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Leica S2 vs Olympus E-400

The Leica S2 and the Olympus E-400 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and September 2006. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a medium format (S2) and a Four Thirds (E-400) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 37.5 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica S2
versus
Olympus E-400
Leica S2 Olympus E-400
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Leica S mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 80-1,250 ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 2.5 LCD, 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 435 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S2 and the Olympus E-400? 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 S2 and the Olympus E-400 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 S2 vs Olympus E-400
Compare S2 versus E-400 top
Comparison S2 or E-400 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-400 is considerably smaller (38 percent) than the Leica S2. Moreover, the E-400 is substantially lighter (69 percent) than the S2. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S2 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-400 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 adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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 S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995 i
2.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699 i
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999 i
4.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
5.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900 i
6.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i
7.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950 i
8.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490 i
9.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199 i
10.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999 i
11.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999 i
12.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599 i
13.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699 i
14.
 
Olympus E-510 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799 i
15.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599 i
16.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599 i
17.
 
Pentax 645D 156 mm 117 mm 119 mm 1480 g 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995 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 E-400 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 97 percent) than the S2, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S2 features a medium format sensor and the Olympus E-400 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-400 is 83 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 2.0. The sensor in the S2 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-400 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica S2 and Olympus E-400 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the E-400 (10MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 4.74μm for the E-400) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the S2 is a much more recent model (by 2 years) than the E-400, 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 S2 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its 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 Olympus E-400 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica S2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 1250. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-400 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

S2 versus E-400 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none...... ..
2.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none...... ..
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744none24.012.01663 80
4.
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p...... ..
5.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none...... ..
6.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p...... ..
7.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.2824 76
8.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none...... ..
9.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.03253 82
10.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.71992 88
11.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.22290 81
12.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.4527 56
13.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.0494 51
14.
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.0442 52
15.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none...... ..
16.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.8429 55
17.
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.61262 82
Neither the S2 nor the E-400 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 S2 and the E-400 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 viewfinder in the S2 offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the E-400 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the S2 has a higher magnification (0.86x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica S2, the Olympus E-400, 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 S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
2.
 
Olympus E-400optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIoptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
4.
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
5.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
6.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
7.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
8.
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n
9.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
10.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
11.
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
12.
 
Olympus E-420optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
13.
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-510optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-500optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic L10optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n

One feature that is present on the S2, but is missing on the E-400 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 S2 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the E-400 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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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 S2 and Olympus E-400 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 S2Y----mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-400Y-----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIYmono----2.0---
4.
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
5.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
7.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
8.
 
Leica S1----------
9.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-420Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-410Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-510Y-----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-500Y-----2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic L10Y-----2.0---
17.
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the E-400) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the S2 and the E-400 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-400 was replaced by the Olympus E-410, 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 and Olympus websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Leica S2 better than the Olympus E-400 or vice versa? 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 S2:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (37.5 vs 10MP) with a 98% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.86x vs 0.46x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 215k dots).
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the E-400 launch.

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Advantages of the Olympus E-400:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (130x91mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 975g or 69 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (97 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2006).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S2 is the clear winner of the match-up (15 : 7 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.

S2 15:07 E-400

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S2 and the Olympus E-400 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the S2 or the E-400 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 S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995 i
2.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100..4/54/5 Sep 2006 699 i
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III....+ +4.5/5.. Aug 2007 7,999 i
4.
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
5.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900 i
6.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5........ Sep 2014 24,490 i
7.
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950 i
8.
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490 i
9.
 
Nikon D3S5/5..89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199 i
10.
 
Nikon D3X....86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999 i
11.
 
Nikon D3....+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999 i
12.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599 i
13.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699 i
14.
 
Olympus E-510..89/100+ +3.5/54.5/5 Mar 2007 799 i
15.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100+ +.... Sep 2005 599 i
16.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599 i
17.
 
Pentax 645D5/5........ Mar 2010 9,995 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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica S2:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-400:
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica S2 vs Olympus E-400

    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 S2 Olympus E-400
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2008 September 2006
    Launch Price USD 22,995 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Leica S2 Olympus E-400
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 37.5 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7500 x 5000 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,250 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Screen Specs Leica S2 Olympus E-400
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x 0.46x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S2 Olympus E-400
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDHC cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Leica S2 Olympus E-400
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S2 Olympus E-400
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 BLS-1
    Body Dimensions 160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 1410 g (49.7 oz) 435 g (15.3 oz)

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