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Top 10 Most Expensive Cameras in the World

Top 10 Most Expensive Cameras in the World

Thanks to smartphones, most of us have high-resolution cameras in our pockets! But this development is extremely recent, and up until about two decades ago, high-quality cameras were costly commodities that were generally out of reach of the general public. But which of these traditional cameras is the priciest?

The most expensive camera in the world is the Leica 0-Series No.105, which belonged to Oskar Barnack. This antique and historically significant camera sold for $15 million (originally €14.4 million). It’s the most treasured of the dozen surviving Leica 0-Series cameras.

Many high-value cameras are antiques worth a small (or large) fortune. This ranking will reveal which of these photo-taking devices fetch the highest prices!

Here Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Cameras in the World:

  1. Leica 0-Series No.105 ‘Oscar Barnack’ – $15 million
  2. Leica 0-Series No.122 – $2.97 million
  3. M3D “David Douglas Duncan” Camera – $2.19 million
  4. Jony Ive and Marc Newson’s Leica M – $1.805 million
  5. 1957 Leica MP Black Paint No.55 – $1.34 million
  6. 1929 Gold-Plated ‘Luxus’ Leica – $1.31 million
  7. 1956 Leica MP Black Paint No.2 – $1.13 million
  8. 1930 Leica Luxus I – $958,951
  9. Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera – $910,400
  10. 1932 Leica Luxus II – $622,161

10. 1932 Leica Luxus II – $622,161

photo source: Bonhams

Leica has an international reputation for producing the most innovative and capable handheld cameras, and several of the costliest cameras are Leica-brand models.

But while modern Leica cameras typically sell for thousands, antique models can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Take the 1932 Leica Luxus II, for example.

This antique camera sold for $622,161 when it went to auction in 2013. Although this camera is covered in faux lizard leather, the included case is made of genuine crocodile skin. This camera is also plated in gold!

Still, precious metal isn’t the primary reason it’s so valuable.

After all, Leica only produced four of these cameras in 1932. The one sold at auction in 2013 might be the only one that survived into modern times.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Rarity is one of the most significant reasons this camera is so expensive, as this could be the only 1932 Leica Lexus II in the world. But age is also a crucial factor influencing value.

After all, antique cameras are historically significant artifacts that can help us understand how picture-taking technology evolved.

But, of course, this camera also contains gold, one of the most expensive precious metals in the world. Additionally, the camera came with a case made of crocodile leather, which is also a pricey material.

Still, this Lexus II isn’t the most expensive Leica camera in the world.

9. Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera – $910,400

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

Images of astronauts bouncing around on the moon’s surface are ingrained into the modern subconscious. But have you ever wondered about the camera used to create these images and videos?

If so, you’ll probably enjoy learning about the Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera.

This silver camera was used during the fourth US lunar landing in 1971. It was operated by Jim Irwin, who took almost 300 pictures during his time on the moon.

Notably, many cameras astronauts used during their lunar explorations are still on the moon. Weigh limitations meant astronauts had to make hard decisions about what to bring back to Earth, and many moon-friendly cameras were traded for rocks.

But the Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera used by Jim Irwin did make it back to Earth. In 2014, this unique camera sold for $910,400 (originally €660,000) at the Leitz Photographica Auction.

Why Is It So Expensive?

It’s not challenging to understand why this Hasselblad camera sold for such a staggering sum. After all, few cameras have traveled to the moon and back, and even fewer have found their way to public auctions!

Consequently, this camera is a rare piece of space exploration history, making it a must-have for collectors interested in Space Race items.

8. 1930 Leica Luxus I – $958,951

photo source: Bonhams

As the name of the 1932 Leica Luxus II suggests, there was once a Luxus I!

Created in 1930, the Leica Luxus I was one of the earliest Leica models available to the general public. But because of its luxurious appearance and build (hence the name Luxus), it probably wasn’t the most affordable option.

Nowadays, it’s equally pricey. In 2012, a 1930 Leica Luxus I sold for $958,951 at a Bonhams auction.

