Yul Brynner’s Leica MP Cameras Sell for More Than $3 Million

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results

The 43rd Leitz Photographica Auction occurred over the weekend in Vienna, Austria, and some exceptional cameras and lenses sold for huge sums.

Among the most valuable lots on offer were a pair of Leica MP cameras owned and used by famous actor Yul Brynner. Before the auction, Leitz expected the cameras to sell for up to €700,000, or more than $766,000 at current exchange rates. However, the hammer price for each camera significantly exceeded expectations.

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results
The Leica MP black paint no.59 ‘Yul Brynner’ sold for €1.44 million at the 43rd Leitz Photographica Auction.

Brynner’s Leica MP black paint no. 59 sold for €1,440,000 (almost $1.58 million), while Brynner’s other camera, no. 60, was auctioned for €1,320,000 ($1,445,252).

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results
Brynner’s other Leica MP (no.60) sold for slightly less — €1,320,000.

While not purchased for an eye-watering sum, although that is relative, Kosmo Foto has highlighted a spectacularly exciting bit of space history that sold at the recent auction. A Leningrad FAS-1 Space Camera sold for €96,000, or just over $105,000, beating Leitz’s high estimate of €70,000.

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results
The Leningrad FAS-1 Space Camera is extremely rare and sold for nearly €100,000. It is an important relic of the Soviet space program.

The FAS-1 is a relic of the iconic space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The camera is an early version of a specialized camera the Soviets developed in the 1960s as part of the Soyuz-3 program. “The construction is a heavily modified Leningrad, featuring a clockwork motor drive without a viewfinder. Every component of this camera is crafted to the highest quality standards. It has a shutter speed of 1/140 and a Bulb mode.

The design of the negative window is unique and seems to have been shaped to capture a round object, such as the Moon,” explains the auction house. The FAS-1’s new owner has a very rare camera on their hands. Further still, it is in near-mint working condition and sold alongside an original wooden box.

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results
Not many Leica M4 cameras were made in this olive colorway. This near-mint example sold for less than expected, but was still auctioned for €144,000.

Other highlights from the recent auction include a Leica M3 prototype camera produced as a test camera in the early 1950s that sold for €288,000 ($315,453) and a stylish Leica M4 olive Bundeseigentum kit made in 1970 that sold for €144,000 ($157,726).

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results
The third-most-expensive item sold at the recent auction is this Leica M3 prototype camera.

Non-Leica gear is also a significant part of each Leitz Photographica Auction, including a Fed 1 Fedka black paint that sold for €66,000 ($72,291) and a lovely Nikon S black paint camera that went to a lucky photographer for €48,000 ($52,575). A set of three Rolleiflex cameras owned and used by the famous American photographer Walker Evans also sold, garnering a €24,000 hammer price, equivalent to $26,287.

Leitz Photographica Auction no.43 results
Sold for €48,000, the Nikon S black paint is “one of the mythical items within the Nikon rangefinder system,” per Leitz Photographica Auctions.

Some of the more notable auction lots went unsold, including a one-of-a-kind Telyt 6/80cm prototype lens from the Leitz Museum and a Leica M3 owned by Günther Leitz, the fourth and youngest child of Ernst Leitz, the founder of the Leitz optical company. Günther Leitz oversaw many of Leica’s most important products, including the Leica M3. It is not unusual for lots in the auction to not be sold, and these items may appear again in a future auction.

The complete catalog for the 43rd Leitz Photographica Auction is available on the company’s website.

Image credits: Leitz Photographica Auction