Leica S sensor review: Consummate performer?

By Kevin Carter - Wednesday February 26 2014

Camera Review
Introduction | Leica S: CCD sensor limited | Leica S vs Phase One IQ180 Digital Back vs Pentax 645D | Leica S vs Sony A7R vs Nikon D800E: Lags behind in DR and high ISO sensitivity | Conclusion
Leica S sensor review: Consummate performer?

Leica’s re-imagined S medium format camera adopts the 30 x 45mm 37.5-Mpix CCD of the original Leica S2 but adds improved image processing, built-in GPS and a number of other refinements. Read on to find out how well the new camera performs.

Launched at Photokina in 2012, the Leica S is a revised version of the original Leica S2, the firm’s professional medium format camera intended for both field use and studio photography. Like the original, it adopts a custom made Truesense Imaging 45 x 30 mm (3:2 aspect ratio) 37.5-Mpix CCD but features improved image processing with increased sensitivity from ISO100-1600 including an auto ISO selection option. Other upgrades include a larger buffer (now 2GB) and faster transfer rates, allowing consecutive capture of up to 32 lossely compressed DNG files.

Although the environmentally sealed magnesium alloy shell remains virtually unaltered, the Leica S features built-in GPS. In fact, the inclusion of the GPS antennae on the top plate can be used to identify the new model, while to the rear, a new rocker switch for improved menu navigation, replaces a push-button on the previous iteration. As a system intended for professional use the Leica S has both a focal plane shutter with a flash sync up to 1/125th second the option to use the firm’s CS (central shutter) lenses with flash syncing up to 1/1000th second. Leica delayed the launch of the CS lenses till they were certain the internal shutter mechanisms were durable enough for professional use – they’re guaranteed for a minimum 100K actuations. Measuring 6.3 x 3.1 x 4.7" (160 x 80 x 120mm) and weighing 2.78 lbs. (1260g) the Leica S is available now at $21,950.

Key specifications:

  • 37.5-Mpix 30 x 45mm CCD sensor
  • ISO100-1600, plus Auto
  • Single cross-point array PD-AF system
  • Focal plane shutter 1/4000-32 secs. Flash sync at 1/125th sec
  • Optional central shutter (CS) lenses with flash sync to 1/1000th sec
  • 3.0" 920 K-dot tilt LCD (covering sRGB color space)
  • Continuous shooting at up to 1.5 fps
  • Environmental sealing
  • Dual CF and SD card slots
  • Built-in GPS

Leica S: CCD sensor limited

Leica S vs Phase One IQ180 Digital Back vs Pentax 645D

Leica S vs Sony A7R vs Nikon D800E: Lags behind in DR and high ISO sensitivity

Conclusion