Meike 28mm f/2.8 Review – $50 Prime Lens?

Meike 28mm

The Meike 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens is made for several camera mounts and is designed for APS-C sensors. It’s small, light, and weighs in at only $50 USD (for Sony E-Mount). But what kind of build quality or imaging performance can you realistically expect for such an astoundingly low price? Read on for my impression of this diminutive, budget-friendly lens.

Meike 28mm f/2.8 Quick Overview

Let’s run down the basic stats, and then I’ll get into my overall thoughts on this lens.

  • Focal Length: 28mm APS-C (42mm Full-Frame Equivalent)
  • Mounts: Sony E-Mount, Fuji X-Mount, Canon EF-M, MFT
  • Max/Min Aperture: f/2.8 – f/22
  • Aperture Blades: 9
  • Focus Type: MF
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 9.8 inches / 25 cm
  • Glass: 6 Elements in 5 Groups
  • Filter Thread: 49mm

Overall Impression: Meike 28mm f/2.8

The Meike 28mm f/2.8 has been, at least for me, a bit of a mixed bag in terms of overall quality and usability. But…and I will repeat this several times in this review…for $50 price tag on a NEW lens, you can’t really get too upset about any of the negative aspects of this lens. The pricing seems to vary from retailer to retailer, and somewhat between the different mounts. The highest price I saw was $80, and the lowest was $49.99 (at Amazon). Even at $80, it’s still a compelling price-to-value ratio.

Meike 28mm

What’s in the Box?

The Meike 28mm f/2.8  comes in a slick box and includes soft lens bag, metal push-on front lens cap, and a cleaning cloth, along with a plastic screw-on rear lens cap. It’s more than I expected to be in the box, honestly. The Tamron 20mm f/2.8 that I recently reviewed didn’t even come with a bag or cleaning cloth (but it did come with a hood, with the Mieke does not).

The Good

Quality of Build Materials

Almost every part of the Mieke 28mm f/2.8 is made of metal: the mount, the barrel, the focus and aperture rings. The only thing plastic I can detect is the bezel that holds the front objective lens element in place. Even the lens cap is metal, which is a nice vintage-throwback touch.

Further, at the very least, the front lens element is actually glass. Some budget lenses will use plastic for some elements, but this one seems to use proper glass.

Size and Weight

This lens is very small. I would classify it as a true “pancake” lens, in fact. It is just 2 inches (51mm) in length, giving it a very low profile and keeping your full camera rig as small as it can be. And even though it is light weight at just 7 ounces (200g), it feels substantial in hand but won’t weigh down your camera bag.

Lens Markings

Just as all vintage manual focus lenses featured, the Meike 28mm has focus distance markings on the barrel. This is super handy, as it allows you to dial in focus based on distance to the subject. If you are a zone-focus street photography shooter, these markings are clutch. There is an issue with the infinity mark, however, so read on for full details.

Image Quality

Overall image quality is very acceptable, especially at the low price point. Center sharpness is quite good starting around f/4. Sharpness at f/2.8 is not particularly impressive, even in the center, although it’s not terrible by any measure. Pixel peepers (like me) won’t love it, but most others will likely find it good enough for most applications.

The 9-bladed aperture is a surprise on a very inexpensive lens, where you’d usually expect 6 or 7 blades. More aperture blades usually means a more subtle, soft bokeh background blur, and in the case of the Meike 28mm f/2.8, this holds true.

Vignetting is very noticeable wide open and honestly doesn’t improve all that much as aperture gets smaller. It is, however, relatively easy to correct in Photoshop / ACR. The images below show before and after correction of vignetting (image shot at f/2.8).

Meike 28mm

Chromatic aberration (mostly purple fringing) is very prominent in brightly light scenarios at pretty much all apertures. There is also some pincushion distortion, but this is easily remedied in post production editing (as is chromatic aberration).

So the Meike 28mm f/2.8 isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind with it’s sharpness and clarity, but it’s also an all-around decent performer, especially considering…

Did I Mention It’s Only $50?!?!

