Meike 50mm ƒ/2 for Fujifilm X: Light, Inexpensive, Slow but Useful
In November I purchased a Meike 50mm ƒ/2 lens for Fujifilm X mount, as a travel and X-Pro-OVF-friendly alternative to my 56mm ƒ/1.2, which is great but not really pocketable (and it obscures a lot of the X-Pro2 optical finder). I had hoped for an early release of the upcoming Fuji XF 50mm ƒ/2 WR, but it was delayed. And delayed. And even now, in 2017, it is still not officially released. Since the release date of Fuji’s lens is reportedly tomorrow, and since I’ve never actually seen a review of the Meike lens, it seems about time to write a few notes:
The Meike lens is surprisingly inexpensive: about $80 online. This puts it into the same price class as, say, a good secondhand Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.8 plus a Fuji adapter, while being smaller and less fiddly. When it arrived, I’d actually expected a lower-quality lens and was happily surprised by the image quality, robustness, and the compact size. It's not perfect, but a worthy addition to a small kit.
The lens is definitely sharp in the center, with some loss at the corners. No negative surprises there. Just the opposite, truthfully. This is a very workmanlike sort of lens, and the emphasis seems to be on dependable image making. In appearance, it reminds me of old original Pentax Spotmatic lenses.
My impression is that the Meike is a repurposed video-camera lens, from some existing and very well-tested design, with the “C” mount swapped for Fuji-style components (you can get this lens for other mirrorless cameras, like Sony or Micro-4/3). The original purpose of the lens might have been CCTV, where the focus and aperture are rarely changed. I say this because the focus ring, while smooth, is rather stiff and slow. The aperture ring, ranging from ƒ/2 to ƒ/22, has no click stops & bears an unusual progression of ƒ/stop markers.
The focus ring turns in the opposite direction of standard Fuji lenses (but matches the direction of Canon and Leica lenses). These attributes can make it a bit slow to use, and I have lost one or two shots because I couldn’t crank the focus around from near to far quickly enough.
On Fuji cameras, this lens is considered an "adapted" lens, so you’ll need to set it up just like any foreign lens: turn on “Shoot Without Lens” and set the Adaptor to 50mm. There will be no ƒ/stop info in the EXIF data, this lens has no electronics at all. The depth of field scale in the viewfinder won’t work, but since this lens is mechanically focused, the scale on the lens barrel works perfectly.
As a compact and inexpensive addition to a small prime-centric kit bag, it’s not bad at all. Even with a 49mm screw-in hood, its size avoids blocking the XPro EVF -- and with EVF, it’s quite useable (hint: keep an eye on the histogram).