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Sunday, 16 August 2009


Is a 3:2 aspect ratio "newthink." I'm not feeling it. I think what Panasonic has been doing with aspects ratios on cameras like the G1 are a lot more interesting.

Still, I wish Leica all the luck in the world.

The M9 will be released 09-09-09 and probably have a 24/36 sensor, at least that is what the generally reliable Réponses Photo says in its September issue.

My dealer (in Cologne, Germany) reports that he has quite a few customers who have pre-ordered the S2, regardless of the price. He also tells me that Leica will show the M9 to select dealers on Sep. 19. Of course it's still possible that they will have a press conference about it on Sep. 9.

My version of "newthink" would be to have a square sensor with software that allowed the photographer to change aspect ratios at the touch of a button or spin of a dial. It could be done with software that chose which pixels to record from the entire sensor. It could even be user programmable (wedding photographers shooting heart shaped images for example). Just think, no more turning the camera to switch from portrait to landscape. I wrote both Olympus and Canon about this long ago. They didn't even answer. Wanted: NewThinK.

It's amazing in this economy that large numbers of people are getting into an expensive camera system like the S2 basically sight unseen. I still don't think anyone has seen a raw file from the camera.

The original Leica was introduced as a luxury item in the middle of Germany's post WW1 depression/inflation crisis.
Let's hope that history repeats itself (for Leica, not for Germany).

My reaction to this camera is that it's probably as close to my ideal camera as anyone will ever come up with. The design philosophy is spot-on for me. But then, I'm coming from the perspective of finding that the Pentax 6x7 was, indeed, my ideal film camera. The S seems to have a similar design emphasis on workmanlike image quality above all else.

It'll be interesting to see how many folks feel the way I do. There's a big difference between those two cameras-- the Pentax 6x7 was, for most of its life, the least expensive professional medium format camera. Whereas I never expect to own a Leica S. Even if I had the $40K-$50K (a more realistic number) in 'spare' cash to spend on such a camera, I cannot imagine being so well off and secure in my income that I couldn't find much better uses for that money.

As for the aspect ratio, it's hard for me to come up with a LESS important camera characteristic. James, you're idea isn't 'newthink' it's just digital cropping in-camera. The aspect-ratio counterpart to 'digital zoom;' something you can do later if it's what floats your boat. Maybe it's a useful feature for some, but innovative it's not. Latent, 4:3 is an 11% crop on 3:2. That's a 5% change in resolution. That's indetectable in the field; it's almost impossible to observe in the lab. Assuming you had the bucks, I'd not let it dissuade me one moment from buying that camera.

pax / Ctein

Yeah, this looks pretty good. I for one would like one as soon as possible ... But maybe I would prefer the Nikon D800 ... or ten of them!

This is just two much money in this present day especially with the idea that canon may well come up with a 30 somthing mp camera $23,000 is two much especially that the lenses you have to by are pricey as well. The Kit might be $30,000 but no pro will be happy with one lens, 3 is the minnimum and then your over $40,000. People can justify an expensive lens but not always the body price. $10,000 would have been a better mark for the body. Yes there will always be a few rich people who will fork out for this Kit and some pros but i bet most of those pros already have a phase one that there happy with. I dont think those numbers of buyers can support a factory and R&D. And yes your right I am one of those not so wealthy professionals that secretly would really like this camera. Lets wait to see what the quality is like

I'm gettin' one.

There is another natural market, which is the one of "newthink"-photographers, who will use the S2 in a way they could not use a Hasselblad ($30.000) to express their vision of the world. Whether this is in the field of fashion, photojournalism, portrait or else. Once we will see their pictures, we will know. Just discussing the price of the tool is just a little lame, after all it's the photographer who takes the photograph or is it?

Hi James: I agree about producing a square image sensor, but why have the camera crop the image for you? Use the whole sensor when taking the photograph, get as much information as possible in the field, then crop in software. I, too, liked not having to deal with the portrait/landscape question when using my older TLR.

