Rumor: Leica S3 with new sensor at Photokina

This rumor comes from the French website claiming that Leica will be releasing a new medium format SLR camera (S3?) during the Photokina 2012 show. The Leica S3 will feature a new medium format CMOS sensor produced by the European semiconductors manufacturer STMicroelectronics (Goole translation):

The adventure picture is likely to continue on Photokina: "a renowned German manufacturer", Leica, is expected to announce a new SLR camera - medium format? - With a giant sensor, CMOS, signed ST. To be continued ...

I've heard that the current S2 medium format sensor is no longer in production and this impacts also the Pentax 645 medium format camera. Both sensors were initially produced by Kodak, but then the Image Sensor Solutions (ISS) business was sold to Platinum Equity.

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  • That’s pretty exciting but Nikon’s D800 at 36MP is seriously challenging the need for medium format cameras. At some point, you just don’t need so many pixels . . .

    • John

      David, we can all use increased dynamic range and that will come with the bigger sensor.

      • fiddle

        exactly.. sensor size and megapixel count are two different things.

        • john

          nokia cell phone camera is the death of all micro43 cameras… 41mp!!!

    • Peter

      Some of the testing on the nikon D800 shows it does not resolve nearly as well as you’d expect a 36mp camera to resolve. So medium format cameras have nothing to worry about at this stage.

      • Robert Falconer
        • Peter

          I wish that were true. I so want that to be true. But its not. Get a camera, test it yourself, go beyond the marketing hype and you’ll find the D800 is nothing more than an empty promise. Is it a good DSLR? Sure. but it doesn’t even resolve much better than a 5D mk II.

        • lol… and bottom of the food chain medium format cameras going to stand still while 35mm overtakes? Has that happened with APS-C vs. FF? Or with FT vs. APS-C? No. So what makes you come to this “end is near” theory?

          Also, I don’t think most of you know, medium format is not all about S2s and Pentaxes… in fact they’re the worst of medium format. Take a look at PhaseOne… such as they 60-80MP sensors. Yeah… 80MPs from a 35mm sensor… good luck finding lenses that can resolve 300+ lines per mm at f/4.

      • sflxn

        Which reviews have you been reading? All the reviews I’ve seen is contrary to your statement. These are reviews tested against the S2, Pentax, and other medium format. You must have been reading defensive fanboy rantings in the forums.

        • Peter

          This is from getting two camera’s and comparing them for myself, side by side. Which is why I said people should test it for themselves.

          I would take any “review” with a LOT of salt.

          But you believe what you want to believe. Its the glue of the modern world: marketing hype > opinions > beliefs.

  • Craig

    My wish is for the rumored S3 to have enough processing power to have a buffer and a frame rate that will overwhelm the current 1.1 fps. Could you imagine a real live MF-SLR? Wouldn’t that be great? It wouldn’t matter what it cost, I would be there!

    Sure, there is the D800 but that ain’t close to MF.

  • Nobody Special

    Oh boy!!!!!

    Just what I wasn’t hoping for!!!!!! The Leica S3!!!!!! How much for that ‘squasher of R system users’???? $25k for the body??? Maybe $28K????

    The S3 would have the same sized sensor of the S2 and one could assume it would process faster – but really – if this is Leica’s direction (again!!!!) they can flush themselves to the nearest sewage plant. Oh, have they even delivered all the promised lenses for the S2 yet???

    • Andrea Kaufman

      what a whiner

      • doug

        waht a whiner of whiners

      • Nobody Special

        Haven’t been around or used Leica’s for very long then???

        I tell what you can do then – tell every single Leica R system user what they can do with the unkept promises of Leica of the promised DSLR R and then the repeatedly promised R solution and all the money they spent through the years supporting and buying Leica product only to be thrown out like your trash so Kaufmann could bring out his ‘ego camera, the S2…. and dumped the R user. Yep, we’re whiners.

        Better wake up and smell the coffee.

        • Mike Moss

          I love reading the anti-Leica whiners that come out of their holes when new products are announced. Does anybody remember all the bitching and moaning several years ago when the S2 was first released? They said the S2 was gonna fail, it was too expensive, it didn’t have enough resolution…bla bla bla

          Well, guess what? The S2 has been a smashing success. They were all wrong.

          • DingDong

            Nobody’s saying there’s anything wrong with the S2 except for the price. As someone who owns two R8 bodies and four R lenses, though, I’m frustrated by Leica’s lack of an R-compatible DSLR.ody.

          • Nobody Special

            Come out of our holes??? I for one, mostly liked the idea of an S2 – because the idiots at Leica were still promising the R DSLR, excellent, then the price of the S2 was announced – okay, sure, no thanks. Of course they sold them – but how many? As many as had R bodies and lenses – NOT EVEN CLOSE.

            In around ninety years that Leica had been around then, they NEVER dropped system compatibility. That’s why the loyality to the brand exists(ed) – how is it that a company with such a loyal customer base decides to flush half of it?

            Get a guy named Kaufmann; a high millionaire by most accounts who never owned a business or ran one; he buys the company and does a couple of good things and yet he screws up (deliberately it appears) half of the companies customer base.

            He pissed off a lot of people and he/they repeatedly promised something he hasn’t delivered on which has added further insult. Maybe this year?? One can hope, if not, I’ll get a shovel, then and bury my Leica loyalty.

  • AS

    You are all missing the point;

    Firstly, it is the Leica lens that makes the difference between Leica and Nikon / Canon lens, remember a Leica lens is not just sharp but “Crisp”.

    Secondly a larger chip compared to a DSLR size, will give better resolution, because there is more information gathered. i.e. 35mm compared to 6x6cm .

    So with these 2 factors in mind what a system, the only problem Leica never produced a film medium format camera.????

    Imagine a Leica S film body , on today’s S Leica Lens; NOW WE ARE COOKING.

    Thanks for the Chat

    • Ive

      6x6cm sensor??!
      the S2 sensor is a mini MF sensor and wasn’t even that much bigger than a 35mm. . .

    • Anyone who describes an optic as “crisp” is an… oh well… most people know.

      And a Leica S film body wouldn’t be all that much better than the medium format film bodies out there.

      Seriously… some people think Leica means some stuff made by magical little elves and they can defy all physics… sheesh. I blame business schools.

  • scotty

    I’m with neither of those camps. What can be objectively said about the D800 is that it’s the most exicting new cameras in recent years (since the M9, and before that, the Canon 5d Mk I). Some of Nikon’s top lenses are no slouch, and you will need them to get the full potential from the D800 / D800E.

    I think the most convincing proof to settle the D800’s resolution claim is this: during the S2 test, Michael Reichmann (of Luminous Landscape) showed a 100% crop of the model’s eyes, in which he could he see his own relection. Would some one care enough to repeat that test for the Nikon D800(E) please?

    (I own a Leica camera but am neither fan boy nor hater).

    • Nick

      Didn’t admin do this with a duck?

    • Nobody Special

      Agreed, and just who would care, or why would Reichmann’s example be of importance? I understand it is to some, but……

      One of the few really unbiased tech articles looking at film, and digital MF came to the absolute visual conclusion, based on large gallery sized prints, that the differences (and yes slight sharpness advantage of digital) were lost at VIEWING DISTANCE.

      I like the idea of the D800e, and yes it would take the best Nikkor glass to see it, but why not? To me, it’s the subtle, seemless color hues that I’m looking for which was always better with MF. Having used more brands than my pocket-book $$$$ wants to admit – I have a huge issue thinking that a Leica S2 is worth all it’s $23K price; and I am a LONG time Leica user. I’m planning on trying the D800e with the latest Nikkor 24.

      • E

        Do you have a link for that article? Seems an interesting subject.

        • Nobody Special

          I did on my ‘old’ computer!!! Which the mother board gave up on; and I haven’t transfered the hard-drives yet. I’ll try and remember it – I know it was comparing a Hasselblad with a D-back – but it was a very well done and well executed piece. I recall the prints being professinally executed as well.

          I’ll try and rack my brain and take it off ‘my’ hard-drive!!!

  • Daryl

    The great difficulty I have with the S system is the throw away body at $20k+, the S2 will now drop like a rock in value. Compared to my Contax and Phase One back this is significant. The lenses and form factor are phenomenal but not enough to make me want to get involved in a new system that may or may not have long term prospects.
    The M9 OTOH remains a camera that I will keep and use.

  • Martin

    There is some truth in all the above arguments – at the same time, my S2 keeps producing wonderful images, now. Better than any camera I used before (and that included a 33MP Sinar digital back on a Hy6, Leica M9…). I don’t really care if the S2 drops in value; I did not buy it for investment but to make pictures.

