Part I: Cameras and related items
It is that time of year again. The bi-annual Leitz Auction takes place on Saturday, 26th November, at 11 am Central European Time in Vienna. This time the auction includes both cameras and photographs, and this first article is devoted to the cameras and related items. A separate article will cover the photographs.
The chosen lots are not necessarily the more important or expensive items in either category. They are simply the ones that catch my eye or have interesting stories attached to them.
All the images in this are provided by Leitz Photographica Auction and are used here on a not-for-profit basis for illustrative purposes only.
Two Ernsts and an Oskar
This unusual lot consists of vintage reproductions of two paintings of Ernst Leitz I (by Georg Tronnier in 1917) and Ernst Leitz II (by Fritz Reusing 1924) together with a reproduction of an image (painted in 1931 by K Alexander, the nephew of Oskar Barnack’s wife) of the Barnack family farmhouse, the birthplace of Oskar. It is this last item that caught my eye. A sepia reproduction of the image appeared in the papers accompanying No 105, the Leica 0 Series camera which sold in June for a world record price of €14.4 million. I must assume that the reproduction came to Jim Forsyth from Conrad Barnack, son of Oskar when he sold No 105 to him.
Item No 1 Start Price €600 Estimate €1,200- 1,400
Elmax has left the building
Here is a nice set which includes a Leica I model A from 1925 with a Leitz Elmax lens, an early Etrin case ( I have one from 1926 with a clasp like this), FILCA cassettes and holder and a FODIS rangefinder. There are a number of legends about the Elmax, which only appeared on just over 700 I Model A cameras before being replaced by the Elmar.
The first is that the change in name occurred because Ernemann had a lens called the Ermax already. The second is that there was a change in glass supplier from Goertz to Schott. The third is that this coincided with the change from a five-element design, which had commenced with the earlier Anastigmat, to a simpler to make, but just as effective, four-element design for the Elmar.
It is also said that some of the very early Elmars carried the same five-element optical design as the Elmax, as well as the possibility that some Elmax lenses were actually four-element designs intended for the Elmar, the latter tale being more favoured these days. Confused? Angels on the head of a pin have nothing on early Leica lore, and I don’t have any definitive answers. The rarity is what will mainly concern bidders with this item.
Item No 7 Start Price €7,000 Estimate €14,000 -16,000
One-off one shot
The existence of this one-off item not only surprised me but also impressed me with the quality of the construction work. This is a I Model A from 1930, which has been modified with a high degree of skill and craftsmanship to produce 24x36mm images on 4.5×7 cm plates. Why? I’m only speculating, but perhaps this was to produce glass plates for projection purposes. Other suggestions would be most welcome. The camera has a Compur rim set shutter, probably on an Elmar-type lens, as with the Compur B items. It is speculated that this was either a prototype or a special order item for a client. The workmanship is so good that I feel that this may have emanated from the Leitz workshops in Wetzlar.
Item No15 Start Price €2,000 Estimate €4,000-5,000
Faster than a Noctilux
Yet another item which is new to me. It is a Summar f/0.85 7.5cm lens. With specs like that, it would be ideal for ‘barstool bores’. However, it seems to come without a camera, focus mount, or a visible aperture device. It seems that these were originally made for X-Ray work, but this one was used in WWII for thermal imaging in a ‘spanner’ device. I don’t know what this means, but thermal imaging experts or ex-military types may know more.
Item No 73 Start Price €3,000 Estimate €6,000 –7,000
Sharp dressed M3
The M3 is legendary in the history of Leica. Not only was it the first production Leica camera to combine the rangefinder and viewfinder in one window, but it was also the start of the M mount system, which is still going strong. This is a prototype from 1952/53, with the works Nr 0037, which has distinctive features by comparison with the well-known production models.
The first to note is the exposed film counter. Then there are the sharper corners on the top plate compared with the more rounded ones on the production model and all subsequent Ms. There are also other features such as a different self-timer arm and reversed direction of wind of the film rewind knob, plus other rare features.
This is an exceedingly rare camera which will attract a lot of attention. With prototypes, no ‘normal’ values exist.
Item No 86 Start Price €150,000 Estimate €300,000 -350,000
Long tall Telyt
This item is down as an ‘M3 Betriebskamera’ (works camera) with serial number M3-1149, but the lens that is mounted on the camera really catches our attention. This is a unique prototype 40cm (400mm) f/8 lens which has a number of special features such as a right or left side focus knob, a rotating lens mount for portrait or landscape mode, a filter slot and a quick-change lens head. It also comes with its unique viewfinder, which has horizontal and vertical views, magnified for fine focus. This is a rare piece, indeed.
Item No 87 Start Price €30,000 Estimate €60,000 -70,000
The Leitz 5cm f/2 Dual Range (DR) Summicron lens is, in my experience, one of the sharpest lenses which Leica has ever produced. This is as true today as it was when the lens was first introduced in the late 1950s. The lens will work with the M10 and M11 models and will give both the normal and the close-up ranges, the latter going down to 0.5 metres.