Seriously, a brand new manual focus prime lens with a relatively fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 for a measly $50 is a pretty incredible deal, even if there are a less-than-ideal aspects to the lens (and there definitely are…see below).  For this price, you really owe it to yourself to just give it a try and see if will work for you.

Additionally, a price point this low lends itself to beginners, students, and folks who want to expand their options but just simply don’t have the means to buy expensive gear. It’s a really great option to have, and kudos to Meike for catering to multiple spending capacities with their product lines.

The Bad

There are some not-so-great things about the Meike 28mm, and quite frankly, I would have been stunned if there weren’t something amiss with a lens this cheap.

Mechanical Build Quality / QC

Obviously, some corners had to be cut to offer this lens for $50. And also obviously (to me), one of those corners was general quality control. I say that because of three relatively major issues with the operation of this lens:

First: When mounted, there is quite a bit of “wiggle” between the lens and body mount. It’s actually the most I’ve experienced on any lens I’ve tested across several camera systems (Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony). In fact, simply turning the focus ring can cause the lens to move in the mount. Does this hurt image quality? Not that I can tell. Although it’s “loosey-goosey” when mounted, the Meike 28mm maintains a light-tight seal with the body. It’s just sort of distracting.

Second: While the focus ring is well damped and generally has a  nice feel, there is a portion of the rotation near the middle of the range that has noticeably more resistance. This makes focusing a bit trickier and less smooth. This is probably just my copy of the lens, which is why I believe QC is not really a priority for Meike on this lens.

Third: The most critical flaw of this lens is that it focuses past infinity, even though the end of the focus travel is clearly marked at infinity. This means that you cannot simply rely on the marking to set focus at infinity, which is a common thing you would do in zone focusing or really any application where you want to focus on a subject that is more than about 10 feet away (for this focal length). Again, this might just be my copy of the lens, as I can’t imagine the designers of the lens would have been okay with this.

Other Considerations

  • There is no electronic connection from lens to camera. That means you basically can only shoot in full manual mode, and no lens information will be passed through to the EXIF data in your image files. So basically you won’t know the aperture, lens model, or focal length of any image shot with this lens. Big deal? Not for most people, but it will make it harder to organize images by meta data.
  • Depending on your eye sight and camera, it may be hard to get sharp focus without resorting to “focus assist” zooming in-camera. While it’s great that mirrorless cameras offer this capability, it’s also one more thing that slows down the process of image capture. So action shots are likely a no-go with this lens, unless you take a zone focusing approach and can live with the compromises.
  • The aperture ring has no pre-set stops. It’s purely a continuous motion control, just like the focus ring. The means that getting a precise f-stop value is difficult. But on the other hand, you’re not limited to the standard stops, which adds some flexibility. This ins’t necessarily a bad thing, just something to consider.

Sample Images

Here are some sample images taken with the Meike 28mm and shot with a Sony A6000 body. Keep in mind these are not meant to be artistic, but rather highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the lens.

Sample #1

Shooting my back yard rhododendron bush again, as we’re still in quarantine. Showing a bit of the bokeh quality of this lens, which is surprisingly solid for a very cheap wide-angle lens. The edges are very “cat eye” shaped (which is a love/hate thing), and it has a somewhat swirly pattern that reminds me of the Helios 44 a bit.  You can also see the edge distortion here bending the image around, as well as some chromatic aberration in the lower right corner.

Exposure: f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 100

Meike 28mm

Example #2

Spider web on the stairs of my back deck. You can see the distortion in the balusters looking bowed out. And there is visible chromatic aberation on the vinyl post (left side of image). But also, the color rendition is pleasant and the bokeh is soft and even.

Exposure: f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 200

Meike 28mm

Who Should Buy the Meike 28mm f/2.8?

To me, there are two main groups of shooters that will want this lens: street photogs and those with a really tight budget. While you can get some nice images with this lens, unless you’re really on a budget or looking for a challenge in urban / street photography, you might be better served with something like the Samyang 24mm f/2.8. It’s definitely more expensive at $249, but still relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, and it’s also very small/light, and features “pretty good” autofocus performance.

Consider checking out some of my other lens reviews or my Sony-related gear reviews.