Leica S

Leica S HandgripWith the new LEICA S (no more numbers here too) and three new LEICA S lenses Leica extends the professional medium format camera system.

The most important LEICA S features compared to the LEICA S2:

  • Increased sensitivity range now ISO 100 to ISO 1600
  • Improved noise reduction
  • New white balance mode ‘Grey Card’ allows photographers to shoot a subject with a neutral grey area and define the white balance for all following photos
  • New image and sensor board for more quality and higher speed
  • Doubled buffer memory (now 2 GB) and support of transfer rates up to 166 MB/s enables continuous sequences of up to 32 consecutive RAW images in full resolution
  • Parallel saving of 37.5, 9.3 and 2.3 MP JPEGs along with DNG files
  • Fast, predictive autofocus module for subjects in motion
  • GPS Module
  • Levelling aid


The synthesis of optimum imaging quality, perfect handling and outstanding speed

With the Leica S, Leica Camera AG, Solms, presents a new camera in the Leica S-System portfolio. As a logical development of the successful Leica S2, the new Leica S offers a further increase in imaging quality and sensor sensitivity, predictive autofocus, higher speed and improved handling. Numerous additional camera functions, some of them unique, contribute to further acceleration and greater security of the professional photographic workflow. In addition to the new camera body, three new lenses have been added to the S-System portfolio, and significantly expand the capabilities of the system: the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24 mm f/3.5 ASPH. super-wide , the Leica Vario-Elmar-S 30-90 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. and the Leica TS-APO-Elmar-S 120 mm f/5.6 ASPH. tilt/shift lens.

In the words of Stephan Schulz, Head of Professional Imaging at Leica Camera AG, ‘The logical expansion of the system is further confirmation that the dedicated digital concept of the S-System sets new standards in the world of medium format photography while providing the speed and handling of a 35 mm SLR. Viewed in terms of its rugged resilience, reliability and versatility, the new Leica S is the first choice for photographers who refuse to make compromises.’

New image and sensor board for more quality and higher speed

One of the most remarkable innovations in the Leica S is its new image and sensor board. The upgrade of these electronic components has successfully increased the imaging quality of the Leica S, as well as improving its noise characteristics, natural colour rendition and the precision of its white balance. The latter function has now been extended to include a ‘Grey Card’ option that allows photographers to shoot a subject with a neutral grey area – such as a grey card – and define the white balance determined as a reference for all following photos to ensure a consistently precise colour mood from beginning to end of a shoot. The extended sensitivity range of the sensor at both ends gives photographers more freedom of choice in the selection of exposure parameters: The lower basic ISO setting of 100 allows longer working at maximum aperture in extremely bright conditions, while the maximum sensitivity of ISO 1600 enables them to capture noise-free images even under difficult lighting conditions. The doubling of buffer memory to 2 GB and support of transfer rates up to 166 MB/s enables photographers to shoot continuous sequences of more than twice as many, namely up to 32, consecutive images in RAW format – and that at a full resolution of 37.5 MP. There is no limit to the number of consecutive images that may be captured in JPEG format. Images can now be saved parallel to the original files in a choice of 37.5, 9.3 and 2.3 megapixels to provide customers with a preview of the work in progress straight from the camera at the desired resolution.

Fast, predictive autofocus module for subjects in motion

The upgraded autofocus module not only increases the speed, but also adds to focusing precision. To ensure that moving subjects stay sharp and can be swiftly tracked, the Leica S features a predictive autofocus: The camera compares past movements of the subject and computes the location of the subject at the time of exposure. The autofocus locks on to this computed point before the shutter release is pressed. In combination with its fascinating imaging quality, the Leica S now sets new standards for professional action photography.

GPS system and levelling aid for precision and uncomplicated workflows

The Leica S is currently the only professional camera to feature an integrated GPS module that can add the geographical positioning data of the exposure location to the Exif data of an image whenever needed. This function also allows the precise synchronisation of the system time (internal clock) for any worldwide location where satellite signals can be received. With software – the professional image administration and processing tool, Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 4 is supplied with the camera – every image can be shown on a map and tagged with a location name that can be used to locate the image in the future. The new dual-axis levelling aid (spirit level) displays its readout in the viewfinder to allow photographers to align the subject with absolute precision in the horizontal and vertical plane without the need for external aids.

