture lenses in the market.
Out of focus background area is rendered beautifully by the Meike 50mm lens.
At f/1.7, there is a bit of swirly bokeh near the corners. Stop down to f/2-f/2.8 then the swirly bokeh would disappear.
While there is a bit of halo around the edges of the bokeh, it does add quite a bit of character to the bokeh and gives the photos a unique look. You don’t usually get this kind of bokeh from the first party or even the more common third party lenses. You can take advantage of it to create some more artistic and unique look to your photos.
Colour fringing is reasonably well controlled. Look at the sample photo below. Even around the high contrast area there still isn’t too much purple or green colour at the edge of the shadow area.
If you are a fan of star burst, sun burst or whatever you call it. You can get your favourite star burst easily with the Meike 50mm f/1.7 lens. Stop down to around f/8 or smaller aperture and you can get some beautiful star burst in the photo. Not crazy one but looks quite nice.
It’s pretty obvious the Meike 50mm f/1.7 is not a Zeiss Otus or Panasonic S Pro 50mm f/1.4. However with it’s very cheap price, the Meike 50mm f/1.7 does offer very good value for money and a very affordable way to get a nice fast manual focus lens with good solid metal body and image quality that is definitely better what you would expect from the price. While I wish the lens has better flare resistance and also ability to switch between de-clicked and normal aperture ring, these are the only things I could really complain about this surprisingly good lens.
As there aren’t that many native Z mount lens available in the market right now, the Meike 50mm f/1.7 is a very good choice for people who want to either try shooting with manual focus lens (which is actually super easy with cameras like the Z6 or Z7) or just want a compact and fast prime lens but not wanting to spend a lot of money.
You can purchase the lens from Meike’s official Amazon store:
(This is NOT an affiliate link )