I recently got my hands on a particularly interesting lens from the yesteryear, the Sun Optical Multi Zoom 65-130mm f/3.5, courtesy of a lovely lens-donor-lady for our local photography club (special shout to Ever Amador for letting me have the first dibs on the lens). This lens is an M42 mount manual lens, produced by Sun Optical, a Japanese lens maker, in the 1970s.
Build and Handling
The lens is pretty large in size and heavy since all parts are made from metal. Despite the weight, I feel like it’s not that big of a problem. It fits right even in my small hands when I plugged it into my mirrorless camera for a test drive. The problem comes when I tried to figure out which ring is the aperture, focal length, or focus. Maybe it takes time to get used to the ring placement on this lens, but it’s not as easy to remember as the other manual lenses that I own.
I particularly like the extendable lens hood straight out from the lens barrel, a common feature of lenses from the old days. Focus ring throw is long yet buttery in case of my copy, though because the proximity of the focal length ring beneath it, I always mistakenly grab the focal length instead of focus. One important note here is that the aperture is constant at f/3.5 — a cool engineering feat for its age!
I could not have been more pleased when I found out about the image quality. When I first inspected the lens, due to its condition being kept in a dusty musty container for years, I thought the images wouldn’t be sharp. But I was wrong, after taking a few shots they look as sharp as modern lenses given you nailed the focus right.
Being a zoom lens with a focal length of 60-135mm, it’s perfectly made for portraiture especially when you mount it on a crop sensor. I discovered that the images taken with this lens give quite a smooth blur, giving nice separation between the object and the background.
Of course, being a battered old lens it has no chance to fight the glaring sun flare in midday, though I think it has its own character in projecting the flare. I also tried it at night and found that the lens produces nice-looking 6-pointed sun stars. The bokeh, however, is very rough and uneven at times.
My verdict for this Sun System zoom lens is, if you have spare money or if you like to experiment, you should get it. I like the lens design and I am happy with the portrait results, but at the same time the size and weight tire me out after a while. I wish it could be a little bit sharper but perhaps it’s just the trait of the copy that I have. Probably this won’t be your go-to lens especially if you are a beginner or hobbyist, but as a vintage lens addict like myself, perhaps this is a lens that does wonder. One that I would consider to own one and shoot for more serious portraiture works.