Leica S3 Medium Format Camera

September 25, 2018 | Mark Goldstein | Digital | Comment |

The Leica S3 is a 64 megapixel medium format camera offering a 71 percent increase in resolution, a dynamic range of 15 stops and a maximum ISO sensitivity setting of 50,000. For the first time, the Leica S3 supports 4K cinema resolution video recording with 48 kHz, 16-bit stereo sound.

The Leica S3 will be available from Spring 2019.

Leica Press Release

Leica S3: on the occasion of the tenth anniversary, Leica Camera presents the latest model in the Leica S medium format system Wetzlar, 25th September 2018. Ten years ago, Leica Camera presented an entirely new medium format camera, the S2 at photokina 2008. Although essentially the size of a conventional DSLR, the camera was built around a considerably larger sensor. Now, on the occasion of this anniversary, Leica Camera AG has launched the Leica S3. In addition to the most obvious improvement – an increase in resolution from 37.5 to 64 megapixels – the medium format camera features a number of technological advances.

Just like its predecessors, the Leica S3 utilises the Leica ProFormat developed especially for the Leica S-System. With dimensions of 30x45mm, it corresponds to the classic 3:2 aspect ratio of 35 mm full-frame format, but offers a 56 percent larger sensor area. In comparison with its predecessor, the new 64-megapixel sensor developed exclusively for Leica offers a 71 percent increase in resolution, a dynamic range of 15 stops and a maximum ISO sensitivity setting of 50,000 – sufficient reserves to be ready to handle any imaginable lighting situation and to fully exploit the strengths of the medium format. Subjects can be composed in the large and bright SLR viewfinder, focused sharply with the fast and reliable autofocus and captured at a continuous shooting rate of three frames per second. In addition to all other essential exposure settings, an electronic levelling aid (horizon) can also be displayed in the viewfinder. Whenever required, a Live-View mode with a refresh rate of up to 60fps is available in both still picture and video recording mode that also allows focus peaking, brightness and exposure data, a clipping warning, grids and a histogram to be superimposed on the image.

The entire area of the sensor can be used not only for videos in full-HD, but for the first time, also for 4K cinema resolution (including the characteristic medium format look). When capturing video footage, 48 kHz, 16-bit stereo sound with automatic or manual level adjustment can be recorded with either the integrated microphone or an off-camera microphone.

The Leica Maestro II processor and a 2GB buffer memory ensure a smooth workflow that is essential for handling the enormous amounts of data generated by the sensor.

Shooting in tethered mode is also possible with the Leica Image Shuttle app, whereby all essential exposure settings can be made with the help of the app and the images captured in DNG and JPG format can be transferred directly to a computer via a USB 3.0 interface. The use of Lightroom Tethered Plugin allows the Leica S3 to be connected directly to the image processing package without any need for additional software.

In addition to a GPS function which determines the precise geographical location and the exact time of an image capture with the aid of satellites and saves them to the EXIF data, the Leica S3 also has a WLAN module with which the camera can be remotely controlled in conjunction with the Leica Fotos App.

As is already familiar from the Leica S-System, the Leica S3 is also constructed with the highest-quality and extremely resilient materials: examples of this are the magnesium body, the Corning®Gorilla®Glass cover plate of the 3-inch monitor screen and the lens bayonet, which is made from particularly durable stainless steel. Furthermore, the numerous seals that protect the camera against the threat of moisture, dust and other foreign bodies contribute to the reliability and long service life of the camera when shooting on location.

The familiar and proven intuitive handling concept of Leica S (Typ 007) has been carried forward to the Leica S3: the central control elements are two setting dials and a five-way joystick, which control the shutter speed and aperture and enable quick and easy menu navigation. The rear monitor screen is surrounded by four buttons that photographers can programme to meet their specific needs. Finally, the main switch can be used to select whether the focal plane shutter in the camera is used, or a central shutter, if this is a feature of the lens mounted on the camera.

With a special construction concept that ensures protection against dust and spray, the S-Lenses are an integral element of the Leica S-System. As is the case with other Leica lenses, S-Lenses are designed to offer sufficient performance reserves to meet the demands of future generations of imaging technology and retain their value as a long-term investment that can fully amplify the potential of future camera generations. The optical performance delivered by these lenses is still by no means exhausted by sensors with a resolution of 64 megapixels.

A further highlight of the S-System is the central shutter available as an alternative option for six lenses of the S-System portfolio. In contrast to a focal plane shutter with a maximum sync speed of 1/125s, a central shutter allows flash synchronization even at its fastest shutter speed of 1/1000s. This opens up considerably greater exposure leeway for creative photography, particularly when working with professional studio flash systems or when shooting in bright ambient light. In such situations, the larger image circle of Leica S-Lenses as a consequence of the sensor dimensions not only creates the characteristic medium format look, but also significantly shallower depth of focus.

The launch of the Leica S3 marks the tenth anniversary of the first appearance of the Leica S2 at the photokina show in 2008. The S2 was followed by the Leica S (Typ 006) and the Leica S (Typ 007) models in 2012 and 2015. As well as numerous improvements to the handling concept and the range of functions and the completion of the range of lenses, the switch from CCD to CMOS sensor technology and the launch of the Maestro II processors in 2015 stand out as the most important steps in the evolution of the Leica S-System.

The Leica S3 will be available from Spring 2019.