    • “I did not buy it for investment but to make pictures.”

      There are cameras that produce better image quality, better resolution and cameras with better lenses. So, the real reason why you bought it is because you are gullible.

      • Nobody Special

        I still say the reasons for Leica producing such a beast absolutely defies logic. There really won’t be much of a used market for the S because the numbers are so small, and still just who was asking for it???

        I see it’s form advantages to a point – but pricing it at $23K for a body is bizarre because of that very form – you have to upgrade the whole body – unless Leica has discovered a way to add a new sensor upgrade and tech to support it. For myself, using a Pentax 67 and Hasselblad still gives the large and quite satisfactory results for large prints. Though hey, it’s great if someone wants to become fascinated with how sharp eyelashes are from brand to brand; but for $23K???

        Removal digital backs may not be as easy to use – but the best results are going to be attained with a tripod anyway (or not with flash for fashion) but in the field.

  • martin

    In response to genotypewriter: Ok, so I am gullible, I don’t give a flying f…. Unlike the cameras that produce better image quality (I presume you mean a Phase One IQ180 digiback), the S2 travels much better, is integrated, weather sealed and basically corresponds to my needs. By the same token, the people who spent twice as much money for an IQ180 based system are also gullible… or not? And please… don’t try to convince me that the Nikon D800 produces better image quality at one seventh of the price. The web is full of people who have not used either camera but feel obliged to contribute to the discussion. I am sure the D800 is a great camera (and so will be the M10 when it gets released – and, depending on the actual specs, I may be tempted for travel). In the meantime, the S2 works just fine for me.

    • Nobody Special

      Hey there Marin.

      Initially, I was really interested in the S2 – even while I started to realize it may have come at the cost/death of the R system, I still was hoping that the rumored price was false.

      I’ve had the good frtune to be able to have the $$$ for a near complete, multi-bodied R system at a cost surpassing the S2 body. I was even researching field solar panels to recharge the S2 batteries as I would take it far a-field away from the grid.

      Then the final price was announced – I just couldn’t bring myself into the idea of spending over $20K for a body, though I actually consider the lens prices to be almost reasonable. No, it’s not realistic for me; too, the idea that the R system’s death and thus creating my R system a film only and eventually obsolete idea was the result – well it just has really chapped my you know what. An old business idea states that you should never alienate the cutomer base – the R system was half of it.

      • BC

        I know tons of photographers that still use R lenses professionally on Nikon and Canon bodies, so what’s the problem?
        Maybe the R8 that you purchased in the last century is a little tired, but let’s not pretend that you were left high and dry with the lenses. They are worth as much as they ever were on the used market, and for good reason.

        • Nobody Special

          Please, with due respect – not everyone seeks to use ADAPTED R lenses on an AF body with limited lens capability – like stop down only metering.

          Frankly, your ‘last century’ comment is a bit unnecessary don’t you think? Do you OWN ANY R equipment??? Have you INVESTED thousands in the R system??? Or did you ‘grow up’ having them in your hands and USING them for years??? It’s users like myself that kept the Leica name alive by buying the product instead of buying another brand.

          Oh, by the way – just in case you didn’t know – Leica also made the R9.

    • You can swear all you like but it doesn’t change the choices you’ve made in the past.

      Also I’m not surprised that a S2 user was thinking that I was suggesting a D800’s better than a S2. Take it any way you like…

  • I admit it: I don’t own either an S2 or a Phase One back or a D800. I do know this: I’m really worried when people make obviously dubious claims about image quality (especially when these claims are defeated by empirical evidence).

    Can a D800 produce images as nice as an S2? It’s plausible, so it’s not a stupid claim. Can a D800 approach 4×5 sheet film? Implausible, but you have to be open to strange things. I’ve also heard that 12Mpx DSLRs surpass MF film and that 8Mpx DSLRs surpass 35mm Velvia. The nonsense just doesn’t stop.

  • janvs

    Announced at Photokina in 2008, the Leica S2 intermediate-format SLR with its sub-40 Megapixel power-hungry CCD sensor is now fast-approaching 4 years old … and perhaps proving that the S-system and anything larger than the 35mm format is quite simply ‘a bridge too far’ for the German camera company! In hindsite, it looks as if the S2 was only ever intended to be a ‘concept camera’ for an R-system replacement … Leica have not developed the S2 in step with the wider market, allowing the S2 to become obsolete, and has never fully served its ‘professional’ user group with a full range of lenses.

