Leica S Typ-007 (S-007)

August 28, 2015  |  Review

For the record my priorities may be different from your own. What I touch on in this “review” is important to me and the way I shoot. It may or may not be significant for your style of shooting. I’m not going to write about all the little buttons and functions. Just the stuff that was on my mind, the stuff that matters to me and affects my ability to work fluidly with the camera.

Overall responsiveness – The first thing I noticed. The shutter is snappy, and the blackout time is quick and consistent. It doesn’t hesitate it just fires and is ready for the next shot. I have the camera set to MF mode. I focus with the back button. I have tried the continuous shooting mode (which was VERY FAST), but ended up using single shot mode. The image preview time is slower than I’d have liked, though twice as fast as with the S-006. Zooming in and out for 100% previews is as fast as one would need. There is a quick startup/wakeup delay. Nothing that bothers me if I pre-press the shutter before lifting the camera up to my eye. Something I do with the M-P and S-006 out of habit. For those of you who have had the M9 and moved up to the M240, it’s much the same feeling speed wise. Though more like the M-P (which I find faster than the M240) but with a snappier shutter.

S007-1
S007-3

AF speed – Tricky to accurately explain. It’s almost 3x faster than the S-006. The AF performance is close to most mirrorless cameras in speed. Here’s the tricky part, it seems as if the AF is to quick! Sometimes it misses the mark causing it hunt back and forth a bit before it locks on. Thus the S-006 ends up being faster. Slow and steady, but doesn’t miss it’s mark. This doesn’t happen in anything but low or tricky light. And it happened FAR less with the 35S than with the 100S. My 100S upgraded itself the second I plugged it into the S-007, and the 100S works well on my S-006 (so it’s not the lens). Leica isn’t alone, other AF systems from the big manufactures suffer this as well.
I also tested the camera in backlit situations, locking focus more consistently than most mirrorless bodies. On par with the S-006 in this respect (yes the S-006 backlit AF is better than the Sony mirrorless cameras).
Keeping in mind the lenses are big, elements heavy, spaced apart. Naturally the AF will be considerably slower than other systems moving from min to infinite focus. In real world use I find my lens not having to travel so far between shots. But it’s good to note the limitations. Though the AF seems to move the lens faster even in these situations (more power going to the motor). Improved yes, but AF is still not fast enough to consistently nail focus on subjects moving towards the camera.

S007-2

Colors – Highly subjective. Either you like the colors or you don’t. In my case I liked the M9 colors, but the short comings were enough to make me want to upgrade to the M240. Using the M240 for over two years I’ve grown accustom to the colors. Now I can’t get along with any other system. The S-006 was the first camera in a long time that I was blown away by, color wise. And due to the fact that it was semi-medium format, I was willing to put up with the short comings. Does the S-006 remind me of the M9? Yes, but not exactly. Perhaps due to the lenses, or maybe the profile Leica created for the S-006. And the DR of medium format plus higher pixel count. Somethings different. I mention all that because initially I thought that the M240 and the S-007 would share the same color profile. It does, and it doesn’t. I feel the S-007 has more flexibility in the DNG files, and the skin tones tend to be easier to “correct” (make appealing to myself). Still, there isn’t anything wrong with the M240 skin tones (in fact, I’m happy with them, and I think the M9/M240 color debate was blown WAY out of proportion). Though I do find that the M240 tends to lean a little to the yellow/green tint. And getting just the right amount of blues and reds into the skin tone can be difficult in certain lighting conditions. To be fair, good colors in general on an M9 in tricky lighting conditions can be difficult. So it’s a trade off. I feel the S-007 “suffers” from the same problem as the M240, but it’s a LOT easier to coax M9 skin tones out of the S-007.
Truthfully the S-007 colors are great. Familiar coming from the M240 as well as the S-006. One issue, the JPGs aren’t great (a similar complaint I have with my M240). It’s not important for me, but to some it might be. Maybe I should have fiddled more with the JPG settings and tried harder for a more appealing WB. But after quite a bit of fiddling, I gave up and went back to shooting. After all, I’m happy with how easy it is to edit the DNG files to my taste, and that’s all that really counts.

S007-4

ISO – I love using strobes, but I do a LOT of natural light shooting. It seems I can never have clean enough ISO. I know ambient light can get ugly, but at least noise is one less worry. To shoot 3200 ISO and still be happy with the files, that’s a good feeling. The S-007 delivers on that good feeling. I will add there’s a catch. I find that the shadows tend to shift green when shooting at or above 3200 ISO. This is something that can be corrected easily enough and something that’ll probably be fixed in a firmware update, or through Adobe’s LR profiles. Problematic for the JPG files, unfortunately. To clarify it’s similar to an M240 at ISO 200 pushed 4 stops in LR. I’m not bothered by it. By the time I’m using 3200 ISO, light is crappy anyway, so I’m doing a lot to salvage the photo. ISO 800 is great, and 1600 ISO is perfectly useable for most situations. I’m also happy with 3200 ISO if I tweak the colors a bit in LR. A clear 2 stop – debatably 3 stop advantage over the S-006.

S007-5

Odd Quirks – Leica’s constant reinvention of the wheel. In this case literally the shutter wheel… It doesn’t have numbers on it. The wheel will spin and spin and digitally the shutter will change. A quick look at the shutter dial will tell you nothing. No more shutter by feel. And Germany’s reason, now you use the shutter dial to zoom in and out of your images. Genius right? No, it was fine before. All I want to do is check sharpness at 100% and be done with it, why zoom in stages? I’d have much preferred to have the hard stops built into the dial. Personal preference though, as I know some of you will love/enjoy this feature.. It’s so DSLR.
I was going to write a few more minor cons and some pros. But really, it’s nitpicking, and honestly I love the simplistic controls. Another reviewer mentioned his 645Z has 26 buttons. Screw that, I hate buttons. I really only need access to the exposure triangle and I’m set. Though WB and other features are nice to have at your finger tips (and the 4 buttons on the back, and 1 on the front are still customisable, which allows me to set a few other things that are nice to have at your finger tips). No button labels, fine with me. I get use to gadgets very quickly (video game generation). And owning a S-006 helped.

S007-9

Video – So not important to me. I did test it out. Jello/rolling shutter.. Bad both in HD and 4K. The video I did take was really crisp and beautiful for the 3 seconds I could hold the camera still with my wife in sharp focus.. After that you need to have a full production team backing you. My videos were mostly a shaky mess :D AMAZING though, I could see them being really beautiful if done well. These S-lenses seem stellar for video. But I still think the 50APO is the best video lens I’ve ever had the satisfaction of using for still photography :D

S007-10

Would I recommend this camera?
YEP.

If you were thinking of upgrading from the S-006 to the S-007 would I recommend you do so?
Honestly, depends on your needs. The S-006 is still amazing, it didn’t get worse just because the S-007 came along. Actually it got better if you consider the price of them now. Side by side the S-007 feels a LOT more like a DSLR than the S-006 does. In my opinion, I’d say that the S-007 is a DSLR, no question. I’ll be calling it that from now on. The DSLR with the best image quality in the world. The S-006 is the MFDCB that has the best image quality in the world – and sorta feels like a DSLR.

S007-8

S007-7

S007-6

S007-11

S007-12

All images in the S-007 Review were taken with the 100mm Summicron-S @ f/2 (the best way to torture test the AF system).

Best,
Adam