It’s a Leica 0-series no. 122 which was sold to a mystery private collector during the 32nd WestLicht Camera Auction in Vienna for the highest price ever paid for a historic camera at auction.
The starting price was a mere 400,000 euros, but the bid price went up six times before the hammer fell. The previous record holder at the auctions, also a Leica 0 (number 116), sold for 2.16 million euros in 2012.
The Leica 0’s rarity comes from its pre-production status. Just 25 prototype cameras made in 1923, two years before the Leica brand was launched.
Designed to test the market, this Leica is extremely rare. It’s 95 years old yet all the parts and paintwork are original, together with the matching lens cover and folding finder frame. The camera also has a unique film spool and take-up spool. It’s believed that of the 25 original prototypes, only three remain in their original condition.
Interestingly, the prototype met with a mixed reception, but Leitz launched the camera anyway and it proved an instant success at the 1925 Leipzig Spring Fair as the Leica 1 (Leitz + camera = Leica).
The WestLicht Camera Auction specialises in the sale of rare and high-value photographic equipment, and the Leica 0 was sold at the 17th Photo Auction in March 2018 – the first was held in December 2009.