    Remember the debacle of Leica’s excellent R-system? The R6.2 was perhaps the finest manual/mechanical 35mm SLR ever manufactured and the R9 arguably the finest auto/manual 35mm SLR. This was a truly stunning 35mm SLR camera system with a lens range to match. How many R-series photographers – professional and amateur alike – waited and waited for Leica to release the promised R10 full frame DSLR?

    Many perhaps purchased the temporary and completely underwhelming R-system digital stop-gap, the Digital Module-R. Well, whatever their level of investment in the R-system, they were to wake one morning to find that Leica had, almost at a whim, completely scrapped the R-system?

    In its place, Leica announced the S-system, heralded as a ‘medium format camera for professionals’ although having only an ‘intermediate-sized’ sensor 50% larger than a full-frame 35mm sensor and somewhat smaller than a true medium-format sensor. The S2 camera (why “S2” … the S1 is another story!) was originally announced with an arsenal of lenses ranging from 24mm to 350mm. The ‘professionals’, to which the concept S-system was and still is so unashamedly marketed, was restricted to only the 35mm, 70mm, 120mm (Macro) and 180mm focal lengths. The 30mm lens followed some three years later although it beggars belief that, while the full range of lenses remained unavailable, Leica should develop and release an additional lens so very close in focal length to the existing 35mm … why not a 24mm or 350mm? Well, I suppose the ‘professional’ now has five lenses from which to choose although its unlikely that they would ever buy both the 30mm and the 35mm!

    The much heralded recent Leica announcements of 10 May 2012 has been and gone and still there is no 24mm, no 30-90mm zoom, no 350mm and no 2x converter. Instead, the Germans have looked to the Swedes to help them out of their inability to support their ‘professional’ intermediate-format SLR. The Leica S-H adapter, announced in Berlin on 10 May 2012, allows Hasselblad H-system lenses (manufactured by Fuji) to be used on a Leica S2 body while retaining full autofocus and auto-diaphragm functionality of the lens. The adapter also allows use of the Hasselblad central lens shutter.

    Leica S-lenses with central shutter were also announced on 10 May but will not be available until October … at the earliest! By that time, Photokina 2012 will have been and gone and Leica’s S2 successor will have been announced, likely to be designated the “S2.2” so as not to completely alienate photographers who may have already invested heavily in the purchase of an S2 body. It is unlikely, however, that the lens range will have been much expanded … the company may still be relying on Hasselblad to provide S-system users with anything like a ‘professional’ lens range.

    Interestingly, the jury is still out on what the S2 successor will be called. Leica may reject the “2.2” proposal and go straight to the “3” to encourage existing S2 owners to jettison their S2 body and invest further by purchasing an “S3”. Whether it is released as the S2.2 or the S3, to move their ‘concept system’ to a truly professional system and to achieve their aspirations for the Leica-S brand, the S2.2/3 should be announced with some significant developments beyond the S2:

    (1) 60 Megapixel CMOS sensor
    … with an 80 Megapixel “Leica S3-P” version following 12 months later;
    (2) 5-point autofocus;
    (3) larger 1 Megapixel viewing screen;
    (4) wider ISO range … 50 to 12800;
    (5) improved noise reduction at high ISO values;
    (6) integrated body/grip design;
    (7) modified eyepiece to take optional right-angled finder;
    (8) full 1080p High Definition video ‘borrowed’ from the forthcoming M10 camera;
    (9) improved weather sealing;
    (10) improved Firmware to include virtual horizon and other features

    One thing is for certain though … we suspect the Leica S2.2/3 is unlikely to be available until well into 2013 – possibly March/April – but could be delayed until September/October. When it finally does arrive, we anticipate that the lens range will include the Elmarit-S 24mm f/2.8 ASPH and the APO-Tele-Elmar-S 350mm f/3.5 but is unlikely to include the Vario-Elmar-S 30-90mm f/3.5 ASPH zoom or the APO-Extender-S 2x converter.

    Until the Leica S-system moves from a ‘luxury concept’ to a full professional system, photographers needing an intermediate format camera system delivering superior craftsmanship and image quality must look to Hasselblad cameras and Hasselblad/Fuji lenses … just as Leica is doing with the S-H adapter!

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