Leica S1 Hi-Speed (© user13867742)

Leica S1 (1996)

The Leica S1 was first shown at Photokina 1996 as a prototype. It was not until late 1997 that the final version was produced and marketed. The oval hoop and the intriguing camera housing were designed by Burkard Kiesel in early 1997 for which he holds a patent. As a special gadget, Leica distributed DIY-posters at the Photokina fair to selected members of the press. The DIY-poster was a sort of blue-print of the camera. The poster read "build the model, buy the original!". Those posters are now extremely rare, especially the ones that weren't cut up :-)

The camera was aimed at studio photographers, pre-press people, museums, medical people for x-ray digitizing and so forth. The camera's oval hoop was designed to give the user a steady grip on the camera. Leica-M and Leica-R lenses could be attached and by using a shift-and-tilt adapter even Hasselblad lenses and many more.It contained an RGB-line sensor with 5.140 x 5.140 pixels resolution.

The Leica S1 could easily be integrated in existing photo studios and recorded images up to 76 megabytes in size. An enormous amount of data back then. Images shot with the camera could be printed up to 17" by 17" canvas size with 300 dpi. "Scanning" an image took 185 seconds. The camera could only be operated by attaching it to a PC using an optical cable and a PCI card.

The camera's production volume were only 1,500 units, the serial numbers range was 2286001 − 2287500. Today the camera is considered a milestone in digital photography but back then not even Leica seemed to believe in it's success and therefore only around 150 units were allegedly sold.

Unknown to most, Leica revamped the S1 in 1998 and released four different versions in total, (where the inital S1 and S1 Alpha could both be upgraded to a S1 Pro version):

S1 (1996, 1997)
MSRP: $21,500
Resolution: 5140 x 5140, 42/48 bit
Sensor speed (ISO): 200 − 600
Dynamic range: 2000 : 1, 11 stops
Scanning time: 185 seconds

S1 Alpha (1998)
MSRP: $9,500
Resolution: 2570 x 2570, 42/48 bit
Sensor speed (ISO): 400 − 1200
Dynamic range: 2000 : 1, Dmax 3.3, 11 stops
Scanning time: 75 seconds

S1 Pro (1998)
MSRP: $15,800
Resolution: 5140 x 5140, 42/48 bit
Sensor speed (ISO): 200 − 600
Dynamic range: 2000 : 1, Dmax 3.3, 11 stops
Scanning time: 185 seconds

S1 High Speed (September 1998)
MSRP: $21,200
Resolution: 4000 x 4000, 42/48 bit
Sensor speed (ISO): 200 − 400
Dynamic range: 1000 : 1; Dmax 3.0, 10 stops
Scanning time: 18-20 seconds


  • Brand: Leica
  • Model: S1
  • First mentioned: 1996
  • Marketed: yes in 1997
  • MSRP: $21,500
  • Imager Type: CCD
  • Resolution: up to 5200x5200
  • Internal Storage: -
  • External Storage: external hard disk drive
  • Lens: Leica R and M lenses
  • Shutter: 1s to 1/2,000s
  • Aperture Range: 11 stops
  • LCD screen size: -
  • Size: -
  • Weight: 3600 gr.
  • Remarks: -

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