This camera looks very similar to its later counterpart, the Leica Luxus II. It has a faux lizardskin covering and gold-plated fixtures.

However, unlike the Luxus II, Leica created several of these opulent handheld cameras (about 95, to be precise).

Why Is It So Expensive?

You could afford to buy a home for the price of this Leica camera! Well, maybe not one of the most expensive homes in Florida, as those cost millions, much like the other cameras included in this ranking.

But why is the 1930 Leica Luxus I so costly?

Age and scarcity are the most significant factors, as this Leica is a comparatively rare antique. But this device’s gold plating also contributes to its value. Remember, like silver and platinum, gold is inherently valuable.

7. 1956 Leica MP Black Paint No.2 – $1.13 Million

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

Have you ever wondered what a million-dollar camera looks like? If so, set your eyes on the 1956 Leica MP Black Paint No.2!

While this camera isn’t quite as antiquated as some of the Leica models we’ve explored thus far, it managed to fetch an impressive $1.13 million when it sold at auction in 2019.

This high-priced camera was the second Leica MP ever created and the first with a black paint finish. All told, Leica only released 141 identical cameras.

Most were acquired by professional photographers, including the one sold at auction in 2019. This 1956 Leica MP belonged to Bob Schwalberg, a photojournalist whose work was published in Popular Photography magazine.

Some of Schwalberg’s photographs are currently featured at the Museum of Modern Art Archives (MoMA) in New York City! One can’t help but wonder if some of those images were taken with this Leica MP.

Why Is It So Expensive?

This Leica is valuable due to its comparative rarity and previous ownership.

Although Bob Schwalberg isn’t a household name, he is a significant figure throughout the art and photojournalism world. Consequently, this camera, one of the many Schwalberg used throughout his career, is a historically significant item.

6. 1929 Gold-Plated ‘Luxus’ Leica – $1.31 Million

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

The Luxus line of Leica cameras (produced from 1929 to 1930) was one of the most lavish examples of early photography tech. Many of the Lecia Luxus cameras were created by order only, making them somewhat bespoke items.

But the real touch that helped make these cameras so luxurious was the gold-plated fixtures. The first 1929 Leica Luxus might be almost 100 years old, but it’s still a beautiful camera thanks to this gold plating.

It’s also quite valuable, selling for a jaw-dropping $1.31 million when it went to auction in 2012.

Why Is It So Expensive?

This camera is an antique Leica and the first of the infamous Leica Lexus line. Its historical significance is one of the major reasons it’s such a valuable item.

But like other Leica Lexus cameras, this camera features gold. As a result, it’s inherently expensive!

After all, anything that features gold or other precious metals can sell for top-dollar prices. The price can skyrocket even higher if the item in question is also historically significant, like this original Leica Lexus camera.

5. 1957 Leica MP Black Paint No.55 – $1.34 Million

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

The Leica MP Black Paint is one of the rarest Leica cameras in the world, with only about 141 being released during the 1950s. Not many are around today, and those that have surfaced tend to be a little beaten and worn.

But the No.55, a 1957 Leica MP with a black-paint finish, looks brand new! This camera is in near-mint condition, making it a treasure among Leica enthusiasts and photography fans alike.

When it went to auction, it sold for $1.34 million, making it about as expensive as a spacious upmarket home.

Why Is It So Expensive?

It’s virtually impossible to find a vintage Leica in like-new condition. This Leica MP is an exceptional find because of its superb condition. It’s also a rare type of Leica MP due to its black-paint finish.

All told, this camera is valuable because of its age, rarity, and condition.

4. Jony Ive and Marc Newson’s Leica M – $1.805 Million

photo source: Sotheby’s

The Jony Ive and Marc Newsom Leica M is a wonderfully modern camera that combines the utility and performance of Leica cameras with the sleek design of Apple products. It also features a bright red “Leica” symbol above the camera lens, likely in honor of its purpose.

