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SL3 as blueprint for S4? Thoughts


GMB

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Reading the reviews of the SL3, it appears to me that this camera is basically a blueprint for a future S4. Or put differently, an S4 will most likely essentially be a SL3 with a bigger sensor. Sure, there may be some differences (video, connectivity etc) but I would assume the basics features that matter to us photographers will be quite similar.  Also, I would expect the S4 to offer features like the ability to use basically all Leica glass irrespective of the mount (S, L, M) and triple resolution etc.

The big unknown is perhaps the sensor and the processor. Will the sensor "only" be a larger version of the SL3 sensor (more real estate with corresponding more MP) or will it be fundamentally different. My guess is simply larger sensor with about 100 MP because I think the times that the S series was the flagship and technology leader is over.  As far as the processor is concerned, they probably need something faster in order to have reasonable read-out times for a 100 MP sensor.

The big question then seems to be whether the S4 will offer superior image quality over the SL3 in order to attract new customers and what that would be. Put differently, will a larger sensor and more MP be enough to separate it from the SL3 and attract new customers? Otherwise, it would mostly be for us "old" legacy S users who are frustrated that the system has not been developed since the launch of the S007 and who would love a modern medium format camera with IBIS and decent AF to use the fantastic S lenses. 

And then at what price point. The difference between a SL3 and a S3 is about 10,000€ (list price). I have a hard time imagining that, with the exception of some die hard Leica fanboys, anyone would pay such a premium over the SL3. I also wonder how many of the current  S users would pay that amount of money. It would seem to me that a price of 10,000€ is much more realistic.

I for myself am seriously considering getting the SL3 (I don't own any SL camera or lens) in the meantime.  For me it is not always about the ultimate image quality but often it's equally important just to get the shot on my travels.  And I think the SL3 with some SL lenses (zooms) and the ability to use my M and S lenses might be a good idea.  If and when the S4 comes out one can either use it as a back-up or sell it. 

Lots of food for thought and speculation.  What do you think.

Georg

Ps: In the meantime, I am enjoying my S006, which I had to revive after my S007 went on strike.

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Not sure you will like my answer but here we go...Only chance i buy any SL if it is more compact than current Godzilla's. I don't want anything bulkier than my Sony A7 or my old R4s. Monstrous SL lenses i don't care as i will keep my M and R ones anyway.

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I would guess that a mirrorless new S camera would have a lower price point than S3 if we look at x2d and others and assuming a mirrorless is easier to build than a DSLR.

I would expect a medium format mirrorless to show slightly better color and skin tones - I mean if there would be an S4 it would have to be even better than previous S cameras in this regard.

And another transition between foreground and background.

On the other side the SL(3) offers more compact lenses, Zooms, Tele, and a great flexibility.

I just had 2 week vacation travel with the SL2-S and was very happy, glad to have the zooms including the 90-280.

I am also undecided...ultimate IQ or somewhat more flexibility and portability.

 

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3 hours ago, GMB said:

Lots of food for thought and speculation.  What do you think.

I think that you are mostly on the right track. The S4 will be very similar to the SL3 in terms of its technical architecture. It will use a version/evolution of the Leica/Panasonic processor seen in the S5ii and SL3. That's not to say that it will have a slow readout, which depends on the sensor.

Leica might use a version of Sony's ubiquitous medium format sensor (Fuji GFX100, Hasselblad X2D), or they might procure a custom sensor. They've done both in the past. The S2 and S-006 used Kodak sensors that were relatively common, but the S-007 and S3 used bespoke sensors. We'll find out next year, hopefully.

We'll find-out about the price at the same time. I think it will be lower than the S3, maybe even similar to an M. They want to sell in higher numbers (the S was mostly marketed to high-end professionals), and the market is more competitive. The camera itself should be cheaper to build, but that doesn't directly affect price.

The real question is whether or not it will be "worth it." It's likely that the S4 will have approximately twice the number of pixels as the SL3. That sounds like a big difference, but it isn't in most cases. To me it all comes down to the lenses. The S lenses are amazing, and unique in the market. If the S4 lineup is just as good, it will be worth getting the body.

The S4 will be compatible with S lenses, so people on this forum will want it just for that.

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Posted (edited)

IMO "old" S-lenses are still a class on its own, if a new S4 works well with the old S lenses, and if new S-lenses would be even slightly better,  I don't know why it would be underperforming to competition. For me its more the question, how good has the SL-system become, and how much do we benefit from the larger sensor of a S camera (I believe there still is an advantage-the question is how much)

Edited by tom0511
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2 hours ago, Pieter12 said:

The S4 will be late to market, underperforming as compared to the competition and very, very expensive. Guaranteed to be a niche camera destined for oblivion.

