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Leica S3 vs Pentax 645D

The Leica S3 and the Pentax 645D are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2018 and March 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a medium format sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 64 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 39.5 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica S3 versus Pentax 645D
Leica S3 Pentax 645D
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Leica S mount lenses Pentax 645 mount lenses
64 MP, Medium Format Sensor 39.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor
4K/24p Video no Video
ISO 100-50,000 ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 3.0 LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 1.1 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1260 g 156 x 117 x 119 mm, 1480 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S3 and the Pentax 645D? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica S3 and the Pentax 645D is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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.

Size Leica S3 vs Pentax 645D
Compare S3 versus 645D top
Comparison S3 or 645D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax 645D is notably smaller (5 percent) than the Leica S3. However, the 645D is markedly heavier (17 percent) than the S3. 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 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, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Leica S3 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Pentax 645D 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.7 in 52.2 oz 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Canon 1D X 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Canon 1D Mark IV 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 43.4 oz 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999i
 
Leica Q2 5.1 in 3.1 in 3.6 in 25.3 oz 370 Y Mar 2019 4,995 i
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Jun 2019 3,999 i
 
Leica M10-P 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
 
Leica M10 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 44.4 oz .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica S2 6.3 in 4.7 in 3.1 in 49.7 oz .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Nikon D6 6.3 in 6.4 in 3.6 in 44.8 oz 3580 Y Feb 2020 6,499 i
 
Nikon D3S 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Pentax 645Z 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.8 in 54.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2014 8,499 i
 
Sony RX10 IV 5.2 in 3.7 in 5.7 in 38.6 oz 400 Y Sep 2017 1,699 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

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 645D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 47 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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 645D is 8 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 0.8 (S3) and 0.79. The sensor in the S3 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the 645D offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica S3 and Pentax 645D sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Leica S3 offers a higher resolution of 64 megapixels, compared with 39.5 MP of the Pentax 645D. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.59μm versus 6.06μm for the 645D). However, it should be noted that the S3 is much more recent (by 8 years and 6 months) than the 645D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. 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 Pentax 645D are 36.3 x 27.2 inches or 92.3 x 69.1 cm for good quality, 29.1 x 21.8 inches or 73.8 x 55.3 cm for very good quality, and 24.2 x 18.1 inches or 61.5 x 46.1 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 Pentax 645D are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

S3 versus 645D MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p........
 
Pentax 645D Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440none24.612.6126282
 
Canon 1D X Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682
 
Canon 1D Mark IV APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074
 
Leica Q2 Full Frame 46.7 8368 55844K/30p26.413.5249196
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p........
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p........
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
 
Nikon D6 Full Frame 20.7 5568 37124K/30p........
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
 
Pentax 645Z Medium Format 51.1 8256 61921080/60i26.014.74505101
 
Sony RX10 IV 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p........

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The S3 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the 645D does not. 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. The S3 and the 645D 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (98%), but the viewfinder of the S3 has a higher magnification than the one of the 645D (0.87x vs 0.78x), 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 Pentax 645D along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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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
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Pentax 645Doptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 1.1 n n
 
Canon 1D Xoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Canon 1D Mark IVoptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n
 
Leica Q23680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 20.0 n Y
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
 
Nikon D6optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Pentax 645Zoptical Y 3.2 1037 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Sony RX10 IV2359 Y 3.0 1440 tilting Y 1/2000s 24.0 Y Y

The Pentax 645D 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 S3 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the 645D uses SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. The S3 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the 645D cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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 S3 and Pentax 645D 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
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Pentax 645DYstereo----2.0---
 
Canon 1D XYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Canon 1D Mark IVYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
 
Leica Q2Ystereomono----Y-Y
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono----2.0---
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D6YstereomonoYYmini3.1Y-Y
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Pentax 645ZYstereomonoY-mini3.0---
 
Sony RX10 IVYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-

It is notable that the S3 offers wifi support, while the 645D does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

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

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 645D has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 645D was succeeded by the Pentax 645Z. 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.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica S3 and the Pentax 645D? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica S3:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (64 vs 39.5MP) with a 30% higher linear resolution.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 4K/24p movies.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.87x vs 0.78x).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 1.1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 220g or 15 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • 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.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Supports Ultra High Speed (UHS-II) SDXC cards.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 645D launch.

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Advantages of the Pentax 645D:

  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (47 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in March 2010).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S3 is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

S3 11:03 645D

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S3 and the Pentax 645D 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the S3 or the 645D. 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 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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
 
Pentax 645D......4.5/5.. Mar 2010 9,995i
 
Canon 1D X....4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Canon 1D Mark IV..89/100..5/5.. Oct 2009 4,999i
 
Leica Q2..84/1004.5/5..4/5 Mar 2019 4,995 i
 
Leica M-E Typ 240.......... Jun 2019 3,999 i
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
 
Leica M10....4/5..4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900i
 
Leica S Typ 007.......... Sep 2014 24,490 i
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950i
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
 
Nikon D6....4.5/5..4.5/5 Feb 2020 6,499 i
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Pentax 645Z....4.5/55/55/5 Apr 2014 8,499 i
 
Sony RX10 IV+84/1004.5/5..5/5 Sep 2017 1,699 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica S3:
Check Amazon price
Pentax 645D:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica S3 vs Pentax 645D

    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 S3 Pentax 645D
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica S mount lenses Pentax 645 mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2018 March 2010
    Launch Price USD 18,995 USD 9,995
    Sensor Specs Leica S3 Pentax 645D
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format Medium Format Sensor Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 45.0 x 30.0 mm 44.0 x 33.0 mm
    Sensor Area 1350 mm2 1452 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 54.1 mm 55 mm
    Crop Factor 0.8x 0.79x
    Sensor Resolution 64 Megapixels 39.5 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 9800 x 6533 pixels 7264 x 5440 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.59 μm 6.06 μm
    Pixel Density 4.74 MP/cm2 2.72 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 4K/24p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 50,000 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Image Processor Maestro II PRIME II
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 82
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 24.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.6
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1262
    Screen Specs Leica S3 Pentax 645D
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 98% 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.87x 0.78x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing 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 Pentax 645D
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peakingno Peaking Feature
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 1.1 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    UHS card support UHS-II no
    Connectivity Specs Leica S3 Pentax 645D
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 3.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Headphone Socket Headphone port no Headphone port
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Geotagging GPS built-in no internal GPS
    Body Specs Leica S3 Pentax 645D
    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 119 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 4.7 in)
    Camera Weight 1260 g (44.4 oz) 1480 g (52.2 oz)

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