MEIKE recently announced its new 12mm T2.5 S35 Cine Prime lens that is available in either PL or EF mount.
The 12mm T2.5 is a new addition to the S35 set, which was supposedly completed with the addition of 100mm T2.1. MEIKE now has the following lenses available:
- 12mm T2.5
- 18mm T2.1
- 25mm T2.1
- 35mm T2.1
- 50mm T2.1
- 75mm T2.1
- 100mm T2.1
This makes for a nice and relatively inexpensive seven-lens set and all the lenses, apart from the 12mm, feature a common T2.1 aperture. Would I like to see more focal lengths added in the future? Yes, but you don’t tend to see affordable cine primes in sets of more than 6-8 lenses. It would be good to see MEIKE add some other focal lengths such as 135mm, 21mm, 60mm, etc.
- Focal Length: 12mm
- Format: S35
- Lens Construction: 10 groups, 17 elements including 1 aspherical lens
- Aperture Range: T/2.5-T/22
- Diaphragm Blades: 10
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.2m
- Filter Size: ø86mm
- Image circle: 28.2mm
- Outer Diameter: 90mm
- Focus Rotation: 270°
- Net Weight: PL: 880g, EF: 880g
- Dimensions (Ø x L): PL: ø85.5 × 103mm, EF: φ85.5 × 111mm
- FOV: on S35 camera： Diagonal 104.5° Horizontal 97.1° Vertical 61.1°
- Fit: PL/EF mount
The 12mm T2.5, just like the rest of the lenses in the series is being touted as an affordable, compact-sized cine prime lens. The MEIKE S35 series is a good option if you are thinking about getting dedicated cine prime lenses, but don’t have a lot of money to spend. In a lot of ways, lenses like these offer cine-style mechanics at the price point of a normal stills lens. I have previously reviewed quite a few MEIKE lenses and they offer very good optical performance considering their low price point. They are clean lenses and while they don’t have a ton of character they are perfect for a lot of projects, especially corporate work.
As I have already mentioned the lenses cover S35-sized sensors. The image circle coverage of a lot of the focal lengths is 33.6mm, so they will actually cover a lot of full-frame sensors when shooting in 4K or UHD. However, the image circle coverage of the 12mm T2.5 is only 28.2mm, so it will be interesting to see if there is any vignetting. We will find out later in the review.
Now, these lenses are only available in Canon EF or PL mounts. The mounts are not swappable. A user-swappable EF/PL mount would have made a lot of sense, especially given the target audience for this lens.
While the lens only comes in PL or EF mount, you can purchase additional MEIKE adapters so that you can use them on other systems if required.
S35 made a resurgence in 2022 with ARRI, RED, Sony, and several other camera manufacturers releasing new cameras. The great aspect of S35 sensor-sized cameras is that there is a lot broader range of lenses with better focal lengths available than there is for full frame and larger sensor cameras.
Size & Weight
The 12mm T2.5 tips the scales at 880g / 1.94 lb in PL mount, and This is quite a lot of weight for a small lens, but it still makes it manageable on a wide array of cameras.
The PL-mount version is 98.5mm (3.88″) long and the Canon EF-mount version is 106.5mm (4.19″) long.
The lens, like all of the focal lengths in the series, feels solidly made (especially for a lens at this price). The focus and iris rings are nicely weighted, and their movement is smooth and consistent.
The issue I find when reviewing more affordable cine lenses is that the build quality never seems to be consistent between the focal lengths. In this case, the build quality of the 12mm is in line with that of the 100mm T2.1 that I previously reviewed. Both of these focal lengths have better mechanics than that of the 35mm T2.1. With the 35mm T2.1, the focus ring had noticeably more friction when moving toward infinity than when it is moved back toward its minimum focus distance.
This is what you need to be mindful of when purchasing affordable cine lenses. I certainly can’t speak for the build quality of every lens, but the end user expects that the build quality should be consistent across the range. For the most part, I have been happy with the consistency of the build quality with the MEIKE lenses. The mechanical consistency is far better than a lot of other affordable cine primes on the market.
The markings on the lens are shown in both feet and meters, which used to be quite unusual, but it has become increasingly more popular with ‘affordable’ cine lenses. Having markings in both feet and meters saves on making multiple versions and it helps to keep the cost down.
Now, as this lens has been designed primarily for solo shooters or small crews, you don’t get markings on the opposite side of the lens.
On the 35mm T2.1 that I previously reviewed, I did notice that the infinity marking in meters didn’t line up with the infinity marking for feet. Again, this might be a minor complaint, but both of them should line up.