As far as newthink is concerned, the S2 may not be as radical as I would like to see. I still think of Sony's F828 with its articulating lens and different (from an SLR, anyway) physical form, and wish they had continued down that road (as I do concerning the R1, but that's another story). I also wonder about the new (and hopefully soon-to-be-relesed) Red Scarlet and Epic cameras. An interesting modular approach, and also a very different physical form, at least for an old still photographer (maybe old-hat for videographers).

Still the S2 is a step in a new direction, and I applaud any and all such attempts. As Mill said, we need diversity and experimentation. Those companies that have the guts to try, something that in business can be disastrous, deserve accolades, big wet kisses, and our trade, when we can afford it.

Still, the S2 is currently the camera of my dreams--and likely to stay there. Though, perhaps I should say to anyone who is feeling generous and would like to give me an S2 and some lenses, you would get a huge "Thank You" and I would blow big wet kisses at you--from a significant distance, of course.

Learnings and technology from the S2 project are likely to flow downhill to other Leica products. (The M9 may incorporate its sensor, for example.) This is another reason why I think it's a potentially wise gamble for the company, assuming it's around long enough to crank out new products.

Unfortunately, the R10, which would have been a prime beneficiary of this philosophy, was killed off. This, too, may have been wise, however, since Leica decided that it couldn't currently compete in the DSLR market with Canikon.

In mentioning a newthink approach to aspect ratio, I should have cited the Panasonic GH1 and not the G1. (Ctein, it's not just a simple crop.) I don't have a GH1, but I'm assuming that as one dials in, say, 16:9, this is what's shown in the viewfinder and on the LCD. Some people shoot sloppy; I shoot tight, and I often shoot to a particular aspect ratio because it fits a layout or some other consideration. I love the idea of dialing in from a choice of ratios and making that ratio my chosen format for a period of time. Newthink.

And I should have cited this S2 newthink: "In the interest of preserving image sharpness, the camera disregards the standard low-pass filter. Instead, Moiré effects are detected and eliminated by the camera's internal signal processing." Wow! That is new.

If history is any indication, Japanese companies will not be very far behind at all in mimicking Leica by offering similar quality output hardware for a third or less of the Leica price. And for this I say, bless you Leica! I will never buy one dollar's worth of your hardware but am indeed grateful for what it does for me.

Given Leica's absolutely abysmal track record with high end digital cameras (witness the never ever right DMR, the original flawed from Day One M8, and even the generally pathetic for nearly all traditional Leica RF applications M8.2), I simply have zero faith in this company's ability to produce a viable product with the S2 and also the much dreamed and speculated about M9.

Regardless of the intended market, a gargantuan leap of faith will be required for anybody who pumps even one dollar into this system, which may or may not work as advertised.

I'm guessing may not and will not.

Just a note - the S2 will apparently use the non-proprietary DNG format as its RAW file format. This is a great thing, and I hope that the rest of the camera industry notices and acts on it. I just had to buy an expensive upgrade to Photoshop just to get a version of Camera Raw that supports my new G1. I don't have the $$$ to go out and buy the Leica, but kudos to them for joining Ricoh and Pentax in supporting DNG

S2? S2? Interesting. So what happened to the S1?

as a leica user, started with Digilux 2, then M8, an awesome camera, i ditched all my Nikon gear to buy it, I applaud this launch, whatever the financial market is doing, quality will always find a place, there are those of us who see recessionary times as the ideal time to come up with new ideas, new directions. pros will love this camera, up to this point many pros have considered digital merely for 'snaps'. bravo! to the naysayers, i simply say "deal with it!"

@ Steve G. Mendocino: Leica has been using the DNG raw image file format with its M8 line. I, too, applaud this although I think that Leica's core motive is cost avoidance.

@ Kurt Holter: I don't wholeheartedly agree with your extremely negative summary of Leica's digital imaging products. (The M8/M8.2, for example, is actually excellent within its range of potential.) But it's hard to argue with your contention that Leica does not have a stellar performance and stamina record in these product lines.

