I talked in a recent post about my street kit perfected and the new-ish 28mm F2 XF lens by Meike is currently my preferred walk-around lens for my wide street work. This is the 2nd of three articles about that street kit.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS LENS.
For $81 *yes, really*, this little 28mm packs a ton of value. I once owned Fuji’s own 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens and while it was okay I was always just kind of “meh” about it. No aperture ring. No distance markings on the barrel. Autofocus slow to the point where I would use it on manual focus only. Also, due to its age and due to the focus-by-wire electronic focusing system, the latency between pulling the focus ring and the focus actually changing drove me to eBay it.
Quite recently I was wondering if I should get back into the Fuji 27mm since I was pining for a discreet setup with which I could practice my zone focusing and step up my stealthy street game on the streets of Los Angeles. No matter how hard I tried I could not get myself excited about paying $449 for a Fuji lens that I didn’t like very much and while I’m a fan of the X100 series, the idea of buying into a x100F just for street work when I already own the X-Pro2 (and LOVE IT) and the X-T2 (and LIKE IT A LOT) would be
a bit silly incredibly stupid for this limited use case.
This Meike 28mm f/2.8 lens gives me the compact, discreet size, distance markings on the barrel, the ability to zone focus with ease and accuracy, an aperture ring right on the barrel where it should be, and since the focus ring actually focuses the lens there’s no latency in its movement. And for me, that’s such a huge value — eliminating any thought of buying into Fuji’s overpriced 27mm or an x100 series body.
Compact, lightweight, fast f/2.8 aperture. Distance markings on the lens barrel make zone-focusing a breeze. It’s a joy to work with on the streets and it performs very well at f/5.6 – f/16. While the lens aperture does go up to f/22, I don’t ever shoot at f/22 since I’m trained to avoid diffraction, though I have not tested whether this is an actual issue with this lens or just a theoretical problem that I’m carrying with me from the old days.
While the aperture ring does not have clicks and stops it’s remarkably smooth and well-tooled. The focus ring is also very smooth and easy to work with but with enough resistance to prevent knocking your settings all out of place while dangling from its strap. Nailing focus is very easy when used with Fuji’s focus peaking and other manual focus assist features.
Again, it’s not a Fujifilm lens.
As Fuji shooters already know, Fuji’s line of lenses are optically pleasing to say the least. This lens produces images that are quite a bit different than the images produced by Fuji’s native lenses. The Meike lenses that I’ve bought all feel like vintage Nikon glass to me, but cheaper and without the need for a mount adapter.
In situations where I value light weight, discretion, and easy zone-focusing with easy-to-read distance markings over professional image quality this lens is my choice. It’s a street lens, and it’s perfect (for me) for that use.
Wide open there’s a nice, smooth falloff and the out of focus areas are surprisingly smooth and pleasing. That’s a huge plus. The downside is that there’s very heavy vignetting at f/2.8 – f/3.5 or so.
THE BAD NEWS
These cons are very similar to the downsides of Meike’s 50mm f/2 lens.
- Very heavy vignetting from f/2.8 – f/3.5 with soft focus on the edges. The vignetting and soft focus disappears after f/3.5 – f/5.6 and becomes very sharp edge to edge throughout the rest of the aperture range.
- Significant pincushion distortion. Nothing that can’t be corrected in your image editor but it’s better if you anticipate the distortion and shoot with it in mind knowing that you might need to do some correction later which might result in a slight crop.
- Aperture ring doesn’t click at 1/3 stops or even at full stops as you’re likely accustomed to.
- Hard contrast rendering, particularly in the mid-tone contrast range. If you’re not careful you end up with images that look like you cranked your Clarity slider up too high. NOTE: this could be bad for jpeg shooters who make heavy use of Fuji’s excellent film simulations; the lens will inject a rather high increase of mid-tone contrast into the image at the capture level which could result in a quality that’s difficult to remove from the jpeg. One might be able to customize the jpeg presets to account for this, but you’ll need to decide of this is worth the hassle.
- The last con I have noticed is that the color rendition changes from aperture to aperture and this can definitely cause issues. I haven’t determined if it’s a white-balance thing (I shoot on auto white-balance when on the streets) or it’s just how this lens deals with color and contrast rendition. I’m not going to bother to test this further as I’ve gotten used to it and I check for it when I review my images.
The following images reveal the significant pin-cushion distortion inherent with this lens. (Keep in mind that many Fuji lenses do this too but they are auto-corrected in the camera firmware against the lens profile.)
These images will also demonstrate the color shift which occurs between apertures. You’ll note that these apertures seem to make some major jumps, but I followed the actual markings that appear on the ring: f/22, f/16, f/8, f/5.6, f/4, f/2.8.
Meike 28mm f/22
Meike 28mm f/16
Meike 28mm f/8
Meike 28mm f/5.6
Meike 28mm f/4
Meike 28mm f/2.8
Note the strong vignette and the markedly warmer color rendition when compared to the slower apertures.
I seriously love this lens. It’s so super small that it fits into the smallest pocket of any of my camera bags, and there’s simply no reason NOT to bring it on a street session.
Some additional post-processing is required in order to get my images to look and feel consistent with the images produced by my Fujifilm lenses but that’s not a huge issue for me as I’ve gotten my post-production workflow very dialed over the years.
Enjoy the gallery below, and hit me with any questions you might have about this or any other lens.
Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.
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MOVING BEYOND SNAPSHOT.
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