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This lens costs more than your house!!!

Leica Vario-Elmar-M 28-75mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH prototype
(Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)

While many people are really feeling the financial crunch this year, some folks still have more money than sense – which, of course, is a wheelhouse often occupied by photographers. 

Still, spending more money on a camera lens than most people spend on a house is a whole different kind of crazy – even by the standards of photographers suffering from gear acquisition syndrome. 

• Best Leica cameras

The Leica Vario-Elmar-M 28-75mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH prototype has just sold at auction for €240,000 – that's $291,388 / £218,114 / AU$391,143, which is absolutely astonishing money for a piece of glass. And, according to the National Association of Realtors, it's well above the median US house price for all home types (which was $284,600 as of May 2020)!

Admittedly, it is a very rare piece of glass – and of course, it's also a piece of glass made by Leica – so having a high price tag isn't hugely surprising. What is surprising, however, is that this isn't by any means a vintage lens; in fact, it was only made in 2012, albeit in extremely limited quantities. 

According to the listing by Leitz Photographica Auction – which is where the lens sold last week, obliterating its estimate of between €60,000 and €80,000 – it's one of only three existing Vario-Elmar-M lenses. 

"It has been designed in Germany in 2012 and was conceived as a universal lens replacing the Tri-Elmar 28-35-50," notes the auction house. "In contrast to the Tri-Elmar, the Vario-Elmar-M is a true zoom construction producing a sharp image also between the four hard stops. 

"The production of the final-stage prototypes has been outsourced to Japan, but because of the complexity of the mechanical and optical design the project was cancelled in 2015. Only three lenses have been finished and met the quality standards set by Leica engineers."

And we thought that the $7,500 Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x IS Pro was the most expensive lens we'd see this year – but by comparison, that's an absolute bargain!

Read more: 

THIS is why Leica is so expensive
Best L-mount lenses
Leica Q2 Monochrom review

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web 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 as diverse as 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, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. 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.