What are the Best Affordable Cine Lenses

It is a whole new world when it comes to cinema equipment. You can actually pick up cine lenses and cameras for a fraction of what they cost a decade ago. That doesn’t mean the bargain options are all amazing though. Finding the affordable optics that actually perform well enough to make them worth it can be a struggle. And no matter how cheap you can find lenses they will always be an investment.

CVP is taking a look at one set of Super 35mm cine primes – the Meike 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm T2.1 series – and giving them a serious overview to see if they are the best affordable cine lenses.

Each of these Meike primes runs around $600, which is cheap just in general for a decent lens let along a cine lens. They are also available in both Canon EF and PL mounts. The three options available today are the 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm, though Meike has stated they will be adding an 18mm, 25mm, and 100mm—all T2.1—in the future.

If you are starting out the existing options are going to be a great set for Super 35mm systems. All the lenses share the same size and design, including weight. Also they have standard 0.8 gearing along with matching filter threads. The mechanics are very good.

For optical differences, the lenses have varying minimum focus distances of 48 cm, 60 cm, and 70 cm for the 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm, respectively. Plus, while the 35mm and 50mm have 11-blade apertures the 75mm has 13 blades. They all look quite good.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you get cheaper lenses they might not be perfect. In CVP’s case the focus markings were a little bit off. You can purchase shims to correct this if an accurate focus scale is important.

Image Credit: Meike

Another test is that while they are Super 35mm lenses, you can get slightly more coverage than that. It’s not going to be perfect for full-frame, but some of the crop modes of your cameras, like a 4K center crop on a RED or even the DCI 4K of the FX6 can come very close. It does mean that vignetting is basically on non-issue on the intended format.

For a more exacting test, the 35mm is going to be the most limited. The 50mm and 75mm can actually cover full-frame, though there will be some slight vignetting in the corners.

Bokeh is a useful test when going for creative looks in video. The 35mm looks fine in the center, though when you get out towards the edges you will start to see it deform more noticeably. The bokeh does have mostly defined edges with some color fringing that doesn’t seem to go away. Stopping down does help the bokeh. 

The 50mm is a bit cat eye the whole time with a less defined edge and texture. The 75mm, perhaps unsurprisingly, has the best bokeh and as you stop down the bokeh gets even better. All the lenses are consistent between each other.

Flare is a subjective test, so it really is just seeing how they perform. Each lens actually has a slightly different look. The 50mm, in particular, has a more aggressive flare effect, which might explain why that focal length comes with a lens hood.

Image Credit: Meike

Distortion is well controlled across the range. It’s not anything that will impact your shooting. The 35mm has some, the 50mm is basically clean, and the 75mm has the reverse of the 35mm. Nothing surprising.

As for focus breathing, all the lenses are very good. Considering the price, this level of performance is impressive.

In testing sharpness, CVP used a nice test bench. The 35mm looks good even wide open with overall improvements as you stop down. There is some CA to look out for which will disappear as you stop down. The 50mm and 75mm are similar, though the 75mm comes out as perhaps the best optically.

Meike is doing something amazing with their cine primes. The price is extremely affordably for this type of design and performance. If you are looking for a starter set of cinema primes it’s hard to pass up this set. The only potential downside is that while the lenses are good, they might not have a character that you want in your film.

Are you curious about the Meike primes? Have you tried them out before?

[source: CVP]

Order Links:

  • Meike 35mm T2.1 S35 Cine Lens (B&H)
  • Meike 50mm T2.1 S35 Cine Lens (B&H)
  • Meike 75mm T21 S35 Cine Lens (B&H)

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