Canon 5D Mark III vs Leica S1
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Leica S1 Pro are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in March 2012 and August 1996. The 5D Mark III is a DSLR, while the S1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (5D Mark III) and a medium format (S1) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 22.1 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 26.4 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Leica S1 Pro? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark III and the Leica S1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica S1 is considerably larger (311 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark III. Moreover, the S1 is substantially heavier (163 percent) than the 5D Mark III. It is worth mentioning in this context that the 5D Mark III is splash and dust resistant, while the S1 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark III) and the Leica R Lens Catalog (S1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the S1, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark III||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||ebay.com|
|2.||Leica S1||339 mm||214 mm||119 mm||2500 g||..||n||Aug 1996||21,490||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499||amazon.com|
|4.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|6.||Canon 6D||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||ebay.com|
|7.||Canon 5D Mark II||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||ebay.com|
|8.||Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||ebay.com|
|9.||Leica CL||131 mm||78 mm||45 mm||403 g||220||n||Nov 2017||2,795||amazon.com|
|10.||Leica TL2||134 mm||69 mm||33 mm||399 g||250||n||Jul 2017||1,950||amazon.com|
|11.||Leica Q Typ 116||130 mm||80 mm||93 mm||640 g||300||n||Jun 2015||4,249||ebay.com|
|12.||Leica S2||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1410 g||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999||amazon.com|
|14.||Nikon D600||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999||ebay.com|
|16.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899||amazon.com|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The 5D Mark III was launched at a markedly lower price (by 84 percent) than the S1, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 5D Mark III features a full frame sensor and the Leica S1 a medium format sensor. The sensor area in the S1 is 50 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 0.85. The sensor in the 5D Mark III has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the S1 offers a 1:1 aspect.
With 26.4MP, the S1 offers a higher resolution than the 5D Mark III (22.1MP), but the S1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.01μm versus 6.25μm for the 5D Mark III) due to its larger sensor. However, the 5D Mark III is a much more recent model (by 15 years and 6 months) than the S1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the S1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Leica S1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.7 x 25.7 inches or 65.3 x 65.3 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.6 x 20.6 inches or 52.2 x 52.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.1 x 17.1 inches or 43.5 x 43.5 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 5D Mark III are 28.8 x 19.2 inches or 73.2 x 48.8 cm for good quality, 23 x 15.4 inches or 58.5 x 39 cm for very good quality, and 19.2 x 12.8 inches or 48.8 x 32.5 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600, which can be extended to ISO 50-102400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica S1 Pro are ISO 50 to ISO 1600 (no boost).
In terms of underlying technology, the 5D Mark III is build around a CMOS sensor, while the S1 uses a CCD imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|2.||Leica S1||Medium Format||26.4||5140||5140||none||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|6.||Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|7.||Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|8.||Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|11.||Leica Q Typ 116||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.7||2221||85|
|12.||Leica S2||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.5||2224||82|
|13.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|14.||Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|15.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|16.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The 5D Mark III indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the S1 does not. The highest resolution format that the 5D Mark III can use is 1080/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark III and the S1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark III and Leica S1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0/s||n||n|
|2.||Leica S1||optical||n||none / none||none||n||..||0.01/s||n||n|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2 / 1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|4.||Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|6.||Canon 6D||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.5/s||n||n|
|7.||Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9/s||n||n|
|8.||Canon 5D||optical||Y||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|9.||Leica CL||2360||Y||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/8000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|10.||Leica TL2||optional||n||3.7 / 1230||fixed||Y||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|11.||Leica Q Typ 116||3680||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||10.0/s||n||Y|
|12.||Leica S2||optical||Y||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5/s||n||n|
|13.||Nikon D610||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|14.||Nikon D600||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||Y||n|
|15.||Nikon D800||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|16.||Nikon D800E||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|17.||Sony A6400||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0/s||Y||n|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that is present on the 5D Mark III, but is missing on the S1 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The 5D Mark III writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the S1 uses external storage.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Leica S1 Pro and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Leica S1||-||- / -||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Canon 6D||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 5D||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Leica CL||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|10.||Leica TL2||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|11.||Leica Q Typ 116||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|12.||Leica S2||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D610||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Nikon D600||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D800||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Nikon D800E||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony A6400||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the 5D Mark III has a hotshoe, while the S1 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Canon 5D Mark III (unlike the S1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the 5D Mark III and the S1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The S1 was replaced by the Leica S2, while the 5D Mark III was followed by the Canon 5D Mark IV. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Leica websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Leica S1? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.2") for image review and settings control.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (152x116mm vs 339x214mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 1550g or 62 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (84 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 15 years and 6 months of technical progress since the S1 launch.
Advantages of the Leica S1 Pro:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (26.4 vs 22.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 5%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 1996).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D Mark III is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 5D Mark III and the Leica S1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 5D Mark III or the S1. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark III||..||+ +||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499||ebay.com|
|2.||Leica S1||..||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 1996||21,490||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||4/5||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499||amazon.com|
|4.||Canon 5DS||..||+||..||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||5/5||+||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|6.||Canon 6D||5/5||+ +||..||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099||ebay.com|
|7.||Canon 5D Mark II||4/5||91/100||..||79/100||4/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499||ebay.com|
|8.||Canon 5D||..||88/100||..||+ +||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299||ebay.com|
|9.||Leica CL||..||..||4.2/5||..||..||4/5||Nov 2017||2,795||amazon.com|
|10.||Leica TL2||3.5/5||..||3/5||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2017||1,950||amazon.com|
|11.||Leica Q Typ 116||5/5||..||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2015||4,249||ebay.com|
|12.||Leica S2||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2008||22,995||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999||amazon.com|
|14.||Nikon D600||4/5||+ +||..||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999||ebay.com|
|16.||Nikon D800E||..||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||4/5||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899||amazon.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Leica S1
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Canon 6D
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Canon M
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- Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon Df
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Olympus E-PM1
- Canon 7D vs Leica S1
- Leica M9 vs Leica S1
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- Leica S1 vs Nikon Z7 II
- Leica S1 vs Sony A7 II
Specifications: Canon 5D Mark III vs Leica S1
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 5D Mark III||Leica S1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Leica R mount lenses|
|Launch Date||March 2012||August 1996|
|Launch Price||USD 3,499||USD 21,490|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D Mark III||Leica S1|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Medium Format Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||36.0 x 36.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||1296 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||50.9 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||22.1 Megapixels||26.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5760 x 3840 pixels||5140 x 5140 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.25 μm||7.01 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.56 MP/cm2||2.04 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 25,600 ISO||50 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 102,400 ISO||no Enhancement|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||81||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||24.0||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2293||..|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D Mark III||Leica S1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 5D Mark III||Leica S1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Manual Focus|
|Continuous Shooting||6 shutter flaps/s||0.01 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDXC cards||external|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Dual card slots||Single SSD|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D Mark III||Leica S1|
|External Flash||Hotshoe||no Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||no USB|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||no HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D Mark III||Leica S1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
152 x 116 x 76 mm
(6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
339 x 214 x 119 mm
(13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
|Camera Weight||950 g (33.5 oz)||2500 g (88.2 oz)|
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