The World’s Most Expensive Camera? Vintage Leica Sells for Nearly $3M


posted Monday, May 14, 2012 at 8:45 AM EDT

Leica-auction-logoAnd the winner for the title of "world's most expensive camera" goes to…Leica. A 1923 Leica Series-0 camera was sold for a record 2,160,000 euros (nearly $2.79 million dollars) at an auction in Vienna, Austria this past Saturday, turning the heads of photo gear collectors around the world.

The 1923 Leica Series-0 camera is one of only 25 prototypes produced to test the 35mm film market. It is believed to be one of only 12 of these cameras known to still exist. A test unit, the sole main identification on this black bodied camera is the word "Germany," engraved on its top deck, next to its optical glass viewfinder.

There is a serial number on the camera as well, “no.116,” which since Leica began numbering the 0-Series at 100, means this is the 16th camera of the 25 made. Fitted with a collapsible 50mm F3.5 Anastigmatic lens, this rare camera was finally won by an anonymous bidder after a furious bidding battle.

(This isn't the only news Leica made in the past week. Last Thursday, the company announced three new cameras, six lenses and more.)

The auction was held at the WestLicht Photographica Auction in Vienna. In a statement by WestLicht after the sale, the auction house said: "Until quite recently it would have been unthinkable that a camera could fetch a price in excess of one million euros. In recent years there has been an enormous increase in the price of such rarities.”

Leica-auction-1This was WestLicht’s 4th auction of vintage photographic equipment and even the auction house was surprised by the sale. They had originally believed the camera would sell for between 600,000 and 800,000 euros (roughly $750,000-105,000). The auction itself started out slowly but after crossing the one million euro mark, the action intensified as bids came in by telephone, the Internet and from buyers in the auction room itself.

You can see a video of the Leica camera auction here.

Leica collecting has gone from what was an almost cult activity by a few Leicaphiles to what is today a major investment opportunity for wealthy collectors. This upsurge in Leica brand collecting gives the rest of us all the more reason to spend a Sunday going to garage and estate sales looking for these rare beauties or one of its sisters.