Hi Pieter. Would you care to elaborate a) compared to which MF camera/system and b) in what respect the S4 will underperform. The price is pure speculation. I for once believe it will be competitively priced because, if not, no one will buy and Leica has wasted a lot of money to develop the camera. But I accept that we will only know once it is announced. 

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A couple of areas where it would need to be different from the SL3 in order to be of interest to me:

- Sensor-size needs to be in the 150MP range to be relevant in the next 5-10 years.

- The new S lenses should follow the current range and not require digital correction. The optical perfection is one of the biggest selling points to me.  The digital correction in the Q and SL line is not attractive imho.

I'm excited there will be a S4 at all! Really looking forward to it. 

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I think we have discussed this topic to exhaustion, but a consideration might be of order.

There are two segments now in the Medium Format market. The first one, and largest, is the one that Fuji has created with the GFX. By lowering the price point, they have been able to lure in the likes of wedding photographers and also well-off amateurs. The second, quite small, is the high end professional. At this time, the only occupant is Phase One, but the IQ4 back is about 6 years old. The price point (new) is about 5 to 6 times that of the GFX segment. I don't know how many IQ4 backs are out there. A thousand? Although the Phase is heavy and cumbersome, the image quality is exceptional, and from the technological point of view it is still a marvel (frame averaging, dual exposure, etc. I don't see Leica having anything close to the technical capabilities of our friends from Copenhaguen.

The SL series competes in the high end full frame segment. It is at the same price point, but technically not a match to the flagship Sony, Canon or Nikon cameras -not even close to say, a Z9- but to the next level, that of the Z7. If it is successful -and I would like to see the numbers- is because there is a large group of well-off amateurs, and a much smaller of professionals, who value either the prestige of a Leica badge or the quality of the lenses. 

In a similar way, an S4 "could" -theoretically- occupy a similar niche. But the price will need to be on par with, or not much above its Fuji and Hasselblad counterparts. Otherwise we will see numbers in line with the S3's output. It is one thing to buy an SL at around 5k, and a rather different proposition to buy an S4 at 15-20 k. The number of potential buyers is much lower. The higher the price the lower the numbers.

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For my part I prefer the Sl system over Sony/Canikon for everything where I dont need the super fast AF or special longer Tele-Lenses.

There are 3 reasons:

1) reduced user interface, menu-system, viewfinder

2) Some of the lenses

3) color science (not the major factor)

plus I can use M lenses

 

Reasonas which can make a future S interesting:

1) for people who allready own S-lenses; those lenses still shine and I love the renderung even slightly better than that of xcd lenses.

2) for people who like the user interface and feel of Leica

3) for people who want a faster camera than the x2d but who want something else than Fuji

Latest Hassy xcd lenses have become pretty expensive as well.

For my part I would hope that a future S camera...

-is not priced too high

-will work very good with the old S lenses

-will have a fast startup , a good af and a short blackout

-and that Leica also offers 1 or 2 compact primes, maybe a 38 or 55 like Hasselblad.

 

Will it be worth over a SL system for me...I have not yet made up my mind. But in regards of pure IQ I feel allways rewarded when I use a S-camera (not so much in regards of AF though)

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For my part I prefer the Sl system over Sony/Canikon for everything where I dont need the super fast AF or special longer Tele-Lenses.

There are 3 reasons:

1) reduced user interface, menu-system, viewfinder

2) Some of the lenses

3) color science (not the major factor)

plus I can use M lenses

---------------------------

I do very little event work nowadays, or nature, but the SL is not enough for me. I use two Nikons (a D850 and a Z9) paired respectively with a 24-70 and a 70-200 (the usual setup), or the Z9 for the occasional nature shot with my daughter, who is very keen on it. In my opinion the Z9 is vastly superior to the SL2, and the SL-3 does not add anything for me. Using M lenses again is not a plus (I use them in the Ms, and never went beyond the Summicrons). And to round up, there is a Panasonic counterpart at a fraction of the price of the SL (the Mk1 costs half of the price of an SL2, and reckon that the SR MKII will have a similar difference). 

I don't dispute that there will be people interested in the SL vs an R5 or a Z9 or a Sony A1, but very few of those will be professional photographers doing events, photojournalism, sports or nature. Similarly, I wouldn't dispute there will be a reduced number of hardcore Leica users who would buy the S4 at a higher price point that their competition, but...

Personally I am well served with my IQ4 back with the XF and the Cambo settings and the S3 as a backup and more mobile camera.

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All very personal thing. Looking at your gear for example you have decided for super high IQ/resolution gear (IQ4, and S3) and superfast and flexible FF (Z9).

IMO the SL-system sits somewhere in between.

