In 1996, Leica introduced their first in-house digital camera: the Leica S1 was in fact a stationary scanner camera, used predominantly in the field of reprographics.
The camera featured a triple-linear colour CCD chip containing 5140 x 5140 pixels, which moved across the image plane recording it line-by-line. Unlike chip-based cameras, the S1 operated without Matrix interpolation. Instead, it was able to capture every picture element in red, green and blue – with the result that almost 79 million pieces of information were collated into a 26 MP image with breathtaking colour reproduction. The exposure time for a full scan however was 185 seconds.
A lens adaptor enabled the S1 to be used with a variety of small format lenses such as Leica R and M lenses, Nikon, Contax and Canon FD, as well as a number of medium format (Hasselblad and Pentax) and large format lenses. As the camera worked by transferring the image onto a computer, it came with a PCI plugin card and specifically designed software.
From 1996 to 2001, Leica produced three versions of the camera – the S1 Pro, S1 Alpha and S1 High Speed. Around 160 models were manufactured in total, and were used for the purposes of museum photography, scientific photography, reproduction and documentation.