Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer

Started Sep 23, 2010 | Discussions
stefanforster
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Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
Sep 23, 2010

Hi

Two weeks ago I postet, that Leica sent me to Scotland to test the landscape-skills of new Mediumformat - Leica S2 - and I was there for 8 days. Actually I would now stand at photokina and present my work from Scotland - In the middle of the last week Leica decidet to work with me together at the Photokina 2012 - with a new Wideangel-Lens. This short-term rejection irritated me a little but the fate wanted it like this; From my 8 days in Scotland it was raining 5 days long. And not only common rain. The rain, coupled with strong wind was coming from everywhere and after 10 seconds I was even wetter then a seal So I had only three days left to make outstanding images for Leica - little time.

Medium Format or EOS 1Ds 3 / 5D MkII

The first impression of the Leica was very good - the building quality is amazing. This camera is a tank. Things that are superio to the full frame Canon / Nikon;

  • Dynamic Range of the RAW Files

  • Resolution / Clarity / Sharpness of the images

  • AND ABOVE ALL - the quality of the LEICA Lenses "OUTSTANDING"

Disadvantages of the Leica S2

  • The maindisplay shows only a fraction of the color display of a Canon EOS.

  • The head screen which shows the aperture and shutter speed is unreadable when you're outdoor.

  • The DNG-Format is very big and strangely the amount of informations especially in the light areas is MUCH smaller than that of the CR2 / NEF. So the people who use the graduated filter in Lightroom / Photoshop will be disappointed.

  • The ISO noise is not the best for the size of the sensor

SAMPLE IMAGES

Here you can download 2 DNG Files from the S2. I only added black and matched the color temperature to what the nature showed me. The samples are at the bottom of the page.

http://www.photocube.ch/index.php?leica-s2-samples

Short verdict - Medium Format or Canon 1Ds3

It's funny - the first day's I didn't like the Leica because of the DNG issue. For very hard light situations (there are enough of it in Scotland) I always had to use the Canon. In fact, I'm a wide angle fan. But after accurate View of the Leica Files on my MBPro I startet to love the Image Quality of the 37.5 Mpx Sensor. At the Moment 35mm (28mm on Canon EOS) is far too little wide angle for me, BUT when they come with an 24mm it will be interesting. I would love to develop a Medium Format Canon Camera with the ergonomic and hardware of Canon and the mount of Leica S-System. I really loved the Leica lenses I've never seen a sharpness up to the edge like this. But 48'000 USD for the S2 with 3 lenses is much money. But at lest the lenses are all worth the money. The S2 is a great camera but compared with the newest generation of Canon and Nikon some things are out of date. For a portrait photographer there is nothing better than this on the market. The entire SCOTLAND-Gallery you can find on the following link. http://www.stefanforster.com/photogallery_e.html

Here are some samples of the Leica S2 with the 35mm / 70mm and 180mm

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dsecrieru
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

Stefan,

you did remarkably well with a new camera in only three days of shooting.

The rainy conditions, while annoying, also provide more dramatic skies, colors and lighting.

Seems like a dream camera, in the right hands!

Daniel.

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dsowner
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

Looks good, ideal setup would be have 1d and leica together to see output from same location and conditions.

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Fero

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Jaims
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

Hi Stephan,

wonderful pictures! You did a really good job, specially given the limitation in time (3 days!).

All in all, I feel that it is a great interesting experience, and I'd like to thank you for sharing it with us.

Nice pictures, nice Leica as well

Best
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Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to Jaims, Sep 23, 2010

They are pretty pictures BUT I don't think anyone could tell the difference in prints between these and a 16mp Canon? Or, indeed, scanned Medium Format film.

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ossme
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Can I ...
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

... use it for sports ?

Great pictures! the DR, colors and sharpness are unreal. I'm sure that Large Prints will show a huge difference.

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dsecrieru
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee, Sep 23, 2010

I'm sure someone could, if the print size is big enough.

Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee wrote:

They are pretty pictures BUT I don't think anyone could tell the difference in prints between these and a 16mp Canon? Or, indeed, scanned Medium Format film.

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harold1968
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great pics, thanks for posting (nt)
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

great pics, thanks for posting (nt)

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PhotoKhan
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Stefan, Thank you so much for posting this.
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

Your post shows a consideration and dedication to this forum and its users that really must be commended (...especially since it can be argued that we don't deserve it, sometimes, on account of the narrow-mindedness...). Thank you so much for taking the time and effort doing this.

Considering the time-squeeze vs. weather situation you came out very good. I knew you would, as you're an amazing photographer, one that is really committed to this art form.

