Lens Review: Pergear 50mm f/1.8

I get asked frequently, “How can I make my digital pictures look more like film?”

My film simulation recipes—made possible by Fujifilm’s commitment to the camera-made JPEG and their long history with film—are a great start for achieving a film-like look. Another step that can go a long way towards achieving an analog aesthetic is the lens that’s attached to the camera. You see, most modern lenses are precision engineered, designed to eliminate flaws as much as possible. They score well on test charts, but often at the expense of character. Modern lenses render photographs differently than vintage lenses; old lenses have flaws, as they weren’t designed with today’s technology or for today’s standards, and these flaws are why they render images uniquely. For (typically) not very much money you can buy antique lenses intended for film cameras, and mount them to your Fujifilm X camera with an adapter—something that I love to do! Cheap third-party lenses often accomplish the same thing, but you’re buying something that’s new (instead of old) and you don’t need an adapter. The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens is an inexpensive option for your Fujifilm X camera, and it indeed has character similar to a vintage lens!

I get gift cards sometimes, usually for my birthday or Christmas, and it can be hard to know what to buy myself. In the past I have purchased a Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens and a 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 lens—both are under $100, which is the right price range for those gift cards that I don’t know what to do with. The Pergear 50mm f/1.8, with an MSRP of $79, is in that same category. The Pergear lens has other things in common with the Meike and 7artisans models: click-less aperture rings, seemingly good build quality, similar flaws, and lots of character. You’d almost think that they were made by the same company, but apparently they’re not.

The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 is a 75mm-equivalent manual-focus, manual-aperture prime lens from China. It has 10 rounded aperture blades, 6 elements in 4 groups, a maximum aperture of f/1.8, a minimum aperture of f/16, a minimum focus distance of about 15 inches, and accepts 43mm threaded filters. The aperture and focus rings are both smooth. I do wish that the aperture ring had f-stop clicks, but it doesn’t—not a big deal, though.

Center sharpness is pretty fantastic on the Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens at all apertures. Corner sharpness is decent-enough when wide open and noticeably improves when stopped down to f/4. There’s some minor vignetting when wide open; it improves when stopped down, yet it never fully goes away, although it’s hardly noticeable at apertures smaller than f/2.8. There’s some noticeable chromatic aberrations in extreme high-contrast light, but is otherwise well controlled. There’s almost no distortion. Bokeh is pretty good thanks to those rounded blades.

The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 has a weird flaw, which can be stunningly beautiful or terribly awful, depending on your tastes and the exact situation: the center of the frame can get a warm haze. It seems to become more pronounced when the aperture is (roughly) f/5.6 and smaller, and when there’s a bright light source somewhere in front of the camera (it can be outside the frame). Sometimes I really love this haze, and it’s almost like having a diffusion filter built into the lens, and sometimes it’s just too pronounced and essentially ruins the picture. Opening up the aperture seems to reduce the effect in those situations where it might be too pronounced. This strange haze is both the reason to buy this lens and the reason not to, depending on your opinion of it. I personally really like it, although I’m happy to have it limited to one lens, which I can choose to use when I want this character in my pictures. To be clear, this haze won’t show up in every picture—there are many situations where it won’t, either because the aperture is too large or because the light isn’t right, and even when it does appear, it’s often very subtle, which is great.

The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 is a good, sharp lens, producing lovely images in most situations. It has character that you just won’t find in most modern lenses. It has quirks, which can be good or bad, depending on the situation and your tastes. It’s all manual, which I like, but can take some practice to get good at if you’ve only ever used auto lenses. The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens, when used in conjunction with the Fujifilm JPEG settings, can help you achieve a much-sought-after film-like look from your digital camera. It’s not for everyone, but, for the price, it’s worth a try, especially if you are unsure what to buy with that gift card in your wallet.

This review contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated a small amount if you make a purchase using my links.
Amazon $79

Below are camera-made JPEGs that I captured using the Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens attached to my Fujifilm X-T30. For the color pictures I used my new Kodak Portra 400 v2 recipe (available on the Fuji X Weekly App for iOS), except for the the top picture, which was captured with Velvia, and the two night pictures below that, which were captured with Porto 200 (also available on the app). For the black-and-white pictures I used my Kodak Tri-X 400 recipe. The photographs of the lens (above) were captured with a Fujifilm X100V using my Superia Premium 400 recipe.

