11 Dec Meike 25mm T2.2 Cine Lens: Veydra Reborn?
I stumbled upon a thread on the Pocket 4K Facebook user group about a new-ish cine lens from a Chinese manufacturer named Meike. After seeing several positive reviews of their stills lenses, I decided to grab a copy and put it through its paces.
Currently, Meike’s only cinema lens is a compact prime 25mm T2.2 with a native, all-manual, M/43 mount. These specs, combined with its form factor, are very similar to the popular, but effectively unavailable, Veydra 25mm prime. This similarity has caused a lot of speculation that Meike’s lens is a cheap rip-off of Veydra’s design. I can’t confirm or deny this, but I can say that if you can somehow find a new Veydra, it will cost you about $1,200. The Meike is readily available for $340.
Available to buy, and inexpensive, are both great…but only if the lens performs. I’ve done a few tests, and in a few cases compared it to another cheap-ish 25mm lens, the Panasonic Lumix 25mm f1.7.*
The Meike is a “compact” cinema lens. Bigger and heavier than a comparable stills lens, but significantly smaller than a standard cine lens. A smaller size has its pros and cons, which I’ll touch on below. Both focus and aperture are geared (standard .8 mod), and the aperture ring is “de-clicked” for smooth adjustment from T2.2 – 22.
The Meike is all metal, and it feels well made. Solid, but not overly heavy. It mounted without play to both my Pocket 4K and GH5. Lens marking aren’t machined, so over time it is possible that they could wear off with heavy handling. I could do without the faux Canon red ring, but I suppose it is better than the giant orange VEYDRA logo plastered on their lenses.
Size & weight
At 89mm long, and 80mm diameter, the Meike lens is definitely compact by cinema lens standards. The front is threaded for 77mm filters.
As I eluded to above, a small lens is a blessing and a curse. While a smaller lens helps to keep overall rig size manageable, and is easier to balance on a gimbal, it can be more difficult to manipulate.
When I attempted to attach a follow focus, I was immediately hit with one of those difficulties. Because the built-in “hood” is so close to the focus ring, I could not mount my FF on my preferred right side. Luckily, it was able to mount on the left, but this required me to locate the FF on the most crowded side of the Pocket 4K.
Speaking of the focus ring, the lens has a nice long throw of 200% from 10” to infinity. It is smoothly dampened, and feels good either grabbing it directly or using a follow focus.
Thankfully there are focus marks on both sides of the lens, but I wish the same were also true of the lens size and aperture markings.
No matter how good a lens feels, if it doesn’t look good, it’s not going to get used. “Good” is very subjective, though. Some of my favorite lenses are objectively flawed, but I like the flaws. So those flaws get labeled as “personality.” Others might not like that personality. The Meike isn’t a lens with a lot of personality. It has a look I can best characterize as “transparent”. It gets out of the way, faithfully reproducing what is in front of it with a minimum of interference. Some might consider that boring or soulless, but I consider it flexible. Lenses with a lot of character are fun, but transparent lenses are workhorses. It’s a lot easier to tweak transparent lenses with filters and in post than it is to try to fix a flawed lens after the fact. Enough words, though. Here’s how it looks:
Field of view
Note how the Meike is just tad wider than the Lumix.
As should be expected of what is effectively a 50mm lens on a M43 crop, the Meike has very little distortion.
Color fringing in areas of extreme contrast is the Meike’s only notable image flaw. I first noticed it shooting a resolution chart, so I then made sure to give it a torture test by including chrome specular highlights in subsequent shots. Note that this is an absolute worst case scenario. This kind of color fringing isn’t difficult to remove in post, but many people don’t want to have to deal with it, so it’s important to note that it is present, and worse than the Lumix.
I combined the dreaded bright window and tree branch test into one shot! This is probably a more realistic example of what to expect in day-to-day use.
Even wide open, the Meike is sharp. Really sharp. Noticeably sharper than the Lumix. As sharp as I would ever want, and sharp enough that most talent would appreciate you using diffusion.
Speed (Low light and depth of field)
Obviously, at f/1.7 (let’s say T2) the Lumix captures more light and offers a slightly shallower depth of field than the Meike at T2.2. That’s to say nothing of the crazy 25mm f/0.9 Voightlander and SLRmagic 25mm lenses.
Given the Pocket 4k’s crop, that T2.2 renders a DOF that looks more like T4 on a full-frame camera. (Roughly, I know, my math isn’t perfect.) Is that shallow enough for you, or are you chasing wafer thin focus? Is a proper exposure at ISO800 good enough “low light” for you, or do you need to see in the dark?
Personally, I will use this lens for filmmaking. And for filmmaking, I light my shots. I want my talent to actually be in focus – even if they move slightly, as actual human beings tend to do. This is to say, I’m personally over fetishizing an ultra-shallow DOF. I’m also comfortable pushing the Pocket4K to higher ISO’s knowing that it can hold onto color and Resolve can handle a bit of noise. But that’s just me. You know what you want, and if it is super-shallow DOF, this isn’t the lens.
note: The sample videos below were all shot under the equivalent of less than 1,000 watts of tungsten light at ISO800. No noise reduction has been added in post.
I really had no idea what to expect here – but given the low cost and the community suspicion that this lens began life as a stills lens – I was pleasantly surprised by how little it breathes. Certainly better than my Rokinon Cine lenses.
Ten blades suggest that the Meike should smoothly render out-of-focus areas, and that’s exactly what I see. Whether a given lens’ bokeh is good or bad is highly subjective, but to my eye, the Meike is pleasantly calm, not fussy or distracting like many “cheap” lenses. It distorts from a perfect circle at the edges, but not overly so.
The Meike doesn’t flare easily, and isn’t prone to bloom. If you can make it flare, the effect is fairly subtle, and not particularly interesting. (Sorry J.J. Abrahms.)
It’s relatively easy to compare one lens’ color to another’s. Warmer, cooler, greener, more magenta. It’s easy to measure, usually easy to see. It’s harder to evaluate which lens is technically more accurate. But by knowing the actual values of a calibrated target, the actual color temperature of a specific light and measuring the same camera with two or more different lenses, you can subtract out the color response of the camera itself, leaving the color response of the lens.
Since I’ve already done that work in building the Pocket709 LUT, I can plot the delta of the Meike from the calibrated baseline. For comparison, I’ll also include the Lumix.
While the Lumix is already a very color neutral lens, the Meike is even more so. The Lumix is a little cool. The Meike is just the tiniest bit warm.
The Lumix, like most modern lenses, loses very little contrast in transmission. Remarkably, the Meike is 2% better.
Will you like the Meike better than this lens or that lens? I can’t answer that. I won’t debate that. It’s too personal. I, for one, am very impressed with this “cheap” lens. Nothing about it looks or feels cheap. It blows away both the image and build quality of my current go-to cinema lenses – Rokinon Cines, and it’s easier to handle, and cheaper, to boot.
There are definitely faster native, manual 25mm lenses. Voightlander and SLRmagic immediately come to mind. I’ve tried both of them, and while they are great lenses, they are both more expensive, and they are not truly built as cine lenses. With Veydra effectively out of the game, the Meike holds a unique spot for Pocket 4K shooters.
While not perfect, I’ll close with this thought…my biggest complaint about the Meike 25mm is that there isn’t also a 12mm and a 50mm to make a complete set.
* I know these are quite different lenses. It would have been more interesting/useful to compare the Meike to a Veydra, or SLRMagic or Voightlander. Unfortunately, the Lumix is all I happened to have on hand. I hope to do a more thorough comparison soon.
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