By the way...some great images on the website Irene! no matter which camer ;)

 

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Posted (edited)

thank you! 🙂

I have a background of work which is event oriented, which explains the high speed shoots, and a daughter who is very interested in photographing wildlife. I do very little of both nowadays. That explains the Nikons.

My basic equipment for work are two Ms (River was shot mostly with an M9) and the S3 and the Phase, which I acquired second hand. The Phase has been with me for about a year. and I am using it in a project with very meditated shots, tableau sized, of human intervened landscapes, at times single buildings. The S3 replaced a GFX 100. I still need at times a camera that can be used handheld and be a decent backup for the larger one.

Edited by irenedp
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7 hours ago, irenedp said:

The SL series competes in the high end full frame segment. It is at the same price point, but technically not a match to the flagship Sony, Canon or Nikon cameras -not even close to say, a Z9- but to the next level, that of the Z7. If it is successful -and I would like to see the numbers- is because there is a large group of well-off amateurs, and a much smaller of professionals, who value either the prestige of a Leica badge or the quality of the lenses. 

I don't think the SL bodies are "technically not a match" for other brands. If I was to describe my ideal 35mm camera, it would look a lot more like an SL than a Z9. The big Japanese brands either sell cameras with every feature, at the expense of usability, or they sell crippled cameras, missing the most basic things (decent EVF optics for example).

On the other hand, SL bodies have great colour, no low-pass filter, better viewfinders, better lens compatibility, and an unbeatable UI. They also have the best native lens choice, outside of 5-figure super telephotos (if I needed those I would get an R3, no hesitation). Is that really less advanced? Cost isn't even an issue at this point. You can spend just as much on a Canon/Nikon/Sony system; I've met many photographers who have.

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7 hours ago, tom0511 said:

For my part I prefer the Sl system over Sony/Canikon for everything where I dont need the super fast AF or special longer Tele-Lenses.

There are 3 reasons:

1) reduced user interface, menu-system, viewfinder

2) Some of the lenses

3) color science (not the major factor)

plus I can use M lenses

 

Reasonas which can make a future S interesting:

1) for people who allready own S-lenses; those lenses still shine and I love the renderung even slightly better than that of xcd lenses.

2) for people who like the user interface and feel of Leica

3) for people who want a faster camera than the x2d but who want something else than Fuji

Latest Hassy xcd lenses have become pretty expensive as well.

For my part I would hope that a future S camera...

-is not priced too high

-will work very good with the old S lenses

-will have a fast startup , a good af and a short blackout

-and that Leica also offers 1 or 2 compact primes, maybe a 38 or 55 like Hasselblad.

 

Will it be worth over a SL system for me...I have not yet made up my mind. But in regards of pure IQ I feel allways rewarded when I use a S-camera (not so much in regards of AF though)

Doesn’t the S3 already deliver most of that?

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Posted (edited)

Where I see room for improvement is a more compact body and a more reliable AF system.

Other than that IBIS would be a great benefit. And maybe a lower price ;)

But as written before, I am not sure how much benefit we get from a larger sensor compared to a 47 or 60 MP FF sensor in combination with the high quality SL lenses. Also the SL APO Summicrons are a nice compromise between speed and size, and you can shoot Tele with a SL Camera. Plus I don't believe in the "the apo-sl lenses are just sharp/clinical" theory, I like them more and more.

I think the gap between FF and larger sensors gets smaller and smaller.

 

Edited by tom0511
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58 minutes ago, tom0511 said:

Where I see room for improvement is a more compact body and a more reliable AF system.

Other than that IBIS would be a great benefit. And maybe a lower price ;)

But as written before, I am not sure how much benefit we get from a larger sensor compared to a 47 or 60 MP FF sensor in combination with the high quality SL lenses. Also the SL APO Summicrons are a nice compromise between speed and size, and you can shoot Tele with a SL Camera. Plus I don't believe in the "the apo-sl lenses are just sharp/clinical" theory, I like them more and more.

I think the gap between FF and larger sensors gets smaller and smaller.

 

To be honest, digital sensors beyond FF are a bit of a cheat. Leica's S is more like "super FF" and the other digital MF sensors are all on the small side compare to film.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, irenedp said:

There are two segments now in the Medium Format market. The first one, and largest, is the one that Fuji has created with the GFX. By lowering the price point, they have been able to lure in the likes of wedding photographers and also well-off amateurs.

The Fuji wasn’t until 2017.   One year after the S launched in 2009 (for about $23k to $28k, depending on model, as I recall), Pentax released the 645D for about $10k.  I remember thinking that it could be a market changer.  Sure enough, the Hasselblad X1D emerged in 2016 at about $9k (later dropped significantly in price), and the Fuji digital medium format followed a year later.  The S price was adjusted down to about $16k for a short period, only to rise again before it bottomed out.

Jeff

Edited by Jeff S
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