The Leica S2 is better than the Nikon D800E … but only because the 35/2.5 Summarit-S lens is incredible, certainly better than the Zeiss ZF.2 2/28 Distagon used in the test at the mingthein blog.
So lets take a look at the cost differences, shall we?
The Leica S2 is $22,000 and the D800E is a small amount over $3,000 whereas the Zeiss with Nikon F AI mount is just over $1,800 and I see a Summarit on eBay now (it’ll be gone soon) for $8,500.
Lets be clear; that’s comparing a set up costing over $30,000 with one costing about $5,000.
No wonder the article at Mingthein uses the word unfair in its title and I agree that it is. Now lets turn this around – the Nikon is the world of 35mm with all its consumer pressures, compromises, and portability as baggage, whereas the Leica is a no compromise, quality-only system and that is reflected in the price. Of course, if you need the quality provided by the Leica on a paid shoot, then the cost is not an issue for you.
For those of us that can’t quite see the value in spending that kind of money on a Leica set up (or even renting it for a day or two), the Nikon offers incredible value for money, even if as Mingthein points out, all but the very best lens in the Nikon range are only going to hold back and prevent the D800/800E from really delivering its best.
It does seem however that for those of us who shoot using 35mm size formats, can finally buy systems at the point where they are at the technical limits of that format and also now the digital camera can also really surpass and not just equal or sneak a little above 35mm film. I bet its not the first time you have heard or read that, even if only a relatively few of us will actually produce results that come close to these lofty heights with the gear available today, especially if you want that extra bit of Leica quality.
With all that in mind, come back in 3 or perhaps 5 years time. I predict we’ll be saying the same thing about smaller formats and I suspect the full frame 35mm dSLR will be seriously challenged by them…