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Tuesday, 23 September 2008


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That is one handsome camera when the grip is attached. I'm impressed too by the well-defined "thumbprint" on the back (as visible in Farkas' blogpost) and the deeply finger-indented grip, both of which may be important when holding such a large camera!

Farkas says it's not actually that large--smaller than a D3 or 1Ds Mk. III, about the size of a D700. Of course the lenses are sorta honkers.

Mike J.

I suppose if you have to ask how much...

Maybe I can trade in my Contax 645 and Fuji 6x9 and only need to come up with another 30K or so...

Maybe I should wait and get the more compact rangefinder version with the baseplate and the 1/50 sync speed.

It's seriously good to see Leica innovating again, instead of playing catch up. You can't win if you're constantly playing defense.

Take care,

Technically speaking this camera is impressing as hell: no complaints from me, and it is well beyond my knowledge/budget. It's kinda Rolls Royce material to me eyes.

But let me say (before stoning me) that I honestly think it is a rather ugly design, from masters like the guys at Leica. Even with the LEICA brand and logo displayed in the front of it, I can't avoid thinking that it is a truly poor industrial design.

This should be a great fashion/commercial/editorial camera for pros.

From the pictures I've seen, the S2 looks silly on its own, but looks great when someone is holding it.

"(assuming it isn't just intended as a rich boy's play toy; with Leica you never know)."

It seems to me from Leica's statements that they are dead serious about this as a hardcore attempt at the top pro market. A long shot, but a serious one. (It would have to be at the size of this investment.)

And to me, the M8 and M7 seems much more likely as rich men's toys anyway.

Ctein said: "The real question will be whether the sensor is enough bigger to matter. It's 25% larger than full-frame cameras...."

True, but the image quality of the M8 is already often compared with that of medium format; many people who have worked with both M8 and DMR feel that the DMR gave better quality yet despite its smaller sensor.

As you say, we won't know till later, but results from Leica's previous forays into digital would tend to indicate very solid performance from the S2.

BTW--Can you give us a link to explain why you feel that IQ scales with linear dimension? Some folks on the Web vehemently hold otherwise.

Dear Howard,

It's not a question of whether or not the S2 images will look good. It'd be very surprising if they don't. It's a question of whether they look enough better than images from full-frame sensors to justify a new format. We'll find out.

I don't know anyone knowledgeable who ever claimed that IQ scaled with image area until digital came along. It's the Johnny-Come-Lately's with their newly discovered 'expertise' who've been spouting this. With, so far as I can tell, nothing to back it up.

Truthfully, very little of image quality is a function of physical size. The two most prominent characteristics are resolution and noise. Resolution's pretty obvious. All other things being equal (pixel size, sensor characteristics, signal processing) the number of pixels across the field, and hence the resolution, goes up linearly with sensor dimension, not area. A 12 MP images looks twice as sharp as a 3 MP image, not four times as sharp.

Noise trips people up. The amount of signal a pixel captures indeed goes as the area of the pixel... but the signal to noise ratio goes as the square root of the signal. So you're back to linear dimension again.

Speed goes as area, for a given S/N ratio, but that's a derivative property of S/N. Anyway, it's the only one I know of that might scale with area. Cept, as we've seen, no two sensors of the same area seem to have similar speed and S/N characteristics. It's simply too design-sensitive.

Truthfully, my early assumption of "all things being equal" is almost never correct. they never are between camera designs, and for that reason sensor size and/or pixel density is a very, very poor predictor of image quality.

The practical reality is that camera price is a much better predictor, regardless of sensor specs.

With umpty-billion web pages out there, I'm sure there's one that explains this stuff, but I wouldn't know what it is. Most of the time I'm a SOURCE of information, not a sink, so I don't need to research this stuff. Hence, I never find the links.

If someone's got a good one, please let me know.

pax / Ctein

Ctein sez: Most of the time I'm a SOURCE of information, not a sink, so I don't need to research this stuff.

Words to live by.


"I don't know anyone knowledgeable who ever claimed that IQ scaled with image area until digital came along."

It was something that many afficionados of the 5x7" format would bring up when comapring to 4x5, so it's not unprecendented.

The secret is in the lenses, Erwin Puts says:

[url=http://www.imx.nl/photo/Analysis/page119/page119.html]Leica S2[/url]


An interesting comment on the new S lenses, by Farkas:

[QUOTE][B]I saw Peter Karbe and said hello. As many may know, Peter is the head optics designer of Leica, personally responsible for the slew of excellent glass in the last few years. He worked on the 50mm f/1.4 ASPH for ten years to perfect it…in his spare time. Totally brilliant optics designer. We spoke briefly about the new S lenses and wanted to show me the MTF charts for them. He didn’t have them with him, but I am hoping to see them later on in the week. He said that they are perfectly flat lines all the way up to the top, from one side to the other. Apparently, Peter believes these lenses might be the best Leica has ever produced. Now that is saying something.[/B][/QUOTE]


It's my experience that 5x7 has a much greater image quality than 4x5 even at a moderate enlargement size of 11x14.

