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Leica S2 versus Sony A7R

The Leica S2 and the Sony Alpha A7R are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2008 and October 2013. The S2 is a DSLR, while the A7R is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a medium format (S2) and a full frame (A7R) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 37.5 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Leica S2 vs Sony A7R

The physical size and weight of the Leica S2 and the Sony A7R are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the S2 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Leica S2 vs Sony A7R
Compare S2 versus A7R top
Compare S2 and A7R rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7R is considerably smaller (38 percent) than the Leica S2. Moreover, the A7R is substantially lighter (67 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 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, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Leica S2» 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 49.7 oz .. Y Sep 2008 22,995- i
Sony A7R« 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i
Canon 1D Mark IV« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 43.4 oz 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i
Leica S Typ 007« » 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i i
Leica S-E Typ 006« » 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 16,900- i
Leica S Typ 006« » 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2012 21,950- i
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i
Pentax 645D« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.7 in 52.2 oz 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995- i
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7R was launched at a markedly lower price (by 90 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica S2 vs Sony A7R

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 S2 features a medium format sensor and the Sony A7R a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7R is 36 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica S2 and Sony A7R sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a slightly higher resolution than the A7R (36.2MP), but the S2 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 4.88μm for the A7R) due to its larger sensor. However, the A7R is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 years) than the S2, and its sensor might 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

S2 versus A7R MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Leica S2» Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000-----
Sony A7R« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695
Canon 1D Mark IV« » APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871
Leica S Typ 007« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p----
Leica S-E Typ 006« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000-----
Leica S Typ 006« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000-23.912.282476
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081
Pentax 645D« » Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440-24.612.6126282
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The A7R indeed provides for movie recording, while the S2 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7R can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Leica S2 vs Sony A7R

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7R has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the S2 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica S2 and Sony A7R in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Leica S2»optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 4000 1.5 n n
Sony A7R«2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n
Canon 1D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n
Leica S Typ 007« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 4000 3.5 n n
Leica S-E Typ 006« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 4000 1.5 n n
Leica S Typ 006« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 4000 1.5 n n
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Pentax 645D« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 1.1 n n
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n

Both the S2 and the A7R have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, while the A7R was followed by the Sony A7R II.

Review summary: Leica S2 vs Sony A7R

So how do things add up? Is the Leica S2 better than the Sony A7R or vice versa? 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:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • 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 Sony Alpha A7R:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 460k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 945g or 67 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (90 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years of technical progress since the S2 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 4 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.

S2 04:11 A7R

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the S2 and the A7R 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. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Leica S2»----- Sep 2008 22,995- i
Sony A7R«HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i
Canon 1D Mark IV« »-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i
Leica S Typ 007« »----- Sep 2014 24,490 i i
Leica S-E Typ 006« »----- Sep 2014 16,900- i
Leica S Typ 006« »----- Sep 2012 21,950- i
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i
Pentax 645D« »---4.5/5- Mar 2010 9,995- i
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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