Medium-format cameras are turning to the CMOS sensor for its flexibility, and Leica has followed suit with the S (Typ 007). Damien Demolder puts it to the test
Leica S (Typ 007) review – Performance
This past year, I’ve been struck by the extent of the improvement in image quality that Leica has achieved in its cameras. With the Q, the SL and the S, the company has made a sudden jump into the modern era and is producing thoroughly modern cameras that produce thoroughly excellent images. The resolution of this S will be the first measure that most people focus on, and while the detail that 38 million pixels can render is impressive, for me there are other ways to determine how good a camera’s output is.
The range of tones this camera can record in a single exposure is exceptional, and in my eyes makes the camera desirable on its own. Leica quotes a dynamic range of 15 stops and I have no reason to argue with that. It is normal for modern sensors to be able to reveal their shadow details, but highlights are the tones that suffer burnout and colour shifts. In the files this camera produces, highlights recover nicely and produce natural-looking images from scenes that were full of contrast. I love the way contrast can be moderated to create pictures free from hard shadows and glaring bright bits so we can see the subject without tonal distractions in other areas. The sensor isn’t magic, of course, and blacks and whites do occur in extreme cases, but on most occasions it creates lovely results.
Lifting shadows creates more image noise, as we all know, but Leica has done well to limit the number of dots and artefacts in these areas and in images shot at high ISO settings. Below ISO 800 noise doesn’t give us too many problems, but from ISO 1,600 it becomes a definite part of the image. I don’t mind good-looking grain, and that’s what we get from there until 6,400. Beyond that there be dragons, and I don’t recommend it.
I didn’t have too many occasions to use the 3.5fps drive mode, but can report that it does indeed work and that the camera will go on taking pictures at an inappropriate rate until you are bored. I thought it might slow down when DNG+JPEG was selected but it didn’t.