Home Cameras/Lenses Canon 41st Leitz Photographica Auction: Checking the highlights for the November 26 event

41st Leitz Photographica Auction: Checking the highlights for the November 26 event


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

Look closely

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

Family heirloom

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

Black beauty

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.

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  1. William, thanks.

    I can only suggest (guess) the lens used in a thermal imaging device and was set up inf ront of an early sensor or array of sensors that collected data that was fed into some sort of processing that gave some sort of output to either a meter or to a screen. It would not have needed focus in the visible spectrum to form an image, and I guess the resolution of the sensors would not any sort of focus. The modern day infra-red thermal temperature measuring devices cost a few pounds and do not need any focus or aperture, and I am guessing the lens may have been used in the early experiments and development of infra-red measurement. It might explain why such a large aperture lens was needed.

    Perhaps the lens found its way into a university lab and was modified and incorporated into a measuring instrument. I have a early (well 1950’s I guess) Leitz slide projector that was modified in the lab to deliver a light source for some measurement apparatus, but only have the projector which has a modified base but the Leitz optical parts are present. An adapted slide carrier was clearly used. It was a case of having a quality light source I suspect.

    Sorry I cannot help more on this.

    Ah…the Navy Lark, yes fond memories. The radio was the only entertainment, and at that time was via a Radio Rentals set. It had a short wave, and I spent hours twiddling the wavelength knob to find either music or speech among the hissing, cracking and warbling background noise. Not till the 1960’s did we (my parents) own our own wireless (radio). I was interested enough a little earlier to experiment with crystal radio, and ‘tinker’ with a Utility Wireless set that came from the local farmer. I got it to work – after a fashion. Wonder I did not electrocute myself in my innocence and lack of any guidance. There were sometimes sparks though…


  2. William

    Thank you for your insight into the world of Auctions.

    Just a short comment about the ‘Little one for the field’ pick. The Nikon H2 Microscope is based on the McArthur Field Microscope, and indeed Vickers Ltd (later Vickers Instruments) had a similar offering. Dr John McArthur designed his microscope before the war, thought about and modified his design while a pow, and as there was never any patent (he wanted to share his invention) several companies manufactured his design.

    It was not just Nikon that made these and the common version seen these days is the Vickers version. Watson, another English microscope company made a version.

    Clearly the Nikon version you show here has the Nikon camera body base and is likely to be from the 1950’s.

    ps: I have memories of Radio Luxembourg heard (blaring out) across the landing of our childhood house as my much older sister listened to the radio when ‘we young boys’ were supposed to be asleep. I learnt how to spell K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M and I too remember the Paul Temple series, but on the BBC. Could offer more….

    • Thanks, Chris, for that information on the design of the field microscope. Any thoughts about the lens which was said to have been used for thermal imaging in a ‘spanner’ device or how such a device was used?

      Yes, my memory was that we switched from BBC to Luxembourg for ‘Take Your Pick’ after ‘Paul Temple’ was over. Those were the great days for radio. I still break up laughing at Ronnie Barker (I think) saying ‘Left hand down a bit, it is sir’ while at the wheel of HMS Troutbridge in the ‘Navy Lark’ over 60 years ago. It all came back again with the death of Leslie Phillips a few weeks ago. I was just a bit too young for most of the Goon Show stuff, but friends who are slightly older than me still fall around laughing at recordings of the show.


    • Thanks, Brian. Sometimes I forget the details and have to look them up, but at this stage of my life I know where to look.


  3. “A long way from vintage Leicas etc, but your comments prompted mine.”

    Apologies for the digression William, but given a Leica, of any sort, one needs subjective material to make pictures of…

    As for dancing on the wireless, the BBC had Edmundo Ros, (Edmund William Ross, was a Trinidadian-Venezuelan musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader) who had an enchanting musical brogue that he employed to talk/lilt us through the moves. I was a bit young at the time and consequently I dance with about as much grace as a donkey. 🙂


    • My late mother used to listen to Edmundo Ros on the wireless. I was not into Hispanic/Caribbean music back then, but I might listen to something like that today.


  4. Thank you for the interesting preview William I’m planning to follow the auction ‘live’ via ‘Live Auctioneers”. Fascinating watching the telephone bidding for the high value items.

  5. Thank you William, a great read and fascinating items throughout, ensuring that photography enthusiasts must perform some very weird contortions in the pursuit of their particular vision.

    I may be a bit younger than you, I don’t remember hearing “Take Your Pick” on the wireless, but I certainly remember Michael Miles and that show on Friday night television, not to mention the Canadian Hughie Green’s “Double Your Money” (with Monica Rose) on Thursday night. Maybe that was a difference between Irish TV (RTE) and London TV (Rediffusion and Thames, replete with “London Weekend Television”). Other companies had the licenses for regional commercial telly across England.

    Of course, we must not forget Paula Yates, who was apparently Hughie Green’s daughter, who also managed to spend a considerable time “entertaining” us both on TV and in the tabloid press.

    Finally, I don’t think that one can talk about these things without giving a hat-tip to Krugers, which is still open and hosting live music of the diddle-de-dee type… Or Maura Begley… Or indeed the “Silver (S)lipper”, the “S” being missing for years, with its dance floor and live music.

    The craic was indeed, mighty.

    As I write this, I can hear my better half snoring the morning away, before she emerges and begins her daily frenetic bustle, clearing up my morning mess.

