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Leica S1 vs Sony RX1R II

The Leica S1 Pro and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 1996 and October 2015. The S1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the RX1R II is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a medium format (S1) and a full frame (RX1R II) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 42.2 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 Sony RX1R II
Leica S1 Sony RX1R II
Mirrorless system camera Fixed lens compact camera
Leica R mount lenses 35mm f/2.0
26.4 MP, Medium Format Sensor 42.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-25,600 (50 - 102,400)
Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (2360k dots)
no LCD 3.0 LCD, 1229k dots
no rear screen Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.01 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
339 x 214 x 119 mm, 2500 g 113 x 65 x 72 mm, 507 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II? 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 Sony RX1R II 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Leica S1 vs Sony RX1R II
Compare S1 versus RX1R II top
Comparison S1 or RX1R II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony RX1R II is considerably smaller (90 percent) than the Leica S1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the S1 nor the RX1R II are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX1R II has a lens built in, whereas the S1 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the S1 and their specifications in the Leica R Lens Catalog.

The power pack in the RX1R II can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.

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 21,490i
2.
 
Sony RX1R II 113 mm 65 mm 72 mm 507 g 220 n Oct 2015 3,299 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.
 
Canon 5DS 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i
6.
 
Canon 5DS R 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i
7.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 118 mm 83 mm 47 mm 383 g 380 n Feb 2019 899 i
8.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Jun 2019 3,999 i
9.
 
Leica CL 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i
10.
 
Leica TL2 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 399 g 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i
11.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249i
12.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
13.
 
Sony A6400 120 mm 67 mm 50 mm 403 g 410 Y Jan 2019 899 i
14.
 
Sony A6100 120 mm 67 mm 59 mm 396 g 420 n Aug 2019 749 i
15.
 
Sony RX1R 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 n Jun 2013 2,799i
16.
 
Sony RX1 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 n Sep 2012 2,799i
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 RX1R II was launched at a lower price than the S1, despite having a lens built in. 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.

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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. 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. 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S1 features a medium format sensor and the Sony RX1R II a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the RX1R II is 34 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.85 and 1.0. The sensor in the S1 has a native 1:1 aspect ratio, while the one in the RX1R II offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica S1 and Sony RX1R II sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the RX1R II offers a higher resolution of 42.2 megapixels, compared with 26.4 MP of the S1. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.50μm versus 7.01μm for the S1). However, it should be noted that the RX1R II is much more recent (by 19 years and 1 month) than the S1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. 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 Sony RX1R II implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the RX1R II for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 39.8 x 26.5 inches or 101 x 67.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 31.8 x 21.2 inches or 80.8 x 53.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 26.5 x 17.7 inches or 67.3 x 44.9 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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-102400.

S1 versus RX1R II 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.

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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.
 
Sony RX1R II Full Frame 42.2 7952 53041080/60p25.813.9320497
3.
 
Canon RP Full Frame 26.2 6240 41604K/30p........
4.
 
Canon SL3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/25p........
5.
 
Canon 5DS Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.712.4238187
6.
 
Canon 5DS R Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.612.4230886
7.
 
Fujifilm X-T30 APS-C 26.0 6240 41604K/30p........
8.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p........
9.
 
Leica CL APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........
10.
 
Leica TL2 APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p........
11.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
12.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
13.
 
Sony A6400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p2413.6143183
14.
 
Sony A6100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p........
15.
 
Sony RX1R Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791
16.
 
Sony RX1 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.114.3253493

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The RX1R II indeed provides for movie recording, while the S1 does not. The highest resolution format that the RX1R II can use is 1080/60p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the RX1R II has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the S1 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica S1, the Sony RX1R II, 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.
 
Sony RX1R II2360 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 5.0 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.
 
Canon 5DSoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
6.
 
Canon 5DS Roptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
7.
 
Fujifilm X-T302360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y n
8.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
9.
 
Leica CL2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
10.
 
Leica TL2optional n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 7.0 n n
11.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
12.
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
13.
 
Sony A64002359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
14.
 
Sony A61001440 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
15.
 
Sony RX1Roptional n 3.0 1229 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
16.
 
Sony RX1optional n 3.0 1229 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n

The S1 writes its imaging data to external storage, while the RX1R II uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II 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.
 
Sony RX1R IIYstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-
3.
 
Canon RPYstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon SL3YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y-Y
5.
 
Canon 5DSYmonomonoY-mini3.0---
6.
 
Canon 5DS RYmonomonoY-mini3.0---
7.
 
Fujifilm X-T30YstereomonoY-micro3.1Y-Y
8.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono----2.0---
9.
 
Leica CLYstereomono----Y--
10.
 
Leica TL2Ystereomono--micro3.0Y--
11.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
12.
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
13.
 
Sony A6400YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY
14.
 
Sony A6100YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYY
15.
 
Sony RX1RYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony RX1YstereomonoY-mini2.0---

It is notable that the RX1R II 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.

The RX1R II is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. 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 and Sony websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica S1 or the Sony RX1R II – 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.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica S1 Pro:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • More flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
  • 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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Reasons to prefer the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (42.2 vs 26.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the S1 necessitates an extra lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (113x65mm vs 339x214mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the S1).
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • 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.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 19 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 RX1R II is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision 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 04:14 RX1R II

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 and the Sony RX1R II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best Prime Lens Compact 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 RX1R II 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 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], 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.
 
Sony RX1R II5/5..82/100..4.5/5 Oct 2015 3,299 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.
 
Canon 5DS..+83/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i
6.
 
Canon 5DS R5/5+83/1005/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i
7.
 
Fujifilm X-T305/5+ +84/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2019 899 i
8.
 
Leica M-E Typ 240.......... Jun 2019 3,999 i
9.
 
Leica CL........4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i
10.
 
Leica TL23.5/5....4/54/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i
11.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249i
12.
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
13.
 
Sony A64004/5+85/1004.5/54/5 Jan 2019 899 i
14.
 
Sony A6100....82/1004/55/5 Aug 2019 749 i
15.
 
Sony RX1R5/5....4/54.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799i
16.
 
Sony RX15/5..79/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799i
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
Sony RX1R II:
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.

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    Specifications: Leica S1 vs Sony RX1R II

    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 Sony RX1R II
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Leica R mount lenses 35mm f/2.0
    Launch Date August 1996 October 2015
    Launch Price USD 21,490 USD 3,299
    Sensor Specs Leica S1 Sony RX1R II
    Sensor Technology CCD BSI-CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 36.0 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 1296 mm2 855.62 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 50.9 mm 43 mm
    Crop Factor 0.85x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 26.4 Megapixels 42.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5140 x 5140 pixels 7952 x 5304 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.01 μm 4.50 μm
    Pixel Density 2.04 MP/cm2 4.93 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 50 - 102,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 97
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 25.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.9
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 3204
    Screen Specs Leica S1 Sony RX1R II
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.74x
    Viewfinder Resolution 2360k dots
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution no LCD 1229k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S1 Sony RX1R II
    Focus System Manual Focus Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) .. 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 0.01 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium external MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica S1 Sony RX1R II
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector no USB USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI micro HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Leica S1 Sony RX1R II
    Battery Type external NP-BX1
    In-Camera Charging no USB charging USB charging
    Body Dimensions 339 x 214 x 119 mm
    (13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
    113 x 65 x 72 mm
    (4.4 x 2.6 x 2.8 in)
    Camera Weight 2500 g (88.2 oz) 507 g (17.9 oz)

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