back to article Leica S2 professional medium format DSLR

Historically, commercial photographers have always relied on medium-format systems for their photo shoots and happily traded off manoeuvrability for image quality. Yet, when the Leica S2 became available to buy towards the end of 2009, things changed. The S2 pushes the boundaries of all flagship DSLRs, giving Nikon, Canon and …


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  1. That Awful Puppy
    Thumb Up

    Oh my

    I want this so badly. And a complete studio setup, too. Anyone interested in a low-mileage kidney?

  2. Ru

    Seems like a bit of a dead end

    The common route to digital medium format photography involves interchangeable backs on existing modular camera setups. Digi back breaks down mid important photo shoot? Swap it out for a film back and finish the job. S2 breaks down? Well, you'd better have splashed out another 18 grand for a second one. Its a new lens mount too, so no-one will have any existing stashes of valuable glass, so its going to cost an absolute fortune to get started with this new toy. I'm not seeing any good reason to do so.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      A dead end?

      The entire MF market has been shrinking for the last few decades, particularly recently as many photographers realise they can achieve the same results with much cheaper and much, much higher tech FF 35mm digital systems from Canon and Nikon.

      There are photographers who need the resolution of MF digital backs and know exactly how to use them to balance aliasing with detail, but they are few and far between. Everyone else gets a 1Ds MkIII or a D3X because they are fantastic cameras backed by fantastic systems.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    At that price I'll take 10.

    Seriously, I'll stick to my OM2 and M2 and a roll of Tri X. They both still take pictures, ok maybe not as much detail but I'm happy with my antiques :)

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I want one...

    with all the lenses.

    That looks amazing. Now to just rustle up a small mortgage and we're away.

  5. Neill Mitchell

    Well what do you expect?

    Canon 35mm EOS 5D MK II body - £1600. Leica medium format - £17 grand.

    Canon EF 135mm f2 L USM Lens - £850 . Leica - £5.5K

    So not giving Nikon or Canon a run for their (or more importantly, your) money at all. Leica seems feature basic as well for that sort of cash.

    To sum up, apples and oranges.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    coff, splutter

    You used it to take pictures of the titanium M9, you sod. I so want that camera, I'd actually voluntarily pass on the S2 to have the Ti M9 as a bag camera...

    *puppy dog eyes*


  7. jason 7

    Hang on must ask?

    Does Panasonic do the exact same camera just with Lumix written on it for £1700?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      They will,

      They will.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      That is all...

  8. tanj666
    Thumb Up

    Its in the glass

    As usual, the quality differentiator is the lens.

    What a fantastic piece of kit though! Anyone know what the winning numbers on tonights lottery will be? Please tell me. I'd love one of these!

  9. Insane Reindeer

    How Much?

    Is it really £18k for the body?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Have you any idea

      How much a really expensive body can cost?

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge


      You're paying for that really huge high resolution sensor, plus all the advanced electronics to shuffle that image onto memory card storage. Not to mention some sort of sensor clean technology.

      A film camera just has a few rollers and ratchets.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        To put it in perspective...

        The Leaf Aptus-II 12 80MP medium format *BACK* (read: no lens, no camera... just the digital back) MSRP's for $32,000. While the resolution is important, the physical size of the sensor is probably the biggest driver of the price difference - no different than price differences between full frame 35mm equivalents vs. the smaller sensors on most consumer cameras.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Try searching...

      ...for Hasslblads. Try the H4D-60 for starters...

      RRP £31,800 (back only), although you can get it for *ONLY* £28,000

  10. Andrew Garrard

    7% smaller?

    Given that the smallest common medium format film frames are 6cm by 4.5cm (okay, minus a couple of mm for a slide mount), and a lot of people think of proper medium format as 6cm by 6cm to 6x17cm, I think calling 45mm x 30mm "7% smaller" is pushing it a bit. "Half medium format", maybe.

    The S2's an interesting (and nice) bit of kit, but looks pretty poor value compared with a Pentax 645D or the low end 'Blad back. On the other hand, compared to the going rate for the 60 to 80 MP medium format backs (that are much closer to true 645 frame size), it's a bargain. Every now and then Calumet send me a brochure proclaiming "now you too can afford a digital medium format back". Oddly, I doubt my bank manager would agree.

    1. Steve Todd

      645 frames

      are actually 56x41.5mm so the 45x30mm Leica sensor is 24% smaller at best an 38% smaller at worst (645 is more square). Combine the two together and the area of a 645 frame is 72% larger than the Leica, so bigger than 1/2 medium format but distinctly smaller than other MF digital systems like the Leaf Aptus II (at 53.7x40.3 they're near as damn it 645 sized)

  11. corestore


    Not really. Good, but not a game-changer.

    You want to run a story on real game-changers? Start at ...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Nice reviews

    It's nice to see such well considered camera reviews on The Register, especially for things like this which are probably well out of most of the readership's league, if only because it adds depth to the site and makes sure that not all reviews are of the latest iGadget. Please keep them coming!

  13. Andrew Stevenson

    Whats the equivalent Panasonic branded model?