Optimised handling

The monitor screen, now offers a resolution of 920,000 pixels, a 3″ diagonal and full sRGB colour space, as well as increased contrast and brightness, to allow even greater precision when assessing images. The glass covering plate of the monitor screen is manufactured from tough and scratch-resistant Corning®Gorilla®Glass. Numerous other optimisations add together to make the photographer’s tasks much easier: for instance the increased viewfinder coverage of 98 percent, the additional information displayed in the viewfinder, the optimisation of the camera menu and a softer rubber coating for better grip. Significantly faster navigation in the camera menu is now possible with the new integrated joystick control located on the back of the camera. Greater security in the control of studio flash systems is afforded by the new LEMO flash sync socket.

Proven advantages of the S-System

The Leica S possesses all proven quality characteristics of the S-System. These of course include the large, 30 x 45 mm, Leica Pro Format sensor and its microlens layer that guarantees consistently uniform brightness from corner to corner. The camera is extremely ruggedly built and sealed against environmental influences like dust and rain, just like all S-Lenses. The system’s unique dual shutter concept offers photographers the choice of using the camera’s fast focal plane shutter or the central shutter of CS-version lenses that allows flash sync at shutter speeds up to 1/1000th of a second. The eight currently available Leica S-System lenses (five of which are also available with a central shutter) offer photographers all important focal lengths and a first-class tilt/shift lens. At the same time, a wide range of medium format lenses from a number of other manufacturers can be easily mounted on the Leica S by means of adapters A particular highlight among them is the S-Adapter H that allows the use of Hasselblad H-Lenses with full support of all functions, including autofocus, central shutter control and automatic aperture control.

Further details like secure cable connections, multifunctional memory card slots, further improved energy efficiency or the scratch resistant monitor glass also guarantee that photographers never face compromises when they choose a Leica S. The Leica S therefore stands alone as an ideal and extremely reliable tool for achieving maximum quality results in the studio and on location under even the most unfavourable conditions.

The Leica S is supplied complete with the Leica Protection Plan. The LPP offers photographers an extended warranty for a period of three years, a replacement camera to cover for eventual repair times and numerous other benefits.

Together with the new Leica M, the Leica S marks the beginning of a new era with regard to the Leica product naming policy. In future, Leica M and S model names will omit the number suffix to emphasise the enduring and long-term significance of the respective systems. A further intention of this policy is to reinforce perceived value following the launch of new product generations.

The Leica S will be available from selected authorised Leica dealers from December 2012.

