Home Features The Leica prototype that could fetch two million

The Leica prototype that could fetch two million


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.

Images courtesy of Leitz Auction

Read more from William Fagan on Macfilos

There is an interesting Leica Forum thread on this camera which you can find here.


  1. We can all be pedantic, David, but the actual monetary value of the camera is what someone is prepared to pay for it. The real value, historic and otherwise, is, of course, priceless. Happy now?


    • (shrugs) ..No, I’m not bothered either way, William. What I was pointing out is that “..the auction on June 13 will determine the actual COST of the camera”. The value is entirely subjective.

  2. I’m looking forward to watching the bidding via ‘Live Auctioneers’. Not sure exactly how the sale will be conducted in view of auction room social distancing but it promises to be a very exciting occasion. Telephone and online bids from all over the world will be competing against room bids and pre-sale bids. The camera is of such importance that more than a few collectors and collectors’ agents will likely be competing against each other. If past sales are anything to go by there could be some surprise ‘in the last seconds’ bids … and when the hammer finally comes down the applause will commence. If you want to follow the bidding you’ll have to register with ‘Live Auctioneers’ … https://www.liveauctioneers.com/en-gb/ There is no obligation to bid and it’s a very useful resource for researching past camera and photographic print sales.

    • You are right Dunk. There is an article in the current issue of LFI magazine, available online only, to further whet the appetite. I am waiting on the catalogue to come out. I have had a bid in on an item or two in most recent auctions from this source, but, with the world in the state it is in, I might take a raincheck, as the Yanks say, this time around. Needless to say, I won’t be bidding on this item.



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