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.
Is the Leica S3 a good camera? The S3 has a Camera Elo of 2552. 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 50 percent. Based on its within category standings, the camera earns a 4-star performance rating.
|Digital single lens reflex|
|Leica S mount lenses|
|64 MP, Medium Format Sensor|
|ISO 100 - 50 000|
|3.0 LCD, 922k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3 shutter flaps per second|
|160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1 260 g|
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.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Leica S3 alongside a set of similar cameras. If you want to review a particular camera pair side-by-side, just move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.
|1.||Leica S3||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2018||18,995||amazon.com|
|2.||Leica Q2||130 mm||80 mm||92 mm||718 g||370||Y||Mar 2019||4,995||amazon.com|
|3.||Leica M-E Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Jun 2019||3,999||ebay.com|
|4.||Leica M10-P||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995||amazon.com|
|5.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595||ebay.com|
|6.||Leica S-E Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||16,900||ebay.com|
|7.||Leica S Typ 007||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||24,490||ebay.com|
|8.||Leica S Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||21,950||ebay.com|
|9.||Leica S2||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1410 g||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499||amazon.com|
|11.||Sony RX10 IV||133 mm||94 mm||145 mm||1095 g||400||Y||Sep 2017||1,699||amazon.com|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or 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 $18,995. 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 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.
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.
|1.||Leica S3||Medium Format||64.0||9800||6533||4K/24p||25.6||14.4||3143||98|
|2.||Leica Q2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/30p||26.4||13.5||2491||96|
|3.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||25.2||14.2||2821||94|
|4.||Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||25.1||14.1||2739||93|
|5.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|6.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||25.1||13.7||2763||93|
|7.||Leica S Typ 007||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||4K/24p||25.1||13.7||2763||93|
|8.||Leica S Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.2||824||76|
|9.||Leica S2||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.5||2224||82|
|10.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||25.3||14.3||2886||95|
|11.||Sony RX10 IV||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||22.0||12.2||408||63|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
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.
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.
|1.||Leica S3||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|2.||Leica Q2||3680||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||10.0/s||n||Y|
|3.||Leica M-E Typ 240||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|4.||Leica M10-P||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|5.||Leica M10||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|6.||Leica S-E Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5/s||n||n|
|7.||Leica S Typ 007||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5/s||n||n|
|8.||Leica S Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5/s||n||n|
|9.||Leica S2||optical||Y||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5/s||n||n|
|10.||Nikon D6||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0/s||n||n|
|11.||Sony RX10 IV||2359||Y||3.0 / 1440||tilting||Y||1/2000s||24.0/s||Y||Y|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
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.
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.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Leica S3||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|2.||Leica Q2||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||-||Y||-||Y|
|3.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Y||mono / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Leica M10-P||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|5.||Leica M10||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|6.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Leica S Typ 007||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|8.||Leica S Typ 006||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Leica S2||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|11.||Sony RX10 IV||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
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.
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 (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]).
|1.||Leica S3||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2018||18,995||amazon.com|
|2.||Leica Q2||..||..||4.5/5||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Mar 2019||4,995||amazon.com|
|3.||Leica M-E Typ 240||..||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2019||3,999||ebay.com|
|4.||Leica M10-P||..||..||3/5||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995||amazon.com|
|5.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595||ebay.com|
|6.||Leica S-E Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||16,900||ebay.com|
|7.||Leica S Typ 007||4/5||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||24,490||ebay.com|
|8.||Leica S Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2012||21,950||ebay.com|
|9.||Leica S2||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2008||22,995||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D6||..||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499||amazon.com|
|11.||Sony RX10 IV||5/5||+||3.5/5||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2017||1,699||amazon.com|
|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 Leica S3 based on?
The camera is build around a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor.
Which image processing chip is used in the Leica S3 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 Leica 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 the Leica S3 for flash photography?
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 Leica 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 Leica 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 with 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.
|Camera Model||Leica S3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Leica S mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2018|
|Launch Price||USD 18 995|
|Sensor Format||Medium Format Sensor|
|Sensor Size||45.0 x 30.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||1 350 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||54.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||64 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||9 800 x 6 533 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 - 50 000 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro II|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|LCD Size||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||No touchscreen|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations|
|Silent Shooting||no E-Shutter|
|Time Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDXC cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-II|
|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|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Type||BP-PRO1 power pack|
160 x 120 x 80 mm
(6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||1 260 g (44.4 oz)|
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