$450,000 for a lens? Zeiss optic used on the moon fetches astronomical price at auction


posted Monday, April 25, 2016 at 1:56 PM EDT

If you thought that paying $13,500 for a space-ready Nikon F3 was a bit out there, then a recent auction sale will blow your mind. A Zeiss lens used to capture nearly 300 photos in outer space has sold at auction for just over $450,000 USD.

The 500mm f/8 Zeiss Tele-Tessar comes in at 12 inches long and includes engraved NASA part numbers. To accommodate the pressurized gloves used with a spacesuit, the lens had special tabs for adjusting focus and aperture. There are numerous Velcro tabs on the lens and it is signed by astronaut David Scott. You can read about the consumer version of this lens in a PDF document on Zeiss' website.

Scott used the lens on the Apollo 15 mission to capture 293 images in total, including images taken on the surface of the moon. The lens was attached to a Hasselblad Electric Data Camera (HDC).

Apollo 15 Hasselblad image from film magazine 89/WW - 500mm EVA-3.
Courtesy of NASA's Project Apollo Archives.

Due to very strict weight limits for trips into outer space, the lens was almost left behind, but Scott was able to convince the team that a reduction in propellant was a worthwhile tradeoff to bring the 500mm lens and a geology rake.

The lens had been in Scott's personal collection since the mission and due to House Resolution 4158, Scott was allowed to sell the artifact.


The lens was sold by RR Auction for $453,281.85 after being estimated to be worth between $400,000 and $600,000 as part of April's Space and Aviation Auction. The Zeiss lens had the highest sale price of any item in the auction by nearly $400,000.

You can see images captured during Apollo 15 in the Project Apollo Archive albums on Flickr.

(Seen via Amateur Photographer