New gear: Meike 85mm f/1.8 is only $200
If you’re a full-frame E-mount photographer Sony, a Hong Kong-based lens maker Meike has exactly what you need. New Meike 85mm f/1.8 prime lens includes autofocus support and blows its only direct rival out of the water when it comes to price.
While the focal length and aperture of the Meike 85mm f/1.8 FF STM make it perfectly suited for full frame, it will of course also work on subframe E-mount bodies. For Sony APS-C shooters or when using an APS-C crop on a full frame body, this will give an effective focal length of 128mm.
Who it’s for
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Thanks to its medium-telephoto focal length and bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, the Meike 85mm f/1.8 will be particularly interesting for portrait photographers. In addition to portraiture, Meike also aims the new lens at architectural and landscape photography.
The only direct rival to Meike’s new lens is the Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 FE Pluswhich launched in 2020. Less direct rivals are the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN | Art, Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMand the Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE which is also sold as Rokinon AF 85mm f/1.4 FE.
Unfortunately, although he listed a barrel diameter and weight, Meike did not list a barrel length for his new lens. As we’ll see in a minute, however, it’s probably about three inches long with a diameter of 3.1 inches and weighs 13.6 ounces. It’s just a bit smaller than the Tokina, which has the same barrel diameter but is 3.7 inches long and weighs 22.8 ounces. And unsurprisingly, all f/1.4 lenses are even bigger.
Meike also failed to state the material used to construct its lens barrel, which is cleanly designed with only two physical controls. Up front is the manual focus ring, and behind it you’ll find a focus mode selector on the left side of the lens barrel. Just like in its rival Tokina, there is no tightness here. You’ll have to upgrade to the Rokinon, Samyang, Sigma or Sony for this, but it’s an omission that’s very easy to overlook given the Meike’s budget price.
The front of the lens barrel is threaded to accept 67mm filters and accessories. The lens is firmware upgradeable via a micro USB port that sits neatly hidden within its metal lens mount.
Like the Tokina and Sigma, Meike opted for a more economical stepper motor autofocus system for the 85mm f1.8 FF STM. The Rokinon, Samyang, and Sony, on the other hand, use linear ultrasonic motors which generally offer better performance. Focusing is possible at a minimum distance of 2.8 feet for a maximum magnification of 0.13x.
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The reason for the affordability of the lens can probably be found in its optical formula. For one, with just nine elements in six groups, it’s the simplest of the bunch. The Tokina has an additional element and group, while the Rokinon, Samyang, and Sony each add two elements and groups. By far the most complex is the Sigma, however. With 15 elements in 11 groups, it’s almost twice the complexity of the Meike.
But that’s not the whole story of the value of this lens. It’s also worth noting that if you look in the company’s back catalogue, this isn’t its first 85mm f/1.8 with nine elements in six groups, and all the other base specs seem to line up nicely too. This suggests that the new 85mm f/1.8 FF E-mount STM inherited largely or entirely from the older 85mm f/1.8 AF for Canon EF and Nikon F-mount DSLRs.
Of course, adjustments *could* have been made to the optical formula. Admittedly, Meike mentions improved colors thanks to the double-sided multi-layer coatings on the lens elements for this optic, which he did not mention for the two DSLR lenses. And while the text sounds like a somewhat dodgy translation, it also seems to suggest that the front lens element sports a dust and smudge resistant coating.
Meike opted for a nine-bladed iris for the 85mm f/1.8, the same number of blades used by the Rokinon, Samyang and Tokina. Sigma and Sony lenses both have two extra blades, and their 11-blade apertures should produce rounder bokeh, especially when stopped down somewhat.
The lens supports electronic aperture control and allows a minimum aperture of f/22. It’s the only lens to do so, with the Rokinon, Samyang, Sigma, Sony and Tokina all limited to a minimum aperture of f/16.
Price and availability
Available immediately, the Meike 85mm f/1.8 FF STM Lens is priced at just $199.99. This makes it much more affordable than its closest rivals at the same focal length, the Tokina 85mm f/1.8 and Samyang 85mm f/1.4, both of which cost around $500. The Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 costs $530, while equivalents from Sigma and Sony are much more expensive at $1,199 and $1,799.99 respectively.
This makes the Meike the most affordable AF-capable 85mm for the full-frame E-mount, to date.
Meike 85mm Sample Images
Meike provided the following sample images showing the new lens in use.