Most Expensive Production Camera and First Leica M Sold at Auction

Back in May, a 1923 Leica O-Series camera became the most expensive camera on the planet after being sold for roughly $2.79 million at a WestLicht auction. That camera was a prototype camera, and just one of 25 made (only 12 of them exist today). If you’re wondering what the most expensive non-prototype camera is, look no further than the latest WestLicht auction that was held earlier today. The Leica M3D seen above fetched a staggering €1.68 million, or roughly $2.18 million, becoming “the most expensive camera from a serial production ever.”

The camera was one of four that was specially customized by Leitz for American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan, and was used for many years to document powerful photographs of war. Although the camera is still listed in “very good” condition, it’s definitely not the immaculate device you might expect to see when looking at a collectible camera:

Another notable camera sold in the auction was the very first production M3 ever made, created back in 1953 and engraved with the serial number 700001. The camera fetched €900K, or ~$1.17 million. It was never sold to the public, but was instead kept by Leica’s chief designer at the time, Willi Stein. The camera is in “near mint condition,” and looks like it just popped off the manufacturing line yesterday:

Other notable cameras sold include the first Leica owned by Robert Capa (€78K) and Soviet cameras that were intended to be used on the moon (€57K).

The auctions fetched over 8 million Euros in total. What’s interesting is that many of the cameras sold for extremely high prices were extremely well-worn. A reader named Paul, who sent in this tip, writes, “Just to show, even for a collector it’s better to use a camera than to keep it in its original box!”

  • maattrraan


  • wickerprints

    More photography and less Leica worship, please.

  • Eric Frame

    I’d rather have a Bugatti. :/

  • Eric Öhman

    More Leica and less photography, please.

  • madmax

    I suspect in these auctions there are Leica´s people who buy at absurdly high prices so that Leica´s legend don´t decay…

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    “Oooh look at meee, I hate Leica, all Leica users are elitist pricks”. Man you guys sound so bitter (jealous?). I bought my M6 and 50mm Elmar-M for a little less than 4 times as much as my FM2n body. It’s not that [swearing word] expensive. Stop being so butthurt and go make some photos with whatever camera you prefer.

  • Dale Van Iersel

    dude seriously, if yr into analogue and had a gazzillion dollars in throwaway cash then why wouldn’t you buy up all this crap? people trip on leica and so they should, its awesome. and if you dont think so then go play with yr DSLR lens kit

  • calculi

    The counter on Leica M3D is the counter found on Leica M2. I wonder if it was customized to accommodate 35mm framelines.

  • Edward

    No camera in the world makes an amateur look like a pro other than Leica. Congratulations to the new owner of this piece of history.

  • OmniMode

    I can relate…if I had loads of money, there’s some vintage audio gear I’d spend ridiculous amounts to have…field gear like and old Nagra IVs, a Stellavox, or a studio Studer 2″…beautiful industrial design and engineering, and appeals to my sense of nostalgia. Heck, I’d even get me a bunch of Hassy 500’s for the same reason…

  • Nur Hidayat

    I prefer to have 1000 another camera DSLR than only one Leica.

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    Yeah, you can’t really appreciate one if you haven’t actually tried one (A M series ofc), which you obviously never have.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    Nikon D4 – $5,999.95 Canon 1D X – $6,799.00 Leica M9 – $6,495.00 (RRP)

    I don’t know why people go on about price so much and why people think Leica’s are so unobtainable.

    As a side note – you can pick up used Leica M3 bodies for less than $1,000 if you look in the right places and Voigtlander lenses are most definitely affordable.

    Leica’s are affordable if you know where to look – but first you have to take your head out of your ass. :)

    (I don’t own a leica, but I have shot one roll of film with one, I do plan to buy a Leica at some point)

  • Brad Trent

    If I was such a HUGE fan of the work of David Douglas Duncan, I could easily take the $2.18 million and buy EVERY photo he had ever taken…and still have a sizable pile of cash left over…instead of owning the hunk of metal and glass he used to take those photos.

  • tommyna

    I have only 1 (one) DSLR and 13 (thirteen) working and functioning analog Leica M and many more to come I hope…It’s a Leica thing, you wouldn’t understand

  • Fran Pinto

    If you hate Leica why are you writing in a publication about Leica? Maybe you’re an idiot pretending to disturb other people.

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    Read my post again. Imbecile.

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    My Leica M6 with 50mm Elmar-M cost less than my D700. I have ~25 different analog cameras and 2 digital, and I’m a student. Cut your hair and get a job and you’ll afford it in no time.

  • Sean Crosby

    The lenses, that’s why.

    sure, you can buy a decent quality M4 for like 6 or 700$..

    but then you have to drop another grand on a decent copy of a summicron… and who knows how much more for a whole system.