Ansel Adams’s Arca Swiss 4×5 Camera Set to Be Auctioned Off Next Month


It’s not often a piece of photographic history as important as this goes up for auction. What you see above is the Arca Swiss 4×5 camera that Ansel Adams used between 1964 and 1968. Set to be auctioned off with a plethora of old Leicas by Revival Auction Company, this item is very highly regarded because it may be the first of Ansel Adams cameras to be auctioned off.

Expected to sell for around $300,000, it’s probably a safe assumption that there are people out there willing to shell out far more for it. That’s especially true considering the camera’s condition, which is listed as ‘excellent,’ with the lens functioning properly, the bellows properly keeping light out and the shutter still firing as it should… not that the buyer will use it.


As to how it ended up for auction, the story unfolds as follows: In the later years of Adam’s life, he handed off this beauty to Liliane DeCock, his full-time assistant throughout many years of his career. After DeCock passed away in 2013, the camera was willed off to her son, who kept it safely in storage until now.


The auction takes place on July 9th, so if you’re in the market for a wonderful piece of photographic history, get your bank account ready… bidding is probably going to be intense. To find out more, head over to the listing by clicking here.

(via The Phoblographer)

  • Toby Hawkins

    ‘Willed off to her son who kept it safely in storage until now’? A whole ~12 months?! I imagine most of that was spent finding the best auction house.

  • Adam Cross

    proves your camera doesn’t have to look battered and bruised to be considered well used. No need to smash your camera around to prove the point that you actually use your camera to on-lookers and forum stalkers

  • jon

    Yes, his cameras are surprisingly well-maintained. Then again, he worked slowly. He wasn’t exactly a war photographer.

  • Gannon Burgett

    Storage could be a closet. Or a box. Or under the bed.

  • Zos Xavius

    Well let’s see, did he carry this camera around on his shoulder every day or did he take it out of a box, set it up, shoot and then return it to its box? If you carry and use a camera constantly, at the very least the paint will start wearing off. Unless you keep it in a bag all the time, but then how would you take pictures with it there?

  • Adam Cross

    he has also been documented mounting his camera to the roof of his car. working slowly doesn’t always mean carefully.

  • Gary Rowan Higgins

    Just as well the majority of Adams’ work was car-based. The question arises, did his assistant actually get to carry any of this equipment?

  • jon

    Is mounting a camera to the roof of your car dangerous? or did he do this haphazardly?

  • Don Imus

    Not the first AA cameras to be auctioned. See: Imus, Don. The auction info you (PP) linked to notes this is the first VIEW camera owned by AA that is believed to be available.

  • Don Imus

    You sure you don’t mean using on a tripod while standing on a platform on his station wagon?

  • Don Imus

    Not sure how much this camera was actually used in the field by AA. Don’t know how much he used a rail/studio setup in the outdoors. I only recall seeing field cameras. Not that it couldn’t happen. Also, it was not his most productive era for photographing out in the field.

  • Gary Rowan Higgins

    Yes, he did.
    In terms of “working slowly”, Adams didn’t always do that; he could work quickly and methodically if conditions or circumstance needed it. His “Moonrise over Hernandez NM” trademark image was shot quickly, and to add to the complexity he didn’t have his light meter with him at that time, resorting instead to an educated guess. It is to the great benefit of all photographers that they learn to be fluent and precise with their LF equipment at speed, as well as if and when they are working with it slowly.

  • Don Imus

    Not so much an “educated guess” as knowing the exposure of the moon (which is to say, that the moon is lit by the sun). And, yes, I know he used his camera on a tripod on a platform on his station wagon; I am unfamiliar with him mounting a camera to the roof of his car, I was wondering if Adam meant just that.

  • Burnin Biomass

    When I get a new camera I always put a scratch on it . Not because it looks cool, its so I wont baby it. Its a tool.

  • Guest

    I think Adam has no clue what hes talking about.. He never mounted any camera to the roof of his car. He built a platform on his car and when the car was parked..He stood on it with his Tripod and Camera.

  • Anomouse

    I suspect the Leicas were Lillian’s other personal cameras, not Ansel’s. An MD might have been used for making slides on a copy stand, a common task for exhibiting photographers as you often had to submit slides for review.

  • Anomouse

    He is pictured in Ted Orland’s “Photographic Truths” using this camera and it looked like the late 1960s, early 1970s era based on the fashions the kids in the photo were wearing. It is harder to date Ansel by his wardrobe choices ;-p

  • SeoulFood

    Man! Where’s this car at? When is it going to be auctioned off?

  • Tenisd

    “used between 1964 and 1968″ why so little? I was thinking it is only modern thing to change cameras often

  • Raymond Larose

    Almost willing to take out a second mortgage for this. Almost…

  • Anomouse

    Nice to see he was still using the classic Kodak Commercial Ektar lenses mostly, the finest lenses of their day made here in Rochester, New York.

  • David Addams

    That was the period of time Adams used the camera.

    De Cock was also a photographer and used it after that.

  • Javier Ceballos Enríquez

    Can you imagine yourself wearing A, Einstein Watch or driving Fernando Alonsos’s Ferrari? MMMhhhh,,, By any chance, did he have any digital one…? Ok, Ok. I’ll auction for one Steve McCurry’s D4.

  • Andrew Munday

    “…not that the buyer will use it”. Sad…I would…in my dreams!

  • David Addams

    The ownership of most of the cameras is uncertain given Lilian De Cock’s in-laws.

    Her mother-in-law was a dance photographer.
    Her father-in-law, Willard Morgan, was picture editor for Life. (Lot 56 is one of his cameras.) Willard was apparently an avid Leica user.

    Another camera is known to have belonged to her husband, Douglas Morgan. (Douglas Morgan was better known as a publisher than photographer.) Lot 95 probably belonged to him as well as he was employed by the Army Corp of Engineers at one time.

    (I took the time to read the bios included in the Auction Catalog.)

    The auction company can’t determine which photographer involved (including Adams) owned or used any particular piece of equipment, with the exception of those specifically mentioned in the catalog.

  • Anomouse

    Thanks, yep Willard Morgan wrote “The Leica Manual” series so it figures there would be a lot of Leicas around.

  • Gary Rowan Higgins

    “…not that the buyer will use it.”

    Oh really!? Not that the buyer will use it!? The scriptwriter needs a good talking-to.
    Is there something we haven’t been told?
    I’m very sure there are legions of photographers who *would* use such an Arca Swiss, and still more who actively do with the smaller and still larger AS systems in professional and amateur production.

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  • malez

    why that silver leica m in the second photo doesn’t have any view finder? what model is it does any one knows?

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  • Tenisd

    Thank You

  • Ken Elliott

    I believe this is the version for Leica microscopes.

  • Mark Brown

    I think I need a vacation. While reading the article I saw the photo titled “Ansel Adams in Yosemite” in my periphery and thought the mountain was a big T-Rex.

  • Bill Binns

    I don’t think the author was making a dig against large format film photography. It’s probably very safe to assume that a camera that is expected to sell for 300k or more has been on it’s last trip to the woods.