Interesting optics don’t have to cost a fortune. Andy Westlake tries out some inexpensive lenses to stimulate your creativity - and finds some to avoid, too
Neewer 50mm f/2 (Meike 50mm f/2)
At a glance:
- For mirrorless
- Covers APS-C
- Canon EF-M, Fujifilm, Nikon1, Micro Four Thirds and Sony E mounts
This is one in a family of four similarly-styled lenses designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras, alongside 25mm f/1.8, 35mm f/1.7 and 28mm f/2.8 pancake designs. As is often the case with these lenses, you can find it sold under several brands, but while mine has a Neewer badge it’s more widely sold as a Meike. Stylistically it harks back to classic M42 Pentax Takumars, with a scalloped manual-focus ring and a cut-out for the distance and depth-of-field scales. The all-metal barrel exudes quality, and both the aperture and focusing rings rotate beautifully smoothly. It even comes with an equally vintage-feeling push-on lens cap. Overall, this lens feels far more expensive than it actually is.
As usual for this kind of lens, the aperture ring is directly coupled to the diaphragm. This means you always view at the taking aperture, which gives an accurate preview of depth-of-field. Quirkily the ring itself is labelled f/2, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/5.6, f/8 and f/22, for no apparent reason other than to give an even spacing between the numbers. There’s also a depth of field scale, which at first sight looks quite sensible until you realise that the widest marking is f/2.4. The minimum focus distance is a distinctly pedestrian 65cm, and the lens accepts 49mm filters.
Functionally, this lens behaves as a short-telephoto portrait prime of 75-80mm equivalent on APS-C, or 100mm equivalent on Micro Four Thirds. Unlike some of the other lenses here, it doesn’t really impose any distinct character on you while you’re shooting. Instead it’s a fundamentally well-behaved lens that’s easy to focus and handles nicely on a small mirrorless body. Indeed at just 32mm long, it’s considerably smaller than using an adapted SLR lens. You just have to watch out for flare when shooting into the light.
When you examine your pictures after shooting, though, you’ll really start to appreciate this lens’s particular charms. It give nice sharp images with attractive background blur, making it a lovely option for selective focus, shallow depth-of-field shooting. It would pair nicely with a 25mm f/1.8 prime for both APS-C and Micro Four Thirds users.