Technical Data LEICA S

Camera type Digital medium-format single lens reflex camera for use with Leica S-Lenses.
Image sensor
Type Low Noise CCD-Sensor with microlenses and microlens shift
Size 30 × 45 mm (Leica Pro Format).
Aspect ratio 2:3
Resolution 37.5 megapixels.
Pixel pitch 6 μm.
Dynamic range 12 stops.
Colour depth 16 bits per pixel.
Colour spaces sRGB, Adobe RGB, ECI RGB 2.0.
White balance Presets: Daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, HMI, fluorescent warm, fluorescent cool, flash, grey card (determined from image) / automatic / colour temperature (Kelvin)
Low-pass filter / IR filter No / on sensor.
Moiré suppression In external image processing software (e.g. with the Adobe® Lightroom® software provided with the camera
Sensitivity range ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (manually or automatically controlled).
Lens mount Leica S-Bayonet for Leica S-Lenses
Focal length Dependent on Leica S-Lens attached, conversion factor to 35 mm film equivalent 0.8×.
Type Predictive AF with centre cross-sensor defined by cross-hairs on the focusing screen, focusing drive integrated in lenses
AF modes Selectable modes AF s (single) = focus priority, AF c (continous) = release priority, MF (manual), manual override of AF settings possible at all times
AF memory Second resistance point hold on shutter release, lock for single exposure or constant by setting with 5-way control
Manual focus With lens focusing ring
Exposure setting
Exposure metering Exposure metering through the lens (TTL),
Metering modes Multi-segment metering (5 fields), center-weighted integral metering, selective (spot) metering (3.5% of image frame).
AE lock Second resistance point hold on shutter release, lock for single exposure or constant by setting with 5-way control
Metering range (at f/2.5 and ISO 100)
Spot metering: EV 2.7 – 20, centre-weighted and multi-segment metering: EV 1.2 – 20, warning signal in viewfinder when out of metering range, multi-field photodiode metering cell for available light (continuous light metering)
Exposure control Programme AE (with shift function) (P), shutter priority AE (T), aperture priority AE (A), manual metering (M)
Exposure compensation ± 3 EV in half-EV increments.
Bracketing (AEB) 3/5 exposures (automatic/manual) / ½, 1, 2, 3 stops, depending on mode setting, variation of exposures with aperture or shutter speed
ISO sensitivity ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO1600, automatic control
Shutter Selectable with main switch
Type In-camera: Microprocessor-controlled, metal-blade, vertical focal-plane shutter
Shutter speeds Manual setting (T and M modes): 6s to 1/4000 s in half-speed increments, time exposure (B mode): up to max. 125 s, flash sync speed 1/125 s, automatic (A and P modes): continuous from 32 s to 1/4000 s
CS shutter option Optional central shutter in Leica S-Lenses (CS versions).
CS shutter speeds Manual setting (T and M modes): 6s to 1/1000 s in half-speed increments, flash sync at all speeds, automatic (A and P modes): continuous from 8 s to 1/1000 s
Linear flash mode faster sync speeds than 1/125 s possible with Leica SF 58 flash unit and HSS-capable SCA 3002 flashes
Continuous shooting ~ 1.5 fps
Release button 3-step; activation of metering and AF functions, AE/AF lock, shutter release
Self-timer Selectable delay, 2 s or 12 s, activation signalled by flashing LED on front of camera and display on monitor
Mirror pre-release 1st release: Mirror flips up, locks in up position, aperture closes to selected value, 2nd release: Shutter releases, exposure, mirror returns
Type Pentaprism viewfinder with high-eyepoint eyepiece, LCD bar below viewfinder image, illuminated and with displays/warnings
Magnification 0.87× (with 70 mm lens at infinity).
Viewfinder coverage ~ 98%
Dioptre compensation –3 to +1 dioptres
Focusing screen Interchangeable, ground glass screen with microprism ring and split image (standard), full ground glass screen with cross-hairs (optional accessory), full ground glass screen with engraved grid (optional accessory)
Type Full-colour, self-illuminating, top-deck panel (OLED), (OLED), monitor screen
Monitor screen 3-inch TFT-LCD monitor screen with 921,600 pixels, 16 million colours, sRGB colour space, image field ~ 100%, maximum oblique viewing angle 170°
Protective cover Anti-reflex/dirt-repellent protective glass cover in scratch-resistant Corning®Gorilla®Glass
Connection Hot shoe with central contact and dedicated control contacts, LEMO® or standard flash connection sockets with out control of flash power, standard flash sync socket
Metering modes TTL (multi-segment, selective, center-weighted)
Compatibility Full compatibility with Leica SF 58 and flash units with SCA3002 adapters.
X synchronisation 1/125 s (body FPS) / 1/1000 s (lens CS), sync at all slower speeds, choice of first or second curtain sync; FPS flash sync at faster shutter speeds (1/180 s-1/4000 s) possible with suitably equipped flash units (HSS mode)
Flash exposure correction ± 3 EV in ½ EV increments.
Second curtain sync Yes
