If you’re here looking for a review of the Neewer 35mm f/1.7, I’m going to guess that you began your search with the Sony 35mm f/1.8, but kept looking in hopes of finding a less expensive alternative. At around $130, the Neewer 35mm is a tempting option to Sony’s $450 35mm offering. The two key features that account for the $300+ price difference is a lack of auto-focus and image stabilization on the Neewer 35mm. The Neewer 35mm is a lens that punches well above it’s weight though, providing impressive build quality, optics, and performance at the $130 price point. This lens is not without it’s flaws though. I’ll get into all of this and more in my review of the Neewer 35mm f/1.7.
*This lens can also be listed under the brand name Meike (Hong Kong Meike Digital Technology), just like the Rokinon/Samyang naming that I mentioned in my review of the Rokinon 12mm. From what I can see, Meike has decided to use the Neewer name for it’s Sony e-mount lenses.
Lens Construction, Handling, And Build Quality:
The Neewer 35mm f/1.7 is a lens that is built surprisingly well. For $130 you’re getting a lens that is made of all metal, and only plastic on the rings and caps. This lens comes in at 6.4oz and is 1.8 x 1.23 x 1.8in. There really aren’t any weak points when it comes to the construction and build quality of the Neewer 35mm. This thing is a little tank.
As much as I’m impressed with the build quality of the Neewer 35mm, I can see that corners were cut on the lens cap and aperture ring. The lens cap isn’t a center-pinching cap, it’s just like a box top with no threading. The cap fits very well at first, but with time becomes a little less snug. I can live with that. The aperture ring is just a smooth sliding ring with out any clicks or holds. I found this frustrating as the ring would adjust and move without me noticing. The numbers on the aperture ring are 1.7, 2, 2.8, 4, 8, and 22. There are times when I’ll be set in-between 4 and 8, and just by grabbing the camera by the lens be moved to around 15. Just be sure to always check the ring before shooting.
The Neewer 35mm f/1.7 has ciricular aperture blades that render a very appealing bokeh that I will cover later on in this review. The lens is composed of 6 multicoated elements in 5 groups. The minimum focus distance is 1ft, and the front element takes a 49mm filter.
The Neewer 35mm has a maximum aperture of f/1.7 and a minimum aperture of f/22. The diaphragm has 8 blades that you can see from maximum to minimum in the photos below.
It’s worth noting (if you’re not already aware) that at f/1.7 your depth of field is going to be very shallow. This can cause shots to be out of focus even when they look in-focus on your camera. Practice makes perfect.
The Neewer 35mm f/1.7 is a fully manual lens with no image stabilization or built in auto-focus features. On your Sony a6000/a6300/a6500/etc, the lens will not be recognized when attached. You will need to go into your settings so the camera will release the shutter without recognizing the lens. You will also want to go into your settings and turn on focus peaking, so that you can make sure your exposures are properly focused. Focus peaking places a highlight color on the parts of your exposure that are in focus, as seen in the photo below.
The focus ring on the Neewer 35mm is amazing and feels like other focus rings I’ve used on much more expensive lenses. There is no jumpiness, grit, or sloppiness. It’s easy to get locked-in and then make quick adjustments as needed.
Image Quality And Performance:
A lens with excellent build quality is nice, but the images that a lens can produce is the most important factor when adding a new piece of glass to your camera bag. The Neewer 35mm produces some amazingly sharp and rich photos. So much so, that I don’t feel the need to add the caveat “for a lens that costs $130”.
At f/1.7, this lens is sharp at the center, but doesn’t approach it’s best until around f/2.8-4. The corners are pretty soft up until f/8. I don’t mind the soft edges though, as I’m usually shooting portraits and focusing on objects within a shallow depth of field. At 35mm on a crop sensor camera, landscapes and other shots that require sharp corners just aren’t practical.
The Neewer 35mm has very little chromatic aberration, and produces a very manageable amount of barrel distortion. The vignetting is noticeable, but like the soft corners, works well with portraits.
Having a maximum aperture of f/1.7 allows me to shoot handheld in low light with high shutter speeds while keeping my ISO below 3200 (6400 is not very good on the a6000). The Neewer 35mm has helped me capture some amazing shots while indoors or at sunset.
Landscapes and Outdoors
I’m not a big fan of the Neewer 35mm for hiking and the outdoors. At 35mm, the lens is not wide enough for landscapes, and it’s not long enough for close ups. The manual focus also makes it difficult to track and lock on moving wildlife or a fast moving child. I also notice a bit of haziness when capturing brightly lit areas. Still, the lens will perform dutifully when called upon. I just wouldn’t want this lens to be the only piece of glass in my bag on an outdoor adventure.
Portraits and Bokeh
Portraits are really the strongest category for the Neewer 35mm. The bokeh is smooth and buttery, and the image subjects are sharp and compelling. I spend 99% of my time photographing landscapes, but this lens is making me want to start shooting portraits more often.
The Neewer (Meike) 35mm f/1.7 is a great value lens for hobby photographers looking to add a midrange prime to their camera bag. The Sony 35mm is another great option, but costs $300 more than the Neewer. Having used the Neewer extensively, I’m not sure I can argue that the Sony is worth the extra money. The image stabilization and autofocus would be very nice to have, but not $300 nice. For landscapes and outdoor activities, this lens doesn’t make the cut. For portraits, indoor photography, travel, and low light settings, the Neewer 35mm is a great option.
- Build quality
- Low light performance
- Manual focus
- Aperture ring without clicks