Leica S3 vs Nikon D3400
The Leica S3 and the Nikon D3400 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2018 and August 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a medium format (S3) and an APS-C (D3400) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 64 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S3 and the Nikon D3400? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica S3 and the Nikon D3400. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The D3400 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the S3 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3400 is considerably smaller (37 percent) than the Leica S3. Moreover, the D3400 is substantially lighter (65 percent) than the S3. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S3 is splash and dust resistant, while the D3400 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Leica S3||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2018||18,995|
|2.||Nikon D3400||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|3.||Leica Q2||130 mm||80 mm||92 mm||718 g||370||Y||Mar 2019||4,995|
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Jun 2019||3,999|
|5.||Leica M10-P||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995|
|6.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|7.||Leica S-E Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||16,900|
|8.||Leica S Typ 007||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2014||24,490|
|9.||Leica S Typ 006||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1260 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||21,950|
|10.||Leica S2||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1410 g||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995|
|11.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|12.||Nikon D3500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||365 g||1550||n||Aug 2018||429|
|13.||Nikon D5600||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||465 g||970||n||Nov 2016||699|
|14.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||420 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|15.||Nikon D3300||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||430 g||700||n||Jan 2014||499|
|16.||Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|17.||Sony RX10 IV||133 mm||94 mm||145 mm||1095 g||400||Y||Sep 2017||1,699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3400 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 97 percent) than the S3, 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 S3 features a medium format sensor and the Nikon D3400 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D3400 is 73 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.8 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 64MP, the S3 offers a higher resolution than the D3400 (24MP), but the S3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.59μm versus 3.91μm for the D3400) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the S3 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 1 month) than the D3400, 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 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 Leica S3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 49 x 32.7 inches or 124.5 x 83 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 39.2 x 26.1 inches or 99.6 x 66.4 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 32.7 x 21.8 inches or 83 x 55.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3400 are 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm for good quality, 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm for very good quality, and 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Leica S3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 50000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3400 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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.
|1.||Leica S3||Medium Format||64.0||9800||6533||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Leica Q2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/30p||26.4||13.5||2491||96|
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|7.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Leica S Typ 007||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|9.||Leica S Typ 006||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.2||824||76|
|10.||Leica S2||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||..||..||..||..|
|11.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|17.||Sony RX10 IV||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the S3 provides a higher video resolution than the D3400. It can shoot video footage at 4K/24p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The S3 and the D3400 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 S3 offers a wider field of view (98%) than the one in the D3400 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the S3 has a higher magnification (0.87x vs 0.57x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica S3 and Nikon D3400 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Leica S3||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|2.||Nikon D3400||optical||n||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|3.||Leica Q2||3680||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||20.0||n||Y|
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|5.||Leica M10-P||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||n||n|
|6.||Leica M10||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||n||n|
|7.||Leica S-E Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|8.||Leica S Typ 007||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||n||n|
|9.||Leica S Typ 006||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|10.||Leica S2||optical||Y||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5||n||n|
|11.||Nikon D6||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|12.||Nikon D3500||optical||n||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|13.||Nikon D5600||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|14.||Nikon D5500||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|15.||Nikon D3300||optical||n||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|16.||Nikon D3200||optical||n||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n|
|17.||Sony RX10 IV||2359||Y||3.0 / 1440||tilting||Y||1/2000s||24.0||Y||Y|
One feature that is present on the S3, but is missing on the D3400 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 S3 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the D3400 uses SDXC cards. The S3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D3400 only has one slot. The S3 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the D3400 can use UHS-I cards (up to 104 MB/s).
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 Nikon D3400 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.||Nikon D3400||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||Y|
|3.||Leica Q2||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||-||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Y||mono / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Leica M10-P||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|6.||Leica M10||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|7.||Leica S-E Typ 006||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Leica S Typ 007||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|9.||Leica S Typ 006||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Leica S2||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|12.||Nikon D3500||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||Y|
|13.||Nikon D5600||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Nikon D5500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D3300||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Nikon D3200||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony RX10 IV||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the S3 has a microphone port, which is missing on the D3400. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S3 (unlike the D3400) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the S3 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
The S3 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Leica. In contrast, the D3400 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3400 was succeeded by the Nikon D3500. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Nikon websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Leica S3 better than the Nikon D3400 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Leica S3:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (64 vs 24MP) with a 63% higher linear resolution.
- 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.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/24p vs 1080/60p).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (98% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.87x vs 0.57x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D3400 launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D3400:
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (124x98mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 815g or 65 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- 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 August 2016).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the S3 is the clear winner of the match-up (20 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S3 and the Nikon D3400 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 S3 or the D3400 perform in practice. 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 summary-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]). 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.
|1.||Leica S3||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2018||18,995|
|2.||Nikon D3400||4/5||+||4/5||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|3.||Leica Q2||..||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Mar 2019||4,995|
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||..||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2019||3,999|
|5.||Leica M10-P||..||..||3/5||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995|
|6.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|7.||Leica S-E Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||16,900|
|8.||Leica S Typ 007||4/5||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2014||24,490|
|9.||Leica S Typ 006||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2012||21,950|
|10.||Leica S2||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2008||22,995|
|11.||Nikon D6||..||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|12.||Nikon D3500||..||..||4/5||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2018||429|
|13.||Nikon D5600||4/5||..||4/5||79/100||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2016||699|
|14.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|15.||Nikon D3300||3/5||+||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||499|
|16.||Nikon D3200||5/5||+ +||..||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|17.||Sony RX10 IV||5/5||+||..||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2017||1,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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 your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 300D vs Leica S3
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D3400
- Canon 6D Mark II vs Leica S3
- Canon G3 X vs Nikon D3400
- Fujifilm X-T1 vs Leica S3
- Fujifilm X-T20 vs Nikon D3400
- Leica S3 vs Pentax K-1 II
- Leica S3 vs Sony RX100 VI
- Leica S3 vs Sony WX800
- Nikon D3300 vs Nikon D3400
- Nikon D3400 vs Panasonic LF1
- Nikon D3400 vs Ricoh GR III
Specifications: Leica S3 vs Nikon D3400
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 Model||Leica S3||Nikon D3400|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Leica S mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2018||August 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 18,995||USD 499|
|Sensor Specs||Leica S3||Nikon D3400|
|Sensor Format||Medium Format Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||45.0 x 30.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||1350 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||54.1 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||64 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||9800 x 6533 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.59 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.74 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/24p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 50,000 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro II||EXPEED 4|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||86|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||24.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||13.9|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1192|
|Screen Specs||Leica S3||Nikon D3400|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%||95%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica S3||Nikon D3400|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-II||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica S3||Nikon D3400|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Geotagging||GPS built-in||no internal GPS|
|Body Specs||Leica S3||Nikon D3400|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
160 x 120 x 80 mm
(6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
124 x 98 x 76 mm
(4.9 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||1260 g (44.4 oz)||445 g (15.7 oz)|
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