Leica S3 vs Pentax K-S1
The Leica S3 and the Pentax K-S1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2018 and August 2014. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a medium format (S3) and an APS-C (K-S1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 64 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 20 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 Pentax K-S1? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica S3 and the Pentax K-S1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The K-S1 can be obtained in four different colors (black, grey, orange, white), 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 Pentax K-S1 is considerably smaller (41 percent) than the Leica S3. Moreover, the K-S1 is substantially lighter (56 percent) than the S3. It is worth mentioning in this context that the S3 is splash and dust resistant, while the K-S1 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Leica S3||6.3 in||4.7 in||3.1 in||44.4 oz||..||Y||Sep 2018||18,995|
|2.||Pentax K-S1||4.8 in||3.7 in||2.8 in||19.7 oz||410||n||Aug 2014||749|
|3.||Leica Q2||5.1 in||3.1 in||3.6 in||25.3 oz||370||Y||Mar 2019||4,995|
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.7 in||24.0 oz||..||Y||Jun 2019||3,999|
|5.||Leica M10-P||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995|
|6.||Leica M10||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|7.||Leica S-E Typ 006||6.3 in||4.7 in||3.1 in||44.4 oz||..||Y||Sep 2014||16,900|
|8.||Leica S Typ 007||6.3 in||4.7 in||3.1 in||44.4 oz||..||Y||Sep 2014||24,490|
|9.||Leica S Typ 006||6.3 in||4.7 in||3.1 in||44.4 oz||..||Y||Sep 2012||21,950|
|10.||Leica S2||6.3 in||4.7 in||3.1 in||49.7 oz||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995|
|11.||Nikon D6||6.3 in||6.4 in||3.6 in||44.8 oz||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|12.||Nikon D5300||4.9 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||16.9 oz||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|13.||Pentax K-S2||4.8 in||3.6 in||2.9 in||23.9 oz||410||Y||Feb 2015||749|
|14.||Pentax K-500||5.1 in||3.8 in||2.8 in||22.8 oz||710||n||Jun 2013||549|
|15.||Pentax K-3||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||28.2 oz||560||Y||Oct 2013||1,299|
|16.||Sony RX10 IV||5.2 in||3.7 in||5.7 in||38.6 oz||400||Y||Sep 2017||1,699|
|17.||Sony A68||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.2 in||21.5 oz||540||n||Nov 2015||699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The K-S1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 96 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 size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica S3 features a medium format sensor and the Pentax K-S1 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the K-S1 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 64MP, the S3 offers a higher resolution than the K-S1 (20MP), but the S3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.59μm versus 4.28μm for the K-S1) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the S3 is a much more recent model (by 4 years) than the K-S1, 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 Pentax K-S1 are 27.4 x 18.2 inches or 69.5 x 46.3 cm for good quality, 21.9 x 14.6 inches or 55.6 x 37.1 cm for very good quality, and 18.2 x 12.2 inches or 46.3 x 30.9 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 Pentax K-S1 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|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||..||..||..||..|
|16.||Sony RX10 IV||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the S3 provides a higher video resolution than the K-S1. It can shoot video footage at 4K/24p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The S3 and the K-S1 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 K-S1 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the S3 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the S3 has a higher magnification (0.87x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica S3 and Pentax K-S1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||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|
|16.||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 K-S1 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 K-S1 uses SDXC cards. The S3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the K-S1 only has one slot. The S3 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the K-S1 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 Pentax K-S1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|4.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Y||mono||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|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||-||-||-|
|16.||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 K-S1. 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 K-S1) 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 K-S1 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the K-S1 was succeeded by the Pentax K-S2. 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.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica S3 and the Pentax K-S1? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Leica S3:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (64 vs 20MP) with a 79% 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 1080/30p).
- 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.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.87x vs 0.63x).
- 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 4 years of technical progress since the K-S1 launch.
Advantages of the Pentax K-S1:
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/6000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (121x93mm vs 160x120mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 702g or 56 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (96 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2014).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the S3 is the clear winner of the match-up (19 : 9 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S3 and the Pentax K-S1 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the S3 or the K-S1. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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.||Pentax K-S1||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2014||749|
|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||..||..||..||..||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||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|12.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|13.||Pentax K-S2||4.5/5||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|14.||Pentax K-500||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||549|
|15.||Pentax K-3||4/5||..||83/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,299|
|16.||Sony RX10 IV||5/5||+||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2017||1,699|
|17.||Sony A68||3/5||..||..||4/5||4/5||Nov 2015||699|
|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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Leica S3 vs Pentax K-S1
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||Pentax K-S1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Leica S mount lenses||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2018||August 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 18,995||USD 749|
|Sensor Specs||Leica S3||Pentax K-S1|
|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||20 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||9800 x 6533 pixels||5472 x 3648 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.59 μm||4.28 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.74 MP/cm2||5.45 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/24p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 50,000 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro II||PRIME MII|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||78|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||13.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1061|
|Screen Specs||Leica S3||Pentax K-S1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%||100%|
|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||Pentax K-S1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/6000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||5.4 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||no shake reduction||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-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||Pentax K-S1|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro 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 K-S1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
160 x 120 x 80 mm
(6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
121 x 93 x 70 mm
(4.8 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)
|Camera Weight||1260 g (44.4 oz)||558 g (19.7 oz)|
Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.