Leica X2 vs Nikon D3S
The Leica X2 and the Nikon D3S are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in May 2012 and October 2009. The X2 is a fixed lens compact, while the D3S is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-C (X2) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 16.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Leica X2||Nikon D3S|
|Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|36mm f/2.8||Nikon F mount lenses|
|16.1 MP, APS-C Sensor||12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO 100-12500||ISO 200-12800 (100-102400)|
|Viewfinder optional||Optical viewfinder|
|2.7" LCD, 230k dots||3.0" LCD, 921k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|5 shutter flaps per second||11 shutter flaps per second|
|Not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|450 shots per battery charge||4200 shots per battery charge|
|124 x 69 x 52 mm, 345 g||160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica X2 and the Nikon D3S? 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 physical size and weight of the Leica X2 and the Nikon D3S are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The X2 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D3S 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 D3S is considerably larger (194 percent) than the Leica X2. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3S is splash and dust-proof, while the X2 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X2 has a lens built in, whereas the D3S is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D3S and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the X2 gets 450 shots out of its BP-DC8 battery, while the D3S can take 4200 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3S has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
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, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Leica X2»||4.9 in||2.7 in||2.0 in||12.2 oz||450||n||May 2012||1,995||Leica X2|
|Nikon D3S«||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199||Nikon D3S|
|Fujifilm X100S« »||5.0 in||2.9 in||2.1 in||15.7 oz||330||n||Jan 2013||1,299||Fujifilm X100S|
|Fujifilm X-A1« »||4.6 in||2.6 in||1.5 in||11.6 oz||350||n||Sep 2013||399||Fujifilm X-A1|
|Fujifilm X-E2« »||5.1 in||3.0 in||1.5 in||12.3 oz||350||n||Oct 2013||999||Fujifilm X-E2|
|Leica TL« »||5.3 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||13.5 oz||400||n||Nov 2016||1,695||Leica TL|
|Leica T« »||5.3 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||13.5 oz||400||n||Apr 2014||1,850||Leica T|
|Leica X Typ 113« »||5.2 in||2.9 in||3.1 in||17.1 oz||350||n||Sep 2014||2,295||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica X Vario« »||5.2 in||2.9 in||3.7 in||24.0 oz||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850||Leica X Vario|
|Leica X1« »||4.9 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.8 oz||260||n||Sep 2009||1,995||Leica X1|
|Nikon D5« »||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499||Nikon D5|
|Nikon Coolpix A« »||4.4 in||2.5 in||1.6 in||10.5 oz||230||n||Mar 2013||1,099||Nikon Coolpix A|
|Nikon D4« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3X« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D3« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999||Nikon D3|
|Ricoh GR« »||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.4 in||8.6 oz||290||n||Apr 2013||799||Ricoh GR|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The X2 was launched at a lower price than the D3S, despite having a lens built in. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica X2 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S is 132 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Leica X2 offers a higher resolution of 16.1 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3S. 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 4.79μm versus 8.43μm for the D3S). However, it should be noted that the X2 is much more recent (by 2 years and 6 months) than the D3S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Leica X2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the X2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.3 inch or 62.6 x 41.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.7 x 13.1 inch or 50.1 x 33.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inch or 41.7 x 27.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3S are 21.3 x 14.2 inch or 54.1 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inch or 43.2 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.4 inch or 36 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Leica X2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3S are ISO 200 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.
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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Leica X2||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||none||..||..||..||..||Leica X2|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82||Nikon D3S|
|Fujifilm X100S||APS-C||16.0||4896||3264||1080/60p||..||..||..||..||Fujifilm X100S|
|Fujifilm X-A1||APS-C||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||..||..||..||..||Fujifilm X-A1|
|Fujifilm X-E2||APS-C||16.0||4896||3264||1080/60p||..||..||..||..||Fujifilm X-E2|
|Leica TL||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||..||..||..||..||Leica TL|
|Leica T||APS-C||16.2||4944||3278||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||1082||75||Leica T|
|Leica X Typ 113||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||..||..||..||..||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica X Vario||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78||Leica X Vario|
|Leica X1||APS-C||12.2||4272||2856||none||..||..||..||..||Leica X1|
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88||Nikon D5|
|Nikon Coolpix A||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.4||13.8||1164||80||Nikon Coolpix A|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81||Nikon D3|
|Ricoh GR||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.6||13.5||972||78||Ricoh GR|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D3S indeed provides for movie recording, while the X2 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3S can use is 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the D3S has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the X2 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the X2 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF 2. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica X2 and Nikon D3S along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Leica X2||optional||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica X2|
|Nikon D3S||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3S|
|Fujifilm X100S||2360||n||2.8||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n||Fujifilm X100S|
|Fujifilm X-A1||none||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.6||Y||n||Fujifilm X-A1|
|Fujifilm X-E2||2360||n||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||7.0||Y||n||Fujifilm X-E2|
|Leica TL||optional||n||3.7||1230||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica TL|
|Leica T||optional||n||3.7||1300||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica T|
|Leica X Typ 113||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica X Vario|
|Leica X1||none||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/2000s||3.0||Y||n||Leica X1|
|Nikon D5||optical||Y||3.2||2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||n||Nikon D5|
|Nikon Coolpix A||optional||n||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/2000s||4.0||Y||n||Nikon Coolpix A|
|Nikon D4||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3X||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0||Y||n||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D3||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3|
|Ricoh GR||optional||n||3.0||1230||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Ricoh GR|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The X2 has one, while the D3S does not. While the built-in flash of the X2 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Nikon D3S 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 X2 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the D3S uses Compact Flash cards. The D3S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the X2 only has one slot.
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 X2 and Nikon D3S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Leica X2||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X2|
|Nikon D3S||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3S|
|Fujifilm X100S||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Fujifilm X100S|
|Fujifilm X-A1||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Fujifilm X-A1|
|Fujifilm X-E2||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-||Fujifilm X-E2|
|Leica TL||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-||Leica TL|
|Leica T||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||none||2.0||Y||-||-||Leica T|
|Leica X Typ 113||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica X Vario||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X Vario|
|Leica X1||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X1|
|Nikon D5||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Nikon D5|
|Nikon Coolpix A||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon Coolpix A|
|Nikon D4||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3X||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D3||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3|
|Ricoh GR||Y||mono||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Ricoh GR|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D3S (unlike the X2) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the X2 and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3S was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the X2 does not have a direct successor. 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? Which of the two cameras – the Leica X2 or the Nikon D3S – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Leica X2:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (16.1 vs 12.1MP) with a 16% higher linear resolution.
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D3S requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (124x69mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D3S).
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 6 months of technical progress since the D3S launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D3S:
- Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
- Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4200 versus 450) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- 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.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in October 2009).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (19 : 8 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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 X2 and the Nikon D3S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Prime Lens Compact Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the X2 and the D3S in practical situations. 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 why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Leica X2 vs Nikon D3S
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 X2||Nikon D3S|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||36mm f/2.8||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||May 2012||October 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 1995||USD 5199|
|Sensor Specs||Leica X2||Nikon D3S|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||16.1 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4928 x 3264 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.79 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.35 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-12500 ISO||200-12800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100-102400 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||82|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||3253|
|Screen Specs||Leica X2||Nikon D3S|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.7 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica X2||Nikon D3S|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica X2||Nikon D3S|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Leica X2||Nikon D3S|
|Environmental Sealing||Not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||450 shots per charge||4200 shots per charge|
124 x 69 x 52 mm
(4.9 x 2.7 x 2.0 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||345 g (12.2 oz)||1240 g (43.7 oz)|
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