Home Uncategorised Leica’s S3: One for the few, not the many

Leica’s S3: One for the few, not the many


The Leica S DSLR occupies a rarefied corner of Leicadom of which I know very little. It has always been there, in my peripheral vision, but I have to say that in the past few years I haven’t seen a single one in the wild, not even at various Leica enthusiasts’ meetings. It’s a professional camera and seems to be very much in its element in the studio, or so I’ve been told. As far as I have seen, though, it doesn’t venture out very often.

S3 with the “kit” 70mm lens, £20,000, thank you very much (Image Leica Camera AG)

I’ve never taken much interest, mainly because I couldn’t afford one but also because I couldn’t handle a camera of this size.

Entry to the world of the S3 isn’t for the faint of heart, both in terms of muscle and wallet. While the new, improved S3 costs about the same as its predecessor (£16,500) you’ll need at least one lens. That’s probably going to be the “kit” 70mm Summarit-S at £3,325. In all conscience, that lens is actually quite reasonably priced when you cast a glance over the SL lens price list. But you are still in for the thick end of £20,000, even before you’ve bought a spare battery or a filter.

I am sure this is a marvellous photographic tool and, for professionals, it is probably quite a bargain. But it is divorced from the mainstream of Leicadom, something rather esoteric and definitely one for the few, not for the many.

But maybe I’m the odd one out here. Perhaps there is a whole band of S aficionados lurking just out of sight. What do you think? Would you buy one? Would you perhaps buy the previous S2 at a discounted price?


  1. This is definitely one to write off in the expenses column at the end of a photographer’s financial year.

    But surely if one can afford a Leica one can afford an S3, neither are an absolute requirement for photography? They are supreme pieces of equipment, but very much outside of the domain of working professionals, who tend to use Nikon or Canon (Sony comin’ thru).

    These are luxury items for gear heads like us, the reason for buying such cameras is because we want one, rather than need one.

    • I’m not sure on this. I know many gear heads who would pay the £20k without blinking but they don’t. The S doesn’t inspire in the same way as the M or even the SL. Probably size comes into it. And, again, when did you ever see someone out in the wild with an S2?

  2. Another one for Jeeves Billingham or a gillie who can hand you the beast between swigs of refreshments, ‘sundowners’ if you are in Africa in the afternoon. I am taking up proper large format photography ie 5x 4 sheet film. You have to load the film slides (known as dark slides) in the dark and you could have a day out in which you might take 6 or 8 photos, but you would have a million times more fun than with this thing. I wish Leica well with this camera, but the pages of the Leica Forum have been filled for years with posts about problems with the S line, particularly as regards the lenses. I presume this is a serious attempt to win back ground lost to Fujifilm and Hasselblad in what is already a contracting market.

    For me, a Leica will always be an M or an LTM, following the vision of Barnack for a compact camera.


  3. I know someone who owned the S but they switched to Hasselblad X1D due to weight. They loved the image quality but size does matter in some cases! I also do not like the shape of it.
    I wish Leica would focus their limited resources on the M and SL systems.

  4. Sizewise it reminds me of my Leica R9 maybe slighly bigger but not that much. If I could afford a S system I’d go for their original S. Too many pixels in that new version. What computer can hold up to 64 MP? and do we really need that much definition?

  5. I bought a new S007 and the Vario Elmar from Dales in Leeds. Having cancer at the time l thought to myself, it’s now or never. I really like the S system and added 5 more lenses all but one with the leaf shutters. I have never regretted the purchase and the size of the camera body suits me well as l have big hands. I have used it a few times at my Leica Fellowship meetings and it’s a system that’s good to take on safari or to be used as the day in a studio. I’m just an amateur photographer that has been a Leica fan since 1980.


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