Leica S3 Review (so far)

March 9, 2020 | Mark Goldstein
  1. News
  2. Hands On
  3. Introduction
  4. Ease of Use
  5. Image Quality
  6. Sample Images
  7. Product Images
  8. Rating & Conclusion
  9. Specifications
  10. Comment
  11. More…

    News

    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.

    TECHNICAL DATA

    Sensor

     

    Dimensions

    30 x 45 (Leica ProFormat)

    Aspect ratio

    2:3

    Resolution

    64 million pixels

    Dynamic range

    Up to 15 f-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

    (Kelvin)

    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

     

     

    Focusing

     

    Type

    Predictive TTL autofocus with central cross sensor and phase detection

    AF modes

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

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

    AF lock

    Shutter release or five-way joystick

    MF

    Via lens with electronic focusing aid

     

     

    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 control (M)

    (M) Exposure compensation

    +/- 3 EV (in half-stop increments)

    Exposure bracketing

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

     

     

    Shutter

     

    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 increments

    Burst rate

    Up to 3 fps

    Self-timer

    2 s or 12 s, with mirror pre-release

    Mirror pre-release

    Yes

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Video

     

    Video recording

    4K cinema and full-HD in Leica ProFormat (large format video)

    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 image

    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

     

     

    Viewfinder

     

    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

     

     

     

     

    Flash

     

    Connections

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

    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 units)

    Flash triggering point

    Sync on first or second curtain (FPS)

     

     

    Shooting

     

    Drive modes

    Single, continuous, interval, self-timer 2 s with mirror pre-release, 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 files,

    JPEG no limit (dependent on memory card type, shutter speed and ISO setting)

    Storage media

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

     

     

    Miscellaneous

     

    Playback mode

    Full image, histogram with clipping, focus peaking, exposure information

    GPS

    Yes

    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)

     

     

    Interfaces

     

    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

     

     

    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


    Image Gallery

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    Hands On

    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.

    Image Gallery

    Click on a thumbnail to see the full version.

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    1. News
    2. Hands On
    3. Introduction
    4. Ease of Use
    5. Image Quality
    6. Sample Images
    7. Product Images
    8. Conclusion
    9. Specifications
    10. Comment