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First Impressions: Sony NEX 7 vs Fujifilm X Pro 1 vs Olympus EM5 OMD

by Chris Gampat on 04/19/2012

Which one? The Fuji X Pro 1, the Olympus OMD EM5, or the Sony NEX 7? These three cameras seem to be the current flagship of their respective camera systems. We’ve had hands on time with each camera already and feel that there is a sufficient lack of major information out there on the internet. Sure, everyone is comparing the high ISOs and looking at charts on image quality; but there is much more to a camera than that. What about the viewfinders? Or the ergonomics? Or the practicality of the lens selection?

Let’s take a look.

Gear In Question

Fujifilm X Pro 1: B&H / Amazon

Sony NEX 7: B&H / Amazon

Olympus EM5: B&H / Amazon

Coverage

EM5

X Pro 1

NEX 7

Ergonomics

Sony NEX 7: The ergonomics on the Sony NEX 7 are very much like a rangefinder camera body, but not quite. Instead, it is a rethink/modern update to the aesthetics that those cameras have. With that said, there is a bit more of a grip, three major control dials with two being on top of the camera, and a flip up LCD screen.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: Though the camera is said to be a modern rangefinder, it isn’t. The ergonomics are almost exactly like one though. Fuji went the different route of putting the shutter dial on top of the camera and the aperture dial around the lens: just like the old classics. Otherwise, there are buttons galore on the back.

Olympus EM5: The EM5 OMD is an interesting camera. It is a rethink on the company’s old SLR cameras, but in a mirrorless camera model. It isn’t as big as a Fuji X Pro 1 but isn’t as small as an NEX 7. There is a big viewfinder right in the middle (just like an SLR), two top control dials, and buttons on the back that can be tough to press at times. Plus there is a flip up LCD screen that is also touch capable.

Winner: I’m very much torn between the NEX7 and X Pro 1 on this one, but I have to hand it to the X Pro 1 for the reason that all of the functions that I would typically use are right where I want them.

Autofocus

Sony NEX 7: The NEX 7′s autofocus is really quick. When I handled it, it wasn’t that quick due to it being a pre-production model. However, I know for a fact that the focusing works just like the NEX 5n’s, and therefore is very speedy in acquiring a subject. Sadly, individual selection of a specific focusing point isn’t the simplest to do.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: This is where Fujifilm needs to pick up its game. The X Pro 1 focuses like the 5D Mk II. Additionally, choosing a focusing point besides the middle in a real life situation isn’t really the easiest to do.

Olympus EM5: Olympus revamped their Fast Autofocus System (they actually call it that) and it is indeed quite quick. Using the touch screen on the EM5, you won’t have much of a problem focusing at all. Use the viewfinder, and you’ll suffer from the same problems as the other cameras.

Winner: The touch screen saves the EM5 in this case. But all of the companies should consider a system like Canon or Nikon’s where the point can be selected with a joystick on the back of the camera.

Lens Selection

Sony NEX 7: Sony has a bunch of adapters for various lenses at the time of writing this post. That includes Leica and their own Alpha lenses for their DSLRs. Plus, they have third party support already from Tamron and Sigma.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: Fujifilm has only Leica adapters at the time of writing this post. They have no digital SLR system of their own. The S Pro series were essentially Nikon cameras.

Olympus EM5: Olympus and Micro Four Thirds have the smallest sensor of the three: and can therefore mount nearly any camera lens you can think of. Plus, there are adapters for their system everywhere.

Winner: Micro Four Thirds and the EM5 win this one. If you already have an investment in another camera system, consider it as a backup.

Universal System Support

Sony NEX 7: Sony NEX cameras have many lenses and customized cases and grips available for them.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: At the time of writing this post, the X Pro 1 doesn’t have much support yet. Most interestingly though, it is the only camera on the list with a PC sync port: meaning that it can easily hook up to studio strobes. Sony’s NEX 7 can use Pocket Wizards with an adapter and the EM5 can also use triggers or fire strobes via infrared transmission from an attached Olympus supported flash.

Olympus EM5: Micro Four Thirds (M 4/3) has a ton of support and there are tons and tons of grips and cases available. Plus, many flashes also work with the system.

Winner: Micro Four Thirds wins again.

Video Quality

Sony NEX 7: Sony’s video quality is truly remarkable and is often used by many professionals.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: Fujifilm hasn’t really stepped into the digital video world quite seriously yet. However, their movie film is popular. They might one day take a more serious step forward.

Olympus EM5: Older Olympus cameras were plagued with their codec being super tough to work with. Olympus has fixed that now, but they’re still not often seen on film sets.

Winner: The winner in this case needs to go to Sony, despite the fact that there are also nightmares with their codec.

Viewfinder

Sony NEX 7: Sony’s OLED TruFinder is truly beautiful and the best electronic viewfinder out there. Plus, if you’re manually focusing your lenses, then peaking can be enabled to ensure that you get in focus with ease and with the least amount of button pushing.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: Fujifilm uses a real viewfinder with displays over it. With the flip of a switch, it can turn into an electronic viewfinder. For the most part, it’s an excellent viewfinder, but one can’t see how far out they are focusing in optical mode except through a distance scale in the viewfinder.

Olympus EM5: Olympus put the VF2 on top of the EM5. It isn’t as high quality as the NEX 7′s but it is still very good.

Winner: This is very tough, but for a guy like me with glasses, I much prefer the NEX 7′s TruFinder.

Practicality in Real Life Shooting

Sony NEX 7: There is a big giant LCD screen to use, or the viewfinder. The focusing is snappy. Manually focusing a lens is an absolute breeze due to the focus peaking. Manual adjustment of settings can be a bit tough, but it isn’t terrible. Using the camera for photojournalistic reasons is practical, but that proprietary hot shoe for accessories is killer.

Fujifilm X Pro 1: Focusing is perhaps the biggest problem with the X Pro 1. However, the viewfinder is wonderful for real life use. If someone wants you to take their portrait, you’ll have the easiest time focusing. With a moving subject though, you’ll have some hardships. This is actually a camera that I would want to use in a studio and just to go out and have fun. In real life though, I know that since the focusing is just like my 5D Mk II’s, that I can use it for almost anything.

Olympus EM5: This camera in many ways is the street photography king when it comes to autofocus due to the touch screen. Plus the image quality in a studio can be exceptional. When it comes to manually focusing though, Micro Four Thirds is still a bit crippled due to the fact that they only use a magnification factor to do so.

Winner: This is a three way tie. OMD wins for autofocusing, NEX 7 wins for manually focusing in real life, and the X Pro 1 wins for the easiest ergonomics and getting your settings right if you’re a manual shooter.

We’re not drawing a conclusion yet though, and this will be a tough one. But we will do so once we have finished reviewing the units.

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