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Leica S3 Comparison Review

The Leica S3 is a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera that was announced in September 2018 and is equipped with a medium format sensor. It offers a resolution of 64 megapixel.

camera

Is the Leica S3 a good camera? The S3 has a Camera Elo of 2740. This rating puts the S3 among the top 10 percent of all digital single lens reflex cameras. In terms of its sensor size category (medium format cameras), the S3 ranks among the top 40 percent. Based on its within category standings, the camera earns a 4.5-star performance rating.

Headline Specifications
Leica S3
Digital single lens reflex
Leica S mount lenses
64 MP, Medium Format Sensor
4K/24p Video
ISO 100-50000
Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed body
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1260 g


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Read on to find out more about the camera's size, sensor, features, reception by expert reviewers, and how it compares to other digital cameras.

Body comparison with a credit card

An illustration of the physical dimensions of the Leica S3 vis-à-vis a credit card is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Leica S3 vs credit card front
S3 versus credit card top view
S3 and credit card rear side

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Leica S3 alongside a set of comparators. If you want to review a camera pair side-by-side, just select a right-side 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 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)
Camera
Model
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 24,490 i i Leica S3
 
Leica Q2« » 130 mm 80 mm 92 mm 718 g 370 Y Mar 2019 4,995 i i Leica Q2
 
Leica C-LUX« » 113 mm 67 mm 46 mm 340 g 370 n Jun 2018 1,049 i i Leica C-LUX
 
Leica S-E Typ 006« » 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900- i Leica S-E Typ 006
 
Leica S Typ 007« » 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i i Leica S Typ 007
 
Leica S Typ 006« » 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950- i Leica S Typ 006
 
Leica S2« » 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995- i Leica S2
 
Nikon P1000« » 146 mm 119 mm 181 mm 1415 g 250 n Jul 2018 999 i i Nikon P1000
 
Panasonic FT7« » 117 mm 76 mm 37 mm 319 g 300 Y May 2018 449 i i Panasonic FT7
 
Panasonic GH5s« » 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 660 g 440 Y Jan 2018 2,499 i i Panasonic GH5s
 
Sony RX10 IV« » 133 mm 94 mm 145 mm 1095 g 400 Y Sep 2017 1,699 i i Sony RX10 IV
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Leica S3 was launched in the US market at a price of $24,490. 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.

Leica S3:
Check Amazon price

Sensor comparison with a 35mm slide

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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.

The Leica S3 features a medium format sensor and has a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 0.8. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the Leica S3 among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality.

Leica S3 sensor measures

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p----Leica S3
 
Leica Q2« » Full Frame 46.7 8368 55844K/30p26.413.5249196Leica Q2
 
Leica C-LUX« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----Leica C-LUX
 
Leica S-E Typ 006« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000-----Leica S-E Typ 006
 
Leica S Typ 007« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p----Leica S Typ 007
 
Leica S Typ 006« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000-23.912.282476Leica S Typ 006
 
Leica S2« » Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000-----Leica S2
 
Nikon P1000« » 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34564K/30p----Nikon P1000
 
Panasonic FT7« » 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p----Panasonic FT7
 
Panasonic GH5s« » Four Thirds 9.9 3680 27004K/60p----Panasonic GH5s
 
Sony RX10 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----Sony RX10 IV

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The S3 indeed provides movie recording capabilities. The highest resolution format that the S3 can use is 4K/24p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the S3 has an optical viewfinder that provides a field of view of 98% and a magnification of 0.87x. The tables below summarize some of the other core capabilities of the Leica S3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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
Camera
Model
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Leica S3
 
Leica Q2« »3680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 20.0 n Y Leica Q2
 
Leica C-LUX« »2330 n 3.0 1240 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y Leica C-LUX
 
Leica S-E Typ 006« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n Leica S-E Typ 006
 
Leica S Typ 007« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n Leica S Typ 007
 
Leica S Typ 006« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n Leica S Typ 006
 
Leica S2« »optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n Leica S2
 
Nikon P1000« »2359 n 3.2 921 swivel n 1/4000s 7.0 Y Y Nikon P1000
 
Panasonic FT7« »1170 n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/1300s 10.0 Y Y Panasonic FT7
 
Panasonic GH5s« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 1/8000s 12.0 n n Panasonic GH5s
 
Sony RX10 IV« »2359 Y 3.0 1440 tilting Y 1/2000s 24.0 Y Y Sony RX10 IV

One useful feature of the S3 is a presence of 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.

