Is there no end to rare Leica price inflation? The last two world record prices for a camera were set in 2012 and 2018 at the Westlicht (now Leitz) Auction by original examples of the Leica O-Series camera.
Both were sold for in excess of two million euros (including premium). Now comes the news that a prototype of this camera from about 1921 is coming up for auction in June of this year at the Leitz Photographica Auction in Wetzlar.
This camera was previously seen in the book, Leica a History, illustrating every model and accessory by Paul-Henry van Hasbroeck, but not a lot is known about it. There is a similar, but not identical, prototype owned by Theo Kisselbach, a former Leica/Leitz employee, which was the subject of a book called Barnack’s First Leica (Barnacks erste Leica).
This book, which was written by Kisselbach’s son, Hans-Günter, features excellent photos actually taken by the camera. This is somewhat unusual for such a rare camera and, somehow, I doubt if the one, currently up for auction, will ever be used to take photos in public. I cannot imagine what it would take to insure it before it went out on the street.
It seems that this camera was used for test purposes for several years and was modified and reached its final form around 1938. The camera features a very early Anastigmat 50 mm f/3.5 lens which was designed by Max Berek. This lens was later developed to become the 50 mm Elmar, which was the lens that ‘made Leica’.
I have no idea who owns this camera, but I think it would be unlikely that Leica AG would sell the camera if it still owned it, such is its historical importance. It seems almost obscene to be discussing a camera of such value in the present state of the world. Only the auction on June 13 will determine the actual value of the camera.