A Leica camera used in NASA Skylab missions sells for €500,000!

Leica MDa NASA Replica
(Image credit: Wetzlar Camera Auction)

Imagine what you could buy with half a million dollars… a Rolls Royce Phantom VIII, a decent 3-bedroom house in London, or, a Leica MDa NASA replica used in the Skylab missions. I certainly know which I’d choose but then again, I’m 28 years old, about to move back in with my parents, and have every expectation of renting til I retire. 

Joking aside, half a million dollars is some serious money to drop on a camera that doesn’t even have a viewfinder. Yep, that’s right, the Leica MDa was created for purely scientific purposes to photograph the airglow (a faint emission of light by a planetary atmosphere) within the visible and middle ultraviolet spectral range. The camera was never designed to take photos in a conventional way but rather as a tool for documenting space. 

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The Leica MDa was developed specifically for NASA and was modified to make it easier to use by astronauts - it has a much larger and softer shutter button as well as bigger knobs to improve handling. 

Wetzlar Camera Auction (who recently sold a Nikkor 58mm f/1 lens for €187,500 making it the most expensive lens sold at auction) expected the camera would sell for anywhere between €60,000-€80,000. No one could’ve predicted the camera would in fact fetch €500,000 - especially in the current economic climate.

Included in the sale is a Leica Noctilux 50 mm f/1.2 which is described as being in “very good condition” - you would hope if you’re dropping that sum of money on it! Honestly, I think whoever bought this camera has more money than sense and I for one would love to know what it feels like to have a spare half a million I could spend on a camera (not that I would). But I’ll never know that wealth and that is fine - I wouldn't wanna buy an old Leica replica anyway. 

Perhaps it was bought for bragging rights, or maybe the new owner has emotional connections to the Skylab missions but either way, I hope this is kept under lock and key because it’s one camera you definitely couldn’t replace and money can't buy (again). 

You might also like the best Leica cameras and the best Leica M lenses.

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.