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The LEICA S1 digital camera from 1997


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This is just for the story, the first (?) digital LEICA S1 from 1997.

I found the brochure in some old papers wile i was cleaning up my dark room.

Interesting to see how things are changing and the price to, this camera-body was sold for 15.370 EURO (1997) the M8 for 4.200 EURO...


File size 76 Mb

5140 x 5140 pix = 44 cm x 44 cm @ 300 dpi

12 bit colourdepth

D-max 3.3

ISO 50

Wight : 3,6 kg.

And last but not least an E55 IRa filter was included...


Here are only the 5 most interesting pages.



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Never saw an S1 but I recall Leica making a point of being able to use many non-Leica lenses on this machine.


I wish they would remember this "heritage" and make it easier to configure and use Zeiss and CV lenses on the M8. (I realize that it is not in their interest to do this.)



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Well even by today's standard not that bad. Resolution works out to 26.2mp, with an individual pixel size of about 7.1 microns. Compare that to today's P&S which have a pixel size of 1.9 to 2.6 microns. Reading through the brochure, this camera used both M and R lenses and even Canon FD lenses - this has been a topic on this forum in the past.


Pity about the ISO 50 only though.


Great posting



PS: The M8 has 6.8 micron pixels, Digilux-3 5,6 microns, D-Lux-3 2.6 microns, the Nikon D200 has 6.1 microns. The largest pixels that I could find at the moment are on the Canon 1DsII at 8.2 microns.

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Some used examples crop up from time to time - I think somebody who frequents this forum bought one around a year ago. I seem to remember Ffordes had one for around £3k not too long ago. The main problem with the S1 now is finding modern software to run the device or an old Mac to run the original software (I think the software that came with it is for Mac OS 8). Even so, I've been tempted by the S1 for some time but the fact that it is a scanning back - with all the limitations associated with that capture method - has always ended up putting me off.

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i pulled out an older leica system handbook. There were 3 model of this camera: Alpha, Pro, and Highspeed.But what caught my attention is that


"The leica S1 has to be operated with an infrared cut off (IRa) filter in place, for this reason the basicfilter for daylight-type illumination IRa E 55 is supplied with the Leica S1 set".


Then it soes on to say there is also a special Tungsten filter...

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Bernd, I see that you were the worldwide exclusive distributor for the S1. Can you tell us more of the history of that camera?


Besides knowing what it was used for, it would be very timely to know how IR has handled. Where did Leica obtain their filters and how did they differ from today's 486 filters from Schneider/B&W? What support for removing red vignetting was required, and if it was supported in the Silverfast scanning software that was supplied with the camera, or elsewhere? Could the camera be used with the lens shifted or tilted as in a view camera? If so, were there "lens cast" corrections available as is the case with modern MF digital backs such as Phase One's?





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Scott and all the others ...


Yes, I was lucky to design the modular concept and to map out a stragegy for digital cameras in those days in 1995.


The S1 System is open for all following Lenses: Leica-M, Leica-R, Hasselblad, Mamiya 645, Canon FD, Nikon, all Reproduction Lenses with screwmounts (with Novoflex-Bellows), M42.


I am acutally still selling the S1 Pro and the S1 HighSpeed. They run perfectly on WinXP, Win2000, Win NT, Win98, MacOS 9.2.2 and require a PC with free PCI-Slot. The actual Software is Silverfast 6.x


The Infrared-Absorbing Filters a by intention separated from the Sensor. This means the camera is originally sensitive to Infrared. The Filters can be integrated in the Leica-R and Hasselblad-Adapter. For all other Lenses it is better to place them in front of the Lens.


Because of the optical design we never had problems with what you call "red vignetting".

The types of filters (we called them IRa = infrared absorption) differ in the strengh of infrared-absorption so that you get perfect transmission for daylight or tungsten illumination with maximum camera sensitivity.



to be continued ....

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The "lens cast" is eliminated before scaning by whitebalancing on a simple white piece or subject area.


Shift and Tilt is availabe for all Hasselbladt-lenses with the Leica-Hasselbladt Tilt&Shift-Adaper, for some largeformat-lenses and darkroom-lenses with the Horseman-Adapter.


Tilt function is availabe for all Leica-R, Mamiya 645 or you can adapt the body to a Sinar.


The image area is 36 x 36 mm. The output is 26,4 Megapixel or a 8/16bit File with 79/159 MB file.


Extremely precise focusing is achieved by an online sensor read out in the focal plane.


The sensitivity can be switched up to 9600 Iso, depending on the resolution/dynamic range you need.


The resolution is outstanding because of three times 5140 single 7 micron sensors for RGB. No bayer pattern conversion is required.


The mechanics is designed for at least 200.000 scans, probably 800.000 is no problem.Most cameras were sold to museums and still work out. Some are installed in medical installations and one is used for fast motion film in phytology research. Some special Installations are in Nepal, Bhutan and other Asian countries do digitise historical documents. The HighSpeed version is specially designed to copy dokuments without touching their surface ...


I personally prefer the S1 Pro for microphotography, scans of (minox) Slides and table top photography whenever you need the full lens resolution.


In 2000 Leica Camera stopped the development of digital cameras in conjunction with corporate management decisions. Nearly all developers and 6 of 7 marketing staff left the company.



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In 2000 Leica Camera stopped the development of digital cameras in conjunction with corporate management decisions. Nearly all developers and 6 of 7 marketing staff left the company.


<sarcasm> My what a clever move that proved to be </sarcasm>


Bernd, thanks for the interesting information.

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I can´t help doing it. This peregrine study shows at least that it is possible do design a digital camera that


1. carries the world best lenses (nearly all of them)

2. has a perfect viefinder with a bright screen to focus with (the prism is huge)

3. is nearly indestructible

4. that is modular

5. whose software is actual after 10 years (three generations of OSes with Silverfast)

6. works


my gospel of camera deployment



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