After all, this camera was created explicitly for the (RED) Auction of 2013. It sold for $1.805 million in November 2013!

Proceeds from the sale went toward helping eliminate HIV and AIDS throughout several African countries.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Though many vintage and antique Leica cameras are rare, few are one-of-a-kind devices. But the Jony Ive and Marc Newsom Leica M is unlike any other Leica camera. Detailed on how this camera was made are scarce, it took more than 725 hours to manufacture. More than 550 models and 1,000 prototype parts were created and tested. This makes the camera instantly expensive.

3. M3D “David Douglas Duncan” Camera – $2.19 Million

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

Before the Leica MP camera was developed, Leica’s most popular model was the M3. This camera was favored by professional photographers worldwide, including David Douglas Duncan.

Like Bob Schwalberg, Duncan was a successful American photojournalist. His work has been featured in multiple newspapers and magazines, including LIFE.

Although Duncan didn’t use this black-paint camera (customized and built specifically for him) to snap some of his most famous photos, including those of World War II soldiers, this camera is still a unique and historically significant item. It sold for an incredible $2.19 million in 2012.

Why Is It So Expensive?

This Leica’s value stems from its previous ownership.

David Douglas Duncan (say that name three times fast) is one of the most celebrated American photojournalists of the 20th century. Any camera once used by him can fetch high prices, especially if that camera happens to be a custom-made Leica.

2. Leica 0-Series No.122 – $2.97 Million

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

The Leica 0-Series is the most expensive type of camera in the world.

Leica only produced 25 (or 23 by some accounts) of these cameras, nearly half of which have been lost to time. Those dozen or so models that have survived are usually a little worse for wear, with obvious signs of damage or decay.

But in 2018, a Leica 0-Series camera (No.122) surfaced in near-mint condition.

Not only does this camera have the original pop-up viewfinder (a fragile component that many remaining 0-Series cameras lack), but it also comes with its original leather lens cover!

There’s never been a more complete or well-preserved version of the Leica 0-Series than the No.122, so it’s hardly surprising that this camera sold for $2.97 million (originally €2.4 million) when it went to auction.

Why Is It So Expensive?

This Leica 0-Series is valuable because of its historical significance, condition, and rarity. Leica only produced a handful of these cameras, and few are around today.

Those that have survived are in rough shape, but not this particular 0-Series. Instead, it looks almost like it was created yesterday, despite being about a century old. As such, it’s a remarkable find that will become more valuable over time.

That said, this isn’t the costliest Leica 0-Series in the world.

1. Leica 0-Series No.105 ‘Oscar Barnack’ – $15 Million

photo source: Leitz Photographica Auction

The most expensive camera is the Leica 0-Series No.105. This camera belonged to the inventor of the Leica camera, Oskar Barnack, and sold for $15 million (originally €14.4 million) in 2022.

Although 22 of these 0-Series cameras were produced in 1923, only about a dozen have survived the last century. Still, the No.105 might be the most important of the lot, and it’s certainly the most valuable.

After all, this black-paint camera was used constantly by Oskar Barnack, who had a passion for the burgeoning technology of photography. It’s challenging to find a more historically significant camera.

Why Is It So Expensive?

This price difference (of several million) stems from the fact that the Leica 0-Series No.105 is one of the most historically significant Leica cameras. After all, it was owned and operated by Oskar Barnack, the man responsible for inventing the Leica camera.

In short, this Leica is expensive because it’s a one-of-a-kind antique item. Like other irreplaceable historically significant items, it’s worthy of a museum exhibition or a photographer’s private collection.

What’s the Most Expensive Camera in the World?

The most expensive camera in the world is the Leica 0-Series No.105, owned by Oskar Barnack (the inventor of the Leica camera). This handheld camera was created in 1923, two years before the official release of consumer-ready Leica cameras.

Although this camera is numbered 105, it was one of only 22 0-Series Leica cameras created. But the one owned by Barnack might be the most historically significant of the bunch, which is why it sold for $15 million in 2022.

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