Leica owned by Ernst Leitz II sells for $121,000

Ersnt Leitz Jr's personal Leica camera goes up for auction
(Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)

The personal camera owned by Ernst Leitz II, the man behind Leica, has sold at auction for €102,000 – approximately $121,000 / £88,000 / AU$162,000.

The Leica I Mod. A was potentially a Christmas present, received by Leitz on Christmas Eve 1924, and looks to be the first such camera to be delivered, as nobody else received theirs until at least February the following year. 

• Read more: Best Leica cameras

Part of the recent Leitz Photographica Auction, which also saw a prototype Russian camera rifle sell for over $170,000, the lot exceeded its top estimate of €103,000.

ORIGINAL STORY (27 May 2021): A bona fide piece of photographic history could be yours next month, as the personal camera of Ernst Leitz II is going up for auction in Vienna with a top estimate of €100,000 – approximately $122,000 / £86,000 / AU$158,000. 

The Leica I was delivered to Leitz on 24 December 1924, and is speculated to have been a Christmas gift to the man who made the decision to manufacture the  camera in 1923.  

• Read more: The name behind Leica cameras: Ernst Leitz II

While it can't lay claim to being the best Leica camera, this particular Leica I – numbered 165 – also holds significance as being potentially the first Leica I Mod. A delivered. According to the listing at Leitz Photographica Auction, all other cameras from the batch were delivered in February or June 1925. 

This one, delivered on Christmas Eve 1924, seems to be the first – which you'd expect, if it was indeed a Christmas present for the brains behind the company. 

From factory service records, it has been revealed that the camera was sent to the workshop on three occasions and upgraded several times to reach its finished form. It has beautiful brassing, which has historic as well as aesthetic value as it would have been caused by Leitz capturing his own personal photographs.  

The listing also includes an unnumbered, nickel Elmar 50mm f/3.5 lens and an unnumbered Fodis rangefinder (as the camera is an early one without an integrated one), along with two film spools and a leather Etrin case.

"The only other camera of such significance was the Leica 0-Series no.102 that, according to the Leica archives, was also given to Leitz Junior," says the auction listing (notably, a Leica 0-Series prototype was auctioned last year). "The offered Leica is the only camera ever offered for sale that belonged to the man."

The 38th Leitz Photographica Auction takes place on 12 June in Vienna.

Read more: 

Best Leica cameras
Best Leica M lenses
Best Leica SL lenses

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.