Some Leica S3 rumors

I am still getting conflicting information on the Leica S3 sensor - some old reports indicated a completely new sensor inside the upcoming medium format camera, but the latest rumors point to a sensor with the same MP count and this time with live view (Leica S2 has a 37.5MP CCD sensor without live view). The other expected upgrades in the S3 are build-in GPS module and a new menu system.

There will be also some new Leica S lenses announced at Photokina. Some of them were already included in the latest Adobe Camera Raw 7.2 release candidate:

  • LeicaLEICA VARIO-ELMAR-S 30-90 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH
  • LeicaLEICA SUPER-ELMAR-S 24 mm f/3.5 ASPH
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  • Craig

    What is the comparative ratio when compared to a 35mm size sensor? Or more properly, what will the 24mm relate to in 35mm FOV?

    • Mistral75

      You have to multiply by 0.8 = sqrt [ (24 x 36) ÷ (30 x 45) ]

      • Craig


        • Or more easily… 36/45 for horizontal crop factor and 24/30 for vertical crop factor. They’re both the same because of the common aspect ratio.

      • He’s asking about FOV…

        If you calculate it the way you have done, the result is the same if the smaller sensor is 12x72mm

    • John F


      The comparative ratio between the Leica S3 and the traditional 35mm FOV (i.e. 24x36mm camera format) is 1.25

      Which means the corresponding focal length of the Super-Elmar-S 24mm (relative to 35mm FOV) will be 20mm. A super wide angle lens indeed. With a super price to match …

  • Bill Cole

    I sure hope the V LUX 4 includes GPS, something that is missing from the Panasonic clone (FZ200).

    I actually bought a FZ200 but had to return it because Panasonic .RW2 file extension for RAW photos isn’t recognized by my MAC.

    I know Leica’s file extension is .RAW & that is recognized by my MAC.

  • Peter

    the sensor is about 50% larger than full frame, so 24mm equals about 19mm in 35mm terms

  • Ed

    Its the other way around. Their 70mm lens is roughly ‘normal’ in 35mm equivalent.

  • Serge Marinkovic MD

    I use a camera primarily for operating room photography. Until recently I was a Nikon man but recent shooting with a Leica S2 has converted me to Leica. I will wait to see the S3 prior to my Leica purchase.

  • Daryl

    I would love to shoot the Leica S system but the advantages over the Nikon D800 are minimal, compounded by the large price difference. If I shoot medium format I would want something approaching the state of the art 60-80mp, nonetheless those beautiful S lenses are compelling.

    The rumors for the M10 are 24 to 36mp, this is approaching the S2 and would bump right up against it at 36mp. I think Leica is unlikely to leave the sensor at such a low resolution for their new system. Leica has be congratulated on keeping new product information quiet, and there appears a concerted effort to place misinformation. Given this, we might see Leica push S3 resolution significantly.

    • John Ricard

      The difference between an S2 file and D800 file is tremendous. Don’t be fooled by file size or number of pixels or anything else. I know it may SEEM like the files should be similar, but having compared the 2 files personally, I can assure you that there is a dramatic difference between ANY medium format digital camera and a D800 file. Even a 5 year old 22Mp medium format file will blow away a D800 file in terms of tonal range, sharpness and detail.

      • TimJP

        Please post your findings with a few graphs and crops because I smell a large lump of superiority doo-doo. I have seen comparisons between the D800 and S2 and I think you will find that there isn’t much in it.

        A 5 year old 22mp will not blow away a d800 in terms of sharpness… Provided the d800 is using good glass I don’t believe you will see much of a difference between a print from a d800 and that of an S2 at all.

        • It’s not rocket science really… do you think a FourThirds camera with a 12MP sensor produces images that are just as good as a FF camera with 12MP?

          There are many reasons behind this and unfortunately, thanks to the dumb collection of photography websites out there right now, people are lead to believe that image quality all comes from the efficiency of the sensor.

          Don’t hesitate to think about the role lenses play when the sensors are larger. Again, you don’t need to have used a digital medium format camera to tell this… just look at FF vs. FourThirds or something.

          It’s true that a 22MP DMF sensor will not beat a 36MP FF in terms of sharpness on a level playing field… but it will produce much cleaner images. You don’t think DMF’s used in big budget photoshoots just because of the megapixels, right? Then why don’t the regular DSLR/MILC users just use P&S with similar amounts of megapixels? See what I’m saying? 😉

          • Actually bit depth is one of the main factors. Most of the last few years of medium format digital will output a true 16 bit file. If you are photographing people, the difference in skin tones to a top of the line DSLR will be very noticeable. Best way to confirm this is to do a side by side shoot on your own with rental gear.

