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Top-secret rifle camera prototype sells for over $170,000

FS-3 FotoSniper rifle camera
(Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)

A top-secret camera rifle prototype, possibly the only one in existence, has sold at auction for €144,000 – approximately $171,500 / £123,500 / AU$227,600. 

The GOI Russian Marine Rifle Camera FS-3 prototype / FS-3 FotoSniper rifle camera was developed in 1943 by Russia at the GOI (Gosudarstvennyi Opticheskii Institut – "State Optical Institute") for the Soviet Baltic Fleet Navy for long range reconnaissance. 

While a number of FotoSniper systems were produced by the likes of Zenit, and even later released to the public, this outfit was developed in absolute secrecy by the Russian state in Leningrad – to the extent that the only documented evidence of its existence is a vintage photograph of it being used by a naval officer.

The outfit – which comprises a 600mm f/4.5 lens, mirror housing and shoulder stock – had an estimate of €60,000-70,000, ultimately selling for double that price.

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FS-3 FotoSniper rifle camera

(Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)
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FS-3 FotoSniper rifle camera

(Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)
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FS-3 FotoSniper rifle camera

(Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)
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FS-3 FotoSniper rifle camera

The only documented evidence of the FS-3 FotoSniper, depicting a Russian marine using the outfit (Image credit: Leitz Photographica Auction)

Here's the official description from the auction listing: 

"During the 900 day of the Second Wold [sic] War siege of Leningrad, the GOI factory did not stop production and further research. In 1943 the FS-3 FotoSniper was developed for the Soviet Baltic Fleet Navy. It was designed as a long-range reconnaissance camera equipped with a massive 60cm lens with a high maximal aperture of f4.5. The project was top secret, and even now, the only vintage documentation about this lens is a copy of a photograph showing a marine officer during the testing of the FS-3.

"As all prototypes from the GOI factory, this rifle has been made to very high standards. The set includes an olive-painted mirror GOI housing no.1717, with a special GOI 4.5/600mm lens (matching number 1717, including an original hood), FED body no.181238 (equipped with a quick-release plate connecting to the mirror housing), metal shoulder stock in matching finish - everything in working order and in excellent cosmetic condition. Also included is a fitted wooden case for the outfit.

"No comparable outfit is known to exist. This may be the only example made for testing purposes."

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James started working in the photographic industry in 2014 as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy – successor to 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. An Olympus and Canon user, James was previously technique editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine.