Ultra-rare Canon EF 1200mm camera lens fetches $462,321 at auction

Ultra-rare, $100,000 Canon EF 1200mm lens going up for sale
(Image credit: Wetzlar Camera Auctions)

Canon's monster 1200mm f/5.6 L-series supertelephoto lens has just sold for over four times its estimate at a specialist auction in Germany. The 36lb lens went under the hammer for €400,000 - which works out as $462,321 or £339,142. Wetzlar Camera Auctions had estimated the value ahead of the sale as being €80,000-€100,000.

Original story - 6 June 2021
Canon's rarest ever lens, the legendary and elusive Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM, will be going up for sale in October – and could break its previous record selling price of $180,000 (approximately £127,400 / AU$232,400). 

Why is the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM so rare? Because it is believed that only 20 were ever made – making them almost impossible to come by, and when they appear they always sell for astronomical prices. 

• Read more: Best Canon lenses

Indeed, even when it was in production from 1993-1997, Canon could only produce two lenses every eighteen months due to the time taken to cultivate the enormous fluorite crystals (which themselves took a year to grow). As such, the lens retailed for some $100,000 (£70,700 / AU$129,000).

Only a handful of Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USMs have survived – according to Park Cameras, owners may be limited to Canon itself, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic magazines, and spy agencies around the world. 

So when a sample comes up for sale, it commands a ridiculous price (not least because replacement parts do not exist, so it is necessary to cannibalize another lens in order to repair one), with a lens fetching $180,000 in 2015.

"The world’s largest interchangeable SLR autofocus lens, in terms of both focal length and maximum aperture – available on special order only, each lens was produced after it was actually sold," reads the Facebook post by Wetzlar Camera Auctions (spotted by Canon Rumors). 

"The annual production volume was approximately two lenses, each lens took more than a year to be built, due to the time required growing its massive fluorite crystals – only very few specimens are known to exist today – offered for sale at our coming auction on October 09th 2021 in Wetzlar!"

The Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM features 13 elements in 10 groups, with an 8-bladed aperture, and it's an absolute behemoth that weighs 36.4lbs / 16.5kg and measures 836 x 228mm / 32.9 x 9 inches!

It will be fascinating to see how much it commands at sale in October, and who ends up buying it…

Read more: 

Best telephoto lenses
Best Canon telephoto lenses
Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM review

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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.