The First Leica Digital Camera

The first digital camera made by Leica was a scanning camera with an image resolution of 5140 x 5140 pixels.


Due to the relatively long scanning times, the camera was conceived for making particularly high-quality reproductions in archives or museums or still-life photography in studios. That is why it has huge hand grips by its sides which allowed to make scanning even when the camera is not mounted.

The S1 could be used with Leica R- and M-Lenses and allowed third-party lenses to be mounted with adapters.

It had 26MP 36×36 mm sensor with 11-stops dynamic range.

Only 160 cameras were made and sold mostly to museums and research institutions.

A short comment from back then:
“The product manager for the S1 showed the camera and images to the agency I was working for in 1997ish. An image took 30 seconds to take (iirc) but the quality was unparalleled. He showed pictures from his hotel room in Lisbon and we were able to read the sign on a satellite dish a few hundred meters away.

Also when shooting with Leica lenses, the images were razor-sharp (by 1990s definition), while Nikon or Canon lenses’ loss of sharpness was visible in at least one R/G/B channel in Photoshop.

But these were dark days for Leica, when they did not know where to move and couldn’t get their products to market.”