I think much of this talk about a new format isn't really relevant when speaking of digital sensors. Whether you shoot 4/3rds, APS-C, 35mm full frame or a medium format back you still take the picture with a proprietary lens, camera, and sensor and load it onto the computer and go from there. A full frame sensor only became a holy grail because the film lenses were designed to cover it.
I do like that Leica has chosen to maintain the 2:3 ratio. As those of us who like 5x7 always argue, less of the film/sensor size is wasted due to cropping.
Take care,

I don't see this as a rich boy's toy at all. It's a serious attempt to get into the medium format digital market. My question; is that a large enough market to support another addition to this market. I have seen the body price mentioned at $40K. A complete set up for a serious professional will be mega bucks. I don't see many folks who are already invested in another medium format brand switching so easily. This will certainly sort out the medium format market. I am sure this is a costly venture for Leica. If it is not successful for them it could lead to the demise of the whole company.

Ctein, thanks for the clear and extensive response to my question.

You say: "It's not a question of whether or not the S2 images will look good.... It's a question of whether they look enough better than images from full-frame sensors to justify a new format."

Don't want to be argumentative, but I don't see this as a 'new format' in that sense, any more than the various versions of "APS-C" are various formats.

I see the S2 as having a kind of Super-35 sensor with crop factor of 0.8. "New format" to me implies that the benefits would be so strong that other manufacturers would jump on the bandwagon, as with the original Barnack format or Olympus's half-frame. And I agree, that's unlikely.

If the M8's crop factor of 4/3 delivers quality similar to that of medium format, the S2's 4/5 crop factor would simply increase performance in a more mobile package than most medium format equipment.

I don't think we're at odds; we probably just see the matter from different sides.

My opinion: Great risk, beautiful camera--just as was the M3. I hope the S2 is as successful in its own much narrower market.

Dear Paul,

Did they really argue area rather than linear dimension? I didn't know that. Thanks for the tidbit.

Of course, 645 camera manufacturers did that all the time, claiming their format was "three times larger" than 35mm. But that was marketing people and no one expected technical accuracy from them.

Dear Howard,

Sounds like we mostly have a semantic confusion going on. In photographic parlance, format simply means size, not a whole standard. For example, 645, 2 1/4 square, and 6 x 7 are all called different formats. Similarly, Instamatic and 35mm. Doesn't matter whether it's one manufacturer or everybody following it. That's how I was using the term.

But on a different, practical level, more in accord with your use of the term, this really is a new format in the context of my posting. Leica has to build a whole new system around it; 35mm-format lenses won't cover the frame, for example. So the question I raised (and maybe answered) still applies: is a 25% increase in size worth introducing a new format?

Leica obviously thinks so. There's nothing technological that wouldn't have kept them from introducing a similar camera with a 35mm-format sensor (and, no, the noise and low-like performance would not have been unacceptably degraded, they just wouldn't be quite as good). Then all the current form factors would still apply, they'd have a whole line of existing lenses available, et cetera. They decided that bigger was going to be sufficiently better. Eventually we'll get to find out if they were right.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com

Mike Eckstein wrote:
"My question; is that a large enough market to support another addition to this market. I have seen the body price mentioned at $40K."

There are direct quotes floating around somewhere in the mass of stuff on the L-Camera forum from Dr. Kaufman that Leica hopes to price the body between 10-15,000 euros. That's in the early 20-thousands of dollars, depending on the exchange rate next year. I wouldn't be astonished if they tried to keep the price under $20,000 (like, $19,999) for marketing reasons. They need to establish the system, and after the cameras are selling, they can price the lenses according to their needs...At the same time, Hasselblad is getting aggressive with their pricing, and apparently you can now buy an HD3-II with a 39mp back and 80mm lens for something also in the early 20-thousands of dollars.

Given the history of MF prices, those don't seen extreme to me -- that the best camera in the world should cost something like a medium-priced car. And, for a professional, the cost is ultimately deductible from income, which is currently about a 28-35 percent discount for successful professional photographers.


The S2 looks a beautiful idea. And Santa can bring me one for Christmas - with a stocking full of the new lenses.

But will it prove commercial suicide for Leica? Who - apart from the odd Warren Buffett ('odd' as in 'rare' I stress) - is going to invest a skyscraper-high wad of money in a camera body that is likely to be surpassed in terms of resolution (and perhaps IQ) in a couple of years.

I recall Canon is on the record as saying its 36x24 can go to 50Mp - and who is to say that a future Digic processor won't overcome the disadvantage of the 'smaller' (né full-frame) sensor. Certainly, if it comes, it will be in the relative bargain of a Canon 1-series body.

I fear the S2 can only be a commercial success if the sensor and middleware are designed to be upgradable. Leica - it's not too late to go back to the drawing board. . .

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