The Leica 0-series, designed by factory engineer Oskar Barnack, is one of the great camera collecting rarities. Ernst Leitz, who had founded his company producing optical devices in Wetzlar in 1914, made just 31 of these compact cameras to test the market in 1923, two years before the commercial introduction of the Leica A. Early Leicas using 35mm film were innovative – orienting the image frame sideways rather than vertically made them perfect for landscape photography during mountain hikes.
This particular camera came from the collection of Jim Jannard, the American designer and founder of the Oakley eyewear company. It is in fully working condition, with all parts and the paintwork deemed original, and is one of only three 0-Series cameras known that has an original folding viewfinder.
The estimate at the auction on March 11 was €700,000-900,000 and bidding opened at €400,000. With several phone lines booked, camera specialist WestLicht broke its own record for the world’s most expensive camera with this sale.
The previous record-holder – another pre-production Leica 0-series camera with the serial number 116 – sold in Vienna in 2012 for a premium-incisive €2.16m.