Piano Abstract – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Train at Night – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Windshield Bokeh – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Red Berry Tree – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Resting Girl on Chair – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Handicapped Parking – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Trash, Truck – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Rural Trash Can – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Dam & Bridge – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Water Under The Bridge – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Cold Country Road – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
December Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Hunting Journey – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Winter Sunflower – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Reed by a Frozen Lake – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Cattails – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Pole Cone – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Duck Hunters – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Grass in the Cold Water – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Motor Vehicles Prohibited – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Steel – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Barren Landscape – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Grass in the Frozen Marsh – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
Storm Over Frozen Marsh – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Pergear 50mm f/1.8
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Lens Review: Meike 35mm f/1.7 for Fujifilm


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Meike 35mm f/1.7

I had a birthday a few weeks ago. I also had an Amazon gift card. So I browsed Amazon for something to buy myself in celebration of becoming older. I was looking through Fujifilm accessories when I stumbled across a cheap $90 prime lens, the Meike 35mm f/1.7. A prime lens for less than $100? I added it to the cart, proceeded to the checkout and submitted the order.

And I immediately regretted it.

I mean, I’m older and supposedly wiser. What kind of piece-of-junk lens am I going to get for so little money? It will, most assuredly, be poorly made with subpar optics and I’ll never use it. I had wasted my money, no doubt about it, I thought. I should have purchased something else. Oh, well. The order had already been placed.

A couple of days later a package arrived at my door. Inside was a box that contained the Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens that I had ordered. I opened it up with low expectations. It felt plenty hefty, though, and not lightweight like something made from cheap plastic. I removed the lens from the box and it looked and felt solidly built, mostly made of metal. My senses were telling me that I had ordered a vintage lens from the film era, perhaps the 1960’s, and not a brand-new lens made for digital cameras.

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Meike 35mm on Fujifilm X-Pro2

The Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens looked good and seemed like a quality item, but what about the optics? Was it going to perform well? Why was it so darn cheap?

I attached it to my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and immediately noticed a quirk. The aperture ring is smooth and doesn’t click at the different f-stops. That’s a little odd. I have a Helios 44-2 lens that has two aperture rings, one that clicks and one that’s smooth, and so it’s not a new concept, but it is an unusual choice.

Another quirk is that the spaces in-between the f-stops, marked by numbers on the lens, are far apart when the aperture is large and close together when the aperture is small. For example, it takes quite a turn to get from f/1.7 to f/2 but going from f/8 all the way to f/22 is a tiny turn, and trying to stop on f/11 or f/16 is a tough task.

This is a manual focus lens and the focus ring is smooth. It seems to have the right amount of give, not too firm and not too loose. There is a focus distance scale on the lens, something that is too often missing today. The front element doesn’t rotate and it has 49mm threads.

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Meike 35mm on Fujifilm X-Pro2 with coffee

I was shocked when I reviewed some frames that I had captured with the Meike 35mm lens on my X-Pro2 and saw how crisp they were. It’s sharp. Very sharp, in fact! I would expect this sharpness out of a lens that costs much more, but not out of budget glass. From the perspective of creating crisp images, this lens is right up there with the best. And it looks good attached to the X-Pro2.

I was then shocked by the amount of vignetting and the soft corners when using a large aperture. This is why the lens is so cheap. When wide open the Meike 35mm is almost unusable. I say almost because you could use the flaws as an artistic tool to give your images character. Things noticeably improve at f/2, but it’s still pronounced. By f/2.8 I would say that the vignetting and soft corners are minimal enough that you could live with them, but they don’t fully go away until f/8. Apertures smaller than f/8 suffer from diffraction. There is a small amount of chromatic aberrations that can be found when the aperture is f/4 and larger, but overall it’s well controlled. There’s a fairly pronounced pincushion distortion, which you’ll notice if you photograph a brick wall.

Bokeh, which is the quality of the out-of-focus area of an image, looks very good with this lens. When wide open there is a slight swirly effect, similar to the Helios 44-2 but less pronounced. When the aperture is large the subject separates nicely from the background.

The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is an excellent budget standard prime lens option for your Fujifilm camera. It’s all manual, which I like but some people might not. It has lots of character, something that’s often missing from modern lenses. It certainly has plenty of flaws and there is a reason why it’s cheap, but overall it performs much better than the price point would indicate. Even if the MSRP was $150 (instead of $90) it would still be an intriguing option. If you don’t already own a standard prime lens for your Fujifilm camera, this is one that you should consider, and, because it’s very inexpensive, it should fit into everyone’s budget.

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Securely In Father’s Arms – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Conoco – Edgemont, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 35mm

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Sinclair – Edgemont, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Big Cookie, Little Girl – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Camping Face – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Campfire – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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White Flower Blossoms – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Green Hills Under Grey Sky – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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State & Federal Symbols – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Monumental – Mt. Rushmore, SD – X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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George – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Mount Rushmore Monochrome – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Ominous – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Flowers & Rail – Edgemont, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Getting Ranger Badges – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

See also: Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II lens review

Help Fuji X Weekly

Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There's a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!

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