Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leica S2 side-by-side with D3x and 645AFD

We had a Leica Demo Day yesterday at the store (Dale Photo & Digital). A few days ago, I found out that we were going to get a mockup S2 body and the four CS lenses for the event. So, I thought with all the unanswered questions on size and weight that I’d take the opportunity to measure, weigh, and photograph the S2 against its closest competitors.

First, full disclosure: The S2 I had was just a chassis and shell with no internal components. No shutter, no mirror, no electronics (except for LCD assembly), no battery, no motors. Two of the lenses, the 70mm CS and 180mm APO CS were real, functional lenses, but without leaf shutters. The other two lenses, the 35mm CS and 120mm APO Macro CS were mockups with only the front element in place.

The only cameras I had easily on-hand for comparison was a Mamiya 645AFD with a film back and a Nikon D3x. I also had some Hasselblad HC lenses, the HC 4/120 Macro and HC 4/210 that could be used for lens size comparisons.

The S2 body measures 16cm wide at the base and tapers a bit towards the top, measuring 14cm from strap lug to strap lug. The body is 12cm tall and 7cm deep from lens mount to eye-cup. The lens mount diameter is a whopping 80mm.

Starting off, here are side-by-side shots with a Nikon D3x. It is actually pretty amazing that the S2 is smaller in size than a FF 35mm DSLR. The Leica is no thicker than the Nikon, but one look at the lens mount and corresponding mirror box shows just how much larger the S2 sensor is (if there was a sensor in my mockup). Also, both the D3x and the S2 weigh the same at 1.3kg (the S2 mockup chassis and outer shell only weigh 740g).

Here are some side-by-side shots with the Mamiya 645AFD. I didn’t have a Phase One back for my shots, but a digital back is roughly the same dimensions as the 120/220 back that is mounted on the camera.

The Leica 70mm f/2.5 lens is a lot larger than the Mamiya 80mm f/2.8. The Mamiya lens feels very much like a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF, in other words, like plastic at 298g. The 70mm CS weighs almost three times more at 782g, measuring 10cm long and 89mm in diameter.

I’m trying to reconcile why the Leica lenses are so much larger and heavier than the Mamiya 645AF lenses. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (besides any imaging performance differences):

  • Internal focusing – The Leica lenses don’t change their size during focusing. The Mamiya lenses do.

  • Fully weather sealed – The Leica lenses are completely sealed against dust and water. The Mamiya lenses are not.

  • Integrated high-torque focus motor – The Leica lenses have internal focus motors. The Mamiyas are driven through the body like old Nikkor lenses. This is noisier and slower for focusing, especially for larger and heavier lens designs.

  • All metal construction – The Leica lenses are all aluminum and brass construction. The Mamiyas use a fair amount of plastic.

  • High refractive and exotic glass – Leica is using exotic formulations of optical glass. This kind of glass is significantly denser than “regular” optical glass.

  • Central shutter mechanism – The Leica lenses have optional leaf shutters at the center of the lens. Mamiya doesn’t currently offer any leaf-shutter lenses.

  • Closer minimum focus distance – The 70mm Leica lens focuses closer than the 80mm AF lens.

I think the Hasselblad HC lenses make for much better head-to-head comparison. They are all metal, have leaf shutters and internal focus motors.

Here are some shots of the 120mm f/2.5 APO Macro CS vs. the HC 4/120 Macro. In this case, the Leica is considerably smaller, especially considering the fact that the Leica is 1.3 stops faster in the same focal length. The 120mm is 13.5cm long and 87mm in diameter. It takes a 72mm filter. I didn’t bother putting it on the scale as it is just a mockup.

Next are some shots of the 180mm f/3.5 APO CS vs. the HC 4/210. Here, both lenses are about the same size. The Leica lens is slightly more compact at 15.5 cm long, 85mm in diameter, and weighing 1.3kg. This lens also uses a 72mm filter size.

The last lens is the 35mm f/2.5 CS (but certainly not least if it performs as well as the MTFs say). Again no point in weighing the mockup. It measures 12.5cm long, 89mm in diameter and takes an 82mm filter.

Just for kicks I wanted to see if the complete S system would fit in my Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home. I used to carry around the R9 with DMR and five lenses in this bag. So, how did it work out? Surprisingly, everything fit with just enough space left over for an SF 58 flash. I’m not sure how comfortable it would be to carry around, but it did fit. I’d be more inclined to use either a roller bag for studio work or a backpack for field work. Or, use the 30-90 zoom and carry either the 120 Macro or 180 as a second lens. This would be far more manageable, especially if you didn’t require leaf shutter capability.

I hope my measurements and side-by-side shots can settle some of the misconceptions regarding the size of the S2. The body size is indeed equivalent to a full-frame 24x36mm DSLR. The lenses are comparable in size to Hasselblad HC lenses, but the S lenses offer faster apertures across almost the entire range. If I can gather more specs on the other lenses, I will post an update.

Finally, I have to admit that handling the S2 and lenses yesterday made me even more impatient for September. Just a few more months now….

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At 3:19 PM, Anonymous BJNY said...

Thank you again for informative post, David.

I'd be curious to see side-by-side of Mamiya 645 mount and Leica S-mount, please.

At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Nick said...

Impressive looking Leica. Too bad it will be overly complicated, over engineered, unreliable, over expensive typical German junk.

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Germans were never making junk, ... Nick, go home!
LEICA is the most genuine Company that I know off.
P. S. Hope the S2 shall be compatible with R line lenses!?
Cheerz, TVS.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should compare the S2 _with_ grip with the other cameras!

Pro´s always work with battery grips!

I hope the S2 will work well fromm the beginning...

At 5:15 PM, Blogger Doug Dolde said...

What is the difference between the CS and non CS lenses?

At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The S2 is just plain ugly, in my opinion. Not that it matters much (if you need it and can afford it) - I simply don't understand why they can't design a better looking body.

At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Nikon is a hell of a lot uglier

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the nikon looks like a real camera, and the s2 looks like a prototype from the future. the lines are so clean, and the top display is very sexy too. cant believe thats actual how the cam will look like.

we would be pretty far behind without german engineering mr wiseguy :)


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