Flash metering cell Multi-field photodiode
Strobe flash mode Automatic adjustment of shutter speed in exposure modes P and A
Displays in flash mode Flash-ready signalled by flashing/constant flash symbol in viewfinder
Flash reflector angle Automatic adaptation to focal length of lens attached with Leica SF58 flash unit or system-compatible flash units with motorised zoom reflector
Exposure modes Single frame, continuous, self-timer 2 s (with mirror pre-release), self-timer 12 s (with mirror pre-release).
Data recording
Image file formats DNG 5000 × 7500 pixels,37.5 MP, ~ 72 MB per image, lossless compressed DNG (7500 × 5000 pixels, ~ 42 MB per image), JPEG (7500 × 5000 pixels, in three resolutions, 37.5, 9.3, 2.3 megapixels, ~ 1-16 MB per image, depending on resolution and image content).
Maximum frame rate 1.5 fps.
Buffer memory DNG max. 28 images, DNG compressed max. 32 images, JPEG no limit.
Simultaneous recording in DNG and JPG possible Yes, arbitrary combinations of DNG and JPEG, various formats on different memory cards (e.g. DNG on CF card, JPEG on SD card).
Storage options SD card (SD cards to 2 GB max., SDHC card to 32 GB max., SDXC card), CompactFlash card (UDMA7), external transfer to PC hard disk
Other functions
Review formats Single frame with exposure parameters, single frame, 4 thumbnails, 9 thumbnails, loupe function.
Zoom magnifier in review mode 4-step loupe function , pixel-level magnification, 100% view by longer pressure on clickwheel.
Delete protection Delete protect for individual images.
Menu categories Camera, Image, Setup, Play.
Menu languages 9 languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese.
Firmware update User upload option.
GPS Selectable (may not be available in all countries due to local legislation) – forced deactivation possible, positioning data recorded in the Exif data of image files
Date/time User setting option, automatic date-, time- and time zone-synchronisation with activated GPS module
Levelling Acceleration-sensor controlled determination, range: Pitch (lateral axis) and tilt (longitudinal axis) ± 90°, accuracy / display sensitivity <1° at 0-40°C (32 -104°F) ambient temperature, displayed on monitor
PC ISO hot shoe, High-speed USB 2.0 (LEMO socket with strain relief, cable included in package).
Other HDMI Type C socket, remote release, X-flash sync, SCA3002, 7-pin LEMO flash connection socket, interface for Leica multifunctional handgrip-S
OS compatibility Systems Windows® XP, Windows Vista®, Windows 7®
Apple Macintosh upwards from MAC OSX® 10.5
Software package Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® and Leica Image Shuttle 2, downloadable from the Leica Owners Area after product registration.
Power supply
On/off Main switch on top deck, selectable automatic sleep mode after ~ 2, 5, or 10 minutes
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, nominal voltage 7.4 V, capacity 2100 mAh.
Battery-independent power supply With Leica AC-Adapter S (optional accessory)
Battery level display in top deck OLED panel
Power-saving options (sleep function) 4 steps, 2 min, 5 min, 10 min, off
Power supply and battery charger Rapid charger S (with integrated US mains plug, interchangeable EU, UK, and AUS plugs, and car adapter)
Inputs: 100–240 V AC, 50/60 Hz, automatic adaptation, or 12/24 V DC; output: 7.4 V DC, 1250 mA.
Body construction Full-metal chassis in diecast aluminium with high-grip plastic coating, magnesium alloy top deck, baseplate in glass-fibre reinforced polycarbonate
Operating conditions 0 to +45°C (32 to 113°F), 15–80% relative humidity.
Dimensions (W × H × D) 160 × 80 × 120 mm (6.29 x 4.72 x 3.15 in)
Weight ~ 1260 g / 2.78 lbs (body only, with battery).
Dust proof/splash proof Yes / yes.
Tripod thread 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch bushes, with locator holes for anti-twist locking pins.
Package content S-Body, rapid charger S (with integrated US mains plug, interchangeable EU, UK, and AUS plugs, and car adapter), rechargeable lithium -ion battery, LEMO® USB cable, LEMO® flash sync cable, carrying strap, bayonet cap, eyepiece cap
Accessories (optional)
Flash Leica SF58, Leica SF58 Diffusor
Other Leica multifunctional handgrip S, Leica hand strap S, professional charger S, Leica AC adapter S, Leica case S, Leica HDMI cable, Leica grid focusing screen S, Leica microprism focusing screen S, Leica standard focusing screen S, Leica remote release cable S, Leica S-Adapter H/V/M645/P67
Service packages
Packages Leica Protection Plan Body (included in price)
Leica Protection Plan Lens (optional), Leica Protection Plan Vario Lens (optional), Leica Protection Plan CS Lens (optional)

About The Author

Andreas is Photo Engineer and lives in Bonn, Germany. He runs the international Leica Forum, the Systemkamera Forum (about CSC cameras) and the Fuji X Forum.


  1. Could anyone tell me how to buy the new leica S which released on Sep. 2012?

  2. The Leica Store DC has it out on display….so I’m assuming they have some in stock?

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