Fujifilm and Hasselblad are credited with bringing medium structure to the masses with the GFX 50S and X1D respectively, but the Leica S was launched way back in 2008 and is definitely arguably the first truly ‘portable’ medium format camera.
Its last revise was the S2 back in 2011, even though, and given Leica’s price and exclusivity it’s no surprise it dropped off the radar somewhat.
But the Leica S3, launched at Photokina 2018 brings the Leica S back with a bang. The headline specs are its 64-megapixel sensor (14MP more than the Fujifilm and Hasselblad) and 4K uncropped video capture, which is very impressive from a sensor of this size and resolution.
Unfortunately, Leica can’t tell us how much the Leica S3 will cost, but the prior Leica S2 marketed for £16,000/$23,000 bodies only, so the S3 certainly won’t end up being cheap.
Check Out: Best Lenses for Leica S3
Leica S3 Price, Deals & Discounts
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Build and handling
Mirrorless cameras may be dominating the headlines, but Leica has stuck with a DSLR design for the S3, and when you put the camera to your attention you’re instantly struck by the size, clarity, and brightness of the optical viewfinder.
The S3 has the same elegant, minimalist, rounded body shape of the previous model, with a stark selection of unmarked buttons on the rear and a control dial (also unmarked) and status panel on the top plate. The S3 is not a camera for beginners.
It’s bigger than a full-frame DSLR, naturally, but not by as much as you’d expect. The extra height in the body gives you a good grip around the body (the height of a grip is just as important as its depth) and the relative lack of controls means that you can heave this camera about without accidental button-presses.
The S3’s design is likely to divide opinion. It’s sleek, curved and elegant and a satisfaction to handle, but it’s a camera you’ll have to learn.
The Summarit-S 70 f/2.5 ASPH CS Lens is the closest factor to a ‘kit’ lens for this camera and focuses remarkably quickly and easily for such a big zoom lens.
The S3 we tried was an early pre-production model, but we look forward to testing the image quality just as soon as a loan sample becomes offered. Leica is confident, however, that its S-series lenses quickly have the resolving power to match the 64MP sensor and could cope with upcoming resolutions of 100MP and beyond.
The price will probably keep the S3 pitched at connoisseurs and very well-heeled professionals only, but its style, handling and feel are pure ‘Leica’. If you can afford it, you’ll love it for that alone.