A working replica of a Leica MDa Nasa used in the 1970’s Skylab missions has just gone up for sale at Wetzlar Camera Auction in Germany.
The camera used in the Skylab missions was a modified version of a standard Leica MDa. To make it easier to use by astronauts in spacesuits Leica increased the size of the shutter button, gave it a soft shutter, and made the wind/rewind lever and opening lever bigger.
The best Leica cameras encompass a range of styles and intended uses, but the majority are now digital. Introduced in 1966, the Leica MDa was a rather unusual looking 35mm camera as it didn’t have a viewfinder or rangefinder. Rather than being meant for standard photography, the Leica MDa was built purely for scientific purposes to be used with microscopes or the Visoflex Reflex attachment. It featured the Leica M-Mount which still exists today, a rapid film loading system, and the same style rewind lever as you’d find on the Leica M4.
The camera was used to photograph UV in the atmosphere which was one of the hundreds of experiments conducted during the Skylab missions. Research areas are split into six categories; life science, solar physics, and astronomy, earth resources, material science, student research and others. Experiments included examining how gravity affects how spiders spin a web in space and how adaptable humans are to low-gravity conditions.
Although 5 missions were planned (including one standby rescue mission) just 3 went ahead and in July 1979, Skylab fell out of orbit and disintegrated in the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean and Western Australia. The working replica of the Leica MDa Nasa and a Leica Notilux 50mm f/1.2 lens is expected to go for anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000 according to Wetzlar Camera Auctions and will be on 8 October. Bids can already be placed online starting at $30,000.
This rare and collectible camera is being sold in a massive lot of Leica cameras but it's one of the most valuable. The only other camera expected to go for more is the Leica Mp Black Paint which is expected to bring in an eye-watering $250,000 - $300,000 and already has 19 people watching it.
Unfortunately, you will have to have a small fortune to own this particular slice of space history but if you just fancy getting your hands on a vintage Leica, there are a few that won’t set you back thousands.
These are the best Leica M lenses, and you might also like to read our reviews of the Leica Q2 and Leica M11.