If you have a thirsty passion for photography, and happen to be looking for one of the best medium formats there is on the market right now, you could do a lot worse than the Leica S.
Leica’s reputation precedes them, like most producers of luxury goods. Naturally, upon entering the medium format market they are not in it to cut corners, neither with the body nor the lenses, but of all the challenges that lie in producing a successful system camera, getting photographers to change system is perhaps the most difficult.
Entrenched would be the accurate word – photographers, both professional or enthusiasts of the highest motivation, will likely have invested large sums of money in a range of lenses; familiarised and perhaps more importantly comfortable with the equipment chosen after careful consideration. A newcomer (the S) has to be better and, crucially, to be perceived as better. The Leica S not only lives up to this premise, but excels at it – in a field they have never entered before.
As a medium format, the Leica S’ technical difference comes from the huge sensor incorporated in the body; it does not use a digital back. There is no possibility for the sensor to be misaligned with the body, a real danger in other cameras that is more pronounced when subjected to the elements and wear and tear of travel.
Optimal image quality is guaranteed through the combination of large sensor, superior processing and a lightning fast autofocus system. The camera body itself is surprisingly small giving a pleasant experience when using the camera handheld. A 2GB buffer memory assists when continuously shooting – able to capture up to 32 consecutive raw images with lossless compression at a rate of 1.5 frames a second.
Fast, intuitive and offering all the mod-cons of a professional medium camera (even inbuilt GPS), the through-the-lens viewfinder is a stand-out feature; comfortably the largest in the camera world. The 3-inch display on the back of the camera, at 920,000 pixels, does the 16.7 million colours justice with a brightness and legibility that carries through even in unkind lighting conditions. The body boasts dual memory card support for simultaneous writing of data, DNG raw files and JPGs to separate cards.
The S lens range stretches from an astounding 24mm ultra wide angle to a 180mm telephoto, incorporating a 30-90x zoom and a superbly crisp 120mm macro. With the lens range expanding rapidly, the desired focal length is likely not far away. To the benefit of system-switchers and lens-aholics alike, Leica produce adapters that allow compatibility with Hasselblad and Contax lenses.
Proving its worth out of studio, the S range is splash proof. Situations in the rain or snow should pass without the worry that such a precious investment will suffer.
An exceptionally worthy choice at the top end of the medium format market, the Leica S has many tricks we feel make it worth getting to know a little better