Leica S-E (Typ 006) seven years later
The camera that just keeps impressing me with stunning results
17 Photos • 10 November 2022
Is it worth it in 2022?Various readers via email
My thoughts on the Leica S (Typ 006) in 2022
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably read my other articles about the Leica S system. If you have not, I suggest doing so.
Now and then I get emails from people who ask me: “Is the S (Typ 006) still worth it in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 etc.” I have always had a hard time answering. My opinion on this is “Yes!” and “No!” which basically means “Maybe?”.
The Leica S (Typ 006) is basically just a Leica S2 with some refinements, but they are the refinements that the S2 should have had to begin with, in my opinion.
The camera even today, in 2022 is a joy to use, however. And delivers impressive results even today. When using modern CMOS sensors from more recent years, you do have to get used to the more limited dynamic range of the Leica S2 or Leica S (Typ 006) CCD sensors. But when you get it right, the results are, of course: equally good as back in 2009 when the S2 came out. Simply extraordinary. For me the files are stunning, and I’m very used to how the camera behaves and renders in different lighting situations. So in that sense, yes it is still worth it. And the Leica S lenses especially are second to none, literally.
On the other hand, the camera S2 is 13 years old now, and the S (Typ 006) is about 10 years old this year. I’d not often suggest people buy a digital camera this old, especially if it is a new system and you need to buy lenses and accessories for the camera as well. The camera system by now is affordable on the second-hand market, and lenses can be found for a reasonable price as well. But the initial investment will still be steep, especially taking into account the age of the equipment you will be buying.
Things to look out for when buying second hand
Leica S2 and S (Typ 006) have a CCD sensor which is prone to corrosion, just like the Leica M9.
Leica can still replace the sensor, as far as I’m aware. Even today. Sooner or later they will run out, however. And I’m not sure what the price of this repair will set you back. So make sure, before you buy the Leica S2, or S (Typ 006) on the second-hand market that the sensor has been replaced. You can easily reach out to Leica with the serial number, and they can give you details of the service the camera has received in its life.
Alternatively, but I cannot 100% confirm this: earlier sensors had visibly written on the perimeter of the CCD “KODAK” while the replacement sensors with the new cover glass apparently did not. My camera has no text, which makes me believe it’s the replacement type that won’t corrode.
I reached out to Leica recently to ask about my Leica S-E (Typ 006) and its sensor. They could confirm my sensor was replaced in 2016, but they could not confirm if it was the newer or older type that they replaced it with in my body. I remember I sent my camera for repair back then, but there was nothing wrong with my sensor, as far as I was aware. They did however replace the sensor, this makes me believe they did the replacement proactively. But there is no way for me to be sure without my camera making a trip to Germany where Leica can read out the camera with a special device to figure out what sensor my camera contains. There is no ‘button dance’ to figure this out, like on the Leica M9.
Batteries for the Leica S2 and S (Typ 006) are old by now and might not hold the charge they once did. It might be worth buying a brand new Leica BP-PRO1 battery destined for the Leica S (Typ 007). These are backwards compatible with the S2 and S (Typ 006). Some issues with old batteries can arise more heavily during the colder months of the year. When the batteries are old and get cold they can no longer deliver the proper voltage to the camera, often resulting in write errors to the memory card, and or split sensor differences. The Leica S2 and S (Typ 006) have a sensor that is split in half, and you then see a difference between one side of the stack and the other. From my experience, this is always related to using too cold or too old batteries. Or a combination of the two.
When buying second-hand Leica S lenses, it is essential to ensure the autofocus motor/system has been replaced with the non-failing version. Back in 2015 Leica acknowledged that some lenses could have failing auto-focus motors. This issue started appearing more and more when Leica released a firmware update for Leica S cameras which doubled the autofocus speed. Probably putting the AF motors in overdrive. Leica S lenses were dropping dead all around, and Leica offered a free replacement program. If your lens however still has the original AF motor installed, it will most likely fail at one point. The goodwill arrangement from Leica is however over, and if the lens fails you’ll probably end up paying for the repair yourself. Just note the serial number and reach out to Leica to request if it has had its Autofocus motor replaced. If this has been done after 2017 then for sure, it’s an upgraded, non-failing motor. If the repair has been done before 2017, it is most likely just the same motor that the lens came with at first. So again prone to failure.
Recommended starter set
A Leica S2, S (Typ 006), or S-E (Typ 006) together with a Summarit-S 70mm ASPH. Is the equivalent of buying a small format camera with a 50mm lens. Me personally I always like that as a starter set for any camera system. The Summarit-S 70mm ASPH. is by far the most sold lens in the Leica S lens portfolio for this reason and often the cheapest to be found on the second-hand market. It is versatile and extremely high performant, both at infinity and at its closest focusing range of a mere 0.5 meters. Read more about the lens itself in my other article: Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2,5 ASPH. CS
Since the camera does not operate with live view, one good and fully charged battery can last you many exposures. I’ve never needed a second battery on the same day of shooting with the S-E (Typ 006).
I use my Leica S-E (Typ 006) with just an SD card. The camera cannot write DNG files to CF and SD cards at the same time, it can only write DNG files to CF and JPEGs to SD when both cards are inserted at the same time. When inserting just an SD card it can of course write DNG files to the SD card, and JPEGs at the same time as well when wanted.
In short: Get yourself a nice body, with a replaced sensor. Get yourself a Summarit-S 70mm ASPH. lens with a replaced focus motor. Get yourself a fresh, preferably brand new battery. Get a good SD or CF card. When you find all of the above, you’re gonna have many more years of photographic pleasure from the Leica S system. And if you ever decide to upgrade to the Leica S (Typ 007) or S3 you already have a fantastic lens to go with it.
Setting your expectations
The Leica S system behaves quite a lot like many small format aka full frame SLRs you may have used. When you put the Leica S next to a Canon 5D or Nikon D800 you’ll notice the size difference isn’t that big about 5-10%. But the sensor and viewfinder in the Leica S are, actually more than 50% larger.
You will get the hang of the Leica S but the learning curve is steep and any user error will be magnified and easily visible on your results. The camera does it in a laughing way, where u want to blame the camera. But really, it’s always you. The autofocus, is like on may SLRs except there is only one autofocus cross point, and that’s the exact center of the viewfinder. You cannot move this one around. It is however extremely accurate. When you focus and recompose and somehow the focus isn’t right, its you. Not the camera. Being 1 millimetre off, will show. The matte screen however is incredibly bright and large, and it’s easy to manually focus as well.
Sensor sensitivity settings I suggest to use up to ISO 400, ISO 800 works fine when you have good light. Don’t try to use ISO 800 and also underexpose the image, your exposure has to be spot on. The preview on the back of the camera will look terrible, but once imported into your RAW editing suite it’s perfectly usable.
The Leica S lenses, with a pretty wide maximum aperture for medium format lenses, and thus razor-thin depth of field available to the photographer, are amazing. But also challenging to work with at times. You often have to stop down far, think f/8 or f/16 just to get a bit of depth of field large enough to have your whole subject in focus. And thus you’ll be lacking light to make sure you can keep at least two times the focal length as your set shutter speed. When done right, however. The results are, as I’ve said a few times before: stunning.
If you think my photos are nice, then you can clearly see: proof is in the pudding.
Thanks for reading
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