The very first prototype of Leica’s earliest experimentation with die-casting a camera is coming to auction this year with the expectation that collectors will be clamoring to add it to their collection.
Die casting is the process of forcing liquid hot metal into a mold under high pressure. That mold is made out of two hardened steel dies, hence the name, and the process is described as similar to injection molding. Casting is typically less expensive per part than other methods like milling, although its tolerances aren’t necessarily as good which is why some manufacturers will choose milling for smaller runs that require more precision.
Leica’s SL2 series cameras — for example — are milled from solid pieces of aluminum, but Leica has experimented with (and actively uses) various manufacturing methods over the years. For example, back in 1933, the company first tried die casting which is where this early prototype, which is coming to auction later this year, originates.
As Weztlar Camera Auctions explains to PetaPixel, this particular model was Leica’s earliest experiment with the process — one that would eventually be used with the Leica IIIc which came out not long after.
The prototype features an opening swing-up backdoor and folding rewind crank, which the aucion house says are features that were commercially introduced no earlier than before 1954 with the Leica M3 and again in 1967 with the M4.
This rare, one-of-a-kind prototype will be part of the Wetzlar Camera Auction that is set to take place in the fall. That’s a ways down the road, but the auction house will release more information on the camera prior to that.
While the prototype is rare and very likely valuable, it’s got a tall mountain to climb to become the most valuable Leica camera ever sold. While Yul Brynner’s Leica MP cameras sold for more than $3 million last November and a Leica 0-series camera dated to 1923 beat that by selling for #3.7 million in October, the camera that currently holds the record as the most expensive ever is Oskar Barnak’s personal 0-Series No. 105 camera which sold for a monumental $15 million in June 2022.
Those following rare cameras will have to wait until the fall to see if this die-cast prototype can hold a candle to those extremely high values when it heads to auction on October 12, 2024.
Image credits: Wetzlar Camera Auctions GmbH