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NANOHA x5 review

Published: 30.01.2012

Review of the NANOHA x5 lens from the Japanese manufacturer Yasuhara
(Independent review for written by Michal Kroupa. Published without any interference to the rating and content)

There is about 10 official kinds of SONY NEX lenses available at the market. It is mostly boring zoom-lenses with lousy lighting. The situation got a little better with the introduction of the NEX-7. Besides the Zeiss lens, there is also the Sony 30 mm f3.5 macro with a magnification ratio 1:1 available.
However, I had the honor, as the first in Europe, to test the ultra macro lens NANOHA x5 with the maximum magnification ratio 5:1! This lens is exclusively manufactured by the Japanese company Yasuhara for the NEX and micro 4/3 systems and the person responsible for its development is Mr. Shin Yasuhara – one of the designers of the Contax film cameras.

Firstly, I would like to say that I am excited about the lens. However, is it worth the purchase price of 500 dollars or 400 euro? Is it not possible to achieve the similar magnification with the use of macro rings and cheaper lens? You will find out the answers to these questions in the review.

Technical specifications and contents

Heart of the NANOHA x5 consists of ten spherical glass lenses arranged in seven groups. Individual elements are coated by one or more surface layers, which prevent reflection and mechanical damage. It is possible to focus in 11 – 19 mm range with resulting 4x to 5x magnification, that is 4:1 and 5:1. The body of the lens is mostly metal, excluding the light module and the material of the mount differs depending on the camera type. The mount is made of steel on the Sony NEX (E-mount) and of aluminum on the micro 4/3. The removable light module includes 3 LEDs, whose running life is thousands of hours according to the manufacturer. The lens was designed in Japan and manufactured in China, but before sale every single piece undergoes a final inspection in Japan.

What is in the box:
- lens
- USB cable
- four holders for taking pictures without a tripod (holders are made of plastic and it is possible to          

  them by cutting, to fit the size of the object)
- small cross-head screwdriver
- manual



 Nanoha x5
 NANOHA x5 ultra macro lens with magnification 5:1
Nanoha x5 bajonet
The Sony Nex e-mount is made of steel


Optical quality test

The technical specifications barely tell us something, so let us take a look at the optical quality and the mechanical processing. I was testing the lens with the body of the SONY NEX-5 camera.

First impressions. It is well known, that the lenses for the SONY NEX (E – mount) are well processed but the optical quality is a little behind. The whole NANOHA x5 is made of metal and givess a solid impression in the hand.  Only the focus ring shows a little worse technical processing, which spoils the final feeling a little. There is an aperture ring nearer to the body of the camera, which can be changed in four steps from the value f11 to f32. A removable light module with three LEDs is located at the end of the lens. Magnification can be set from 4x to 5x. The focus ring is firm enough, so that it is always focused. Technically it is a precise product. The company has properly chosen the production for APS-C and micro 4/3 sensors from Sony NEX, Olympus and Panasonic. That is why there is no vignettation and simillar optical defects.



Before the actual test I was quite afraid of the efficiency of the LEDs. However after getting the first photographs I instantly changed my mind. The lighting module is the main advantage of the lens over other macro lenses. After connecting the USB 2.0 for example to a computer (also works when the computer is shut down) and the USB 1.1 to the side of the lens, 3 LEDs, which are placed in a circle, lighten up. The last optical element has a special coating, which prevents reflections from these light sources.



 Led svetlá Nanoha x5
LEDs arround first optical element
Led svetlá Nanoha x5 rozsvietené
LEDs in use


Even though the LEDs limit you, depending on the length of the USB cable, I certainly recommend using them. The resulting times of most of the taken pictures after lighting up the LEDs with ISO 200 and aperture 16, were between 1/15 – 1/100s. That is why you can also make macro videos with low ISO. Without using the light module the times increase to approximately 1s, when there is a chance of blurring even with the camera placed on a tripod. On the other hand, macro photographs are mostly being taken in a room, where it is no problem to plug the cable into a turned off laptop. The USB cable is included. The lighting module is easily removed. There is also a small cross-head screwdriver for removing the three screws on the perimeter. I recommend this option mainly for photographing with 4x magnification, because logically the lens goes a little to the body of the camera. If you simultaneously have the lighting module installed, it will be fairly hard placing the photographed object so that focusing is possible.






