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.
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.
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.
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.
|1.||Leica S1||339 mm||214 mm||119 mm||2500 g||..||n||Aug 1996||21,490|
|2.||Leica S2||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1410 g||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995|
|3.||Canon RP||133 mm||85 mm||70 mm||485 g||250||n||Feb 2019||1,299|
|4.||Canon SL3||122 mm||93 mm||70 mm||449 g||1070||n||Apr 2019||599|
|5.||Fujifilm X-T30||118 mm||83 mm||47 mm||383 g||380||n||Feb 2019||899|
|6.||Leica M-E Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Jun 2019||3,999|
|7.||Leica S3||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2018||18,995|
|8.||Leica CL||131 mm||78 mm||45 mm||403 g||220||n||Nov 2017||2,795|
|9.||Leica TL2||134 mm||69 mm||33 mm||399 g||250||n||Jul 2017||1,950|
|10.||Leica Q Typ 116||130 mm||80 mm||93 mm||640 g||300||n||Jun 2015||4,249|
|11.||Leica S-E Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||16,900|
|12.||Leica S Typ 007||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||24,490|
|13.||Leica S Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||21,950|
|14.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899|
|15.||Sony A6100||120 mm||67 mm||59 mm||396 g||420||n||Aug 2019||749|
|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.
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.
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).
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.
| DXO |
|1.||Leica S1||Medium Format||26.4||5140||5140||none||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Leica S2||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon RP||Full Frame||26.2||6240||4160||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Leica S3||Medium Format||64.0||9800||6533||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|10.||Leica Q Typ 116||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.7||2221||85|
|11.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||..||..||..||..|
|12.||Leica S Typ 007||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|13.||Leica S Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.2||824||76|
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.
|6.||Leica M-E Typ 240||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|10.||Leica Q Typ 116||3680||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||10.0||n||Y|
|11.||Leica S-E Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|12.||Leica S Typ 007||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||n||n|
|13.||Leica S Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||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.
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.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|6.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Y||mono||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Leica Q Typ 116||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|11.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Leica S Typ 007||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|13.||Leica S Typ 006||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|1.||Leica S1||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 1996||21,490|
|2.||Leica S2||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2008||22,995|
|3.||Canon RP||4/5||+||..||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2019||1,299|
|4.||Canon SL3||..||o||79/100||4/5||4/5||Apr 2019||599|
|5.||Fujifilm X-T30||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2019||899|
|6.||Leica M-E Typ 240||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2019||3,999|
|7.||Leica S3||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2018||18,995|
|8.||Leica CL||..||..||..||..||4/5||Nov 2017||2,795|
|9.||Leica TL2||3.5/5||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2017||1,950|
|10.||Leica Q Typ 116||5/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2015||4,249|
|11.||Leica S-E Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||16,900|
|12.||Leica S Typ 007||4/5||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||24,490|
|13.||Leica S Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2012||21,950|
|14.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899|
|15.||Sony A6100||..||..||82/100||4/5||5/5||Aug 2019||749|
|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.
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.
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 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 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|
|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%|
|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 Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
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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