Meike 25mm f/1.8 Lens Review

bythom meike 25mm

What is It?

The Meike 25mm f/1.8 lens for the Z mount is a compact manual focus, semi-wide angle optic for the Nikon Z DX mount (covers the DX sensor, but not the FX image area, not even at 1:1 aspect ratio). (Versions of this lens are also available in the Canon M, Nikon 1, m4/3, Fujifilm XF, and Sony E mounts.)

At 25mm, the Meike lens is the equivalent of 37.5mm, which is just barely what I'd say starts to fall into wide angle. It's not quite the 35mm lens you're probably looking for, but close. You'll get 50° across the horizontal axis with this lens.

Like most manual focus lenses in the Z mount so far, there are no electrical contacts. The Z50 doesn't have Non-CPU Lens Data support, so there's nothing to set when you mount this lens on your Z50 other than Manual exposure mode (no, you can't use Aperture priority mode successfully because of the lack of information about what the maximum aperture is, at least on the Z50).

The optics are relatively simple, as you might expect from a modestly-priced prime: seven elements in five groups. The lens doesn't feature any exotic elements, it's basically a straight optical glass design, but it is multi-coated. The front filter ring is 49mm.

Apertures are available from f/1.8 to f/16 via a de-clicked aperture ring, with markings at each full stop starting at f/2. Minimum focus distance is a decent 10" (0.25m), and the focus ring itself moves over 180° from minimum to infinity. Markings are provided at:

  • 0.8, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 7 feet, plus infinity
  • 0.25, 0.3, 0.4, 0.6, 1, and 2 meters, plus infinity

As noted, his is a compact lens, only 1.6" deep and 2.4" in diameter (41mm, 60.5mm, respectively). Despite the metal construction, it's only 6 ounces (170g). Those of you looking for your small, light, compact prime, will find it with this lens.

The lens comes with a light carrying pouch and cleaning cloth. No lens hood is supplied. Price is US$75. 

Meike's site for the lens

Source of the lens: purchased

Disclosure: when the vendor figured out who I was, they provided free expedited shipping (was not asked for)

How's it Handle?

Be careful what you ask for, folks. 

Yes, this lens is exactly as compact as you probably claimed you wanted. It peeks out past the hand grip less than an inch. Here's the issue with making really small lenses with aperture rings, particularly in the Z mount: the aperture ring is snugged up close to the body, and the huge mount means that there's a bit of extra metal that's a greater diameter than the aperture ring. If you have big hands and fingers, getting to the narrow aperture ring with so much metal right there next to is going to pose a bit of a problem. My left thumb is brushing by the lens release button as I adjust the aperture with my left hand, as I used to do in Ye Olden Dayes of Film. 

The de-clicked aperture ring is very smooth, as is the knurled focus ring out front of the lens. You'll be reminded of the best of that Film era.

Meike needs to put a clearer mount alignment mark on the lens (ala what TTArtisans does). If you're not old school Nikon and don’t know that the central aperture marking on the DOF scale is the alignment point, you could spend some time trying to figure out how to mount this lens, and because of the near-but-not-quite symmetrical nature of the mounting tabs, you could do some unintentional brassing if you're not careful. There's also almost nothing to hold onto when mounting the lens, as the two rings are half of the width, and the rest is slippery metal.

The front lens cap is also a bit of an issue: it has a narrow slip-on ring with almost no internal felt to "grip". You'll lose this lens cap fast if you're not paying attention.

How's it Perform?

Sharpness: good wide open in the center, though this improves to very good at f/2.8 and peaks at f/4. Some of the issue wide open is loss of contrast, some is loss of acuity (slight blur). The extreme corners are probably poor wide open, though the border area is what I'd call fair to good. The border area improves to good by f/4, while the corners are still struggling a bit; I'd call the extreme corners good at f/4, but there's still a difference between the outer border area and the very corner.

Chromatic Aberration: low enough that it's easily corrected. You'll see some mild impacts of longitudinal CA on high contrast edges at fast apertures, but lateral CA isn't an issue.

Vignetting: over two stops of vignetting in the corners wide open. Vignetting starts to get somewhat ignorable by f/4 when it drops below a stop, clearly so at f/5.6 where it hits less than two-thirds a stop.

Linear Distortion: visible barrel distortion in the 1% range. Fortunately, there's no mustache or complexity to the distortion, so it is easily corrected in post processing.

Flare: when you have in-frame light sources this lens produces very visible ghosts that are a little tough to correct. Veiling flare is also present.

Bokeh: No onion skin, mild edge ring, but significant cats eye effects as you move from center. The blur is well behaved other than the cats eye, at least wide open. Stopped down, you'll definitely see the octagonal shape the aperture blades made. Fortunately, this is very octagonal, but still, these aren't "rounded aperture blades." 

Final Words

One thing I don't often mention in reviews is how a lens works for video. This lens makes me really wish the Z50 had sensor-based stabilization, as with focus peaking on I was able to roll focus (or aperture) well while moving. When I put the camera on a gimbal, it was difficult not to impact the gimbal while moving rings, but with a little care and dexterity I was able to do it. The focal length is actually a good one as a "normal" choice for video, as it's just wide enough to give you a little scene setting, but not so wide that it starts distorting close human features. 

But really, what can I say about a US$75 lens? While we wait for Nikon to fill out their lens lineup, we're all looking for ways to fill the gaps for particularly shooting types. It's probably more the Z50 that's the limiting factor here, not the lens. The 25mm Meike makes me miss Non-CPU Lens Data and sensor-VR, really (particularly true for the Zfc). We need to introduce the Chinese to the Dandelion-type AI chips again, have them reverse engineer that for the Z mount, and add it to these types of lenses. I wouldn't care if it added US$20 to the cost, it would make the lens so much more useful.

The Meike 25mm f/1.8 lens seems to be well made, it performs decently though not exceptionally, and it opens up a style of street photography that will bring back memories: camera at your waist, LCD lifted up 90° so you can see it, focus peaking on, histogram on, silent shooting on, and you're ready to wander for a session of semi-stealth imaging. Compared to the kit lens, which is f/4.5 at 25mm, the Meike's f/1.8 will come in handy at times for more static low-light indoors scenes where you can support the camera (remember no VR); you'll need to be a little more aggressive with sharpening when using the lens wide open to hide the slight blur. Fortunately, the lens takes up almost no space in your camera bag. 

It's difficult not to recommend this lens, as its ability for price is reasonably strong, and none of its flaws are significant to someone who knows what they're doing. But the "all manual" nature of shooting with the 25mm f/1.8 on a Z50 is going to be the thing that determines whether this lens is for you or not. If you're comfortable with focus peaking and total manual exposure set by histogram, you can't really go wrong with this lens.

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