A rare 0-Series Leica – one of little more than 20 made by Leitz in the 1920s – could fetch more than €3m (£2.53m/$3.3m) when it goes under the hammer at the Leitz Photographica auction in Germany later this year.
The camera dates from 1923, one of possibly 23 made to test the market for what would become the production Leica, released in 1925.
A Leica 0-Series camera sold for €2,160,000 at the Westlicht Photographica Auction (the former name for Leitz Photographica) in March 2021, breaking the record for the most expensive camera sold at auction.
But if this camera achieve its projected highest estimate – €3m – then it would break that record.
The camera being sold at the auction on 11 June in Wetzlar, Germany was owned and used by the Leica camera’s inventor, Oskar Barnack. (Read this story about the first image he took on the prototype Leica.) The camera remained in the Barnack family until 1960, when it was sold to a collector in the US.
Leit Photographica said: “Only approximately 23 of 0-Series Leicas were produced in 1923 to test the market, two years before the commercial introduction of the Leica A. Only around a dozen survived to the present day. Among these extremely rare cameras, one is of particular historical importance.
“The 0-Series with the serial number 105 was the personal camera of the inventor of 35 mm photography – Oskar Barnack.
“This inconspicuous-looking black-painted camera shows a patina of years of use. Some of the parts have been exchanged by the owner. The Galilean finder shows a distinctive engraving on the top: ‘Oscar Barnack’ The inventor used the camera until 1930, when he gave it to his son, Conrad, and began using a Leica I Model C with interchangeable lenses. It stayed in the family ownership until 1960, when it was sold to a passionate US collector.
“The lot includes an original leather lens cap on a string, later aluminium cap, engraved with initials ‘O.B.’ and heavily-modified Nettel camera that Barnack used for his photographic research studies, as well as numerous documents and letters concerning the Barnack’s camera. The Leica 0-Series no.105 we have a pleasure to offer for sale is not only the most distinguished Leica existing but also one of the major historical milestones from the history of photography.”