Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Leica’s S3 delivers a big camera sensor for a big price

There are small digital cameras with small sensors, small digital cameras with big sensors, and big digital cameras with even bigger sensors. Leica’s latest definitely fits that last category.

Depending on the type of photographer you are, there’s a possibility you’ve resisted a move to digital. It’s not that digital is bad in photography — far from it — but more that film can sometimes give you a little bit more.

We’re at the point in digital cameras whereby a very capable digital SLR or mirrorless camera with a full-frame sensor can fare a little better than the 35mm film you might be inclined to use in an old school camera, but the same might not be true if you need a bigger roll of film.

What’s bigger than 35mm? Well, there’s medium format and large format, film stock and sizes that capture to a larger space than 35mm cameras have, and potentially means more detail in the image being captured. Typically reserved for fashion and art, medium and large formats aren’t likely to be used by all, and focus on photographers looking to get more of the image into their shot.

These days, the technological prowess of a high-end mirrorless interchangeable or even a big flagship digital SLR camera can rival the sort of quality offered by a medium format camera, particularly those with new and innovative full-frame sensors, but there are still photographers out there that will prefer a larger film stock size, and thus a larger camera.

Fortunately there are medium format options to turn to in the digital world, and there’s now one more, as Leica adds another model this week, the Leica S3.

Built with a slightly bigger sensor more in line with medium format, the S3 includes a 64 megapixel 45x30mm sensor, compared with the 36x24mm sensor typically used in a full-frame digital camera. Technically, the minimum size of medium format should be 60x45mm, so the Leica S3 may not be true “medium format” as it’s understood, however Leica’s approach is to make it the “Leica ProFormat”, which is to say it’s a sensor size larger than 35mm that appears in a body not far from the size of a 35mm camera. It’s an approach that gives Leica a little over 50 percent of the sensor area size, and compared with the previous model, a bump in megapixels, too: from 37.5 to 64 megapixels.

It’s not just more megapixels and a bigger size that makes a difference here, as the Leica S3 supports 4K Ultra HD video capture, as well as GPS and WiFi, made to be controlled with a Leica app.

Leica has looked to make a bit of an impact with regards to low-light sensitivity, ranging from ISO 100 to ISO 50,000, though the speed of the camera isn’t the best in the market, supporting up to 3 frames per second.

However durability is one area Leica seems keen to talk up, with a design that the company says “ensures protection against dust and spray”, and includes Corning’s Gorilla Glass to cover the 3 inch screen on the back, as well. Seals in the camera are designed to protect against moisture and dust, while the camera itself is made from magnesium with the lens bayonet made from stainless steel.

One thing that may throw you is the price, which in Australia will cost body-only $29,900. Yep, that’s around $30K for a camera without a lens, though it will take Leica’s S-lenses, of which there’s a good 16 to choose from.

Keen photographers with that sort of cash to spend can find the Leica S3 in select stores and Leica stockists later this month.

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