ad stars
ad Bestseller
A potelyt.com – Photography & Imaging Resources
PW

Leica S1 vs S3

The Leica S1 Pro and the Leica S3 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 1996 and September 2018. The S1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the S3 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a medium format sensor. The S1 has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the S3 provides 64 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 S3
Leica S1   Leica S3
Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica R mount lenses Leica S mount lenses
26.4 MP, Medium Format Sensor 64 MP, Medium Format Sensor
no Video 4K/24p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-50,000
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
no LCD 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
no rear screen Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.01 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
339 x 214 x 119 mm, 2500 g 160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1260 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro and the Leica S3? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica S1 and the Leica S3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Leica S1 vs Leica S3
Compare S1 versus S3 top
Comparison S1 or S3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica S3 is considerably smaller (74 percent) than the Leica S1. Moreover, the S3 is substantially lighter (50 percent) than the S1. It is noteworthy in this context that the S3 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.

scroll hint
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 21,490i
2.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 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 899i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica CL 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 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 4,249i
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490i
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
14.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
15.
 
Sony A6400 120 mm 67 mm 50 mm 403 g 410 Y Jan 2019 899 i
16.
 
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 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 S3 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 12 percent) than the S1, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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 S3 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 S3 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica S1 and Leica S3 sensor measures

With 64MP, the S3 offers a higher resolution than the S1 (26.4MP), but the S3 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.59μm versus 7.01μm for the S1). Yet, the S3 is a much more recent model (by 22 years and 1 month) 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 S3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 49 x 32.7 inches or 124.5 x 83 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 39.2 x 26.1 inches or 99.6 x 66.4 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 32.7 x 21.8 inches or 83 x 55.3 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 S3 are ISO 100 to ISO 50000 (no boost).

S1 versus S3 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

scroll hint
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 S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p25.614.4314398
3.
 
Canon RP Full Frame 26.0 6240 41604K/30p24.311.9297785
4.
 
Canon SL3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/25p23.913.4179182
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 APS-C 26.0 6240 41604K/30p24.113.5189583
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p25.214.2282194
7.
 
Leica CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p24.013.3178882
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
9.
 
Leica TL2 APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p23.913.3175382
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none25.113.7276393
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p25.113.7276393
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
14.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.5222482
15.
 
Sony A6400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.013.6143183
16.
 
Sony A6100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.113.6194784
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The S3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the S1 does not. The highest resolution format that the S3 can use is 4K/24p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The S1 and the S3 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 S3, and comparable cameras.

scroll hint
Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/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 nnone / none none n .. 0.01 n n
2.
 
Leica S3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
3.
 
Canon RP2360 n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
4.
 
Canon SL3optical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T302360 n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y n
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
7.
 
Leica CL2360 Y3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
9.
 
Leica TL2optional n3.7 / 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 7.0 n n
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
14.
 
Leica S2optical Y3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
15.
 
Sony A64002359 n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
16.
 
Sony A61001440 n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the S3, 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 S3 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards.

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 S3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

scroll hint
Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica S1-- / --------
2.
 
Leica S3Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
3.
 
Canon RPYstereo / monoYYmicro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon SL3Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0Y-Y
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T30Ystereo / monoY-micro3.1Y-Y
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono / ----2.0---
7.
 
Leica CLYstereo / mono----Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
9.
 
Leica TL2Ystereo / mono--micro3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y- / ---mini2.0---
12.
 
Leica S Typ 007Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y- / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Leica S2Y- / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Sony A6400Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YYY
16.
 
Sony A6100Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0YYY

It is notable that the S3 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the S1 does not provide wifi capability.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S3 (unlike the S1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the S3 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.

The S3 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Leica. In contrast, the S1 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the S1 was succeeded by the Leica S2. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica website.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica S1 or the Leica S3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of 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).


Reasons to prefer the Leica S3:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (64 vs 26.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 62%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/24p video.
  • 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 (3 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 1240g or 50 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.
  • Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (12 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 22 years and 1 month of technical progress since the S1 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S3 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 2 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. 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.

S1 02:14 S3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 and the Leica S3 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S1 and the S3 in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.

scroll hint
Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica S1............ Aug 1996 21,490i
2.
 
Leica S3............ Sep 2018 18,995 i
3.
 
Canon RP4/5+4/5..4.5/54/5 Feb 2019 1,299 i
4.
 
Canon SL3..o4.5/579/1004/54/5 Apr 2019 599 i
5.
 
Fujifilm X-T305/5+ +5/584/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2019 899i
6.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240............ Jun 2019 3,999 i
7.
 
Leica CL....4.2/5....4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica TL23.5/5..3/5..4/54/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i
10.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5....80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249i
11.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006............ Sep 2014 16,900i
12.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5.......... Sep 2014 24,490i
13.
 
Leica S Typ 006............ Sep 2012 21,950i
14.
 
Leica S2............ Sep 2008 22,995i
15.
 
Sony A64004/5+4/585/1004.5/54/5 Jan 2019 899 i
16.
 
Sony A6100....4/582/1004/55/5 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Leica S1:
Check Ebay offers
Leica S3:
Check Amazon price

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

~
    loader

    Specifications: Leica S1 vs Leica S3

    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 S3
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica R mount lenses Leica S mount lenses
    Launch Date August 1996 September 2018
    Launch Price USD 21,490 USD 18,995
    Sensor Specs Leica S1 Leica S3
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    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 64 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5140 x 5140 pixels 9800 x 6533 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.01 μm 4.59 μm
    Pixel Density 2.04 MP/cm2 4.74 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video 4K/24p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 50,000 ISO
    Screen Specs Leica S1 Leica S3
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.87x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution no LCD 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S1 Leica S3
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) .. 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 0.01 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium external CF or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Leica S1 Leica S3
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector no USB USB 3.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Headphone Socket no Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Geotagging no internal GPS GPS built-in
    Body Specs Leica S1 Leica S3
    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) 1260 g (44.4 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

    You are here Home  »  CAM-parator  »  Leica S1 vs Leica S3

    Thanks for your vote!

    You rated this page 4 out of 5.


    Rating

    Any additional comment or suggestion for improvement would be welcome.


    If you like it, make sure you share it:

    • Mention this page to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
    • Bookmark it in your browser for future reference.
    • Create a hyperlink by copying the text below into your web-project or discussion forum entry.

    Once again, thanks for taking the time to provide feedback. I appreciate it.