I’ve been testing a lot of cheaper, lesser known manual focus lenses recently. In today’s article, we’ll be delving into the Meike 35mm F1.4.
It should be noted that this lens is essentially just the brighter aperture brother of the Neewer 35mm F1.7. Meike & Neewer seem to be the same exact brand, as most of their design elements are extremely similar.
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Tiny and lightweight
- Solid build quality
- Fun and concise manual focus
- Dirt cheap
Size & Weight
With that being said, both manufacturers are on a good streak of producing well performing lenses for low prices, and the Meike 35mm F1.4 is no exception. While a small percentage of users have reported issues with a loose lens barrel, I had no problems with my copy.
It weighs a light 6.7oz (190g) and is only 2.8 inches (7.1cm) in length. If you’ve ever read any other reviews on this blog, you’ll know I love compact setups.
Overall, build quality is actually very nice for the low price point. It’s small, but has an all metal body, which really lends itself to feeling strong and sturdy. As for looks, I may be biased, but I appreciate the rather minimalistic and simple design that Meike/Neewer uses for most of their lenses. The lettering is crisp and pops out nicely.
Do note, it is not weather sealed, which wouldn’t be an expectation of mine at this price point anyway. That being said, due to the metal design, it can withstand some bumps and should survive a small drizzle or some light snow. For those using filters, this lens has a 49mm filter thread.
When it comes to image quality, there’s a lot to talk about. The Meike 35mm F1.4 renders great detail in the center of the frame, but sharpness tends to drop off gradually as it approaches the corners. This may not be a huge issue if you’re shooting portraits, but for any other type of shooting, it’s certainly noticeable.
The sharpness issues can be mostly remedied by stopping down to at least F4. I found minor corner softness still, but not nearly to the same degree as shooting at F1.4. It’s closest competitor, the Neewer 35mm F1.7, performs marginally better with sharpness.
The Meike 35mm F1.4 does, however, struggle from some moderate barrel distortion and vignetting. It’s not extreme, but it’s definitely noticeable. This can be easily remedied in post processing, but unfortunately it adds just another extra step when editing your images. Annoying, but not a dealbreaker by any means.
On the other side of the coin, the Meike 35mm F1.4 doesn’t have any substantial flaring issues, even when shooting in rough lighting conditions. Chromatic aberration, as well, is very minimal and hardly noticeable.
The lens isn’t great when shooting environmental or any other shots where you’re far away from your subject as the softness can really start to show. However, when you get in close, whether that be for a portrait, products, pets, etc., it really starts to shine. Fellow bokeh addicts will love what the 9-blade aperture can put out. It renders beautiful, round bokeh and really nails the feeling of subject isolation.
Focusing & Ergonomics
As for focusing, I didn’t have any complaints. It feels like pretty much every other modern manual focus lens, meaning the focusing ring is smooth and tactile. For those who haven’t ventured into the wild world of manual focus, I HIGHLY suggest you read our complete guide to manual focus on Sony cameras. It’s a wealth of knowledge and will show you how to set up focus peaking along with other important settings for a good manual focusing experience.
Overall, usage of the lens felt natural and comfortable. My only complaint would be the aperture ring due to the fact that it is clickless. A lot of manual lenses have a tactile, responsive feel when changing the aperture, and this one does not. This is merely personal preference though, and many photographers like a smooth aperture ring.
Comparisons & My Final Thoughts
Earlier in the article, I mentioned the Neewer 35mm F1.7 and how similar it was. So, which one should you buy? I’d encourage you to read that article as well, but I’ll sum it up really quickly here. The Neewer 35mm F1.7 has ever so slightly better image quality and sharpness, but with the Meike 35mm F1.4, you gain a stop of light. That’s virtually the only difference besides the price and size.
If you want a cheaper lens with slightly better sharpness, get the Neewer, if you want a slightly more expensive lens with marginally better low light performance, pick up this Meike 35mm F1.4.
Overall, this lens was pretty solid. It’s got good image quality when stopped down, has a nice and tactile focusing ring, and feels high quality. The focal length makes it fairly versatile, and I’d use it for portraits, travel, and perhaps even some tighter landscape compositions. I’m a bit more partial to its competitor, the F1.7, but if you need the extra stop of light, the Meike 35mm F1.4 is the way to go. Hard to beat the low pricetag.
If you’re interested in picking it up, there are purchase links below. Thanks for reading! 🙂
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