Any photographer building a working kit knows that buying glass can get expensive fast. Quality lenses aren’t cheap. Bargain lenses aren’t cheap either. Fujifilm’s least expensive lens, the XC 16-50 f3.5-5.6 OIS II – it’s least expensive lens, costs $200. And while it’s optics are of very good quality, it’s build quality is well, cheap. It’s made of plastic and exudes cheapness.
However, if you are willing to forgo autofocus and lens metadata, there’s a wide variety of third party glass for the Fujifilm X system, and much of it is a bargain.
Enter Meike. You may remember them for the battery grip I reviewed for the X-T3 (viewable on YouTube). They also happen to make lenses for the Fujifilm X system. The lens I’ll be talking about today is the Meike MK 25mm F1.8. As I said, it’s a manual focus lens. If you aren’t familiar or comfortable with a manual focus lens, you can stop reading now. Luckily, the Fujifilm X system gives you some great tools to make manually focusing easy and intuitive. I’ll go over those tips later in the review.
The MK 25mm f1.8 is a solid little lens. With a 37.5mm full frame equivalent, it’s very close in range to the Fujifilm 23mm lenses. The lens features a metal lens mount, and a metal exterior. In terms of build quality, it’s punching well above its weight. The lens itself is comprised of 7 elements in 5 groups, with multi-layer coatings.
The aperture ring for this lens is de-clicked, meaning there is no click to indicate when you’ve hit a particular aperture. For still photography, this makes it a bit difficult to hit a particular f stop. When shooting video, this can be viewed as a benefit, as you can smoothly transition from one f stop to the next when shooting.
The minimum focusing distance is .25 m or .82 ft (about 9.8 inches).
The lens is 49mm in diameter and uses screw in filters.
Before you can use a third party, manual focus lens with your Fujifilm camera, you must first enable the ability to shoot without a lens. To do this, go to Set Up > Button/Dial Setting > Shoot without Lens. Unfortunately, you can’t add this option to My Menu. Fortunately though, once you select ‘On‘, you don’t have to turn this off for your autofocus Fujinon lenses to continue to work.
Fujifilm has multiple focusing aids for use with manual focus lens. Which aids you have will depend on your camera model. Obviously, the newer models have more aids.
Under AF/MF > MF Assist, you will find anywhere from one to four assistive manual focus tools.
Standard: just the normal screen, allowing you to focus manually without any aids.
Digital Split Image: This gives you a square in the middle of your viewfinder that is darkened, allowing you better contrast to focus. This square can either be monochrome or color.
Digital Microprism; A throwback to vintage cameras. This puts a darkened circle in the middle of the screen, and uses a prism pattern to help determine when focus is achieved.
Focus Peak: Probably the most useful focusing tool, this allows for the in focus bits on the screen to be highlighted with any of three to four colors (the newer cameras offer four colors, the prior generation three).
Since this is a manual focus lens, you should know that the lens doesn’t communicate any meta data to the camera. So when you organize your images taken with this lens, it won’t show model and it won’t show aperture.
With all the technical stuff out of the way, let’s talk about image quality.
If you temper your expectations, image quality is pretty good. Yes, there is a bit of chromatic aberration, as seen in this screenshot. But it’s not horrible, and much lens than some native Fujinon lenses.
Bokeh is pleasing, if a bit chaotic at f1.8.
There is a bit of distortion, which is easily correctible if it bothers you.
Overall, optics are good, but not great. For a lens of this type, that’s to be expected. I find that the lens has a character that I do like for certain types of shots, so it’s become a speciality lens I grab for in certain occasions.
The best part about this lens is the price – a whopping $74.99 on Amazon. At this price, it’s a good lens for someone who needs a (nearly) 35mm focal length and doesn’t mind (or actually likes) manually focusing. Keep in mind, trying to nail manual focus at f1.8 is difficult, and if you are buying this lens primarily for the fast aperture and bokeh, you’d be wise to temper your expectations. Shooting at f1.8 in good light conditions isn’t too difficult, but in lower light conditions, it can be extremely difficult to nail focus. I wouldn’t pull this out of my bag out on a paid gig, but for shooting street and family photos, it’s a nice lens and it gives a good separation between foreground and background. And at $75, it’s a low risk purchase.
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