When the Nikon Z50 was released in 2019, many Nikon photographers were dismayed when there were only 2 native lenses at launch and even now in 2021 there is only one more additional DX lens in the Nikon roadmap. It was then up to 3rd party lens manufacturers to fill the void, and one the players that stepped up was Meike.
Meike launched a cheap, manual 25mm f/1.8 prime lens for the APS-C Z mount that was listed at US$99.45 at the time of writing. It then begs the question, does the lens deliver sufficient quality for use on the Nikon Z50? How is it in use?
Is it rubbish since it is after all a cheap lens at less than a 100 USD?
Let’s dive into these questions in this mini review.
*This lens was bought using my own money, no one sent me a free item or paid me to do this. All views are my own.
Aesthetics and Ergonomics
When I first handled the lens, I was pleasantly surprised at how dense and well built the lens is despite the wallet friendly price tag. Meike (美科) is a Hong Kong company previously known for making knock off products such as battery grips and flashes, they didn’t have a name for making pricey, premium items in the past (but their brand is now making cinelenses!). So the feel and first impressions of the lens is definitely above my expectations.
While I wouldn’t drop this lens for no reason to test it’s sturdiness, I can say that since this is a manual lens, it should survive impact to some degree since there are no electronics to be damaged.
The front optical element is nestled somewhat within the front of the lens, thus negating the need for a lens hood to shield the element from side light.
For those who may need a filter when using the lens, it uses a 49mm diameter filter, slightly bigger than the 46mm of the native Nikon 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens.
Focus and aperture ring
The focus and aperture rings are both smooth, as expected from a fully manual lens. For video shooters especially, the de-clicked aperture ring will be a godsend when you are worried about the lens affecting the audio for your video as you are adjusting the aperture either for creative purposes or simple for exposure control.
Unlike the kit lens, this manual lens, despite being cheap, uses a metal mount. Not a big issue for both lenses since they are so light anyway, but I personally prefer metal mounts.
I did several test shots using the marked apertures on the lens. With the sample images below
Basically, while shooting the sample images, I would say that sharpness is not an issue, especially in the centre of from the frame. For best results, I would shoot at apertures of between f/2.8 to f/5.6 for maximum sharpness. In low light conditions, to be honest, shooting wide open is not really an issue for me. However, for landscape shooters or for people who require edge to edge sharpness, you’re barking up the wrong tree here with this lens. The corners are quite soft and you can really tell the difference in image sharpness when comparing it to the centre.
During one of the tests, while taking a shot at infinity and at f/4 I noticed an anomaly with my copy of the lens. It appeared that there was some field curvature or optical element misalignment. Normally you would expect that the image is sharp across the plane at infinity focus, but there was one patch of the image near the centre of the frame where the image is obviously soft. More testing is needed but I would recommend that potential buyers of the lens test if they can or check their return / exchange policies before buying.
One would also say that I am being too picky since this is only a cheap lens, but I would say that you are paying good money for it so you should expect some degree of quality from the lens and not put up with a defect.
As you can see from the image above, there is little or no vignetting/ light fall off on the crop sensored Z50. Even at wide open, without any correction in post, I felt that this was not an issue at all for normal usage.
For those looking to try mounting this lens on the Z6, unfortunately, the lens does not work well on the full frame body simply because it was not designed to fit the larger full frame sensor.
As can be seen from the sample images above, there will be a circle when you try to shoot using the lens at no crop on the Z6.
I would say that flare is controlled in this lens. Shooting directly into a light backlighting my subject, there was only one spot of green flare to the opposite direction of the light, with some loss of contrast. In a real life shooting situation with the morning or evening sun backlighting your subject, I believe the loss of contrast may actually be beneficial to the overall feel of the photo.
Personally, I have no issues with the bokeh rendered by the lens. This was taken at near minimum distance (about 25cm).
As this is a 25mm lens on an APS-C body, you would not expect extreme bokeh from it. Nevertheless, I felt that the lens will suffice for an environmental portrait lens in a pinch. You can even detect a slight circular bokeh going on here. Bokeh quality is a personal preference. I have no issues with the bokeh produced by this lens.
So, would I recommend this lens as a purchase? If you are looking at the Z50 as a primary camera for some reason, and you need a cheap and easy way to get into the APS-C prime game, then this lens is a no brainer at about US$100.
The sharpness in the centre, good performance in terms of vignetting makes this a good buy as long as you are someone who doesn’t mind taking things slow and using manual controls.
The small, lightweight nature of the lens complements the Z50 as a travel camera as well. A wide-ish field of view at about 37.5mm full frame equivalent, bright aperture of f/1.8 will serve you well at night in your travels.
For people needing absolute sharpness edge to edge, look elsewhere. For someone needing a cheap and cheerful lens for your Z50? A solid recommendation from me here.