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Leica S1 vs S2

The Leica S1 Pro and the Leica S2 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 1996 and September 2008. The S1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the S2 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a medium format sensor. The S1 has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the S2 provides 37.5 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica S1 versus Leica S2
Leica S1 Leica S2
Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica R mount lenses Leica S mount lenses
26.4 MP, Medium Format Sensor 37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 80-1,250
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
no LCD 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
no rear screen Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.01 shutter flaps per second 1.5 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
339 x 214 x 119 mm, 2500 g 160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro 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.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Leica S1 and the Leica S2 are illustrated 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Leica S1 vs Leica S2
Compare S1 versus S2 top
Comparison S1 or S2 rear

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 smaller (74 percent) than the Leica S1. Moreover, the S2 is substantially lighter (44 percent) than the S1. It is noteworthy in this context that the S2 is splash and dust-proof, 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. 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490 i
2.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995 i
3.
 
Canon RP 133 mm 85 mm 70 mm 485 g 250 n Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon SL3 122 mm 93 mm 70 mm 449 g 1070 n Apr 2019 599 i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 118 mm 83 mm 47 mm 383 g 380 n Feb 2019 899 i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
8.
 
Leica CL 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i
9.
 
Leica TL2 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 399 g 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249 i
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900 i
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950 i
14.
 
Sony A6400 120 mm 67 mm 50 mm 403 g 410 Y Jan 2019 899 i
15.
 
Sony A6100 120 mm 67 mm 59 mm 396 g 420 n Aug 2019 749 i
Notes: 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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The S1 was somewhat cheaper (by 7 percent) than the S2 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.

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Sensor comparison

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. 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a medium format sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the S2 is 4 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 0.85 (S1) and 0.8. The sensor in the S1 has a native 1:1 aspect ratio, while the one in the S2 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica S1 and Leica S2 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the S1 (26.4MP), but the S2 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 7.01μm for the S1). Yet, the S2 is a much more recent model (by 12 years) 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the 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 Leica S1 are 25.7 x 25.7 inches or 65.3 x 65.3 cm for good quality, 20.6 x 20.6 inches or 52.2 x 52.2 cm for very good quality, and 17.1 x 17.1 inches or 43.5 x 43.5 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica S1 Pro has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica S2 are ISO 80 to ISO 1250 (no boost).

S1 versus S2 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none...... ..
2.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none...... ..
3.
 
Canon RP Full Frame 26.2 6240 41604K/30p...... ..
4.
 
Canon SL3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/25p...... ..
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 APS-C 26.0 6240 41604K/30p...... ..
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p...... ..
7.
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p...... ..
8.
 
Leica CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p...... ..
9.
 
Leica TL2 APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p...... ..
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.72221 85
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none...... ..
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p...... ..
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.2824 76
14.
 
Sony A6400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p2413.61431 83
15.
 
Sony A6100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p...... ..
Neither the S1 nor the S2 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The S1 and the S2 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica S1, the Leica S2, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n
2.
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
3.
 
Canon RP2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
4.
 
Canon SL3optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T302360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y n
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
7.
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
8.
 
Leica CL2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
9.
 
Leica TL2optional n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 7.0 n n
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
14.
 
Sony A64002359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
15.
 
Sony A61001440 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the S2, 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 S1 writes its imaging data to external storage, while the S2 uses Compact Flash or SDHC cards.

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Connectivity comparison

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 Leica S1 Pro and Leica S2 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica S1----------
2.
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon RPYstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon SL3YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y-Y
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30YstereomonoY-micro3.1Y-Y
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono----2.0---
7.
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
8.
 
Leica CLYstereomono----Y--
9.
 
Leica TL2Ystereomono--micro3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
14.
 
Sony A6400YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY
15.
 
Sony A6100YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY

It is notable that the S2 has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The S1 does not feature such an accessory-socket.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the S1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S1 and the S2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S1 was replaced by the Leica S2, while the S2 was followed by the Leica S Typ 006. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica website.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica S1 and the Leica S2? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Leica S1 Pro:

  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 1996).


Arguments in favor of the Leica S2:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (37.5 vs 26.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 24%.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (1.5 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (160x120mm vs 339x214mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1090g or 44 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • 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 modern: Reflects 12 years of technical progress since the S1 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the S2 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 2 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S1 02:10 S2

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the S1 or the S2 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490 i
2.
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995 i
3.
 
Canon RP4/5+..4.5/54/5 Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon SL3..o79/1004/54/5 Apr 2019 599 i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T305/5+ +84/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2019 899 i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240.......... Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
8.
 
Leica CL........4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i
9.
 
Leica TL23.5/5....4/54/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249 i
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900 i
12.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5........ Sep 2014 24,490 i
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950 i
14.
 
Sony A64004/5+85/1004.5/54/5 Jan 2019 899 i
15.
 
Sony A6100....82/1004/55/5 Aug 2019 749 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Leica S1:
Check Ebay offers
Leica S2:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Leica S1 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 Specifications
    Camera Model Leica S1 Leica S2
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica R mount lenses Leica S mount lenses
    Launch Date August 1996 September 2008
    Launch Price USD 21,490 USD 22,995
    Sensor Specs Leica S1 Leica S2
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 36.0 mm 45.0 x 30.0 mm
    Sensor Area 1296 mm2 1350 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 50.9 mm 54.1 mm
    Crop Factor 0.85x 0.8x
    Sensor Resolution 26.4 Megapixels 37.5 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5140 x 5140 pixels 7500 x 5000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.01 μm 6.00 μm
    Pixel Density 2.04 MP/cm2 2.78 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 80 - 1,250 ISO
    Screen Specs Leica S1 Leica S2
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution no LCD 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S1 Leica S2
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.01 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium external CF or SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Leica S1 Leica S2
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector no USB USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S1 Leica S2
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type external BP-PRO1
    Body Dimensions 339 x 214 x 119 mm
    (13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
    160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 2500 g (88.2 oz) 1410 g (49.7 oz)

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