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Leica S1 vs Nikon D3200

The Leica S1 Pro and the Nikon D3200 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 1996 and April 2012. The S1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D3200 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a medium format (S1) and an APS-C (D3200) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 24.1 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 Nikon D3200
Leica S1 Nikon D3200
Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica R mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
26.4 MP, Medium Format Sensor 24.1 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
no LCD 3.0 LCD, 921k dots
no rear screen Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.01 shutter flaps per second 4 shutter flaps per second
339 x 214 x 119 mm, 2500 g 125 x 96 x 77 mm, 505 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro and the Nikon D3200? 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 Nikon D3200 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The D3200 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the S1 is only available in black.

Size Leica S1 vs Nikon D3200
Compare S1 versus D3200 top
Comparison S1 or D3200 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3200 is considerably smaller (83 percent) than the Leica S1. Moreover, the D3200 is substantially lighter (80 percent) than the S1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the S1 nor the D3200 are weather-sealed.

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 Leica R Lens Catalog (S1) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3200). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Leica S1, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 21,490i
2.
 
Nikon D3200 125 mm 96 mm 77 mm 505 g 540 n Apr 2012 599i
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 CL 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica TL2 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 399 g 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249i
10.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
11.
 
Nikon D5600 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 465 g 970 n Nov 2016 699 i
12.
 
Nikon D3400 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 445 g 1200 n Aug 2016 499i
13.
 
Nikon D3300 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 430 g 700 n Jan 2014 499i
14.
 
Nikon D5300 125 mm 98 mm 76 mm 480 g 600 n Oct 2013 799i
15.
 
Nikon D3100 124 mm 96 mm 75 mm 505 g 550 n Aug 2010 599i
16.
 
Sony A6400 120 mm 67 mm 50 mm 403 g 410 Y Jan 2019 899 i
17.
 
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 D3200 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 97 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.

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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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S1 features a medium format sensor and the Nikon D3200 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D3200 is 72 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.85 and 1.5. The sensor in the S1 has a native 1:1 aspect ratio, while the one in the D3200 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica S1 and Nikon D3200 sensor measures

With 26.4MP, the S1 offers a higher resolution than the D3200 (24.1MP), but the S1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.01μm versus 3.85μm for the D3200) due to its larger sensor. However, the D3200 is a much more recent model (by 15 years and 7 months) than the S1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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 Leica S1 Pro has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3200 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-12800.

S1 versus D3200 MP

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

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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.
 
Nikon D3200 APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181
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 CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........
8.
 
Leica TL2 APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
10.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
11.
 
Nikon D5600 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684
12.
 
Nikon D3400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286
13.
 
Nikon D3300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.8138582
14.
 
Nikon D5300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.9133883
15.
 
Nikon D3100 APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967
16.
 
Sony A6400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p2413.6143183
17.
 
Sony A6100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p........

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D3200 indeed provides for movie recording, while the S1 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3200 can use is 1080/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The S1 and the D3200 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica S1 and Nikon D3200 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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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.
 
Nikon D3200optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y 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 CL2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
8.
 
Leica TL2optional n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 7.0 n n
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
10.
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
11.
 
Nikon D5600optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D3400optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D3300optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D5300optical n 3.2 1037 swivel n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
16.
 
Sony A64002359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
17.
 
Sony A61001440 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D3200 has one, while the S1 does not. While the built-in flash of the D3200 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The S1 writes its imaging data to external storage, while the D3200 uses SDXC 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 Nikon D3200 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.
 
Nikon D3200YmonomonoY-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 CLYstereomono----Y--
8.
 
Leica TL2Ystereomono--micro3.0Y--
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
10.
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D5600YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
12.
 
Nikon D3400Ymonomono--mini2.0--Y
13.
 
Nikon D3300YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D5300YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
15.
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony A6400YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY
17.
 
Sony A6100YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY

It is notable that the D3200 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.

Both the S1 and the D3200 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S1 was replaced by the Leica S2, while the D3200 was followed by the Nikon D3300. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica S1 and the Nikon D3200? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica S1 Pro:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 1996).

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Advantages of the Nikon D3200:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (125x96mm vs 339x214mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1995g or 80 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (97 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 15 years and 7 months of technical progress since the S1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3200 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 4 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 sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S1 04:10 D3200

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 and the Nikon D3200 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S1 and the D3200 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.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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 21,490i
2.
 
Nikon D32005/5+ +73/1004.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599i
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 CL........4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i
8.
 
Leica TL23.5/5....4/54/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i
9.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249i
10.
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
11.
 
Nikon D56004/5..79/1004.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i
12.
 
Nikon D34004/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499i
13.
 
Nikon D33003/5+77/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2014 499i
14.
 
Nikon D53004/5+ +79/1004.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 799i
15.
 
Nikon D31005/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599i
16.
 
Sony A64004/5+85/1004.5/54/5 Jan 2019 899 i
17.
 
Sony A6100....82/1004/55/5 Aug 2019 749 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica S1:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3200:
Check Ebay offers

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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica S1 vs Nikon D3200

    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 Nikon D3200
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica R mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date August 1996 April 2012
    Launch Price USD 21,490 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Leica S1 Nikon D3200
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 36.0 mm 23.2 x 15.4 mm
    Sensor Area 1296 mm2 357.28 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 50.9 mm 27.8 mm
    Crop Factor 0.85x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 26.4 Megapixels 24.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5140 x 5140 pixels 6016 x 4000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.01 μm 3.85 μm
    Pixel Density 2.04 MP/cm2 6.74 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 12,800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 81
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 24.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1131
    Screen Specs Leica S1 Nikon D3200
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution no LCD 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S1 Nikon D3200
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.01 shutter flaps/s 4 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium external SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica S1 Nikon D3200
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector no USB USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S1 Nikon D3200
    Battery Type external EN-EL14
    Body Dimensions 339 x 214 x 119 mm
    (13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
    125 x 96 x 77 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 2500 g (88.2 oz) 505 g (17.8 oz)

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