On the 12mm T2.5, everything lined up correctly.
Unlike all of the other lenses in the series that feature a 77mm front filter diameter, the 12mm is 86mm. That does make it a lot more difficult to run a front-mounted filter. The front diameter of the lens is 90mm which makes it a little harder to attach some matte boxes without an adapter ring.
The minimum focusing distance is 20cm / 7.87″. This is nice and close and it enables you to create interesting wide-angle shots with a shallow depth of field., as well as wide-angle macro-esque shots.
The lens has a focus throw of 270 Degrees and both the iris and focus ring feature industry-standard 0.8 pitch gears. It is possible to manually pull focus from infinity to the minimum focusing distance in one go, despite the large 270 degrees of rotation. This is mainly because the physical size of the lens barrel isn’t that big.
Is it actually a cine lens or just a rehoused stills lens?
According to MEIKE, just like all of the S35 cine lenses, this is a purpose-built cine design and not a rehoused stills lens.
The optical construction of the lens compromises 17 elements in 10 groups and it also has 10 aperture blades.
I tested out the lens by doing large focus throws by hand, and while there is some breathing, for a lens at this price, it is very well controlled. With ultra-wide-angle lenses such as this, you are probably not going to be doing big focus throws.
No lens technically has zero breathing, but very good cinema glass has such minimal amounts that it is virtually impossible to see. What you will always see is some perspective shift which is normal when refocusing a lens.
Image shift is the change in location of a fixed point after a focus rack. It should be in the same spot after you rack focus.
Perspective shift is the focal length of the lens being modified by the movement of the optics. A slight change in focal length may happen if there is a floating element that moves and is not properly corrected for in the design. Certainly, the great majority of lenses have this issue. It’s also tenths of a mm so not overly noticeable.
Focus breathing is a change in image size so the size of object will get larger as it moves out of frame. That is reproduction size.
Fall off and Vignetting
I didn’t notice any real noticeable fall-off or vignetting when using this lens on an ALEXA 35 in its 4.6K mode.
As I mentioned before, the lens covers an image circle of 28.2mm.
As you would probably expect from such a very wide-angle lens, there is some image distortion and bending of straight lines. While it isn’t terrible, you do need to be aware of it. It is slightly more pronounced than say what you would get from a lens like the Tokina Cinema 11-20mm T2.9, however, that lens costs significantly more.
This is a very wide-angle lens, so I was interested to see how sharp it was at various T stops. The lens is certainly nice and sharp, even when used wide open.
As you can see in my tests, sharpness does improve as you stop the lens down, and like most lenses, the sweet spot is probably between T5.6 and T8.
This is a nice sharp lens that can certainly be used wide-open.
Corner sharpness is not great with the MEIKE when it is used wide open. Even at T5.6, it is still a little soft. I don’t personally think this is a big deal because, with ultra-wide angle lenses, you rarely have the main subject in the very corner or to the very edges of the frame.
As a comparison to the MEIKE, I also did a quick sharpness test with the Tokina Cinema 11-20mm T2.9 (when it was set at 12mm). While this certainly isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison given one lens is a zoom and one is a prime, it is always nice to see the differences between two lenses.
The Tokina is reasonably sharp even at T2.9 and it has much better edge sharpness than the MEIKE. This shouldn’t come as any surprise considering it costs more than 3x what the MEIKE does. However, in saying that, the MEIKE is no slouch when it comes to sharpness.
I didn’t like the lens flare from the 12mm, but that is just my personal opinion.
The lens does maintain a reasonable amount of contrast even when a bright light source is coming directly down the barrel, but when used wide open the flare lacks any sort of nice character.
When you stop down to T5.6 the flare and veiling are very well controlled. I personally preferred the look of the flare when you use the lens stopped down.
The lens does show signs of chromatic aberration when used wide open or at T2.8. You can see this without having to zoom in 300%.
The chromatic aberration isn’t horrible and you just need to be mindful when you shoot with the lens that you may see some in high-contrast areas.
Nice bokeh is not something you usually associate with ultra wide angle lenses. However, because this is a T2.5 lens and it has a close minimum focusing distance, you can create some reasonably nice bokeh. The bokeh produced is reasonably nice and round.
The lens is fairly neutral when it comes to color, if anything it is slightly cooler in tone.
The color tone of a lens is really something you should look at closely if you are going to be using both prime and zoom lenses from different manufacturers. Certain prime and zoom lenses work better together than others. What will work for you will also depend on what camera you are using.
Real World Thoughts
The Meike 12mm T2.5 S35-Prime Cinema has good optical performance, especially given its relatively low entry cost. The Meike could arguably give more expensive lenses a run for their money.
