Photography is an expensive game, especially when you are just starting out. Sometimes, what you are seeking is just a little bit out of reach for now. Third-party manufacturers offer many different options for your brand and sometimes at a greatly reduced price, but are they worth the investment?
The Meike 12mm f/2 lens is an inexpensive, manual lens, with no autofocus or image stabilization. It's perfect for landscape, architecture, tourism, and interiors. Yes, it has its flaws, but considering the price of under $190, is this inexpensive alternative lens worth your hard-earned cash? We review it to find out.
An 18mm full frame equivalent, this solidly constructed metal f/2 prime lens is comprised of 12 elements in 9 groups, including 2 aspherical lenses, and weighs a mere 277 g. With an aperture range of f/2 to f/16 and a filter thread size of 62mm, it ticks all the boxes for a wide angle lens except for weather-sealing, but considering the price, that is to be expected. The lens feels and is solid and includes a metal lens hood.
Out of the box, the metal lens hood was a little difficult to remove; I couldn't release it from the lens, so I had to attach it to the body of the camera and then release it. Once it was off, however, it worked ok, releasing and reversing; perhaps it had been too tightly attached when packaging.
Markings on the lens are clearly visible. The lens has a close focusing distance of around 20cm. The aperture ring doesn't click, but is dampened enough that you shouldn't knock it.
The lens is and feels solidly constructed considering the price, with the knurling on the aperture and focusing rings providing good friction and good dampened rotation.
Performance and Handling
For this article, I decided only to use the Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation and auto settings in Lightroom so that you are able to see the images uncropped and as they are, with no converging verticals corrected either. I felt that the wide angle of the lens would allow you to see what could be contained within your frame and to what degree. Being a fully manual lens, I enabled focus peaking for my focusing and photographed away.
The lens is sharp in the center at most of the apertures, beginning to drop above f/11 due to diffraction. It's not the sharpest of lenses, but considering the price, it did perform very well, which I really didn't expect. With a wide-angle lens, there is stretching at the corners, again more so than with more expensive lenses. There is vignetting at the widest apertures, which begins to lessen quite considerably by the time you reach f/5.6. The purple fringing in some shots was heavy, but was easily corrected in Lightroom.
Due to the size of the lens and the size of my hands, I would capture the tip of my finger quite easily in shots. Once I noticed this, I ensured for other photographs that this wouldn't happen.
Lens flare is my main comment with the lens. Every lens will have flares at some point. Manufacturing processes and coatings help reduce this considerably and I understand that the manufacturing costs of this lens will be less than higher-end lenses. At first, I thought it was the lens needing to be cleaned, then, after inspecting the glass, I realized that it was the lens hood design that was enabling the flare to be so apparent. Rotating the hood allowed me to compensate, but then, on the opposite side, the flare would reappear, meaning the lens hood design needs to be addressed in my opinion.
Understandably, a majority of the images in this article were photographed in the direction of the sun on an overcast day, but I felt that avoiding the flaring would lessen the opportunity for photographs in various situations.
- The price
- Solidly built
- Sharpness for the price
- The lens flare
- No EXIF data
I have mixed thoughts about this lens. On the one hand, it's very affordable and would allow someone just starting out in photography to be able to produce decent-quality images and provide them with a good understanding of different focal lengths, as other lenses from Meike are also relatively inexpensive. The caveat with this one for me, however, is the lens flare. I haven't tried any other lenses from the range, so I cannot make comment on them. Would a different style of lens hood be a better option for this lens? I think it might. On the other hand, would it be worth it if you are just starting out to look at other brands in the similar and a bit higher price range if you cannot afford currently the lens you are wanting? It may just be.
So, answering the question: is this budget lens worth the investment? If you were just starting out and on a very strict budget, yes, the Meike 12mm f/2 wide angle is worth considering as it works well. It's not as sharp as some of the other lenses I've tried, but those other lenses are considerably more expensive. If you would like to check out this lens for yourself, you can purchase one here.
You can't really compare these lenses to their "pro" competitors but for the price... they are an incredible value.
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality considering the cost. An option for those just starting.
My first thought was: is this a clone of the Samyang / Rokinon 12mm f/2.0?
It does have a different filter size though so it's not a direct clone.
The Samyang 12mm has horrible lens flare.
How many aperture blades does this lens have? How do sunstars look?
To me the examples are terribly unsharp, is this just due to compression of the format for publication. It would be good to have some links to full resolution images on Flickr etc for future lens reviews