- Low distortion
- Very close focus possible
- Only moderate distortion
- Well controlled CA
- Modest price
- Well made
- Poor sharpness at edges
- Very susceptible to flare
- Very difficult to see focus point
Meike is one of a new breed of innovative lens manufacturers, producing interesting manual focus lenses at very reasonable prices. The Meike 12mm f/2.8 is reviewed here using the Panasonic Lumix G6 camera body, giving a “35mm equivalent” of a 24mm lens. This is a classic focal length that has proved itself over many years, so let’s see how this new version handles and performs.
Handling and Features
A well engineered, metal bodied construction gives a good impression of the lens from the start. At 380g, it is solid but not unduly heavy in use. The front element is well protected by the well-made bayonet lens hood. The hood has a securing catch so it does not become rotated or detached during use. There is a 72mm filter thread.
Immediately behind the lens front is the wide, comfortable focusing ring. The lens does extend when focusing down to its near point of 0.1m (0.3 feet or 3.94 inches) but with such a wide angle the actual extension is very small. The actual magnification is not quoted, but for this type of lens that is very close focusing.
Closest to the camera body lies the aperture ring, with an unusual progression of apertures from f/2.8 to f/3.5 rather than the expected f/4 and from f/8 to f/22, missing out f/11 and f/16. There is, however, a detente between the latter two that seems to be around f/11. All the provided click stops are smooth in operation.
The optical construction is 12 elements in 10 groups, with Nano-technology multi-layer coatings. The diaphragm has 9 blades and the lens maker stresses that this offers superior bokeh effects.
The lens is designed for CSC cameras, either MFT or APS-C formats. This offers “35mm equivalents” of 24mm or 18mm respectively. The version here is an MFT version, with a well engineered and precise mount.
The lens generally handles very well, with the exception of ease of focus at close distances. The depth of field available is such that at longer ranges a distance setting can be set that effectively means no further focusing is necessary for every shot. Closer up, the ability to focus very close is both an advantage and a bit of a nightmare. When it’s right, the close focus is brilliant, enabling a new perspective to be seen with many subjects. However, using the camera screen on the G6, or the EVF, is well nigh impossible. The point of focus is beyond the resolution of the screen. There is too much depth of field to see a clearly defined point of focus.
There is usually a practical solution, and in this case setting a distance and then moving the camera to several positions around that distance resulted in satisfactory focus in at least one shot. This will obviously depend on the individual camera designs and what manual focus aids are available, but overall it seems much more difficult than using an optical viewfinder designed for manual focus.
A final point is that there is no depth of field scale provided, which could well be useful.
The sharpness figures do not really do justice to the lens. Because the lens to chart distance is so close the best performance is not being found and shots taken of 3D subjects at more normal distances look much sharper than the figures would suggest. Field curvature may well be a factor in this.
At the centre, sharpness measures as only fair from f/2.8 to f/5.6. However, it sharpens up and is very good at f/8 and f/11. Sharpness remains of a good standard at f/22.
The corners are soft throughout, very soft, only becoming fair at f/22. Clearly, though, looking at the real world images, results are better when 3D subjects are shot and the field curvature brings the edges into better focus. It is not a lens that does well with flat charts.
How to read our charts
The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.
The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.
CA (Chromatic aberration) is one of the design strengths. At the centre, correction is of a very high order and even at the edges it is controlled to within one pixel. Software can easily be used to correct this anyway.
How to read our charts
Chromatic aberration is the lens’ inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.
Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.
Looking at flare, we immediately hit a significant weakness. Even the slightest hint of a light source such as the sun at the edge of the frame simply wipes out the image. Provided the light is watched and against the light shots are avoided or handled by standing in shade then contrast is very good, but the merest hint of strong light on the lens and the image disappears in a haze of purple.
Barrel distortion is expected in wide lenses and here measures -0.83%, a good result for this design. This can be corrected in software if straight architectural details are at or near the frame edges.
The bokeh is actually very pleasing, not always an issue identified with wide angle lenses. Combined with the very close focus this makes for some potential in creative uses. The different colours of light are handled differently, with reds being slightly less smooth at small apertures and blues spreading a bit throughout, but overall it’s an excellent rendition.
MEIKE 12mm f/2.8 Sample Photos
Arley Hall | 1/800 sec | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
CA Test | 1/400 sec | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Candid Portrait | 1/30 sec | 12.0 mm | ISO 400
Close Up | 1/160 sec | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Dasies | 1/200 sec | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Texture In Wood | 1/40 sec | 12.0 mm | ISO 400
Bokeh At F2,8 | 1/80 sec | f/2.8 | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Bokeh At F5,6 | 1/30 sec | f/5.6 | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Bokeh At F22 | 0.5 sec | f/22 | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Value For Money
Notwithstanding some handling challenges, there’s no doubting that at £172.99/$259 the Meike 12mm f/2.8 is very attractively priced.
In MFT format, the competition might be the Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 (£549/$823), the Samyang 12mm f/2 NCS CS (£279/$418) or the Samyang 12mm T2.2 Video lens (£359/$538).
In Sony E-Mount and Fujifilm X-mount we have the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 at £619/$928.
The Meike 12mm f/2.8 has two great weaknesses, that is, very poor flare resistance and poor sharpness on flat subjects. Take it out into the 3D world though and it is possible to find subjects that allow it to shine. In terms of handling, it is not easy to focus on close subjects, although at a longer range a snapshot setting can be used that will be covered by depth of field. This could be perfect for general street photography.
For those who can accept that there is practice needed to master the best of the lens, the modest price tag could well make it worthwhile.