Meike 50mm /2 for Fujifilm X: Light, Inexpensive, Slow but Useful

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Macau, November 2016

In November I purchased a Meike 50mm /2 lens for Fujifilm X mount, as a travel and X-Pro-OVF-friendly alternative to my 56mm /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 /2 WR, but it was delayed. And delayed. And even now, in 2017, it is still not officially released. Since the release date of Fujis lens is reportedly tomorrow, and since Ive never actually seen a review of the Meike lens, it seems about time to write a few notes:

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David, November 2016. The classic "80mm" wide-open portrait look. DoF is tight and the focused areas are quite sharp, easily showing individual hairs.

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 /1.8 plus a Fuji adapter, while being smaller and less fiddly. When it arrived, Id 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.

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Travel kit, November 2016: X-Pro2 with XF 18/2, XF 23/2 WR, XF 35/2 WR, and on the right, the Meike 50/2 (and a tiny EF-X8 flash, borrowed from an X-T1). Even with a hood, the Meike 50 is smaller than the WR lenses, a benefit of the simpler optics allowed by lack of fast, silent autofocus.

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.

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While the lens is multi-coated, there is some flare. Investing in an $8 hood is a good idea, or shielding the lens with your hat in a circumstance like this one.

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 /2 to /22, has no click stops & bears an unusual progression of /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 couldnt crank the focus around from near to far quickly enough.

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Macau, November 2016

On Fuji cameras, this lens is considered an "adapted" lens, so youll 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 /stop info in the EXIF data, this lens has no electronics at all. The depth of field scale in the viewfinder wont 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, its not bad at all. Even with a 49mm screw-in hood, its size avoids blocking the XPro EVF -- and with EVF, its quite useable (hint: keep an eye on the histogram).

Summary

Fujis upcoming native 50mm has attractions: autofocus, electronic connection in EXIF, and of course its weather resistant. I expect that it will be much more resistant to flare and sharper across the entire field. Its also expected to be six times the price of the Meike (if I destroyed five Meike lenses in the rain, Id still clock-in less expensively that buying the XF). If I used this focal length a lot, especially outdoors, didn't already have Fuji's spectacular 56/1.2, depended on AF or auto-exposure, then the expense for the superior Fuji is easy to justify. Yet truthfully I like to shoot manually and rarely use a longer lens except for controlled portraits, where the 56mm is a winner -- so it it gets harder to rationalize that extra $420 when this tiny lens is so easy to own and tote around.
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Because no lens "review" should be without a discussion and sample or two of the bokeh characteristics, here are some photos made wide-open at the extremes of focus distance, in the evening rain.

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A similar view, with focus set to the opposite end of the range

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To complete the small set, a similar photo made at /5.6 or so, showing the slight intrusion of the aperture blades into the (smaller) shape of the out-of-focus discs.

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