Leica has outlined plans to launch a ?larger than full-frame? digital camera system – ranking its historic significance on a par with the legendary Leica 1 launched 83 years ago.

Amateur Photographer (AP) has known about the camera for several weeks but adhered to a strict legally-bound agreement concerning its publication until today, 23 September.

Leica S2

The first camera in the new ?S-system? will be the S2, a professional digital SLR that Leica predicts will fill a gaping gap in the market.

The S2 will deploy a 37.5-million-pixel imaging sensor in a body primed to take on the full frame professional DSLR market, as well as high-end medium format digital cameras.

The ?flagship? model will feature a Kodak-made CCD imaging sensor measuring 30x45mm – 56% bigger than a frame of 35mm film.

Though primarily aimed at the fashion and advertising market the firm pointed out that the AF and processing technology may eventually trickle down to enthusiast-level DSLRs.

The S2 will be made at Leica?s base in Solms, Germany and a working prototype is due to be shown at this week?s Photokina show in Cologne, Germany.

The firm claims that the S2 will be smaller than the ?top-end? Nikon and Canon DSLRs – combining the benefits of a medium format camera, with the handling of a digital SLR, while retaining the ?look and feel? of a Leica.

In an interview with AP, Leica said that the project has been in development for two years, long before the dismissal of former chief executive Steven K Lee in February. Lee left the firm following his suggestion that Leica would launch a full-frame upgrade to the M8 digital rangefinder camera.

Describing the S2 as the ?mergence of all professional camera systems? Leica Camera AG product manager Maike Harberts told AP that she is confidant the camera will be ready to go on sale in ?summer 2009?. However, she remained tight-lipped over a likely launch price.

Harberts expects the camera?s chief competitors to include Hasselblad, Phase One and Leaf.

The S2 will house a ?low power? Maestro processor, made by Fujitsu, claimed to be twice as fast as comparable medium format digital backs.

An ?all-weather metal body? will help protect against dust and moisture.

Though technical details are scant Leica says that the S2 will incorporate an ?ultra high precision AF system? and boast a ?faster frame rate than any medium format camera?.

It will be capable of recording DNG, raw and JPEG files.

The S2 will make use of a dual shutter system. The camera will include a focal-plane shutter and an ?in-lens? leaf shutter will aim to make high flash sync speeds possible.

Among the first lenses to be launched will be f/2.5 AF optics.

We understand the range will include 24mm, 70mm,180mm, 30-90mm and 350mm DC lenses.

Leica hopes to have a full lens line-up completed within two years, including a 30mm tilt and shift lens.

? For the full story ? plus editorial comment – look out for AP?s issue dated 4 October

Leiac S2