Leica S3 Review (so far)
Over 18 months since it was first announced at Photokina 2018, Leica have finally officially unveiled the new S3 medium format camera.
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 online and in-store from 6th March 2020 for RRP £16,500 / $18,995.
Leica Camera Press Release
Wetzlar, 6 March 2020. Leica Camera launches the latest model of its medium format system, having previously announced the development of the Leica S3 at Photokina 2018. With the market release of the Leica S3, Leica once again lives up to the ambitious quality standards the brand’s customers have come to expect.
In addition to the most prominent improvement – an increase in resolution from 37.5 to 64-megapixels – the medium format camera boasts several technological developments. Just like its predecessors, the Leica S3 also features the Leica ProFormat sensor with 64MP resolution, which was developed exclusively for the Leica S-System. With dimensions of 30 x 45mm, it corresponds to the classic 3:2 aspect ratio of the 35mm full-frame format, but offers a 56% larger sensor area. In comparison to its predecessor, the new 64-megapixel sensor offers a 71% increase in resolution, a dynamic range of 15 f-stops and a maximum ISO sensitivity setting of 50000 – delivering outstanding image quality in any imaginable lighting situation while fully exploiting the strengths of medium format. Whenever required, the LCD screen displays a Live-View image with a refresh rate of up to 60 fps.
The entire area of the sensor can be used not only for videos in full-HD but also for 4K cinema resolution. 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 external microphone.
In addition to the integrated GPS function, the Leica S3 also has Wi-Fi which allows for the camera to be remotely controlled via the Leica FOTOS 2.0 app.
As with other members of the Leica S-System, the Leica S3 features superior-quality and extremely resilient materials such as the magnesium body, the Corning®Gorilla®Glass cover plate of the 3-inch monitor screen as well as the lens bayonet, which is made from particularly solid stainless steel. Furthermore, the numerous seals that protect the camera against the ingress of moisture or dust contribute to the reliability and long service life of the camera when shooting on location.
With a special construction concept that ensures protection against dust and spray, the S-Lenses are an integral element of the Leica S-System. Just like any other Leica lens, S-Lenses are designed to offer the best possible performance to meet the demands of future generations of imaging technology and to retain their value as a long-term investment.
A further highlight of the S-System is the central shutter. In contrast to a focal plane shutter with a maximum sync speed of 1/125s, a central shutter allows flash synchronisation even at its fastest shutter speed of 1/1000s. This offers considerably greater exposure leeway for creative photography, particularly when working with professional studio flash systems or shooting in bright ambient light.
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.
30 x 45 (Leica ProFormat)
64 million pixels
Up to 15 f-stops
Presets: Daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, fluorescent, HMI,
halogen warm, halogen cool, flash, tungsten
grey card, grey card Live View, automatic, colour temperature
No (for maximum detail resolution/sharpness)
On the sensor
ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO 6400, ISO 12500, ISO 25000, ISO 50000, auto ISO
Predictive TTL autofocus with central cross sensor and phase detection
AFs (single) = focus priority, AFc (continuous) = predictive
focus tracking, manual override of AF settings is possible at any time
Shutter release or five-way joystick
Via lens with electronic focusing aid
Exposure metering through the lens (TTL)
Multi-segment (five fields), centre-weighted,
selective/spot metering (3.5% of image frame)
Programme AE (with manual shift) (P),
shutter speed priority (T), aperture priority AE (A), manual exposure control (M)
(M) Exposure compensation
+/- 3 EV (in half-stop increments)
3 or 5 exposures; 1/2, 1, 2, 3 stop(s)
Focal plane shutter, central shutter with Leica
Single, continuous, interval, self-timer
2 s /12 s (with mirror pre-release)
2 minutes (depending on ISO setting) to 1/4000 s, in half-stop increments
Up to 3 fps
2 s or 12 s, with mirror pre-release
4K cinema and full-HD in Leica ProFormat (large format video)
Full-HD: 1920 x 1080 p, 4K cinema: 4096 x 2160 p
Full-HD: 24, 25, 30 fps, 4K cinema: 24 fps
MOV (motion JPEG)
Manual and automatic
Manual and automatic
Integrated stereo microphone. 48 kHz, 16 Bit
Audio-in (3.5 mm stereo jack), Audio-out (3.5 mm
stereo jack), with Leica Audio-Adapter-S
Focus peaking, clean uncompressed full-HD (1080p) 8-Bit, 4:2:2, HDMI video stream for recording on off-camera HDMI recorders
Up to 60 fps
Manual, AF metering field shift to any part of the viewfinder image
Multi-segment (five fields), centre-weighted, selective/spot (linked to AF
Histogram with clipping, focus peaking, levelling aid (horizon),
Pentaprism viewfinder with high-eyepoint eyepiece, illuminated LCD bar
0.87x (with 70 mm lens at infinity, 0 dpt.)
–3 to +1 dioptres
Exchangeable: standard focusing screen with AF cross hairs and spot marking (supplied with the camera), focusing screen with engraved grid, microprism focusing screen
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
3-inch TFT LCD display
sRGB, 16 million colours
Oblique viewing angle
Display cover glass
Top-deck display panel
Monochrome LCD display
Lemo® flash sync socket, hot shoe with centre and control contacts
with focal plane shutter
with central shutter (leaf shutter)
Up to 1/1000 s
HSS function up to 1/4000 s (with compatible external flash units)
Flash triggering point
Sync on first or second curtain (FPS)
Single, continuous, interval, self-timer 2 s with mirror pre-release, self-timer 12 s with mirror pre-release
Image data formats
Lossless compressed DNG, DNG + JPEG
Buffer memory capacity
2 GB buffer memory, up to six lossless compressed DNG image files,
JPEG no limit (dependent on memory card type, shutter speed and ISO setting)
SD card (SDXC), CF card (UDMA7), external (PC)
Full image, histogram with clipping, focus peaking, exposure information
Integrated in camera body (remote camera control and image assessment by smartphone app), IEEE802.11n
Manual or automatic date/time setting with GPS module
Levelling aid (horizon)
Display sensitivity < 1° (at ambient temperatures from 0–40°C)
Lemo® USB 3.0 SuperSpeed
HDMI type C socket
With Audio-Adapter S (audio-in, audio-out)
Lemo® flash sync socket
Lemo® cable remote release
Integrated in camera body
Magnesium body with non-slip rubber armouring. Magnesium top deck, aluminium baseplate. Stainless steel bayonet and control elements
160 × 80 × 120 mm
~ 1260 g (without battery)
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Want to see exactly what the new Leica S3 SLR camera looks like in the flesh?
Check out our extensive hands-on gallery of photos of the Leica S3 SLR camera.
A gallery of hands-on photos of the Leica S3 SLR camera, the new 35mm and 50mm lenses, and the silver Leica CL camera.
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