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Head to Head: Sony NEX-7 Vs. Olympus PEN E-P3

With the Sony NEX-7 cruising through our performance tests, we though it would be useful to see how it fares against our pick as 2011's best compact system camera, the Olympus PEN E-P3.

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When time came to name our best mirrorless system camera of 2011, there wasn't much discussion required; the Olympus PEN E-P3 (full review here) wowed us with superb image quality, great handling, and plenty of control to appeal to the enthusiast shooter. Well, it appears the E-P3's time at the top has come to a swift end, as our review of the Sony Alpha NEX-7 has it besting the E-P3 in nearly every performance category.

The Sony Alpha NEX-7 is the culmination of the previous NEX models, sporting a brand-new 24.3-megapixel APS-C image sensor that is substantially larger than the 12-megapixel sensor found in the Olympus E-P3. That gives the Sony great image clarity, better dynamic range, much better low light shooting, all on top of a blisteringly fast 10fps shot-to-shot time.

The Sony NEX-7's rear monitor isn't quite as nice as the OLED touchscreen found on the E-P3, but it has an articulating hinge to go with the Sony's electronic viewfinder—another perk the E-P3 doesn't feature. While we wish Sony had included something similar to Olympus's Super Control Panel menu on the NEX-7, the Tri-Navi scheme on the NEX offers three control dials that more than make up for that loss.

While we have to reserve special praise for the removable grip and clean lines of the E-P3, the wonky combination of slim body/DSLR-sized lens is an afterthought with the NEX-7's large, plush grip. The only real area the E-P3 beats out the NEX-7 is in price, as it comes in at $899 with a kit lens compared to the $1349 Sony NEX-7.

Both are fine cameras (as well as significant investments), but if you're looking for the best of the best in the compact system camera market, for the time being it's Sony, not Olympus, that is king of the hill.

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