Leica S3


Dimensions 30 x 45 (Leica ProFormat)

Aspect ratio 2:3

Resolution 64 million pixels

Dynamic range Up to 15 stops

White balance Presets: Daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, fluorescent, HMI,

halogen warm, halogen cool, flash, tungsten

grey card, grey card Live View, automatic, colour temperature


Low-pass filter No (for maximum detail resolution/sharpness)

IR filter On the sensor

ISO sensitivity ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO

6400, ISO 12500, ISO 25000, ISO 50000, auto ISO


Type Predictive autofocus with central cross sensor

AF modes AFs (single) = focus priority, AFc (continuous) = predictive

focus tracking, manual override of AF settings is possible at any


AF lock Shutter release or five-way joystick

MF With lens focusing ring

Exposure settings

Exposure metering Exposure metering through the lens (TTL)

Metering modes Multi-segment (five fields), centre-weighted,

selective/spot metering (3.5% of image frame)

Exposure control Programme AE (with manual shift) (P),

shutter speed priority (T), aperture priority AE (A), manual

exposure metering

(M) Exposure compensation +/- 3 EV (in half-stop increments)

Exposure bracketing 3 or 5 exposures; 1/2, 1, 2, 3 stop(s)


Shutter Focal plane shutter, central shutter with Leica

CS lenses

Drive modes Single, continuous, interval, self-timer

2 s /12 s (with mirror pre-release)

Shutter speeds 2 minutes (depending on ISO setting) to 1/4000 s, in half-stop


Burst rate Up to 3 fps

Self-timer 2 s or 12 s, with mirror pre-release

Mirror pre-release Yes


Video recording 4K cinema and full-HD in Leica ProFormat (medium format)

Resolution Full-HD: 1920 x 1080 p, 4K cinema: 4096 x 2160 p

Frame rate Full-HD: 24, 25, 30 fps, 4K cinema: 24 fps

File format MOV (motion JPEG)

Colour subsampling 4:2:2

Exposure control Manual and automatic

Audio level Manual and automatic

Audio (onboard) Integrated stereo microphone. 48 kHz, 16 Bit

Audio (external) Audio-in (3.5 mm stereo jack), Audio-out (3.5 mm

stereo jack), with Leica Audio-Adapter-S

Time code Internal

Miscellaneous Focus peaking, clean uncompressed full-HD (1080p) 8-Bit, 4:2:2,

HDMI video stream for recording on off-camera HDMI recorders

Live View

Refresh rate Up to 60 fps

Focusing Manual, AF metering field shift to any part of the viewfinder


Exposure control Multi-segment (five fields), centre-weighted, selective/spot

(linked to AF

metering field)

Exposure simulation Yes

Miscellaneous Histogram with clipping, focus peaking, levelling aid (horizon),

exposure information


Type Pentaprism viewfinder with high-eyepoint eyepiece, illuminated

LCD bar

Magnification 0.87x (with 70 mm lens at infinity, 0 dpt.)

Viewfinder coverage Approx. 98%

Dioptre compensation –3 to +1 dioptres

Focusing screens Exchangeable: standard focusing screen with AF cross hairs and

spot marking (supplied with the camera), focusing screen with

engraved grid, microprism focusing screen

Viewfinder information Levelling aid (horizon), shutter speed, exposure control mode,

aperture, flash status, exposure compensation scale, flash sync

display, focus indicator, exposure compensation, remaining

exposures (on storage medium), buffer memory, error messages,

ISO settings display

Display panels

Monitor screen 3-inch TFT LCD display

Resolution 921,600 pixels

Colour space sRGB, 16 million colours

Oblique viewing angle 170°

Display cover glass Corning®Gorilla®Glass

Top-deck display panel Monochrome LCD display


Connections Lemo® flash sync socket, hot shoe with centre and control


Flash synchronisation

with focal plane shutter

1/125 s

Flash synchronisation

with central shutter (leaf shutter)

Up to 1/1000 s

High-speed sync HSS function up to 1/4000 s (with compatible external flash


Flash triggering point Sync on first or second curtain (FPS)


Drive modes Single, continuous, interval, self-timer 2 s with mirror prerelease,

self-timer 12 s with mirror pre-release

Data recording

Image data formats Lossless compressed DNG, DNG + JPEG

Buffer memory capacity 2 GB buffer memory, up to six lossless compressed DNG image


JPEG no limit (dependent on memory card type, shutter speed

and ISO setting)

Storage media SD card (SDXC), CF card (UDMA7), external (PC)


Playback mode Full image, histogram mit clipping, focus peaking, exposure



WLAN Integrated in camera body (remote camera control and image

assessment by smartphone app), IEEE802.11n

Date/time Manual or automatic date/time setting with GPS module

Levelling aid (horizon) Display sensitivity < 1° (at ambient temperatures from 0–40°C)


USB Lemo® USB 3.0 SuperSpeed

HDMI HDMI type C socket

Audio With Audio-Adapter S (audio-in, audio-out)

Flash synchronisation Lemo® flash sync socket

Remote release Lemo® cable remote release

WLAN Integrated in camera body


Materials Magnesium body with non-slip rubber armouring. Magnesium

top deck, aluminium baseplate. Stainless steel bayonet and

control elements

Dimensions 160 × 80 × 120 mm

Weight ~ 1260 g (without battery)

Dust-proof/splash-proof sealing Yes

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