          • El Aura

            It ain’t the bit depth, 14-bit is high enough for the D800 pixels to not introduce any visible quantification artefacts. It just plain and simple the higher SNR at base ISO (and tonal range which is SNR integrated from darkest to brightest tones). See the 18% grey SNR for the D800 and the Phase One IQ180 and P40 in this graph (take the maximum of each curve, ie, the behaviour at base ISO).
            The P40 is only a little bit ahead of the D800 but the IQ180 is almost 3 db ahead and that is a difference that is visible (naturally only when viewed large enough).

        • KitHB

          Simpler quality test that trumps graphs or charts.

          1. Find a vaguely tolerant female with a big nose.
          2. Shoot a frame filling head portrait using:-
          a) M43 and a 50mm lens
          b) APS-C and a 70mm lens
          c) FF and a 100mm lens
          d) Leica S2 and a 120mm lens
          e) Old 6×6 and a 150mm lens.
          3. Print them all the same size
          4. Ask her which one she likes best.

          I’m sure her answer will be d) or e), possibly c) and definitely not a).

          Whenever the debate between format quality breaks out, there’s always the elephant in the room that bigger formats just look better.

        • John Ricard

          If you are serious about this conversation, please email me and I’ll be happy to provide samples. I won’t post my email on this public forum, but it take you 2 seconds to google my name and find my email. Email me and show you what i am talking about.

          • TimJP

            I don’t need to see any more comparisons. I have seen and MADE enough. I used to be a medium shooter myself back in the days when using film in Australia was a relatively inexpensive exercise.

            I only recently sold my RZ67proII. Before I sold the camera I ran a test using my sharpest Mamiya lens, Velvia 50 and compared that to my D800. (before you ask I had my film drumscanned by a guy who I trust).

            Now, I realise that I am now talking about a film vs digital comparison but I think the argument still stands because I don’t think anyone here will argue that a 22mp DMF will beat a drumscanned 6×7 positive…ever..

            I compared the two shots (landscapes) and I have to say, I really was surprised at how little was in it. Velvia is supposed to pull about 150ish lines per mm of film and if you do the math on a 6×7 positive you would expect a world more resolution than the 36mp D800 could muster.

            Yes, there was more detail and yes I loved using the mamiya.

            BUT!!! If anyone has ever used a large Mf like an rz67 you’ll know that they weigh A LOT and you’ll also know that you need a pretty heavy tripod to make it worth your while..

            The D800 is a camera that does an amazing job at making life easier for a photographer, whether they are a professional or not. It is a flexible tool that can be used for a variety of uses.

            I have nothing against people spending $70,000 on an 100mp DMF if its the tool that gets them to where they need to be professionally. But I really dont see how an S2 which is a DMF designed to provide the convenience of a 35mm really stands much of a chance against a something so flexible like the new d800.

            The d800 provides images with a dynamic range that no one could laugh at and does it with little noise at high Iso’s. It is a camera that I can take ANYWHERE and shoot anything. I have used it for portraits, sport, social events, landscapes and wildlife AND it has provided images that more professional than 99.9% of customers would need.

            We can have arguments about bits and depth of field until the cows come home. The reality is, I bought my d800 for under 3000euros when I was in Germany on work and I have since put my other 3 cameras to sleep. There is no one on earth that could convince me that I should more than double my expenditure and get an S2.

        • Daryl

          Digital technology (sensor technology) is moving very quickly and the old rules are not applicable any longer. Small sensors i.e. full frame and less are doing things that required medium format only a few years ago. The rules are being rewritten for resolution, dynamic range, sensitivity etc. The implications are we all win with newer technology allowing more flexibility in our shooting style. Sorry medium format guys, me too, lots of money invested and the advantages are melting away quickly. OTOH skill level with any camera normally trumps technology.

          • “Sorry medium format guys, me too, lots of money invested and the advantages are melting away quickly.”

            You sound just like a FourThirds user 😀 Why do you think larger formats will stand still while smaller formats improve?

            Also there’ll always be a demand of something better than what the average dpreview soccer-data/MWAC uses, for professional stuff. You won’t want your product on a magazine or a movie at the cinema looking like it was shot by a just anyone’s camera. So there will always be an edge where there’s extra money.

            All that aside, check to see how long APS-C took to match the quality of the earliest FF sensors. Many years and that’s still on paper. There are other image quality benefits to a larger sensor/format that smaller formats can’t match by just improving sensors.

          • data=dad… 🙂

          • Daryl

            I would agree that medium format digital is state of the art for certain professionals, but not all. Anyone continuing to believe that sensor size is paramount in determining quality is 2-3 years behind the times. Look at prices of backs below 40mp, they have fallen like rocks as the full frame sensors approach their quality. This is the same throughout the history of photography, smaller format keeps improving at a faster pace than larger formats, and their use increases professionally. Read some of the better review sites on the internet, or test your own equipment, you might be surprised how far this progress stuff has improved smaller format digital.