 

Connection 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 S3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Leica S3
 
Leica Q2« »Ystereomono----Y-YLeica Q2
 
Leica C-LUX« »-stereomono--micro2.0Y--Leica C-LUX
 
Leica S-E Typ 006« »Y----mini2.0---Leica S-E Typ 006
 
Leica S Typ 007« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Leica S Typ 007
 
Leica S Typ 006« »Y----mini2.0---Leica S Typ 006
 
Leica S2« »Y----mini2.0---Leica S2
 
Nikon P1000« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y-YNikon P1000
 
Panasonic FT7« »-stereomono--micro2.0Y--Panasonic FT7
 
Panasonic GH5s« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5s
 
Sony RX10 IV« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony RX10 IV

It is notable that the S3 has a microphone port. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

 

Expert reviews

While the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the S3 in practical situations. 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. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica S3----- Sep 2018 24,490 i i Leica S3
 
Leica Q2« »-84/100--- Mar 2019 4,995 i i Leica Q2
 
Leica C-LUX« »--4.5/5-4/5 Jun 2018 1,049 i i Leica C-LUX
 
Leica S-E Typ 006« »----- Sep 2014 16,900- i Leica S-E Typ 006
 
Leica S Typ 007« »----- Sep 2014 24,490 i i Leica S Typ 007
 
Leica S Typ 006« »----- Sep 2012 21,950- i Leica S Typ 006
 
Leica S2« »----- Sep 2008 22,995- i Leica S2
 
Nikon P1000« »+73/1003.5/54.5/53.5/5 Jul 2018 999 i i Nikon P1000
 
Panasonic FT7« »+-3.5/5-3.5/5 May 2018 449 i i Panasonic FT7
 
Panasonic GH5s« »-84/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2018 2,499 i i Panasonic GH5s
 
Sony RX10 IV« »+84/1004.5/5-5/5 Sep 2017 1,699 i i Sony RX10 IV
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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 S3 FAQ

Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular features of the S3.

What technology is the imaging sensor in the S3 based on?

The camera is build around a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor.

Which image processing chip is used to convert the raw signal into an image file and perform noise reduction and image sharpening?

Leica equipped the S3 with the Maestro II image processor.

What is the ISO sensitivity range of the S3?

The camera has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 50000.

What is the life expectancy of the shutter in the Leica S3?

Leica does not publish a shutter rating for the S3. Yet, shutters in comparable cameras from other manufacturers are said to be good for at least 100 000 actuations. It should be noted, though, that this number represents a Mean Time before Failure. The shutter might fail earlier, or it might last longer. Anyway, in order to exhaust an expected shutter life of 100 000 shots over, say, three years, one would have to take about 100 pictures each and every day.

Is it difficult to use manual focus lenses with the Leica S3?

The S3 offers focus peaking as a manual focus aid. This feature works by placing a colored highlight on in-focus zones within the image.

What is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with flash?

The S3's flash sync speed is 1/125 sec.

Does the Leica S3 support the Ultra High Speed (UHS) bus interface for SD cards?

Yes, the camera can indeed use UHS-II cards (data transfer speed of up to 312 MB/s).

Which battery does the S3 use?

The camera gets its power from the BP-PRO1, which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack.

Is there a vertical grip available for the S3?

Yes, Leica offers the Multi-Function Handgrip S as an optional accessory to facilitate shooting in portrait orientation and to provide additional battery power.

Does the Leica S3 support geotagging?

The S3 has a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) module and can embed location information in the EXIF data of the captured image.

Camera to camera comparisons

If you would like to see a side-by-side review of this and another camera, 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 Summary
    Camera Model Leica S3
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2018
    Launch Price USD 24490
    Sensor Specs
    Sensor Technology CMOS
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x
    Sensor Resolution 64 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 9800 x 6533 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.59 μm
    Pixel Density 4.74 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter
    Movie Capability 4K/24p Video
    ISO Setting 100-50000 ISO
    Image Processor Maestro II
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) -
    DXO Color Depth (bits) -
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) -
    DXO Low Light (ISO) -
    Screen Specs
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.87x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peaking
    Maximum Shutter Speed 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations
    Silent Shootingno E-Shutter
    Time Lapse Photographyno Intervalometer
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots
    UHS card support UHS-II
    Connectivity Specs
    External Flash Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 3.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in
    Geotagging GPS built-in
    Body Specs
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BP-PRO1 power pack
    Body Dimensions 160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 1260 g (44.4 oz)

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