@ John Krill: Yes, indeed there was a Leica S1. It was basically an extremely costly (sound familiar) high-resolution scanning back-type of digital camera circa late 1990's. To my knowledge it had a short life due mainly to its ghastly cost, miniscule niche market, and advancements in the broader digital imaging world. (Foreshadowing, perhaps, a similar episode for a new century?)

I salute Leica's attempt to create a new niche but can think of some truly breathtaking factors and arguments why this is a boneheaded strategy for Leica at this time.

But rather than type myself silly to play armchair pundit I'll just speak for myself as a prospective S2 customer and owner of other Leica cameras. I have no intentions to buy into the S2 regardless of its reported image qualities or any other prospective plaudits. The primary reason is its complete lack of flexibility. They are repeating Hasselblad's strategic error of creating a completely closed system. An S2 owner must shoot with the S2 reflex camera body using the proprietary S2 lenses. The DNG files will be the only element not proprietary.

At this price and imaging power range I need much more flexibility than such a highly integrated, and completely exclusive, system can provide. The versatility of using a digital back with a variety of cameras and optics is far more important to me than whether the S2 files are pretty out-of-the-camera.

That's just my position but I know that others share this perspective.

Predictably, internet photographers are already giving their "reviews" of a camera before it's been released. As happened before the release of the Lumix G1, The Leica S2 is already getting knocks from people who haven't even had the opportunity to handle one in a camera store, much less make photographs with it. Such a noteworthy camera from a prestige name like Leica will be too easy a target. "Experts" and fan boys of competing brands will opine on perceived deficiencies that will force them to pass on the S2. The real reason they won't be buying one? Like me, they can only dream of being able to afford $30,000+ for a camera.

Many of the S2's features are pretty cool, and I heartily applaud adopting the open DNG standard for native file format.

But is it just me, or do other people also find this bizarre: Leica plans on selling this platinum-plated system for $30,000 a pop, yet they've saddle it with an LCD screen with half the resolution of the one on a $700 Canon Eos Rebel T1i. That might be tolerable if it had an interchangeable digital back with the possibility of future upgrades, but with the S2 the features are baked in from the start.

That's the thing with digital; it's no longer a simple matter of switching to a newer, better film stock to get better image quality. The fundamentals of the camera are set in stone from the start, other than minor tweaks with firmware or better raw processing. So one has to squeeze as much value out of a camera as possible, as quickly as possible, before it's obsoleted by the next generation. That's especially true for something as obscenely expensive as the S2, unless you run a business and can depreciate it.

And, before anyone else says it, sure, the digital SLR you bought in 2003 still takes pictures just as well as it ever did. But then, are you still running Windows 95 on your desktop computer? And how's that working out?
Just sayin.

ARgghhh!!!! That is a three-ibuprofen piece of writing. And as others point out, nothing near the "I lied" simplicity that was needed. Even the first sentence raises more questions : What is exactly is "the fist stage of an artist-in-residency program"? I am not sure I want to know.

As said above, technology is moving very fast and there is no reason to think that Canon, Sony or Nikon won't come out with a 30 to 50mp camera at a reasonable price using lenses that are available for the 35mm frame format in the next 2 years. This $30,000 Leica is just not that much better then a $3,000 Sony 24mp camera. and with Sony's new cell technology, we may see a 50mp camera from them very soon.
Have fun--Shoot Photo's not Bull.

@latent image: Both the G1 and GH1 show the actual working aspect ratio in the viewfinder and LCD. The G1 crops down to achieve 3:2 and 16:9 aspect rations, the GH1 is a true multi-aspect sensor that shoots 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 at the advertised 12MP resolution (the sensor is actually 14MP and crops down for all aspect ratios) and also does a cropped-down 1:1 aspect ratio.

So you think upscaling a mainstream type of camera (DSLR) is NEWTHINK? Well, not so long time ago Leica advertised their M line with the proclamation "Less is more".

Dear Ken,

An interesting point of view and certainly one I hadn't considered. I think it will depend on what film-derived demographic the S2 ends up appealing to. Medium format photographers have been accustomed into exclusive systems. Defacto, anyway, if not necessarily dejure.