          • @Daryl:
            Anyone continuing to believe that sensor size is paramount in determining quality is 2-3 years behind the times.

            Anyone thinking that sensor size doesn’t play a huge role never learned how cameras work. If what you’re saying is true, professionals will be using APS-C instead of FF because cutting edge tech comes to APS-C before FF (e.g. D7000 before D800), and APS-C gets updated faster than FF models. But why do you think people still go for FF?

            Look at prices of backs below 40mp, they have fallen like rocks as the full frame sensors approach their quality

            Falling prices is not an indicator of the quality of the product… it says more about the market. Take a look at the prices of large format equipment… you can buy a 8×10 for several hundreds and you can scan each shot to 1-gigapixel without oversampling, if you wanted. It’s just that they aren’t the mainstream that makes the money and maintains the popularity/demand.

            It’s absolute narrow-minded nonsense to think that larger formats will stand still until smaller formats catch up. That’s the same dumb arguments that you get in most of the FourThirds community. But the reality is whatever advancements you get in small sensors also get implemented in larger sensors, more or less And the size difference makes a impact afterwards depending on how big the difference is. It’s physics…

          • Daryl

            You make some very good points, but you don’t comprehend what is happening in sensor technology. It is progressing so rapidly even Kodak got blindsided. What was once thought improbable is reality as sensors quality increases at a breakneck pace. I admire anyone that shoots 8×10 such as you, that is dedication to your art. I don’t have time to do that, wish I did, but I could get the same quality from an IQ180 back.
            If Leica cares to push the S system (S3 at 60mp), their lenses could also push the envelope and get near 8×10 with today’s technology. In 2025 or sooner this will approached by full frame Nikons, Leicas etc. if the lens technology can keep up, and we see Leica doing just that with their new 50mm Summicron. Don’t resist, it’s futile 🙂

          • @Daryl
            but I could get the same quality from an IQ180 back.

            No you can’t. I haven’t used the IQ180 but I’ve used the P65+ which is very close and in some ways better. With a pro scanner, I can get 100MPs from a 6×9 medium format slide. With 4×5 I can get 255MP at the same sampling rate and 1 gigapixel from 8×10.

            These are very conservative numbers as you can see below:

            And like everyone else, you’re forgetting the role that lenses play alongside sensor size. Small format lenses just can’t match equivalent larger format lenses, especially when the differences are big enough. This is due to the available glass types and the production costs.

            Again… take a look at FourThirds 25 1.4 and see how complex and expensive it is just to barely match the quality of a boring 50mm f/2.8 lens on FF that would sell for $50 brandnew.

            There is no resistance here… just knowledge of the subject 😉

          • Daryl

            Remember Geno that the IQ180 is a next generation digital chip after the p65+, sensor technology took a large leap forward. While your 4×5 film example is certainly good, I have seen the IQ180 resolve licence plates from miles away. btw- you can scan film at any resolution you wish, call it a larger file by scanning at higher and higher resolution but the limiting factor is the medium (film) and the grain, similar to putting a higher number on a car speedometer doesn’t make the engine any more capable. I would recommend you contact your Phase One rep, shoot the IQ180 vs. 8×10 film to see how you like it. Once you do that you will see why I say the S3 should be 60mp because then it will compete with world class imaging using those spectacular S series lenses. Best Regards.

          • @Daryl
            “Remember Geno that the IQ180 is a next generation digital chip after the p65+, sensor technology took a large leap forward.”

            That’s a massive exaggeration. IQ180 is a great accomplishment in terms of making such a big sensor with that kind of a pixel density… but when it comes to true dynamic range and noise, there’s hardly an improvement over the P65+. Not sure why you think otherwise.

            “I have seen the IQ180 resolve licence plates from miles away.”

            But it’s still a 80MP Bayer sensor. The more you speak, the more your inexperience and limited knowledge of the subject comes out, unfortunately.

            “btw- you can scan film at any resolution you wish, call it a larger file by scanning at higher and higher resolution but the limiting factor is the medium (film) and the grain,”

            Exactly the reason why I said “without oversampling” before.

            You still have to do your homework in optics and how it relates to this topic before continuing this topic any further 😉

            “shoot the IQ180 vs. 8×10 film to see how you like it”

            There’s no reason why I wouldn’t like it. I think PhaseOne’s an excellent company. But the fact remains, even when the film and sensor size is the same, film has advantages that digital can’t match:


            It’s difficult to explain these things to people who haven’t used the stuff in question.

