$19,000 for 64MP? The Leica S3 is out this month… if you can afford it

$19,000 for 64MP? The Leica S3 is out this month… if you can afford it
(Image credit: Leica)

Some 17 months after we last saw it, the Leica S3 has finally been officially released. The long-awaited medium format DSLR boasts a 64-megapixel sensor and uncropped full-width 4K video – but comes with an $18,995 / £16,500 price tag that is more than a little out of whack for that kind of resolution in 2020.

To put the Leica S3's price into context, the Fujifilm GFX 100 (opens in new tab) is $9,995 / £9,499 for 102MP, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C (opens in new tab) is $5,750 / £5,399 for 50MP, and the Fujifilm GFX 50R is currently just $3,499 / £2,999 for 50MP (opens in new tab)

And if you're not fussed about medium format, the full-frame Sony A7R IV is $3,498 / £3,499 for 61MP. So why is Leica so expensive (opens in new tab)? The answer, of course, is because it's a Leica

• Hands on: Leica S3 review (opens in new tab)

The Leica S3 features a unique medium format sensor size and ratio; the proprietary ProFormat sensor is 30 x 45mm with a 3:2 aspect ratio, offering a slightly different shooting proposition to the 44 x 33mm dimensions and 4:3 aspect favored by both Fujifilm and Hasselblad. 

Obviously this means that it has its own lens ecosystem, too, with 16 native Leica optics in the S-mount range – outnumbering both Fujifilm's GF and Hasselblad's XCD first-party offerings.

The Leica S3 is a beautiful camera, and takes beautiful shots, but its tech is somewhat lacking

The Leica S3 is a beautiful camera, and takes beautiful shots, but its tech is somewhat lacking (Image credit: Leica)

This new 64MP sensor produces a claimed 15-stop dynamic range and delivers a maximum ISO of 50,000, which should facilitate shooting even under challenging lighting conditions.

When existing light unworkable, the Leica S3's  central shutter comes into its own. This outpaces the 1/125 sec maximum sync speed of focal plane shutters, capable of flash synchronization all the way up to 1/1000s. 

While the S3 offers full-width cine 4K video, it still uses the motion JPG (MOV) format that most manufacturers have moved away from. It can record C4K at to 24fps and 1080p up to 30fps, and its external recording output is limited to clean 1080p 8-bit 4:2:2 video via HDMI. 

The video is something of a reflection of the Leica S3 as a whole; being a DSLR it is already throwback in its design, but things such as the non-tilt and non-touch LCD screen (carefully encased in Gorilla Glass though it may be) feel very much out of place on a camera at this price point. 

Still, that little red dot makes it all worthwhile for certain users. The Leica S3 is available online and in-store in the UK now for £16,500, while in the US it costs $18,995 and is expected to ship at the end of March (Australian pricing and release to follow).

Pre-order the Leica S3 now at Adorama (USA) (opens in new tab)

Pre-order the Leica S3 now at Park Cameras (UK) (opens in new tab)

Read more: 

Hands on Leica S3 review (opens in new tab)
The best Leica (opens in new tab) cameras in 2020: from classic rangefinders to modern mirrorless
Leica SL2 review (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.