When it comes to professional digital photography, the Leica S-series has long been considered to be on the cutting edge. The S1 was a groundbreaking camera manufactured in the middle of the 1990s that included a digital scanning back and was capable of producing photos that were fantastic and extraordinarily huge.
The S2 from 2008 continues the trend by including a variety of unique lenses in the S-series. These lenses were designed to use the vast 45mm x 30mm digital sensor in the camera.
At this year’s Photokina, Leica announced the discontinuation of their number naming policy and the launch of a fresh new S-series camera. The S (Type 006) delivers many incremental upgrades over the S2 at the low, low price of just $21,950 for the body-only version of the camera. These enhancements include a new picture sensor and processor with 37.5 megapixels.
What do you receive for that amount of money? Access to some of the world’s most expensive and sharpest medium format lenses; an expanded ISO range from 100 to 1600; and an internal buffer that is twice as large as that of the S2.
In addition, Leica will offer a maintenance and replacement plan for three years, during which you will have access to loaner cameras while your camera is being serviced.
Leica S (Typ 006) Design
According to Leica’s marketing, the S-series Type 006 was built with the idea that “less is more,” They weren’t joking when they said it. Because almost all of the settings lack labels, you have little nothing to do other than frame your image, select the aperture and shutter speed and start taking pictures; yet, amateurs who have $22,000 to spare are discouraged from applying for this job.
The viewfinder on Type 006 has a coverage of 98%, but the viewfinder on the S2 only covers 96% of the frame, and the back LCD on Type 006 has a resolution of 920k dots and a size of 3 inches.
The secondary top-plate LCD seems the same as on the S2, although it may offer enhanced contrast in bright settings. This is something that we were unable to identify indoors due to the lighting conditions.
Leica also says that Type 006 has better predictive focusing, which can track moving subjects more quickly and accurately. However, let’s face it: the incredible focusing mechanism is not the primary reason anyone purchases a medium-format camera.
Leica S (Typ 006) Features
The most recent model in Leica’s S-series may not appear as different from the S2. Still, it does have updated internal components that have the potential to increase the camera’s adaptability significantly.
The new medium format sensor with 37.5 megapixels and the accompanying processor enables an ISO range of 100-1600, increasing from the previous maximum of 1250 on the S2. The Type 006 can fire shots at a burst rate of up to 1.5 frames per second. Still, its larger internal buffer can record 32 consecutive RAW files (and infinite JPEGs), increasing over the S2’s capacity of 10 RAW photos.
As with the S2, the latest camera in the S-series saves photos in the DNG file format, which is the industry standard. This makes it possible to incorporate the files into digital workflows swiftly.
The camera has two card slots: one for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards and one for Compact Flash cards. This allows users to record RAW data to the Compact Flash card while simultaneously transmitting JPEG photographs to the SD card for rapid review.
Leica S (Typ 006) Image Quality
The autofocus technology that comes standard on the Leica S has been custom-built, and it boasts a high level of efficiency. This allows the user to achieve focus in a broad range of different scenarios swiftly. When working in both bright and low lighting, an expanded sensitivity range, from ISO 100 to 1600, also helps to enhance clarity in the photos captured by the camera.
Both of these technologies aim to offer crisp pictures regardless of the lighting settings they are functioning in, whether they are in the best possible conditions or the worst possible ones.