  • the leica is no entry level camera like the d800…. its a technical camera whith quality that superseeds the d800

    no camera is right for every job then again most of you on here arent professionals, just gear heads looking at numbers failing to truley understand what they actually mean. there is a reason for the price difference,

    If it were me even if it was 22mp or 16mp as long as it had a ccd and fast flash sync and 16bit id take it over a d800 anyday

    • You have proven yourself as a real Leica user/fan by calling the S2 a “technical camera”

    • hulio

      you have also proven yourself as a bit of an amateur by calling the D800 ‘entry level’ – it aint no point and shoot like a M9

  • Les

    This debate has been going on for a hundred years. There’s always someone who claims that they can get bigger-format results with a smaller sensor/film. It always involves using extremely limiting technique: huge tripod, only the finest lenses, focus bracketing, etc. Even then, the results aren’t visually convincing, and the hit rate is minuscule.
    In the end, it’s way easier to use the right tool for the job at hand.

    • El Aura

      Huge tripod and highly accurate focus requirements are absolutely identical at the same resolution (MP), regardless of format size. Of course, larger formats tend to have more MP which gives them a clear advantage but for pairs like the D800 and the S2, they have exactly the same requirements regarding focus and support.

      With lenses there is the tendency that the lenses for larger formats have a higher (integrated over the frame) resolution. That is an advantage for the S2. But in the end, it depends on what kind of lenses are available for each system. Not all focal length are for example the Pentax MF lenses better than the best FX lenses (at the same AOV).

      • Les

        In theory, they’re the identical. In practice, they’re not.
        For instance, being 1 percent off on focus with a 70mm lens means 0.7mm (at infinity). The same focus error with a 50mm lens is 0.5mm.
        That’s a 40 percent difference in tolerances. In other words, if you shoot a format where your normal lens is a 50, your focus needs to be 40 percent more accurate compared to a format where a 70mm lens is normal.

        Same thing with tripods. A camera that moves by 0.5mm during exposure will have a greater effect on a smaller format.

        Do the maths before you reply.

        • El Aura

          But focus accuracy is not determined by percentages of focus distance but by percentages of out-of-focus blur that either the AF sensor or the eye is still accepting as being in focus. If you do Liveview focussing on a back LCD with the same physical size and resolution, the amount of out-of-focus blur that your eyes can detect will be exactly the same regardless of camera. If you use an optical viewfinder, the larger viewfinders of cameras with larger sensors give you an advantage.

        • El Aura

          What matters for most subject is not lateral movement but angular movement. And for the same angular movement and the same AOV, you get the same amount of blur.

  • Al

    The megapixel = megapixel discussion ie D800 vs S2 is an interesting one at that. Both are about the same megapixel so many assume that the resolution will be equal at the same size enlargement. I believe that the sensor size has more to do with the output than the pixels that the data is captured on.

    Using film for example, you could take 8mm Kodachrome stock and shoot an image that equals the FOV of a 35mm frame using the same stock then going much bigger and shooting with a 4×5 again using the same Kodachrome film stock. All the images were captured with the same emulsion or “megapixels”. So now blow each one up to the same size, say 16×20, and which image do you think will look better?

    Nothing beats the physical sensor size for final output.

    • El Aura

      All images were captured with the same emulsion and thus with the same PIXELPITCH. Same pitch and larger area gives you more MP.

    • The megapixel = megapixel discussion ie D800 vs S2 is an interesting one at that. Both are about the same megapixel…

      All the images were captured with the same emulsion or “megapixels”

      Same emulsion does not mean the same megapixels (capture resolution) in the sense you started comparing the D800 to the S2. Same emulsion means the capture technology (including the pixel density) is the same.

      Nothing beats the physical sensor size for final output.

      Even though I walk around with a 8×10″ camera and spend like $20 per shot of 8×10″, I still wouldn’t go as far as saying what you said. It’s just that if you can make a smaller format truly match the output of a easily available larger format, it’s likely going to be prohibitively impractical or expensive to the point that it makes better sense to get the larger format.

      • fjfjjj

        Nothing beats high reproduction ratios for image quality. The less you are shrinking your subject, the better. If you’re shooting nothing but 1:1 macro, a D800 will probably do just as well as an S2. But at infinity, the S2 will always win by a landslide.

        • Scorpius

          I can say from experience with both the S2 and D800E that this is so true….

  • For all the technology that is being invested into sensor technology there is no substitution for good ol’ fashioned mathematics. When it comes sensors, size does matter in regards to depth of field and tonal range. I didn’t make up the rules…the universe did…but I quite like it as it is one of the few lingering threads between digital and film.

  • Nobody Special

    Quite the discussion gentlemen.

    Medium format and Large format transparencies – are a great medium for me – much more satisfying.

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