The major medium format systems all had insignificant numbers of third-party lenses.If you bought a 'blad, you did so knowing you were gonna pay blad prices for the lenses, and there'd be few other options. Ditto for Rollei, Pentax, Mamiya, and Fuji. Hardly anyone used the scant handfuls of third-party offerings.

Very different from the 35mm world.

So, the question I see in this is who is Leica's actual market? Is it people who see this as a 'medium format' digital camera or people who see it as a supersized 'full frame' DSLR?

Not trying to get nosy, just interested: is this a camera you would AND could consider buying were it not for the closed-system aspects? IOW, are you actually part of Leica's target audience or are you like me and Mike (interested in speculating on and understanding the target audience, but not part of it)?

pax / Ctein

James's biceps comment is very apt. Some people who are worried about their image isolate their biceps when lifting weights to make them bigger because having large biceps has become a sign of strength in the American society. But in reality, how often do you use your biceps in isolation? E.g. when you pick something up you use your legs, back, arms, etc. all working together in harmony. The best resistance training works your body in similar ways, by hitting many muscle groups at once as this really improves your performance in sports or in common life like lifting boxes. Unfortunately many people still do bicep curls because it has been done so long, they see it being done by strong people and they do not know any better. Others do know better but do it anyway. (Thank you to Lou Schuler for teaching me this fact in his writing and attempting to end this myth).

I know that was not the intent of James's comment but I thought it linked resistance training and photography very well. You can just carry a Leica camera to improve your pictures or for vanity, but unless you get everything working together in harmony it won't actually improve your performance.


What do you mean by "workmanlike image quality" in your sentence: "The S seems to have a similar design emphasis on workmanlike image quality above all else."

Are you thinking the image quality will be good but not outstanding? Just curious, I'm not looking for an argument on quality befitting or not befitting a Leica. I would ask the same question re a canikonpustaxony camera. I think I'm just ignorant about digital cameras from lack of experience. Thanks

Two interesting articles by Joseph Holmes on medium format problems... mostly due to "flexibility":



I think "closed" systems is the present (and future). Hasselblad and Leica knows it, and Phase One knows it too (they have bought Mamiya and Leaf).

Dear Geoff,

So, how seriously would you be using that LCD, in lieu of the optical viefinder? Remember, the camera plus normal lens weighs 2 KILOS! This is not a camera most of us would be able to use in arms-extended position for very long.

More pixels in the LCD means lousier image quality-- poorer color, less contrast and lower brightness. At today's technology level, those 900K displays are nearly useless in sunlight.

Me, I'll take 300K good pixels over 900K crappy ones any day; I get a lot more useful info from looking at the former.

Overall, the camera has pretty conservative specs. A top ISO of 1250? 8 frame burst at 1.5 frames/sec? Top shutter speed of 1/4000th? Nothing to crow about there. This is not a push-the-envelope camera, it's a maximize-image-quality camera.

'Course, as many have pointed out, there's no guarantee it will deliver; Leica has stumbled badly more than once in recent years. But it seems to me the intent is surely there: make the best possible photos and hold the specs down if they'd conflict with that.

The $64K question will be: does it deliver?

pax / Ctein

I recommend to take a look at the MTF graphs of Leica S lenses... nothing short of sensational:



Dear JonA,

I hope my comment to Geoff Wittig makes my thinking a little clearer. It's hard to put into words the feeling I read from the S2 description. The hit I get is that it reminds me greatly of the Pentax 67, but I don't know just how to describe that.

No, it doesn't mean merely good image quality. If this camera doesn't have an IQ so good that it makes you weep just to look at it, the only people who'll buy it will be the ones we derisively describe in the magazine biz as "retired doctors who move to Miami and collect Leicas."

pax / Ctein

I root for all high-end cameras, on the theory that the technology (and, with enough time, even the camera itself) eventually flows down to my price point. So good luck to Leica.