The S2 files are really outstanding but I already knew it from the previous sample you provided and from which I got a stunning final product with some judicious PP.

Too bad to hear about the "ergonomic" limitations of the S2. It is probably normal as a "small" brand like Leica must have difficulty finding enough resources to address both the "essential" (technical prowess, image quality) and the "accessory" (interface/peripheral components).

I had some trouble trying to articulate these two ideas:

" Things that are superior to the full frame Canon / Nikon; Dynamic Range of the RAW Files ".

" the amount of informations especially in the light areas is MUCH smaller than that of the CR2 / NEF. "

Can you please elaborate?

Thank you and congratulations on this well succedded endeavor.

(Don't be sad for being "postponed". You'll make a kill whichever year you show up at Photokina...:) )

All the best!

PK

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Rick Knepper
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Really?
In reply to Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee, Sep 23, 2010

Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee wrote:

They are pretty pictures BUT I don't think anyone could tell the difference in prints between these and a 16mp Canon?

I see more than several images even at this tiny size that would require multiple exposure HDR treatment by any Canon camera/lens combo to get close.

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Hans Kruse
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

Hi Stefan,

Thanks very much for posting these. I think as others have said, that you did very well despite the weather conditions, however I think the weather made it possible also to take many of these pictures

Also very interesting to see your opinions about this new camera. Although I'm not a potential customer due to the cost, I do find it interesting to see what quality is out there. I have a 1Ds mkIII that I can live with

I downloaded the DNG files and noticed that they included your adjustments. I don't use DNG files myself so didn't think of this as I thought the pictures looked"stragely" finished as out of camera which I thought at that moment. Then I realised the adjustments made and it was clear. I use Lightroom 3.2 and I tried to adjust the sharpening parameters and found that by using a smaller radius (which is recommended by Jeff Schewe) at 0.8 and amount up to 100 the details improved a lot without artifacts (100 maybe the edge and 90 a little more "safe"). The details slider I kept at 25 and didn't quite like what I saw when increasing that.

Now here are the crops from one of the pictures and there are really a lot of details. The first is a crop using your input sharpening and the second my adjustment. The crops are exported from Lightroom 3.2 with no resizing and output sharpening for screen as standard. These files must make very large prints possible with stunning detail.

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zxaar
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fantabulistic images
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

thanks for sharing.

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Tom Melanson
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Re: Stefan, Thank you so much for posting this.
In reply to PhotoKhan, Sep 23, 2010

The images are stunning and I have no reason to doubt your comments on the Leica. It's just that it's tough to figure out which is the greater influence on the image quality--your talent or the camera

I suspect it's the former.

Thanks for the excellent report.
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Hans Kruse
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

In which way did you judge the dynamic range to be larger with the S2 when you say that there is much less headroom in the highlights. Was it that you could lift shadows more from the S2? Or was is just that the camera curve was different and allowed more visible dynamic range?

I'm curious as dynamic range is often said to be much better for medium format digital backs and when you look at mesurements on DxOMark you can see that the Nikon D3X has a larger DR than the P65+ from Phase One.

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Chez Wimpy
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Re: Stefan, Thank you so much for posting this.
In reply to PhotoKhan, Sep 23, 2010

PhotoKhan wrote:

I had some trouble trying to articulate these two ideas:

" Things that are superior to the full frame Canon / Nikon; Dynamic Range of the RAW Files ".

" the amount of informations especially in the light areas is MUCH smaller than that of the CR2 / NEF. "

My first thought as well... sounds like my G1 compared to my Canon cameras. A lot less headroom (DR) to work with in ACR RAW processing.

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stefanforster
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to Hans Kruse, Sep 23, 2010

@Thank you for your comments!

I want to say now more about the Dynamic Range and the "DNG Background Informations". The first thing you have to know is, that most of the pictures you saw at the beginning of this post has been taken with Tiffen Graduated Filters (0.9 Soft & Hard) - so the Dynamic Range looks amazing because of this.

I took some pictures at the same place with the same focal length with the 1Ds3 and the S2 - but I'm still analizing it. Its very strange; On the first view the DNG Image looks better than the CR2 and NEF - But the bright parts of the image which mostly are bright clouds can be re-created much better with the 1Ds3. It looks like the S2 has got less dynamic range because there are more absollut white places. With the 1Ds3 these absollut white places / the structure of the clouds can be re-created - with the S2 not. But absollute black parts containes with both cameras as much informations. To simplifie this - with the Canon a white area (overexposed area) contains structure and colour informations - with the S2 NOT or very little.