    At this price, this is surely just a Leica branded Panasonic, whats the equivalent Panasonic branded model?

    The Pan. model should be quite a bit cheaper.

    @Ru: For the things you mention, you should look at higher end Leica's or others that are truly made for that kind of professional need.

  14. Dave Bell
    Thumb Up

    No Surprises

    It's a Leica.

    The price is breath-taking.

    So is the quality.

  15. J 3


    The "Vital Statistics" table shows shutter as being 32-1/500s, but I was pretty sure I had seen numbers in the thousands in the first page picture of the top of this beautiful machine (and anyway, even my K1000 can be faster than that). Double check time, and yes, it should have been 1/4000. Or is there something there we haven't been told?

    1. Fuzz

      might depend on the shutter used

      The focal plane shutter can do 1/4000, the leaf shutter in the lens might be different.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a pixel peeper's dream

    The image quality from the S2 plus Leica lens is something to behold and for anyone who wants to print really big, that's a good thing. However, it's worth noting that Pentax now has a similar offering (the 645D) for under £10000 with a lens. At last, medium format photography for the proletariat. Hurrah!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      RE: It's a pixel peeper's dream

      And the Pentax shears their old 645 film system mount so there are already compatible lenses out there. Watch the prices on Ebay rocket...

  17. TkH11

    cost effectiveness

    Ru's got a point. It's a bloody expensive camera and I'm not conviced it's worthwhile, when compared to the price of a film based version.

    I have done a lot of film based photography on 35mm, and recently using a digital SLR.

    I ran of a load of shots one night at a firework display last year on the DSLR, I worked out that had it been film it would have cost me £300 in film and developing costs. The DSLR cost me nothing (the cost of the images!) Then the hassle of scanning it all in, had it been film.

    So the DSLR in the time I've had it has paid for itself in film costs alone.

    But this beast, at £18K, that's a shed load of film, or may be even 2 shed loads of film!!

    I'm not convinced anyone can justify spending this amount of money on the basis it will be more cost effective than a film camera. And I'm not convinced the image quality, even if it is 37MP is superior to film: the negative format size is so much bigger on this camera compared to 35mm, and we can achieve 15MP on 35mm format DSLRs. You'll be amazed at just how much detail there is in film when you blow it up.

  18. PCH

    Re: 1/500?

    The table shown would be for the lens with the leaf shutter. Leaf shutters max out at around 1/500th of a second, many actually struggle to reach this. Focal plane shutters on the other hand do much high speeds, like this S2 - 1/4000th.

  19. Mark 65


    "seriously wondering whether there is scope for this camera in my field – I left a piece of my heart in that Leica workshop"

    and you'd need to leave a piece of your mortgage in the showroom should you want one. Nice, but ouch.

  20. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    17k + 5k + what?

    I know I can buy a printer for a tenner, but what would it cost for something that could do justice to these snaps? Does "That Awful Puppy" need to start thinking about their other kidney?

  21. Lock

    Pentax 645D

    The Leica's a great camera for sure. But the Pentax 645D is half the price, 40mp, also weather sealed, and has better menus/controls that are based on the more normal pentax dslr's.

    Not that i can afford either of them :)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    whilst one can only admire the quality of the camera and its images I question the ergonomics of this camera. As with all 35mm style SLR cameras, apart from the late lamented Rollie 2002 series the users are requires to bend their head sideways and squash their nose against the back of the camera in order to use it.

    Other medium format size digital cameras like the Hasselblad or the Mamiya have Pentaprisms that project over the rear of the camera and they will allow users to keep their head in a natural position. I've been using 35mm cameras professionally for over 40 years and regardless of make and quality the basic layout remained the same with the same problems apart from the aforementioned Rollie 2000/2/3.

    There are of course exceptions for the amateur market where the lens prism are offset to one side, very sensibly as there is no film to transport making the camera is far easier to use.

    Just one persons point of view

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Blimey - expensive but think the results may be amazing.

    Whilst I don't have the Panasonic SLR, I do have 2 Panansonic Point and Click compact camera's. One has a Leica lens and the other a Panasonic propriety one.

    The Leica lensed camera has a lower megapixel count than my other, yet the images are simply much better in comparison - on colour/light/quality.

  24. Andrew eaton

    Leica Fanboy

    I would have a good look at the competition if i was you, there are a numbere of MF digital systems out there including Leaf, Pentax, Hasslblad, Phase one all with there pro's and cons.

    I have a Phaseone p65+ on a 645. The major advantage of Phaseone is it’s an open system allowing you put you back on many other cameras or if you have a Phaseone 645 you can put many manufactures Medium format lenses on it. So if you’re going to spend this kind of cash why lock yourself into such a closed when you can buy a back that can go on many different cameras? One cool thing to play with is Capture One Pro 6 which is great tethering software and gives you real time reviewing of you captured images on your Ipad ;-)

    One other note of caution is Leica’s inability to manage the supply chain and you may end up waiting a very very very very very very long time for your lens to turn up!!!

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