Thursday, 25 August 2011

POV: A Leica S2 As A Travel Camera?

A recent post on The Luminous Landscape seems to have prompted my good friend Eric Beecroft to suggest I should get one. Perhaps made half seriously half jokingly...but his suggestion got me thinking and now prompted this POV.

I tend to distill all such suggestions by using a return on investment yardstick. Pretty basic, huh? According to B&H, the price of the S2 is $23,000 (the more posh S2-P is $28,000), while a Leica Summarit-S 35 mm f/2.5 ASPH Lens is $6,500 and a Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 ASPH Lens is $5,000. The grand total for this hardware is $34,500...excluding tax.

So what do I get for a capital investment of over $35,000? Well, The Leica S2 is said to provide imaging quality of digital medium-format, and create 37.5 megapixel files. It produces 72.5 MB RAW or 106.6 MB JPG files, which open to images over 16 x 24" at 300 dpi.

There's no question that the Leica S2 is a phenomenal camera, but in my view its price point and technical specifications are aimed at commercial photographers, not travel photographers. The return on an investment of that magnitude for travel photographers is tough to justify (unless they're one of the celebrity travel photographers), especially in the current industry doldrums.

The most expensive Canon is the EOS-1Ds Mark III SLR Digital Camera with a price tag of ("only") $7,000 and it provides 21.1-megapixel full-frame images. The more modest Canon 5D Mark II, and a favorite of travel photographers, has a comparative paltry price tag of $2,500...half the price of the Leica Summarit-S 70mm lens mentioned above.

"the computer sez no"

A travel photographer would need to sell 10 photographs at $250 each to recoup the investment in a Mark II, and almost a 100 photographs just to recoup the investment in the Leica S2. Would the S2's image quality do that for me?

Simplistic? Sure...there are many other tangible and intangible factors that also enter in this logic. That being said, this is more or less how CFOs and CEOs decide on capital expenditures.

So in reply to Eric's suggestion: "the computer sez no", as the famous line in Little Britain* goes.

* A classic British comedy tv series.