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Leica 0-series camera (Pic: Wetzlar Camera Auctions)
The camera is one of only 16 thought to have survived to this day (Pic: Wetzlar Camera Auctions)

One of only a handful of Leica 0-series cameras – the first pre-production model of Oskar Barnack’s revolutionary 35mm rangefinder – is to go under the hammer in Germany next month.

The Leica 0-series cameras, of which only 22 to 25 were made, were pre-series cameras made for testing before in 1923 production of the original Leica followed two years later.

The camera will go to sale at Wetzlar Camera Auctions in Germany on 7 October. The camera has a starting price of €800,000 and is expected to sell for between €1.5m and €2m.

“These cameras represent not just the prototypes of the Leica I, but the prototypes of all Leica 35mm cameras to this day,” Wetzlar Camera Auctions said in its listing for the camera.

The camera offered for sale is number 121, which was one of two loaner cameras offered to various people to test, according to information from the archives of leitz, the producer of Leica cameras.

This particular camera was thought to be part of a royal collection in the UK thanks to research carried out by author Paul-Henry van Hasbroeck in the 1980s, but this was later found to be a translation error – the camera was owned by collector Charles King.

The camera is one of only 16 0-series Leicas to have survived.

Wetzlar Cameras Auctions gave further information about the camera in its listing.

“The original black paint finish in very nice condition. The five-element Anastigmat 50 mm f/3.5 lens with an aperture scale to 12 and very clean optics. Typical conversion to tubular viewfinder, around 1924. The bottomplate was probably renewed at the same time. With original leather lens cap with fastening cord and original spool. A historically important camera and an extreme rarity!”

The Wetzlar sale comes little more than a year after another 0-series camera – serial number 105 – sold for a record €14.4m at the Leitz Auction in Germany. This particular example was owned and used by Oskar Barnack.

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Stephen Dowling
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