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Although more than half of 2012 still remains, the title of year's best mirrorless system camera has so far come down to a battle between the new Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the Sony NEX-7. Each has taken a completely separate path to the top: Sony's model is a slim, modern design loaded with features, while the X-Pro1 is an old-school all-manual camera with few extra frills. So who takes home the mirrorless crown (so far)?
Despite the NEX-7's advantage in megapixel resolution, this camera's lackluster kit lens cannot match the amazingly sharp Fujifilm XF lenses, which–when paired with the X-Pro1–earned the best resolution scores we've ever recorded. Given the importance of sharpness, it would be tough for Sony to come back from this disparity, but the X-Pro1 keeps the pressure on, producing color accuracy scores even better than the NEX-7's excellent numbers.
The two cameras are pretty much even when it comes to noise reduction, but the damage is already done, the X-Pro1 captures noticeably cleaner shots in all situations.
Winner: Fujifilm X-Pro1
While the NEX-7 offers all the modern amenities (plenty of features, a great contextual menu system), there's just something special about shooting with the X-Pro1. The satisfaction of clicking a manual aperture ring into place right before scoring that perfect depth of field, it's something the NEX-7 cannot replicate. The shooting experience could not be more different between these two cameras, and we strongly prefer the X-Pro1.
With that said, one of the NEX-7's best design features, handling, is one of the X-Pro1's worst. Physically holding up the X-Pro1's chassis can be difficult thanks to a poorly designed thumb rest, and this problem is not fully alleviated by Fujifilm's optional hand grip accessory (sold separately). The NEX-7 may in fact be the best handling mirrorless system camera out there, so if grip is more important to you than mechanical controls, this could make all the difference.
The X-Pro1's design is far more than gimmickry, tapping into the most fun and traditional elements of photography, while also deploying the latest in consumer imaging technology. In terms of both image quality and fun-factor, the X-Pro1 is very clearly the superior camera. However, we're a little put off by this price gap. For the price of an X-Pro1 and any one XF lens, you could pick up an NEX-7, with the kit lens, plus one–maybe two more lenses and still have some cash left over. Since both cameras are so impressive, and the performance gap is so narrow between the two, we have a harder time justifying the price difference than perhaps we would've in another Head to Head. Ultimately we prefer the X-Pro1, but either camera will serve you well.
Overall Winner: Tie (X-Pro1 for performance, NEX-7 for cost-effectiveness)