Leica (Finally) Introduces 64-Megapixel S3 Medium Format Digital Camera

The last time we saw the Leica S3 – the company's much-awaited new medium format digital camera system – was when we had some hands-on time with a prototype of the camera at the 2018 photokina show in Germany. Well, a few years later, the S3 has finally been officially introduced.

The biggest change about the new Leica S3 is that its 30 x 45mm medium format-type (Leica ProFormat) CMOS sensor offers significantly more resolution than its predecessor: 64MP vs 37.5MP. Along with this 71% bump in resolution, dynamic range will be 15 stops, according to Leica, and the S3 will be capable of shooting up to ISO 50000. 

Another major detail about the Leica S3 that was revealed today is the price. Back at photokina 2018, there was some speculation the S3 would sell for around $20,000. Leica says the actual price will be $18,995, which is a bit less expensive than expected (but still in the estimated range).

According to Leica, the S3’s ProFormat sensor dimensions of 30 x 45mm "matches the conventional 3:2 aspect ratio of 35 mm full-frame format, but with a 56 percent larger sensor area to enable a high capacity for large-scale printing and cropping heavily when needed while holding the integrity of every beautiful detail at the pixel level."

The Leica S3 also ramps up the continuous shooting speed to 3 frames per second (fps) compared to the original S2’s 1.5fps. The S3 uses the Leica Maestro II processor and has 2GB of buffer memory, so it shouldn’t get too bogged down while shooting bursts of images. 

For video shooters, the Leica S3 can now capture 4K cinema resolution footage and full HD using the entire width the medium format sensor. Previous iterations of the S2 offered cropped video from the sensor.

The optical viewfinder, as before, is big and gorgeous and the camera is built like a (relatively lightweight) tank, tipping the scales at just over three pounds. The Leica S3 has a rigid, magnesium alloy body and scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass covers the 3-inch display on back. Rubber seals integrated throughout the camera body are designed to protect the camera from moisture and dust.

What struck us about the Leica S3 when shot with it at photokina was how comfortable and intuitive it felt. The camera layout is simple but intuitive: settings are changed via two dials and a 5-way joystick.

The Leica S3's rear screen is surrounded by four programmable buttons and a switch lets you change whether to use the focal plane shutter or central shutter, depending on which lens is mounted on the camera.

In our brief time with the Leica S3, we could see the camera (potentially) being used for capturing more fast action scenarios such as sports and, definitely, runway fashion and active model photography. It also helps that the S3, like the S2, is designed more like an overgrown DSLR, giving it a lighter and far more balanced and ergonomic feel than most clunky, traditional medium format cameras.