Setting the close-focus range is a bit of a palaver at first, as it requires the focus ring to be pulled out while the special goggles are mounted, but after a while, this becomes easy. This one has slightly different goggles from the production model, and it is a prototype with no serial number. This means that the price will be high, and such a lens is unlikely to see normal day-to-day service.
Item No 167 Start Price €3,000 Estimate €6,000 – 7,000
About a year ago, a German woman contacted Leitz Auction about a Leica M3 and lens that she had in her possession. She said that she had been using the combination for many years to take family photographs.
Jaws dropped, however, when the lens was viewed, as it seemed to be a Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 with an unusual serial number, 0000663, and, possibly, it was a prototype. This has since been confirmed as the original chrome prototype of the Noctilux lens.
The owner was a relative of one of the two designers, Professor Helmut Marx and Paul Sindel. This was the world’s first serial production 35mm lens with aspherical elements. Professor Marx also used an Elliott 402F computer to aid design. However, the lens does also contain a very thin patch of millimetre paper over the depth of field scale for marking up test results. So, old and new tech was used in developing this significant lens.
This is a very important historical piece from around 1964, and it is a unique item which should fetch a significant price.
Item No 173 Start Price €200,000 Estimate €400,000 – 500,000
Wind me up
This is the early OOFRC combined remote release and winder, which has two cords, one for wind and one for release. A friend owns one; try as I might, I could not really work out how to operate it effectively and efficiently. It would be best used on a tripod. This item comes with a camera and lens.
The camera is a II Model D, but its serial number indicates that it was originally a I Model A from 1930. This is also confirmed by the fact that the lens, which seems to be an 11 o’clock item converted to 7 o’clock, has no serial number. This rare item must not have sold very well as other winder and remote release options soon became available.
Item No 233 Start Price €2,000 Estimate €4,000 -5,000
Shaken, not stirred
Last month we wrote about one of these models which had been signed by actor Daniel Craig. This is the sixth of a series of seven prototypes of the Q2 007 Edition, and it carries the serial number P006/007 on the bottom of the screen. This is aimed as much at James Bond fans as it is at Leica buffs. The camera comes with extras, such as a bespoke Globetrotter case, hand and finger grips etc. Not one for me at all, but I’m sure there will be plenty of bidders.
Item No 259 Start Price €4,000 Estimate €8,000-10,000
A friend of mine has a number of black-paint Canon rangefinder cameras from the late 1950s, and they are lovely to hold and behold. This one is a Canon VI T from 1959 with a 50mm f/1.2 lens. It appears to be mint or near mint. The paint on the Canon black paint rangefinders is quite thick, and they do not seem to brass as readily as contemporary black-paint Leicas. If black paint is your thing, this item and the one after it might be worth a look.
Item No 311 Start Price €1,400 Estimate €2,800-3,000
Little one for the field
This is a little Model H field microscope made by Nikon. I have never seen anything like it before. At first glance, it looks like a 35mm camera, but it opens out to function just as a lab microscope might do. It comes with four lenses and a carrying case. It is hard to predict a price for an item like this, which does not come up very often. Has anyone ever seen anything like this before?
Item No 373 Start Price €1,600 Estimate €3,200-3,600
This is said to have been the last of the Gomz (GOI) VOOMP cameras ever made. The VOOMP, which was a Leica II copy, was in series production from 1933 to 1937, but this one is said to have been made in 1944, after the siege of Leningrad, and may have been the last one ever made. Because most Former Soviet Union (FSU) cameras do not sell for very much, I get strange looks when I tell fellow collectors that some rare early FSU cameras do, in fact, sell for very large sums and that the Russian cameras section of the Leitz Auction is usually the first one to attract a bid on every item. This camera carries an unnumbered GOI 50mm f/3.5 lens, which is clearly a copy of the Leitz 50mm/5cm Elmar.
Item No 387 Start Price €30,000 Estimate €60,000-70,000
Take your pick
When I was young, there was a quiz show on Radio Luxembourg called Take Your Pick. I have forgotten most of the gruesome details in the intervening 60-plus years, but the choice at the end was opening a box that contained either a star prize or a booby prize or accepting a sum of money. The catchphrase thrown by the host Michael Miles at the audience was, “What shall he/she do – open the box or take the money?”
I recall the dubious pleasure of listening to this on the Sunday nights of my youth because, for this item, the catalogue shows nothing other than a small box wrapped in brown paper. The Leitz Auction people reliably (I am sure) inform us that this contains a Steineck ABC Watch Camera, which you can see by means of a simple web search. I will not deny readers the pleasure of doing that. An even bigger thrill will possibly await whoever might win this, but they might get even more pleasure by flipping it on, unopened, which makes it all a bit like ‘Take Your Pick’.
Item No 408 Start Price €700 (already at €750) Estimate €1,400-1,600
So there you have my 14 choices from the forthcoming auction catalogue. I have gone for interesting or unusual items, but hundreds of lots are in the auction, including some ‘normal’ ones. To repeat what I have said before, studying such auctions is a good way of learning about the history of Leica cameras. Indeed, some items here have not been seen before this auction.