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Leica S2 vs Pentax 645Z

The Leica S2 and the Pentax 645Z are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2008 and April 2014. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a medium format sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 37.5 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 51.1 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 Pentax 645Z
Leica S2 Pentax 645Z
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Leica S mount lenses Pentax 645 mount lenses
37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor 51.1 MP, Medium Format Sensor
no Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 80-1,250 ISO 100-204,800
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.2 LCD, 1037k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g 156 x 117 x 123 mm, 1550 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S2 and the Pentax 645Z? 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

The physical size and weight of the Leica S2 and the Pentax 645Z are illustrated 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 Pentax 645Z
Compare S2 versus 645Z top
Comparison S2 or 645Z rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax 645Z is notably smaller (5 percent) than the Leica S2. However, the 645Z is markedly heavier (10 percent) than the S2. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

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 table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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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 22,995i
2.
 
Pentax 645Z 156 mm 117 mm 123 mm 1550 g 650 Y Apr 2014 8,499 i
3.
 
Canon 5DS 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i
4.
 
Canon 5DS R 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999i
6.
 
Hasselblad X1D 150 mm 98 mm 71 mm 725 g .. Y Jun 2016 8,995i
7.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
8.
 
Leica SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450i
9.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
10.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490i
11.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
12.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
13.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
14.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
15.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
16.
 
Pentax 645D 156 mm 117 mm 119 mm 1480 g 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 645Z was launched at a markedly lower price (by 63 percent) than the S2, 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 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. 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 645Z is 6 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 0.8 (S2) and 0.79. The sensor in the S2 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the 645Z offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica S2 and Pentax 645Z sensor measures

With 51.1MP, the 645Z offers a higher resolution than the S2 (37.5MP), but the 645Z has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 6.00μm for the S2). Yet, the 645Z is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 6 months) than the S2, 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 Pentax 645Z implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 645Z for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 41.3 x 31 inches or 104.9 x 78.6 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 33 x 24.8 inches or 83.9 x 62.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 27.5 x 20.6 inches or 69.9 x 52.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica S2 are 37.5 x 25 inches or 95.3 x 63.5 cm for good quality, 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm for very good quality, and 25 x 16.7 inches or 63.5 x 42.3 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 Pentax 645Z are ISO 100 to ISO 204800 (no boost).

S2 versus 645Z MP

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.

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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.
 
Pentax 645Z Medium Format 51.1 8256 61921080/60i26.014.74505101
3.
 
Canon 5DS Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.712.4238187
4.
 
Canon 5DS R Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.612.4230886
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744none24.012.0166380
6.
 
Hasselblad X1D Medium Format 51.3 8272 62001080/25p26.214.84489102
7.
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p........
8.
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
9.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
10.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p........
11.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
12.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
13.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
14.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
15.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
16.
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 645Z indeed provides for movie recording, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the 645Z can use is 1080/60i.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The S2 and the 645Z 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 645Z offers a wider field of view (98%) than the one in the S2 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the S2 has a higher magnification (0.86x vs 0.78x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica S2 and Pentax 645Z in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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.
 
Pentax 645Zoptical Y 3.2 1037 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
3.
 
Canon 5DSoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
4.
 
Canon 5DS Roptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIoptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
6.
 
Hasselblad X1D2360 n 3.0 920 fixed Y 1/2000s 2.3 n n
7.
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
8.
 
Leica SL4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n
9.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
10.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
11.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
12.
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n
13.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
14.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
15.
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
16.
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n

The Pentax 645Z has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The S2 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the 645Z uses SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. The 645Z supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the S2 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 S2 and Pentax 645Z 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.
 
Pentax 645ZYstereomonoY-mini3.0---
3.
 
Canon 5DSYmonomonoY-mini3.0---
4.
 
Canon 5DS RYmonomonoY-mini3.0---
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIYmono----2.0---
6.
 
Hasselblad X1DYstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
7.
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
8.
 
Leica SLYstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--
9.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
11.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
12.
 
Leica S1----------
13.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
16.
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

The 645Z is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Pentax. In contrast, the S2 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the S2 was succeeded 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 Pentax websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica S2 or the Pentax 645Z – 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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Reasons to prefer the Leica S2:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.86x vs 0.78x).
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).

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Advantages of the Pentax 645Z:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (51.1 vs 37.5MP), which boosts linear resolution by 14%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (98% vs 96%).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 460k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (63 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 6 months of technical progress since the S2 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 645Z is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 3 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 03:12 645Z

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S2 and the Pentax 645Z 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 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 S2 or the 645Z perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

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 S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
2.
 
Pentax 645Z5/5....4.5/55/5 Apr 2014 8,499 i
3.
 
Canon 5DS..+83/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i
4.
 
Canon 5DS R5/5+83/1005/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III....+ +4.5/5.. Aug 2007 7,999i
6.
 
Hasselblad X1D..o81/100..4/5 Jun 2016 8,995i
7.
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
8.
 
Leica SL4/5..84/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450i
9.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900i
10.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5........ Sep 2014 24,490i
11.
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950i
12.
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490i
13.
 
Nikon D3S5/5..89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
14.
 
Nikon D3X....86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
15.
 
Nikon D3....+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
16.
 
Pentax 645D5/5........ Mar 2010 9,995i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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 S2:
Check Ebay offers
Pentax 645Z:
Check Amazon price

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 Pentax 645Z

    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 Pentax 645Z
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses Pentax 645 mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2008 April 2014
    Launch Price USD 22,995 USD 8,499
    Sensor Specs Leica S2 Pentax 645Z
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 43.8 x 32.8 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 1436.64 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 54.7 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 0.79x
    Sensor Resolution 37.5 Megapixels 51.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7500 x 5000 pixels 8256 x 6192 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm 5.30 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2 3.56 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,250 ISO 100 - 204,800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 101
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 26.0
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 14.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 4505
    Screen Specs Leica S2 Pentax 645Z
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.86x 0.78x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.2inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 1037k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Leica S2 Pentax 645Z
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Leica S2 Pentax 645Z
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 3.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica S2 Pentax 645Z
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 D-LI90
    Body Dimensions 160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    156 x 117 x 123 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 4.8 in)
    Camera Weight 1410 g (49.7 oz) 1550 g (54.7 oz)

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

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