Back in late 2020, I was in the market for a new lens, but I didn’t want to drop a bunch of money. I was just looking to experiment and try something new.
Scrolling through Amazon one day, I found a tiny E-Mount lens that was unbelievably cheap: the Neewer 35mm F1.7. It was fully manual, but as an avid user of vintage lenses, I wasn’t too worried about that.
So, I decided to order it. A few days later, it arrived. I threw it on my Sony a6000, and I headed outside to give it a try. I’ve now owned this lens for almost two years and it’s really exceeded my expectations.
In this review, I want to go over my long-term impressions so you can decide for yourself if this cheap and tiny lens is worth it. By the way, this lens is also branded under the “Meike 35mm F1.7”. They are identical as far as I can tell.
Let’s dive in!
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Sharp images (especially stopped down)
- Incredibly tiny and compact
- Surprisingly well built and durable
- Fun manual focus experience
- Cheap and a great budget option
Size & Weight
Before we get to deep into the review, I just want to note the size of this lens.
When I eagerly ripped open the packaging, I was shocked at how tiny it was! Many photographers, myself included, enjoy having a small kit for a variety of reasons (this lens is pocketable on the a6000, by the way).
The Neewer 35mm F1.7 definitely fits the bill, coming in at 6.4oz (181g) and 1.23 inches (3.1cm). I always thought my Sigma primes were small, but no, this lens takes the cake for being absolutely miniscule, it’s incredible.
Is the lens well built?
Surprisingly, build quality is actually quite good!
Lots of Metal
The barrel of the Neewer 35mm F1.7 is almost entirely metal, although the focusing/aperture rings have a sort of plastic-y type feel.
Both the front and rear lens caps are also made entirely of metal, though they’re the slip on/off kind, so I found that they can be a little loose-fitting.
As you might expect from a sub-$100 lens, it does not offer any sort of weather sealing. I was a little worried about this initially, but after two years I haven’t had any problems.
I haven’t taken this lens out in torrential downpours, but I have taken it out in light rain, near waterfalls, and out for some really snowy shoots.
Built to last?
So do I feel as if the lens is built to last? Generally, I find these cheap Chinese lenses to be pretty crappy in terms of quality, but thus far this lens has exceeded expectations.
It still works as well as the first day I got it. Nothing is loose or broken, and both the rings still spin smoothly and (as far as I can tell) accurately.
Aesthetically, beauty is subjective of course but I think the lens looks pretty nice.
Although the text on the lens is printed (not engraved), it still contrasts nicely with the sleek black metal.
The distance scale adds just a little bit a premium touch to the whole look.
Ergonomically, the lens feels strong and sturdy when mounted on my a6000, despite its diminutive size.
Given the low weight, I can wander around literally all day with this thing attached to the camera. No hand fatigue or cramping since the lens plus camera combination weighs so little. I love it.
Even when I’m not actively holding it, the lens barely takes up any space in my camera bag.
Next up, let’s talk about image quality.
Though there were a few optical flaws, which I’ll get into in just a moment, this lens is quite sharp for how cheap it is.
Shooting wide open at F1.7, we see very sharp centers but there’s noticeable fall-off near the corners of the frame.
Stopping down quickly sharpens everything up, and I found that the lens seems to peak around F4, showing even sharpness pretty much from edge-to-edge.
Really impressive performance given the low price tag.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
Next up, let’s cover any optical flaws.
The first and most major issue this lens suffers from is poor flare resistance.
When shooting in bright sunlight, I frequently noticed a sort of purple-ish cast in certain parts of my images.
Making a sort of “make-shift lens hood” (aka blocking the sun) with my hands helped a lot, but there were some situations where I’d have to pixel peep to edit out these purple ghosts.
I won’t say this is a dealbreaker, but it’s seriously some pretty heavy flaring. I’m unsure if maybe I just got a bad copy of the lens, however, because I’ve spoken to other users that haven’t mentioned the same issue.
The next flaw is a moderate vignette when shooting wide open.
Stopping down remedies it, of course, and I generally found it to be a non-issue.
Modern post-processing is so powerful that even a moderately dark vignette is easily correctable with minimal quality loss.
Finally, I found that the lens suffered from very little chromatic aberration or distortion.
Even in extreme circumstances (branches against a sunny sky, for example), chromatic aberrations were well controlled and barely noticeable.
Overall Optical Performance
Despite the wild flaring, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the pictures that have come out of the Neewer 35mm F1.7.
My pictures are razor sharp (seriously, just look at the sample images in this article), and I’ve found the flaring pretty easy to work around except for in certain circumstances.
Plus, like I mentioned, I haven’t heard of other people having the same flare problems with the lens, so maybe I just got unlucky with some poor quality control.
Oh, and by the way, the bokeh looks pretty damn good (and it can even produce decent starburst effects at tight apertures!).
Focusing & Other Notes
Next up, let’s focus on focusing! As I stated prior, this lens is completely manual focus, meaning there’s no AF and everything must be done by hand.
As an avid user of both modern and vintage manual lenses, it felt very familiar and easy to use. Definitely one of the better manual focus lenses I’ve used.
The focusing ring is incredibly well dampened and (from what I can tell) very precise. It’s tight enough to where I’ve never been worried about bumping it out of place.
Great for Beginners
For a photographer who is new to fully manual lenses, the Neewer 35mm F1.7 is great to learn on. It’s important to note that there are a few settings you’ll need to adjust on your camera before using this.
I go into vastly more detail in my full a6000 manual focus guide, but I’ll sum it up really quickly here for your convenience.
- Make sure “focus peaking” is turned on
- Make sure “release shutter w/o lens” is turned on
- Make sure “focus magnifier” is enabled
Again, if you’re new to manual focus then I would highly recommend reading my full MF guide. It’ll teach you anything and everything you’d ever want to know about manual lenses.
Finally, it should be noted that since this lens has no electronic connection to the camera, the aperture is controlled manually with a ring on the lens.
This ring is fairly stiff, which means I don’t tend to bump it out of place on accident, though it does happen on rare occasions.
It is clickless, which means the ring doesn’t “click” into place as you move through the various apertures. I prefer clicked myself, but many photographers like clickless rings.
My Final Thoughts
Before I round out my reviews, I generally like to give alternatives. With that being said, I do think the Neewer 35mm F1.7 is in a league of its own.
I would suggest considering the Sigma 30mm F1.4 as a direct comparison. It’s more expensive, but you get modern conveniences such as autofocus and an electronic connection the camera. I’ve owned it for four years and it’s been lovely.
If you’re looking for an ultra-budget (and ultra-small) lens though, the Neewer 35mm F1.7 is literally the best option.
I’ve used the Neewer 35mm F1.7 for literally everything: portraits, travel, landscape panorama stitches, events. It’s excelled and exceeded my expectations every step of the way.
For a lens that is so cheap, you’re getting fantastic image quality, an enjoyable manual focus experience, and a surprisingly solid build.
Plus, if you’re a fan of small kits, this lens is a must have because it is, once again, so incredibly small!
Now that I’ve rambled on about this fantastic lens, I’ll drop a purchase link below so you can check it out yourself.
Thanks for reading!
Neewer 35mm F1.7 Sample Photos
Thanks for looking through all my sample photos, you’re awesome! If you’d like to buy the lens, please consider using my link as I get a small commission. Thank you!
This lens earned a spot on one of my best lens lists. Again, this lens is also branded under the “Meike 35mm F1.7”.
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