Leica S3 Review

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 (at the time of writing article) bodies only, so the S3 certainly won’t end up being cheap.

Check Out: Best Lenses for Leica S3

Leica S3: Price

Leica S3: 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.

Leica S3: Performance

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.

As well as the most apparent improvement – a rise in resolution from 37.5 to 64 megapixels – the medium format camera features numerous technological advances. Exactly like its predecessors, the Leica S3 also utilises the Leica ProFormat created specifically for the Leica S-System. With measurements of 30 x 45 millimetres, it corresponds to the traditional 3:2 element ratio of the 35 mm full-framework format, but offers a 56 percent larger sensor region. In comparison to its predecessor, the brand new 64 megapixel sensor developed specifically for Leica supplies a 71 % increase in quality, a dynamic selection of 15 f-stops and a maximum ISO sensitivity placing of 50000 – therefore providing enough reserves to prepare yourself to take care of any imaginable lights situation and fully exploit the strengths of the moderate format. Subjects could be composed in the big and vivid SLR viewfinder, concentrated sharply with the quick and dependable autofocus and captured at a continuing shooting rate of three fps. Along with all the essential exposure configurations, an electric levelling help (horizon) may also be shown in the viewfinder. Whenever needed, the LCD display screen shows a Live-View image with a refresh price as high as 60 fps comes in both still image and movie recording setting that furthermore allows focus peaking, lighting and exposure information, a clipping caution, grids and a histogram to become superimposed onto the picture.

The entire section of the sensor may be used not merely for videos inside full-HD, but, for the very first time, also for 4K cinema resolution – like the characteristic medium format look. When capturing video, 48 kHz,16-bit stereo audio with automated or manual degree adjustment can be documented with either the incorporated or an exterior microphone.

The Leica Maestro II processor and a 2 GB buffer memory ensure a smooth workflow that’s needed for handling the large numbers of data generated by the sensor. Capturing in tethered mode can be feasible with the Leica Picture Shuttle app, whereby all essential direct exposure settings could be produced with the aid of the app and the pictures captured in DNG and JPG format can be transferred directly to a pc with an USB 3.0 interface. Utilizing the Lightroom Tethered Plugin allows the Leica S3 to get in touch right to the image processing bundle without any dependence on additional software.

And a GPS function, which determines the complete geographical location and the precise time using satellites and saves them to the EXIF information, the Leica S3 also offers a WLAN module with that your camera could be remotely controlled with the Leica FOTOS 2.0 app.

Much like other users of the Leica S-Program, the Leica S3 is constructed making use of superior-quality and intensely resilient materials: for example the magnesium entire body, the Corning Gorilla Cup cover bowl of the 3-inch monitor screen along with the lens bayonet, that is created from particularly sound stainless. Furthermore, the many seals that protect the digital camera contrary to the ingress of dampness, dust along with other international bodies donate to the dependability and long support existence of the camera when shooting on area. The acquainted and confirmed intuitive handling idea of Leica S (Typ 007) has already been carried ahead to the Leica S3: the central control components are two setting dials and a five-way joystick, which handle the shutter acceleration and aperture and enable fast and simple menu routing. The rear display is encircled by four control keys which may be configured relating to the photographer’s choices and requires. And lastly, the primary switch may be used to select from the camera’s focal plane shutter or a main shutter – provided this is a function provided by the zoom lens installed on the camera.

With a particular construction concept that guarantees safety against dust and spray, the S-Lenses are an intrinsic part of the Leica S-System. As is the situation with some other Leica lenses, S-Lenses are made to offer sufficient efficiency reserves to meet up the needs of potential generations of imaging technologies and retain their worth as a long-term expense that can completely exploit the possibility of future digital camera generations. The optical functionality shipped by these lenses continues to be in no way exhausted by sensors with an answer of 64 megapixels. An additional highlight of the S-System may be the main shutter available alternatively choice for six lenses of the S-System portfolio. As opposed to a focal plane shutter with an optimum sync swiftness of 1/125 s, the main shutter enables flash synchronization actually at its fastest shutter quickness of 1/1000 s. This opens upward considerably greater exposure leeway for innovative photography, particularly if working with expert studio flash techniques or capturing in shiny ambient light. In such situations, the bigger picture circle of Leica S-Lenses because of the sensor dimensions not only produces the characteristic moderate format appearance but also the considerably shallower depth of focus.

Leica S3: Key Features

The Leica S3 was designed to mark a wedding anniversary for the S-line, being revealed a decade following the announcement of the S2 (at Photokina 2008). Despite becoming past due, though, the S3 remains an development of its old brother, along with the Leica Typ S (007) that succeeded it in 2016.

It retains the DSLR form and vintage optical viewfinder of its forebears, but escalates the sensor dimension 1.7 times from 37.5MP to 64MP. Once again, though, this is not true medium format but an inferior edition; Leica’s ProFormat sensor will be 30 x 45mm, with a 3:2 element ratio (whereas Fujifilm and Hasselblad work with a 44 x 33mm sensor with 4:3 ratio).

This new sensor has an optimum ISO of 50,000, promising 15 stops of powerful range, and like its predecessor captures DNG raw files. And, once again like its predecessor, you will not be shooting very much sport using its 3fps burst mode.

As the S3 offers uncropped, full-width, moderate format cine 4K video, it, unfortunately, delivers it in the movement JPG format (almost all producers have thankfully moved from MOV documents to MP4). It could report C4K at 24fps and 1080p around 30fps, though its exterior recording result is limited to a completely clean 1080p 8-little bit 4:2:2 movie via HDMI.

Leica S3: Conclusion

The Leica S3 is all you would expect of a fresh Leica; it’s as inspiring as it will be impenetrable, also to fire off several shots and listen to that unique moderate format “ker-chunk” punctuated by way of a pregnant pause will do to cause you to question whether mirrorless is really the potential… even though just for minutes.

A day to day camera for people it’s not, also it lacks both mod cons and the required tech to justify its cost point… but by the end of your day it’s got that small red dot about the front. For a lot of, that’s all that counts.

It’s not really the largest, the baddest, or even arguably also the very best medium file format digital camera. What it will be is, however, will be possessed of this “Leica miracle”. The sensor isn’t stabilized, the viewfinder isn’t digital and the control keys aren’t even labeled – but it’s an unadulterated pleasure to get and shoot with. Astonishingly tactile and satisfying to use, for a few the intangibles may conquer the spec sheet omissions.


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