[Updated 2020.07.20 — Ryan Avery’s updates about current Meike quality and new focal lengths.]
There have long been rumors that Hong Kong based Meike’s manual focus cine lenses are Veydras reborn — and with Veydra sadly defunct, the Meikes are especially interesting. Meike advertised the same six focal lengths as the original Veydras (12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm), with the same T2.2 maximum aperture and the same 77mm filter thread.
When that “reborn” article came out, I was skeptical. While the reviewer’s 25mm looks a lot like a Veydra, it’s an ounce heavier, has worse and different flare, and shows more chromatic aberration than my Veydra 25mm.
Meike’s spec sheet shows their 12mm weighs “about 606g”. My Veydra 12mm weighs 629g.
Meike’s images of their barrel design also show differences from Veydra’s, with a more tapered design and blunt vs. ramped mounting flanges on the MFT mount:
Here, I’ll superimpose ’em for you:
Despite the superficial differences, everything does line up: gear positions, focus rotations (the Veydra is 270º and the Meike seems to match), even that nonlinear iris control with the smaller apertures all bunched together.
Are they the same? In September 2019 I asked Veydra founder Ryan Avery what he knew about them, and he confirmed that the optical designs are indeed Veydra’s:
Veydra lenses were made by a 3rd party supplier who decided to offer them under the Meike name with different barrel aesthetics but the optics are the same. The QC is the issue at hand. I personally inspected most of the lenses that Veydra sold and there was a fairly high reject ratio…
That QC (quality control) issue is one to watch: Meikes retail for $340–$400, about 1/3 the price of Veydras, and one thing that remains stubbornly true is that you do get what you pay for.
In an interesting twist, Ryan Avery is now the official USA distributor for Meike cine primes. He and Matthew Duclos discuss the Meikes and how they sprang from the Veydras in a video on Newsshooter.com. Their claim is that efficiencies of mass production allow the Meikes to cost less than Veydras but maintain high quality nonetheless. Ryan tells me:
I been selling Meike lenses for about 6 months now and have inspected every lens from Meike that has come through (a hundreds [sic] so far) and every one is good. I have had zero defects. It seems their QC is much better than Veydra and the general lens build is better. I really didn’t think that was the case from early samples I saw of the Meike but it appears they worked it out in production.
Meikes get highly positive marks on B&H and Amazon, though some early reviewers mention quality issues. If Ryan is correct, those early teething troubles are history, and current lenses should be fine.
It never hurts to perform final QC yourself — but isn’t it always incumbent upon us to perform final QC on anything we use?
But wait, there’s more…
Last year Meike announced an 8mm and a 70mm (with a tip o’ the hat to Jose Antunes). To the best of my knowledge Veydra never offered anything in those focal lengths, so these would be all-new designs. Mysteriously, some time after Jose posted that article on September 4, Meike’s website dropped the 85mm from the list of expected lenses. The 85mm was a shipping Veydra design — I have one right here — so its disappearance was a puzzle.
Later, the 8mm and 70mm vanished from Meike’s list of focal lengths.
Now, the 85mm is back, and a new 65mm has shown up. As of last October both were expected earlier this year; Meike’s online shop currently suggests the 65mm will ship this month and the 85mm is expected in August. Ryan Avery says the “65mm [is] available now and an 85mm coming in about 2 weeks. I don’t know why the 85mm took so long other than that they started wide and worked out to longer focal lengths.”
Meike’s June 1 blog posting says the 8mm should appear in August, and reveals both a Super35mm T2.1 prime set and a full-frame T2.1 prime set to be released over the next year. There’s a 70mm in the Super35mm set, so now we know what that was all about.
Meike has resurrected the Veydra lenses and is adding new lenses to the lineup. This is excellent news for MFT shooters. It’s good for Sony and Fujifilm folks, too: the 25mm and longer lenses can be obtained with E- or FX-mounts (the image circles on the 12mm and 16mm, alas, don’t cover APS-C-sized sensors).
Not only that, if the Super35mm and full-frame lenses come out on schedule and offer similar price/performance ratios, we’ll have some interesting, affordable choices for larger sensors, too. Based on past predictions, though, Meike’s dates should be taken with large grains of salt, so don’t hold your breath for ‘em.
The original slogan was “Hail, Veydra.” Perhaps the new one should be, “the Veydra is dead; long live the Meike!”
Disclosure: I backed the Veydra project on Kickstarter and wound up with a set of four primes; I later purchased the 12mm and 85mm at full retail prices. The photos of the 12mm Veydra were taken using the 50mm Veydra. That aside, there’s no material relationship between me and Veydra LLC, Ryan Avery, Revar Cine, Matt Duclos, or Meike.