But I am skeptical about the S2's success. Surely the potential market (the two Mike pointed out as well as a few others I can think of -- e.g., 'high-end' 'art' photographers who work with view cameras may be tempted) can't be all that big to begin with; couple that with the fact that most of that already-small market have already invested in another system, thus adding to the true cost of buying into the new S system, and it makes one wonder how many S cameras Leica will be able to sell.

With the S2 Leica is targeting those photographers who would buy the Hasselblad H3D (same money). Is that a big enough market for Leica to be successful with the S2? I hope they ran the figures. IMHO Leica blew it with the M8. They should have come out with a full frame sensor M-series camera from the beginning. The picture quality alone would have been enough to silence the critics. I couldn't/didn't want to wait so I bought a 5DMkII and a 35mm f2 Summicron and adapter (very affordable with the demise of the R-series).

@ Geoff Wittig: Yes that LCD spec seems low for such a pricey piece of kit, doesn't it? But, in fairness, mf digital backs all feature rather lame rear screens. For example, Hassleblad's H3II backs all sport 3" 230.4K LCDs (basically the same as a Sigma DP2 or Oly E-P1). The PhaseOne P65+ is even chintzier with only a 2.2" 230.4K screen! I think that the idea is that the camera will normally be in some type of tethered mode, although it's still a cheap-ass corner cut in my eyes.

@ Ctein:Indeed, it's largely true that the lens/body relationships of the medium format market have been pretty incestuous. Frankly, it doesn't bother me Leica's S2 will use a proprietary lens/mount. Optimizing the optics for the camera makes sense and medium format is not the wacky focal length potpourri that 35mm has long been.

My own medium format system, which I began assembling in 2007 from some new and some used parts (like Frankenstein's monster) exemplifies what I mean by flexibility. My camera is a (bought new) Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID, which is a 6x7 leaf shutter contraption with a revolving back. On this core I can mount a variety of Mamiya lenses (plus a tilt/shift adapter), shoot 120/220 film, shoot Polaroid/FujiFilm instant film, or mount my Mamiya ZD or a PhaseOne digital back tethered or free. I can also shoot with or without a prism/meter top and I can switch fresnel screens to suit the recording medium / aspect ratio I'm using.

This is hardly a svelte camera -- it does give one's biceps a work-out! But it's extremely precise, crazy flexible, and perfect for my typical larger-imaging needs.

I think that the real market for Leica's S2 is basically anyone that can buy one. But yes I suppose I would be a prospective S2 buyer and would strongly consider it if it represented a true advancement TO ME. But it just seems like an overgrown dslr. My Canon 1Ds Mark III and 5D Mark II don't pack 39 Mp but they, too, represent far more versatility for their 22 Mp than the S2. And their imaging is simply superb.

So, again, I imagine that Leica must see some hole in the line (football season is coming) that I'm missing. But I am not even a little tempted to take an S2 for a drive. It's just too limited a value proposition, again, for me.

I've had the dubious privilege of using a Zeiss Contarex. My grandfather owned one and let me use it for a while. What a disaster! Not only was it as heavy as a brick, the meter (cyclops) was located directly over the chromed lens barrels. Light would reflect off the lens barrel into the meter and cause severe underexposure. As I recall, it also had an interchangeable film back that was as slow and cumbersome as the rest of the design esthetic. I was happy to return it and he was happy to sell it. I sincerely hope the Leica S2 performs better than this turkey. Life is too short to waste copious amounts of money on sucky cameras.

For those saying that the S2 is groundbreaking or fresh thinking, go look up the circa 2006 Mamiya ZD camera. It's a slightly larger S2 without weather sealing. It was also a complete failure in the market (the ZD back, which was the sensor and processing from the ZD stuffed into a conventional MFDB, was a limited success for Mamiya, with production capacity being the primary limiting factor)

As to the LCD restrictions on MFDB's, remember that the size of an MFDB is fiarly fixed at approximately the size of a standard 645 or A12 film back. You can only put so much LCD there and still leave room for the controls.

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