Vintage Leica Cameras

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:32:45

Vintage Leica cameras are cameras that were produced by Leica Camera AG, a German optics company.

Brief history and description

Leica revolutionized photography in the twentieth century and were the first practical cameras that used standard 35mm film. Furthermore, the Leica I, Leica Standard, Leica II and Leica III models, produced between 1925 and 1932, were the first to incorporate rangefinders that were doubled with the lens mechanism, interchangeable lenses and a substantially increased shutter speed spectrum.

Leica cameras enjoyed substantial popularity in the mid-to-late-twentieth century as Leica was the camera of choice by noted photojournalists and street photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Don McCullin, Josef Koudelka, Horst Faas and Kevin Carter.

Guide for collectors

Because of their exceptional build, photographic quality and proliferation in modern culture, Leica cameras, lenses and accessories are extremely collectable.

Early or rare Leica cameras, such as the Leica MP and Leica Standard can realise very high prices on the open market. The Leica M3 is perhaps the most sought after camera, not only as a superlative piece of photographic kit, but also as a premier investment that will certainly enhance any camera enthusiast’s showcase.

Rare production cameras from the M series, which include the black paint M3, M2 and the M4, are typically worth more to collectors rather than commemorative cameras. Notable exceptions to this rule, however, are the unpopular MDA and MD. There are numerous Leica books and collectors’ guides, however, for a comprehensive study of Leica and its history, serious collectors should invest in James L. Lager’s three-volume “Leica; An Illustrated History”.

Leica cameras can be bought at respectable art and photographic auctioneers, such as Westilicht Photographica in Vienna or established high-street camera dealerships. The Scandinavian online shop Leicastore.com has a very informative database of Leica cameras and has an extensive and international clientele of collectors and photographers.

Collectors should be careful when purchasing supposedly authentic Leica’s on online bidding sites, such as eBay, as the market is awash with fakes. Always check the serial numbers and paint job to validate the authenticity of a Leica.

Notable Sales

Leica holds the prestige of producing some of the most expensive cameras ever bought at auction. In May 2011, a 1929 Leica 0 No. 107 camera sold for €1.32m during an intense twenty-minute bidding process at Westilicht Photographica Auctions in Vienna, Austria. The camera was only one of twenty-five ever produced and this particular model was also the first Leica camera ever to be exported. A year later in May 2012, another example of the same Leica 0 prototype was sold, again by Westlicht Photographica Auctions Vienna, for another record breaking price: €2.16 million. Coincidentally, the same camera had been sold at the exact same auction house in 2007 and had fetched only €336,000, which at the time was still a world record for a Leica camera at auction.

Additionally, in December 2010 a chrome Leica MP2, plus its additional electric motor, was sold for €440,000. The camera was the first experimental Leica M camera to be used with an electric motor and, of the twenty chrome cameras originally produced, less than ten are known to exist with its original electric motor. The camera, which sold at Westilicht Photographica Auctions, had never been on the market before and was in 100% original condition.

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