    • Thanks Stephen. Take Your Pick was on Radio Luxembourg. I would never have watched it on TV or Hughie Green for that matter. I suspect the TV shows came later. My memory is that it was broadcast on a Sunday night at about 9.15pm after a radio detective series called ‘Paul Temple’, which probably dates me even further.

      On the Irish dancing theme there was a programme on Radio Eireann (as it was then known)in the 1950s and 60s at about 1 pm on a Sunday called ‘ Take the Floor’. A character called Din Joe (Denis Fitzgibbon) would call out instructions for Irish dancing on the radio programme ‘take your partners, by the left’ etc ‘ In other cases, somebody would do solo Irish tap dancing on the radio programme and all you would hear was the sound of their feet hitting the floor. Is Ireland the only country in the world that had dancing lessons on the radio ?

      A long way from vintage Leicas etc, but your comments prompted mine.


      • Radio Luxembourg suffered from terrible reception in Lancashire, where I used to “tune in” for the weekly Top 20 (before the BBC deigned to lower its sights a little). So it must have been even more scratchy in Dublin. Wasn’t Luxembourg on 208 medium wave? And did I tell you about seeing Vesta Tilley at the Canterbury Music Hall in 1874?

        • Most wireless was scratchy back then, but on a ‘good night’ you could get Turkish or Egyptian music with a lot of ‘crackle’. Vesta Tilley died in 1952 aged 88, but you must have seen or heard George Formby who was from the same town as yourself.


          • Joke about Vesta Tilley, William. No, I never saw George Formby in person, although I remember his songs and films. During my motorcycling days, Formby’s Isle of Man Classic, No Limit, featuring his song “Riding in the TT Races”, was trotted out at any gathering worth its salt. As it goes:

            “A chimney sweep from Wigan dreams of winning the Isle of Man TT Race, but George Shuttleworth’s efforts to secure a ride from the Rainbow Motorcycle Company prove to be unsuccessful.”

            Here is a shortened version, especially abridged for the motorbike audience, of this classic 1935 film:


    • Thanks for you comment, George. The prices paid at auction in no way reflect whether an item is a better camera or lens, just whether it is a more desirable or collectable camera or lens. There are many Leicas to be bought for the same money as a vintage Nikon or Canon. Leica collecting has been around for a long time and the books and authors on the topic have added to the mystique about certain rare items and when something is a prototype prices head skyward. Auctions and certain buyers from various parts of the world have pushed prices through the stratosphere. Such buyers are concentrating on Leicas because of their perceived desirability and collectibility. It could happen in the future with other makes. What is happening at present with rare FSU cameras is something that should be noted.


  6. It’s astonishing to see such depth and richness in one company’s history. Hats off to the engineers who found the time to design and build such a great variety of cameras and lens. On another note, it’d be interesting to see what you think are interesting pieces in your personal collection, William, and the stories behind the objects.

    • Thanks Farhiz. I have a talk with 45 Powerpoint slides, called ‘Unusual Leicas’, which I have done recently for the Photographic Collectors Club of Great Britain. As well as items from my own collection, this also features items from the Leica Archives which are not on display in the Ernst Leitz Museum or around the factory. It also includes photographs from the diary of Wilhelm Albert, who was Barnack’s right hand man. Some of those items no longer exist. So, when I get the photograph auction article and the judging of the Dublin conference photo-walk entries out of the way, I will start working on an edited down ‘Unusual Leicas’ article for Macfilos.


  7. Think Jono should follow you with an Sl and put you into competition with the Energizer bunny for their next battery commercial. Isn’t it amazing how many items pop up around the world for auctions? Thank you

    • Thanks, John
      You only see a small proportion of the work I do in the photography field here on Macfilos, although some of it is just boring admin stuff. I have really enjoyed doing the piece on the Leitz photograph auction and I hope to get that away to Mike today. I hope you will enjoy it too.


  8. We have an embarrassment of riches with Tamarkin Auctions started on Saturday 19th of November and the Leitz Photographica Auction starting a week later on Saturday 26th November. If you’re a collector this must all feel like an early Christmas.

    • True and there is a Flints Auction in the UK as well and others at this time. When you look at some of the prices above, though, you may begin to doubt whether there is actually a Santa Claus. When I post my article about the photograph auction you may see that there could be better value to be had in the art than in the artefacts of photography.


      • In some respect you can see this as a positive (a belief that people are interested in these items) and an indicator that relaunching the M6 is a smart idea as it reconnects people to the simple but fascinating mechanical world.

        I think for some people there is a growing yearning for this mechanical world. I watched my recently departed uncle make Grandfather Clock movements from scratch and build scale model steam engines over the years and always wished I had the skills to do that and own one.

        Sadly I’ve never mastered an M camera, but would love a reissue of an Olympus OM1. Or maybe I just need to find one at auction…

  9. Excellent – thank you so much William
    The story of the prototype Noctilux is especially interesting (although I might sit out the bidding this time 🙂 )
    I don’t know how you have time to do all this stuff – thank you again

    • Thanks Jono. I don’t know where I find the time myself. I am now in the middle of my article about the photograph auction.

      As for the prototype Noctilux, there is a test M3 in this auction which has provenance back to Prof Helmut Marx, the designer of the Noctilux. I did not include it as I was including the prototype M3 shown above.

      I’ll leave it at that.



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