One of a handful of surviving Leica 0-series cameras – the pre-series of the original Leica rangefinder – sold for €2.4m (£2.5m) at the Wetzlar Camera Auctions sale in Germany on Saturday (7 October).
The camera had been 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.
The Leica 0-series camera was one of a number of rare Leica items which exceeded estimates at the sale, held in Wetzlar, the home Leitz.
A Leica IIIC prototype thought to have been constructed in 1934 sold for €320,000 (£277,000) – essentially twice its estimate of between €150,000 and €200,000.
Wetzlar Camera Auctions said of the camera: “One particularly interesting detail on this camera is the opening swing-up backdoor – not commercially introduced before 1954 with the Leica M3.” It added that the camera is probably “unique”.
A grey example of the Hector 135mm f/4 lens for Leica rangefinder cameras constructed during World War II reached €65,000 (£56,300) – around three times its estimate.
Only around 30 of these lenses are recorded by Leitz.
An olive-green Bundeswehr Leica M3 set – including a 50mm Elmar lens and a Leica meter – sold for €130,000 (£112,600), which was around twice the estimate.
The barely used set included an olive-green case and the camera was one of the last Leica M3s made; 38 cameras in this batch were produced in 1968.
A prototype Leitz Summarit 35/1.4 M-mount lens, meanwhile, sold for four times its estimate – €220,000 (£190,500). The lens was one of only a handful of such lenses before the Summilux name was chosen on the lens’s release in 1961.
A prototype of the Noctilux 50/1.2 M-mount lens sold for €110,000 (£95,000), higher than the high end of the estimate.
An Arsenal FED camera – a short-lived Leica II copy designed by FED and made in the Arsenal factory in Kiev between 1945 and 1946 – sold for €13,000, €3,000 higher than the top estimate.
A Iura camera, a rare wood-and-paper Soviet Leica lookalike made in the 1930s, failed to meet its estimate of €25,000, fetching only €17,000 (£14,700).