A Leica breaks all records by selling for 14.4 million euros

Camera auctioned in Vienna for 14.4 million euros. / LEITZ PHOTOGRAPHICA AUCTION

Auctioned in Vienna, it belonged to Oskar Barnack, the inventor of the legendary compact camera that changed the history of photography

Michael Lorenci

Its estimated price was between one and three million euros, but finally 14.4 million were paid for a 1923 Leica camera that has become the most expensive in history. It is one of 23 prototypes in the original series, produced by Leitz Camera, the company founded and chaired by Ernst Leitz between 1923 and 1924, and which belonged to its inventor, Oscar Barnack. It is one of the first 35-millimeter cameras manufactured in the world and the origin of a legendary and decisive brand for modern photography.

The Leicas were produced in series from 1924, but the Leitz firm previously manufactured only 23 copies of the prototype of the 0 series. One of them was the one that was awarded in Vienna last Saturday, at the brand's annual auction, breaking all records. The previous record was held by another Series 0 camera sold for €2.8 million in 2018.

Owner's name engraved on the visor. /


The model auctioned in Vienna, camera number 105 of the 0 series, is very special as it belonged to Oskar Barnack, a German inventor and photographer who built the first 35-millimeter camera, later called Leica, at the Leitz factory in the German city of Wetzler. The name of its inventor, who perfected her studies to develop later models, is engraved on the top of the visor.

An engineer at the Leitz company, Barnack suffered from asthma, so he set about reducing the size and weight of cameras to make outdoor photography easier. Considered the father of 35-millimeter negative photography, Barnack designed a model called Lilliput shortly before the First World War, a precursor to the future Leica, a mythical brand whose name is an anagram of Leitz and Camera and which would change the history of photography. photograph from 1924.

Almost a century old, painted black and with that patina that years of use give, the camera is very well preserved. The lot included an original leather lens cap, and an aluminum rear cap embossed with the initials 'OB', as well as the Neteller camera Barnack used for his photographic research and documents and letters about the prototype.

Owner's initials on lens cap. /


Barnack used his legendary camera until 1930, when he gave it to his son Conrad and he began using a Leica I Model C with interchangeable lenses. The prototype remained in the hands of its creator's family until 1960, when it was sold to an American collector.

Only a dozen prototypes from the original series have survived to this day, which is why they are extremely rare, expensive, and considered gems by avid collectors.

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