Despite only having a T2.5 maximum aperture, the lens is still capable of creating good separation from your background and the bokeh is pleasing.
The build quality and mechanics are good, especially at this price point. The markings all line up correctly and the focus and iris rotation is consistent and smooth. The only negative aspect of the lens is the chromatic aberration when it is used at T2.5 or T2.8.
With the industry pushing forward with larger-sized sensors, investing in S35 glass may not be the best idea. In saying that, the investment in S35 lenses such as these isn’t a large one and if you are primarily shooting with S35 cameras then they are certainly worth looking at.
Price & Availability
The Mieke 12mm T2.5 S35-Prime Cine Lens is now shipping for $699.99 USD. This makes it very affordably priced for a cine prime lens.
There is actually not a lot of competition in the S35 cinema prime marketplace, especially for lenses that come in either PL or EF mount. Most cine prime lenses being made today cover full-frame and larger sensors.
This probably gives the MEIKE lenses a little bit of an edge as they aren’t competing directly against a lot of other lenses.
As far as affordable Canon EF mount cine prime options are concerned, lenses like the SLR Magic APO MicroPrime Cine lenses could be considered competition. They have the same T-stop, however, they cover full-frame and larger sensors. You could also argue that MEIKE’s own FF Cine prime series and lenses from companies such as DZOFilm and NiSi could be considered competition.
Do you need a full-frame cinema lens?
The answer really depends on what cameras you use and what you may end up using in the future. Let’s face it, a lot of us are not shooting on the RED DSMC2 Monstro 8K VV, or an ARRI ALEXA Mini LF, although in saying that, there are now quite a few affordable full-frame digital cinema cameras such as the Canon C500 Mark III, Sony FX9, Kinefinity MAVO LF, Z CAM E2-F6 Full-Frame 6K and 8K, etc. There are also lots of very affordable full-frame mirrorless hybrids and certain shooters prefer to use cine lenses on those cameras instead of native AF glass.
There has certainly been a push by manufacturers to bring out full-frame and larger digital cinema cameras, so lenses that cover full-frame and larger sensors have become more popular. However, with the recent release of more S35 cameras, there is certainly a market for lenses like the MEIKE S35.
I don’t generally shoot on a full-frame digital cinema camera, but I have still personally chosen to invest in full-frame prime lenses. I did this because the industry is moving quickly and I would prefer to spend my money on something that is going to be slightly more future-proof than a lens that just covers an S35 sensor. In saying that, S35 glass is generally going to be lighter and more affordable, and a lot of the cine zooms I own only cover S35.
Investing in a full-frame lens is going to cost you a lot more money than buying one that just covers S35 sensors, and you need to factor that in when considering what to buy.
The Meike 12mm T2.5 S35-Prime Cinema Lens offers a good balance of price vs performance. What I also like is that (from the lenses I have personally tested) is that they all have a similar look and color tone, so they match well together.
The optical performance is good, it is relatively lightweight and it is decently made. The lens doesn’t have much breathing and it produces reasonably pleasing bokeh. The downside as I mentioned earlier is that there is quite a lot of chromatic aberration when using the lens at T2.5 and T2.8.
Yes, it doesn’t have a ton of character, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you want a sharp, optically good wide angle cine lens then the 12mm certainly ticks those boxes.
The primary reason this lens is only $699.99 USD is that it only covers S35 sensors. You usually can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you wanted a faster lens and something that covers larger sensors then the price and size of the lens would both increase.
The mechanics and build quality are good for a sub $700 USD lens. The 270 degrees of focus rotation allows you to make finite focus adjustments without the associated problems of using stills glass. The barrel is significantly small enough that you can pull focus from infinity to the minimum focus distance by hand.
Having an 86mm front filter thread isn’t ideal, as that isn’t the most common of filter sizes, however, you could still attach filters if you plan on using this lens on mirrorless, DSLR, or small-sized digital cinema cameras that don’t have built-in ND.
MEIKE continues to do a good job with their S35 Cine series and I highly recommend them if you are looking for affordable cine prime lenses. They offer a nice balance between optical performance, build quality, and cost.
I haven’t reviewed all of the lenses in the series, so I can only comment on the ones I have tested.
Just like the rest of the lenses in the series that I have reviewed, the 12mm offers a clean look. However, that is hardly a negative because a clean look is going to be a much more suitable choice for a lot of applications such as corporate work than a lens that has vintage characteristics. MEIKE has made a very affordable range of cine primes for S35 sensor cameras where you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good optical performance and mechanics.