Leica S2 Review

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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Leica S2
Resolution: 37.50 Megapixels
Sensor size: Medium format
(45.0mm x 30.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD (playback only)
Native ISO: 80 - 1250
Extended ISO: 80 - 1250
Shutter: 1/4000 - 32 sec
Dimensions: 6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in.
(160 x 120 x 80 mm)
Weight: 49.7 oz (1,410 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $22,995
Availability: 09/2009
Manufacturer: Leica
Full specs: Leica S2 specifications

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Leica S2
Leica S bayonet Medium format
size sensor
image of Leica S2
Front side of Leica S2 digital camera Front side of Leica S2 digital camera      
Untitled Document

Announced in September 2008 at the Photokina tradeshow in Cologne, Germany, the Leica S2 digital SLR is based around a 37.5 megapixel, 3:2 aspect ratio Kodak KAF-37500 CCD image sensor with dimensions of 30 x 45mm. Dubbed "Leica S format" by the company, the S2's imager has 56% greater surface area than that of a 35mm full-frame image sensor, but about 22% less than the 36 x 48mm imagers used in certain other medium format DSLR products from the likes of Phase One and Hasselblad. The sensor is said to offer 12 stops of dynamic range, and communicates with a Maestro-branded image processor that Leica says offers reduced power consumption and "twice the speed of comparable medium-format backs". The Maestro chip is being produced for Leica by Fujitsu. There's no optical low-pass filter over the sensor, with Leica instead aiming to remove moire solely by using digital signal processing. ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 1,250 equivalents and can be controlled automatically or manually.

The combination resides in a die-cast magnesium camera body with a leather grain finish, which has similar width and depth to Canon or Nikon's top-end professional digital SLRs. It's rather shorter than the Canon and Nikon cameras due to the lack of a built-in portrait grip, with Leica having opted instead to provide an optional portrait grip with secondary shutter button, thumb wheel and a bay for a second battery. The portrait grip will be available from early 2010, priced at around $1,300. On the front of the Leica S2's body is a Leica S-System bayonet lens mount, which accepts a newly developed series of S-format lenses designed specifically for the camera. The Leica S2's body and all S-format lenses are sealed against dust, sand and moisture, described as being "extensively weatherproofed" and able to withstand rain and splashing water. Lenses available at launch will include the Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 ASPH priced at about $4,500, and the Leica APO-Tele-Elmar-S 180mm f/3.5 for around $6,500. By the end of 2009, these should be joined by the Leica APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 for about $6,500, and the Leica Summarit-S 35mm f/2.5 ASPH for about $5,300. The Leica S2 includes what the company is calling an "ultra high precision" single-point autofocus system, with the sole autofocusing point being a cross-type sensor. Leica S-system lenses include built-in autofocus drives with silent gearing, as well as a Leica-designed AF microprocessor in each lens.

Variants of all four initial S-System lenses will be available that include integrated leaf shutters to allow for faster flash-sync speeds, with these variants costing around $700 to $1,500 more than the standard version of each lens. The leaf shutter version of the 70mm lens will cost about $6,000, and the leaf shutter 120mm and 180mm lenses will each cost about $7,500. Last to ship will be the 35mm lens with leaf shutter, priced at about $6,000. As well as a TTL pentaprism viewfinder with 0.86x magnification, 96% coverage, interchangeable focusing screens (matte with cross-hairs included), an integrated -3 to +1 diopter compensation and a display of basic exposure variables, the Leica S2 includes a 460,000 dot LCD display with a 3.0" diagonal. The display has an anti-glare coating, and an ambient light sensor enables the camera to automatically adjust the backlight to account for lighting conditions. There's no live view function, with the LCD display being used solely for image review, as well as the camera's menu system. A variant of the regular S2 - the Leica S2-P - will include an abrasion and scratch-resistant sapphire glass LCD display cover.

As you'd expect on a camera aimed at pros, operating modes will consist of Program Shift, Aperture or Shutter-priority, and Manual. Metering modes include five-field Multiple, Center-weighted integral or 3.5% spot. The Leica S2 camera body has a focal-plane shutter capable of speeds from 1/4000 to 32 seconds, or bulb exposures as long as two minutes. There's a flash hot shoe on the top of the camera body, as well as a LEMO connection for off-camera flash. Flash sync is at 1/125 second, unless using a lens with integral leaf shutter in which case sync is possible from 1/500 second. Four buttons positioned on either side of the LCD display adjacent to the top and bottom corners act as "soft" buttons, with their current function indicated on the LCD alongside the physical button. A second LCD information display can be found on the Leica S2's top panel, and unusually Leica has opted for an eyecatching color Organic LED (OLED) display for this, instead of the more traditional monochrome LCD. The display can show the operating mode, aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, card type and capacity, and remaining battery life. When in the relevant operating modes, shutter speeds can be set using a physical dial on the top of the camera. The same dial when pressed downwards acts as a mode dial, with the OLED used to show the current mode. Selection between Aperture and Shutter priority modes depends on whether a shutter speed is set, or the dial is set to the "A" position for Aperture priority. A clickable wheel falls under the user's thumb, and can be rolled side to side to change settings. When clicked it acts like an Enter button, confirming settings changes for example.

Connectivity options in the Leica S2 include USB 2.0 High Speed with strain relief for data transfer, an HDMI connection for high-definition video output, a SCA-3002 flash sync connection, and a LEMO remote connector which has a push and turn release to prevent accidental removal. Images are stored on dual card slots - one accepting CompactFlash media up to 64GB, and the other for Secure Digital cards, including the newer Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) types. The Leica S2 stores images as either Adobe .DNG Raw files or basic / fine compression JPEGS. It is also possible to set the camera to capture both formats simultaneously, and to route the Raw files to CompactFlash and the JPEGs to Secure Digital. Raw file size is approximately 75MB per image, and the Leica S2 has a one gigabyte buffer allowing burst shooting at 1.5 frames per second for up to eight Raw frames. Power comes from a 7.4V, 2,150mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. The Leica S2 bundle includes one battery plus a charger, USB cable, Adobe Lightroom and Leica Image Shuttle remote control software.

The Leica S2 ships from the end of September 2009, and pricing has been set at about US$23,000 body-only with a 12-month warranty. A premium package which extends warranty coverage to 24 months and allows product replacement in the first three months of the warranty as well as a 30% discount on repairs will also be offered, although pricing for this option hasn't been disclosed. Finally, the most expensive package at about US$28,000 is the Leica S2-P, which includes everything from the premium package plus an abrasion and scratch-resistant sapphire glass LCD display cover, free maintenance including one free shutter replacement, and a free replacement unit during repair. Leica will also offer a dual battery charger that will cost $400. Pricing and availability for other accessories such as viewfinder screens have not been announced at this time.

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