Here the the example - both are RAW (DNG S2 / RAW Canon) (Black level increased slightly)

Example of the Leica S2 (35mm)

Example of the Canon 1Ds MkIII (28mm 16-35 F2.8LII)

The timedifference between this two images was very little! I'm still analysing the other pictures I took with both cameras but It's always the same thing - the Dynamic Range of the Leica don't looks better than the 1Ds3 one. BUT - I'm not a professional comparing cameras so please know that this is the view of an user.

Have a nice day...

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endus
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

As far as I can tell at web res, those look pretty good. The samples that they posted on their website when they announced the camera were just a b s o l u t e g a r b a g e....just the worst possible samples you could post for a new camera. The shots were just bad, but they also had all that wonky color balance and were just stupid to use to demo a new camera. So, it's nice to see some actual pictures from this thing.
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Seaclam
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

Great shots there! The S2 is indeed one sexy beast. Best looking SLR that I've ever seen. That being said, I'm not sure in a general sense that these are demonsterously better than what the 5Dmk2 or 1Dsmk3 could do in a skilled photographer's hands such as yourself. Certainly there will be insane resolution. Gobs and Gobs of it I'm sure, enabling one to print rather large, but I think I see an old law showing through here. The one that says X amount money will get you X amount of horsepower, which in turn will get you 90% there. Adding another 1% in performance will cost you triple. The law of diminishing returns. The images look great, but unless one is printing really huge, it's hard to really tell at this web size. I think it's a foregone conclusion, unless some new crazy sensor technology comes out, that at some point Canon will need to move to Medium Format. One just can't keep cramming more and more MP's onto the same FF 35mm sensor and expect things to hold up without compromises. Of course at that point, if Canon were to go Medium Format, who's going to be able to afford a camera, let alone new lenses in the first place considering how quickly even L lens prices have moved up into the stratosphere recently.

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Hans Kruse
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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to stefanforster, Sep 23, 2010

stefanforster wrote:

@Thank you for your comments!

I want to say now more about the Dynamic Range and the "DNG Background Informations". The first thing you have to know is, that most of the pictures you saw at the beginning of this post has been taken with Tiffen Graduated Filters (0.9 Soft & Hard) - so the Dynamic Range looks amazing because of this.

I took some pictures at the same place with the same focal length with the 1Ds3 and the S2 - but I'm still analizing it. Its very strange; On the first view the DNG Image looks better than the CR2 and NEF - But the bright parts of the image which mostly are bright clouds can be re-created much better with the 1Ds3. It looks like the S2 has got less dynamic range because there are more absollut white places. With the 1Ds3 these absollut white places / the structure of the clouds can be re-created - with the S2 not. But absollute black parts containes with both cameras as much informations. To simplifie this - with the Canon a white area (overexposed area) contains structure and colour informations - with the S2 NOT or very little.

Isn't it also a question about how the exposure was done on both cameras. IN my eyes the S2 picture looks a little brighter in exposure, but the grass looks darker and the hills on the other side of the water looks darker on the Canon. One think I always do when I import into Lightroom is to use a preset that sets blacks to zero to avoid clipping as in landscapes like the one you are showing there is always black clipping at the default value of 5. I then in the adjustment often increase the blacks level to clipping and then adjust with fill light to make a pleasing rendering of the lower tonal values. Btw. have you calibrated you 1Ds mkIII? If not I would recommend you to do that using either the DNG profile editor or the Xrite Colorchecker Passport software. Even though I change a lot in post processing, I find it easier to work from better colors in the first place.

Having said all that your pictures are not missing anything in my eyes

The timedifference between this two images was very little! I'm still analysing the other pictures I took with both cameras but It's always the same thing - the Dynamic Range of the Leica don't looks better than the 1Ds3 one. BUT - I'm not a professional comparing cameras so please know that this is the view of an user.

I think that dynamic range often gets mixed up with camera profiles that gives more or less roll off of high lights and not blocked shadows. E.g. the faithful profile in Lightroom for Canon gives a roll off of highlights that reveals more structure in clouds right at import, but not necessarily a good profile to use. Also setting blacks to zero will avoid black clipping altogether. The DNG profile editor also allows you to create a custom profile that has different characteristics og treating shadows and highlights. I'm not a professional in evaluating dynamic range either

Have a nice day...

You too, will you get a cheap S2 for your work?

Btw. I wonder if you have any comments on the sharpening I posted about?

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Re: Leica S2 verdict and samples from a 1Ds3 photographer
In reply to Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee, Sep 23, 2010

Gearoid: You think too small! Or you need new glasses.
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