Canon M3 vs Leica S2
The Canon EOS M3 and the Leica S2 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2015 and September 2008. The M3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the S2 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-C (M3) and a medium format (S2) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 37.5 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 M3 and the Leica S2? 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 M3 and the Leica S2 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The M3 can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the S2 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica S2 is considerably larger (154 percent) than the Canon M3. Moreover, the S2 is substantially heavier (285 percent) than the M3. It is noteworthy in this context that the S2 is splash and dust-proof, while the M3 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon M3||111 mm||68 mm||44 mm||366 g||250||n||Feb 2015||679|
|2.||Leica S2||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1410 g||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||387 g||305||n||Oct 2020||599|
|4.||Canon M50||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||390 g||235||n||Feb 2018||779|
|5.||Canon M6||112 mm||68 mm||45 mm||390 g||295||n||Feb 2017||779|
|6.||Canon M100||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||302 g||295||n||Aug 2017||499|
|7.||Canon M5||116 mm||89 mm||61 mm||427 g||295||n||Sep 2016||979|
|8.||Canon M10||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||301 g||255||n||Oct 2015||499|
|9.||Canon T6i||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||555 g||440||n||Feb 2015||749|
|10.||Canon T6s||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|11.||Canon G7 X||103 mm||60 mm||40 mm||304 g||210||n||Sep 2014||699|
|12.||Canon M||109 mm||66 mm||32 mm||298 g||230||n||Jul 2012||599|
|13.||Leica S3||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2018||18,995|
|14.||Leica S-E Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||16,900|
|15.||Leica S Typ 007||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||24,490|
|16.||Leica S Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||21,950|
|17.||Leica S1||339 mm||214 mm||119 mm||2500 g||..||n||Aug 1996||21,490|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 M3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 97 percent) than the S2, 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon M3 features an APS-C sensor and the Leica S2 a medium format sensor. The sensor area in the S2 is 307 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 0.8. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the M3 (24MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 3.72μm for the M3) due to its larger sensor. However, the M3 is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 4 months) than the S2, 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 S2 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Leica S2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 37.5 x 25 inches or 95.3 x 63.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 25 x 16.7 inches or 63.5 x 42.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon M3 are 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm for good quality, 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm for very good quality, and 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The M3 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS M3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica S2 are ISO 80 to ISO 1250 (no boost).
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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|2.||Leica S2||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.5||2224||82|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/24p||24.0||13.6||1939||83|
|11.||Canon G7 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||23.0||12.7||556||71|
|13.||Leica S3||Medium Format||64.0||9800||6533||4K/24p||25.6||14.4||3143||98|
|14.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||25.1||13.7||2763||93|
|15.||Leica S Typ 007||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||4K/24p||25.1||13.7||2763||93|
|16.||Leica S Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.2||824||76|
|17.||Leica S1||Medium Format||26.4||5140||5140||none||..||..||..||..|
|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 can also record movies. The M3 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the M3 can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the S2 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the M3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the M3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF-DC1. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon M3, the Leica S2, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Canon M3||optional||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||4.2||Y||n|
|2.||Leica S2||optical||Y||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n|
|4.||Canon M50||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n|
|5.||Canon M6||optional||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||9.0||Y||n|
|6.||Canon M100||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||6.1||Y||n|
|7.||Canon M5||2360||n||3.2 / 1620||tilting||Y||1/4000s||9.0||Y||n|
|8.||Canon M10||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||4.6||Y||n|
|9.||Canon T6i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Canon T6s||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|11.||Canon G7 X||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||6.5||Y||Y|
|12.||Canon M||none||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.3||n||n|
|13.||Leica S3||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|14.||Leica S-E Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|15.||Leica S Typ 007||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||n||n|
|16.||Leica S Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|17.||Leica S1||optical||n||none / none||none||n||..||0.01||n||n|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The M3 has one, while the S2 does not. While the built-in flash of the M3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The M3 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the S2 does not have a selfie-screen.
The M3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the S2 uses Compact Flash or SDHC cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M3 only has one slot. The M3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the S2 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 M3 and Leica S2 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon M3||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|2.||Leica S2||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Canon M50||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Canon M6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|6.||Canon M100||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|7.||Canon M5||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon M10||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Canon T6i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|10.||Canon T6s||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|11.||Canon G7 X||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|12.||Canon M||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Leica S3||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|14.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Leica S Typ 007||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|16.||Leica S Typ 006||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Leica S1||-||- / -||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
It is notable that the M3 offers wifi support, while the S2 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the M3) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the M3 and the S2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, while the M3 was followed by the Canon M6. 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 conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon M3 and the Leica S2? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS M3:
- 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.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 460k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.2 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (111x68mm vs 160x120mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 1044g or 74 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (97 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 4 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Leica S2:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (37.5 vs 24MP), which boosts linear resolution by 25%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2008).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the M3 is the clear winner of the match-up (17 : 9 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 M3 and the Leica S2 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the M3 and the S2 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
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 M3||4/5||o||..||75/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2015||679|
|2.||Leica S2||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2008||22,995|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||4/5||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||3.5/5||Oct 2020||599|
|4.||Canon M50||..||+||4/5||79/100||..||3.5/5||Feb 2018||779|
|5.||Canon M6||..||..||..||80/100||4/5||4/5||Feb 2017||779|
|6.||Canon M100||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||3.5/5||Aug 2017||499|
|7.||Canon M5||4/5||+||4/5||82/100||4/5||4/5||Sep 2016||979|
|8.||Canon M10||..||..||..||..||..||4/5||Oct 2015||499|
|9.||Canon T6i||5/5||..||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|10.||Canon T6s||5/5||+||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|11.||Canon G7 X||4/5||+ +||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||699|
|12.||Canon M||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2012||599|
|13.||Leica S3||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2018||18,995|
|14.||Leica S-E Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||16,900|
|15.||Leica S Typ 007||4/5||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||24,490|
|16.||Leica S Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2012||21,950|
|17.||Leica S1||..||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 1996||21,490|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon M3 vs Leica S2
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 M3||Leica S2|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF-M mount lenses||Leica S mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2015||September 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 679||USD 22,995|
|Sensor Specs||Canon M3||Leica S2|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Medium Format Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||45.0 x 30.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||1350 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||54.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||37.5 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||7500 x 5000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.72 μm||6.00 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.22 MP/cm2||2.78 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 12,800 ISO||80 - 1,250 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||72||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.8||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.8||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1169||..|
|Screen Specs||Canon M3||Leica S2|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||460k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon M3||Leica S2|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||4.2 shutter flaps/s||1.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon M3||Leica S2|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Body Specs||Canon M3||Leica S2|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
111 x 68 x 44 mm
(4.4 x 2.7 x 1.7 in)
160 x 120 x 80 mm
(6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||366 g (12.9 oz)||1410 g (49.7 oz)|
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