The bigger problem for me was placing the lighting module back on. It is hard to place the three miniature screws back on. I certainly do not recommend removing the LEDs somewhere outside. The small screwdriver you get with the lens is indeed magnetic, but the screws might get lost anyways. Overall there is almost no reason to remove the module. You gain only benefits with it. It also protects the optics of the lens, which is another positive thing, because there is no ending cover included. You can indeed say that it is not a problem to light the photographed object by using external lighting, but it is pretty hard. Other lenses do not have the special coating, which would allow the use of direct spot light in the area of the last optical element. If you do so, most of the photos will be with low contrast and the quality will be worse.


Holders and tripods

Next, I would like to draw attention to the use of tripods. Shaking of my surrounding was a big problem for me while photographing. It is enough if a car drives by your house and your photo is not 100 percent focused anymore. The only option is to higher the ISO or to shoot on a completely calm place. As I do not have a tripod of sufficiently good quality, it was noticeable on the photographs. That is why I would like to apologize beforehand, that some photos are gently blurred  - it is definitely not because of the properties of the lens.

The lens is focused and shows only low diffraction when using the highest aperture. Even without a high quality tripod, whose price is about as high as the lenses, it is no problem to photograph static pictures. You get 4 holders in the box, which can be placed in front of the LEDs. You  then place the object into the holder, even though it requires certain skill, when it is finished you can possibly jump and run with the camera – the picture will always be sharp.



 Držiak predmetov
Holder in front of LEDs
Držiak predmetov
There are 4 holders in the box



Optical quality and the name

All in all the lens has only slight imperfections. I however cannot allow myself not to complain about the name itself, which is slightly misleading. In translation from Japanese NANOHA means “the gate to the world of nanometers”. The level of magnification in nanometers does however not happen (this can only be achieved with electron microscopes), but you get the magnification per pixel of 1000x bigger than 1nm. Theoretically it means, that with maximum magnification one pixel is 1um (0,001 mm), and this value is respectable. It is possible to slightly doubt these value in practice, because then it would be possible to photograph bacteria. However only a beginner would rate a lens by its name. After all the optical quality is the main thing and it is on high level. As I already mentioned before, the lens does barely show any distortion and you will not find any vignettation and color aberation on the final photographs.  The manufacturer deserves a big respect for the optical quality of the lens.



If you are still picking a camera and you are thinking, what combination to choose with a macro lens, it is clear that NANOHA x5 together with the NEX/micro4/3 is the best choice if you compare the price/picture quality ratio. But let us look at the possible competition of other marks. It is the first ultra macro lens on the NEX system, but similar lenses are already being made for other systems. Canon for example offers macro mpe-65 mm f2.8 with 1x to 5x magnification. The canon lens has got better lighting and magnification variability but its price is twice as big, besides there is no need to worry about the low lighting of the NANOHA lens. With 5:1 magnification and aperture 11 you get low DOF. That is why you will often have to use higher aperture numbers.



In the introduction of the review I mentioned, that the price is about 400 euros. Is it worth investing into this lens when the for example very popular Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35 mm f2.4, which has 2:1 magnification (much more with the use of macro extention tubes) costs three times less ?

The answer is: certainly yes.

Even with the use of macro extention tubes you will not achieve magnification as huge as with NANOHA. Another problem is, that macro extention tubes in use with the higher mentioned Zeiss lens and with its high lighting give a very low DOF together, which is not suitable for macro photography. Other meaningful positive in favor of NANOHAx5, is the lighting module and better options in setting the aperture. Altogether it is possible to say, that no other lens will give you such big magnification on the NEX system.


Final rating

I really enjoyed photographing with the lens. It even enraptured my girlfriend. To sum it all up, the only thing I did not like was the 5-blade aperture and worse processing of the focus ring. If you use an aperture higher than 11, there will be a strong rectangular bokeh. It is not a huge problem, but with macro lenses, which generally have a very low DOF, it could be a problem for some people. If technical reasons did not allow to add more aperture blades, then I apologize to the manufacturer. On the other hand, I would like to commend the manufacturer for the great optical quality and processing of the body of the lens. Moreover the lighting module, without which I would not be able to imagine macro photography enraptured me. The sharpness of the lens is also great with all aperture settings.

I would like to thank the online shop for borrowing me the lens and also the manufacturer for such exclusivity for SONY NEX and Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3. It came to my mind at the end of the test that the mechanical shutter of the NEX-5 can cause blurreness on the final photographs: it is possible that it makes slight vibrations, but that is only my personal feeling.


Pros and cons

+ Optical quality
+ High apperture and minimum diffraction
+ Metal processing
+ E-mount
+ Lighting module
+ Holders for video making
+ Price

- 5-blade apperture
- Focus ring
- A little bit harder installation of the lighting module


 Ukážkové fotografie


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