Leica S2 Price And Availability Announced

Featured Leica Medium Format News Uncategorized

Leica recently announced that their new S2 professional digital SLR will be available this October. I got to take a look at a pre-production Leica S2 at the annual PMA tradeshow this spring, and let me tell you – it’s no regular digital SLR. The Leica S2 makes even the Nikon D3x and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III look like amateur cameras. It’s a 37.5-megapixel monster of a camera, designed for studio and commercial photographers who can afford to shell out about $30,000 for a camera system. Sound ridiculous? I understand. Read on to find out more.

The Leica S2 camera I saw in March wasn’t ready for production yet, although it sure looked and felt like a finished camera. The size and heft of the camera reminded me of the old Pentax 6×7 film SLR, which was a tank. But unlike the Pentax 6×7, the Leica S2 is a total state-of-the-art auto focus digital SLR. And even though the camera is large and heavy compared to standard pro DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II or the Nikon D3x, it’s still smaller and more natural to use than the cameras it was made to compete with, the 33-megapixel Mamiya DL33 System camera or the 31-megapixel Hasselblad H3DII-31 camera. At about 5+ pounds* (approximately 2300g) both of those cameras weigh a about a pound-and-a-half more than the Leica S2 with the 70mm lens mounted (3.6 pounds / 1633g). The S2 is made of die-cast magnesium and the lenses and the body are weatherproofed to protect the camera from dust and moisture. If you think you need even more protection, Leica also offers the camera with an ultra-scratchproof sapphire glass LCD cover.

2009 PMA Pre-Production Leica S2    
2009 PMA Pre-Production Leica S2     2009 PMA Pre-Production Leica S2
These photos are of the pre-production Leica S2 I saw at the PMA tradeshow, this spring. For more recent photos of the production S2, see Dan Havlik’s Leica S2 debut article on the PDN Web site.

Leica says they’ve made a “clean break” from standard camera formats with the S2. The 37.5-megapixel Kodak sensor was built specifically for this camera. The sensor’s 30×45mm surface area is 60% larger than a 35mm full frame sensor and has a 3:2 aspect ratio – the same as 35mm film and most digital SLRs. In order to ensure the sharpest possible images, Leica decided not to use a low-pass filter. Moiré (a digital artifact produced by grid patterns like windows in a skyscraper or cloth texture) is instead removed by in-camera processing. Eliminating the low-pass filter used on all digital SLRs demonstrates how serious Leica is about the S2 being a different kind of camera. Like the Leica M8 digital rangefinder, the S2 uses Adobe’s DNG format for RAW shooting. To better accommodate the DNG RAW workflow, the S2 ships with a full copy of Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom RAW photo processing and image management software.

To accommodate the larger sensor, Leica designed four new S-mount auto focus lenses. The Leica Summarit-S 35mm f/2.5, Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5, APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 and APO-Tele-Elmar-S 180mm f/3.5 will each be available in a standard and a “CS” version. The CS versions of the lenses have a leaf shutter making flash sync at 1/500th second possible.

Although Leica didn’t have a price tag on the pre-production S2 I played with at PMA, there was no doubt it was going to cost a lot. The final $22,995 base price took everyone a little by surprise, though – that means $30k for a camera and lens. Even though most of choke a little reading that price, it’s not unreasonable for the commercial market. High-end product, food, catalog, portrait and other commercial photographers have been spending this kind of money for medium format or large format cameras with digital backs for a decade now. Recently, integrated medium format digital systems from Hasselblad and Mamiya have appeared. What sets the Leica S2 apart is its light weight (compared to the Mamiya and Hasselblad cameras) and familiar SLR ergonomics and handling. Sure, it’s bigger and heavier than a Canon or Nikon pro body. But if Leica did this right, the S2 will make pro Canon and Nikon image files look like they came from a point-and-shoot camera.

The Leica S2 digital camera is scheduled to be available in October for $22,995 or $27,995 with the sapphire glass LCD display and Platinum service package, which includes free service and loaner cameras. The Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 and APO-Tele-Elmar-S 180mm f/3.5 lenses will also be available in October for $4,495 and $6,495, respectively. The 120mm ($6,495) and 35mm ($5,295) lenses should be available before the end of 2009 and the CS versions of the lenses will come later.

Related Content:
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*Five pound weight is body plus digital back for Mamiya and body with integrated digital components and lens for the Hasselblad.

About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of PhotographyREVIEW.com and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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