Leica S (Typ 006) Specs
|Camera Type||Medium format DSLR camera|
|Sensor||30 x 45mm CCD|
|Pixel Pitch||6 μm|
|Dynamic Range||12 stops|
|IR Cut Filter||On sensor|
|File Formats||DNG (RAW data uncompressed or lossless compressed), DNG+JPEG fine, DNG+JPEG basic, JPEG fine, JPEG basic|
|File Size||DNG: 7500 x 5000 px, 72 MB/file|
DNG Compressed: 7500 x 5000 px, 42 MB/file
JPEG: 37.5, 9.3, or 2.3 MP; basic or fine; 1-16 MB/file depending on content and compression
|Color Spaces||Adobe RGB, sRGB, ECI RGB V2|
|Lens Mount||Leica S bayonet|
|Crop Factor||35mm equivalent= 0.8x|
|Focus Type||Predictive phase detection autofocus with central cross-sensor array, AF motor in lenses|
|Focus Modes||AFs (single) with focus priority, AFc (continuous) with release priority, manual focus|
|Manual Focusing||Focusing on lens barrel or tethered with Image Shuttle software|
|Exposure Modes||Single frame, continuous, self-timer 2 or 12 sec. (with mirror pre-release)|
|Exposure Metering||Multi-segment metering (five fields), center-weighted integral metering, selective (spot) metering (3.5% of image frame); AE lock by pressing shutter release to second resistance point or with five-way switch; metering range 1.2-20 EV (multi-segment and center-weighted) or 2.7-20 EV (spot)|
|Exposure Control||Program AE (with shift function), aperture priority AE, shutter speed priority AE, manual|
|Exposure Compensation||+/- 3 EV in 1/2 steps|
|Exposure Bracketing||3 or 5 exposures (auto/manual) in 1/2, 1, 2, and 3 EV steps|
|Sensitivity||ISO 100-1600, auto|
|White Balance||Daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, HMI, fluorescent warm, fluorescent cool, flash, auto, grey card, color temperature (2000-13100K)|
|Shutter Type||Vertical metal focal plane shutter integrated in camera body|
|Shutter Speed Range||1/4000 to 32 sec., bulb (to 125 sec.) with in-camera focal plane shutter|
1/1000 to 8 sec. with central shutter lenses
|Flash Synchro Speed||1/125 sec.|
|Continuous Shooting||1.5 fps (2GB image buffer; DNG max. 28 images, DNG compressed max. 32 images, JPEG no limit)|
|Viewfinder Type||Pentaprism viewfinder with high-eye point eyepiece|
|Viewfinder Coverage||Approx. 98%|
|Viewfinder Magnification||0.8x (with 70mm lens at infinity)|
|Diopter Adjustment||-3 to +1|
|Focusing Screen||Ground glass with crosshairs (interchangeable)|
|Display||3.0″ / 7.6 cm LCD-TFT with 921k-dot resolution|
sRGB color space, 16 million colors, 170° viewing angle
|External Flash Connection||Hot shoe with center and control contacts, LEMO or standard flash connection sockets without control of flash power|
|Flash Metering||TT L (multi-segment, spot, center-weighted) multi-segment photodiode|
|Flash Synchronization||Up to 1/125 sec. (focal plane shutter), up to 1/1000 sec. with central shutter lenses / linear flash mode for sync speeds above 1/125 sec. and focal plane shutter with automatic TTL-HSS control|
|Flash Exposure Compensation||+/- 3 EV in 1/3 steps|
|Connectivity||USB 2.0 (LEMO design), HDMI (Type C), 7-pin LEMO socket|
|System & Software Requirements||Windows XP, Vista, 7|
Mac OS X (10.5 or later)
|Battery Type||Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 7.4 V, 2100 mAh|
|Charger||Rapid charger S (with integrated US mains plug, interchangeable EU, UK, and AUS plugs, and vehicle adapter)|
Inputs: 100-240 V AC, 50/60 Hz, automatic adaptation, or 12/24 V DC
Output: 4.2 V DC, 800 mA
|Memory Types||CompactFlash (UDMA 7)|
SD, SDHC (to 32 GB), SDXC (to 2 TB)
|Operating Conditions||32-113°F / 0-45°C|
15-80% relative humidity
|Weather Resistance||Dust and spray protection|
|Tripod Socket||1/4″ and 3/8″ with locator holes for mounting plate anti-twist locking pins|
|Dimensions||6.3 x 3.1 x 4.7″ / 160 x 80 x 120 mm|
|Weight||2.78 lb / 1.26 kg (body only, with battery)|
|Package Weight||7.4 lb|
|Box Dimensions (LxWxH)||14 x 9.5 x 7.5″|
At a time when full-frame picture sensors are all the rage at Photokina 2012, Leica’s upgrade to its medium format S-series delivers a new body for specialized professional photographers who are ready to pay the asking price of $21,950. The image quality of the new S-series Type 006 should be better than that of the S2 from 2008 thanks to the huge sensor upgrade it has.
In addition, Leica has added three new lenses to the S-series family of cameras, which will assist the specific set of photographers being discussed here.
The popularity of medium format photography has undoubtedly increased over the past several years; but, the rise of high-resolution cameras like Nikon’s D800, which has a resolution of 36.3 megapixels, poses a challenge to the continued use of such huge bodies.
The costs and benefits are very clear. The body of the new S-series camera is not significantly larger than that of the D800, yet, it costs seven times as much, has a slower processing speed, and does not provide the same customization or lens option.
In a similar vein, it costs more than twice as much as the Pentax 645D, which is another digital medium format camera that provides access to a far broader ecosystem of lenses.
Even if the redesigned body of the S-series is an advance over the S2, this camera is still in the specialized niche category of being suitable only for the wealthy or the highly committed.
If that’s your bag, then the Leica S Type 006 is a slight advance in many respects over its predecessor, and it maintains the clean, beautiful, and small design of the S2 simultaneously.