By Scott Kirkpatrick
Check out David Farkas' blog for Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Farkas is a Leica dealer who got in some questions and has shooting access in a back room to the Leica S2 prototypes shown at Photokina.
He lists what the nine lenses are and when they are expected to show up, and which ones use which shutter arrangement. He also says that no one knows what to expect of the Phase One connection, as it is much more recent than the work, including firmware development, that went into the S2.
Mike adds: Note that David Farkas mentions that the Leica S2 isn't all that big—smaller than a Nikon D3 or Canon 1Ds Mk. III, about the size of a Nikon D700. Granted, the lenses are going to be on the large side.
Photo: Optyczne Poland (Thanks to Robert Noble)
Featured Comment by Luke Smith:
Ctein adds: Dave's report gives me a pretty good idea of the thinking behind this camera (assuming it isn't just intended as a rich boy's play toy; with Leica you never know).
The closest analogy would be the development of modern 645 cameras back in the 1980s. When E-6 and C-41 came along, camera manufacturers realized that they could offer sufficient medium format quality in a considerably smaller camera (sorry black-and-white aficionados, but you are such a small fraction of the market that you don't drive camera manufacturer strategies). The success of 645 can be attributed to sufficient image quality in a camera that wasn't any bigger than a professional 35mm body (albeit often with very different form factors). Of course the lenses had to be bigger, but by keeping the format modest, they didn't balloon as much as they would have. It was also easier to keep the lenses tolerably fast, both from a design and an ergonomics perspective. (Pentax grabbed the attention of everybody when they introduced a 6x7 format circa 1970 with an ƒ/2.4 prime lens and everything through 800mm being ƒ/4 or faster. But you didn't try hand-holding anything longer than the 300mm!)
Leica is following the same strategy. A camera that's no bigger than 35mm with lenses that are only moderately bulkier, and have decent maximum (and standardized) apertures by medium format standards. It's a formula that makes sense to medium format professionals and it works well in practice.
The real question will be whether the sensor is enough bigger to matter. It's 25% larger than full-frame cameras (not 56% bigger; image quality characteristics scale with linear size, not areal size). By comparison, 645 format was approximately 70% larger than 35mm and medium format sizes ranged from there up to 120% larger. Will a "mere" 25% make a difference?
Not a clue, until one gets a chance to play with the camera! But I would note an historical precedent. Several of the best and brightest film camera techies argued for some time for the introduction of a "super-35" format that would eliminate the film perforations and yield a 30 mm high frame. There were a variety of format proposals, ranging from "ideal" (30 x 38 mm) all the way up to preserving the 35mm aspect ratio (30 x 45 mm). Even though the increase in frame size was modest, these folks argued it would produce a substantial and significant improvement in image quality. They all knew lots more about this than I did, so I can't evaluate that judgment. I just take it seriously.
The proof will be in the performance, but the Leica design is definitely plausible, even if the astronomical price isn't going to be for us mere mortals.