Rare 0-Series Leica camera owned by Oskar Barnack expected to fetch over $2.6M at auction


The 40th Leitz Photographica Auction is just around the corner and to celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary, Leica is auctioning off an extremely rare unit, a Leica 0-Series camera owned and used by Oskar Barnack, the man who more or less invented 35mm still photography.

This year’s auction will be held at Leitz Park in Wetzlar, Germany, on June 11, 2022. While other cameras, lenses and accessories are expected to be auctioned off, the stand-out offering is a 1923 Leica 0-Series (unit No. 105) camera with a 50mm F3.5 lens attached. This unique model is one of 23 0-Series cameras that were used to gauge interest in Leitz cameras ahead of the launch of the Leica A two years later.

Of the nearly two dozen 0-Series cameras produced, only a dozen are believed to have survived over the years. This particular unit carries an even more unique history, considering it was owned by Oskar Barnack, whose name is engraved atop the viewfinder of the camera. Leica says Barnack used this camera to help better understand how he could improve future models as he photographed the world around him before eventually giving it to his son, Conrad, when he made the jump to the Leica I Model C, which offered interchangeable lenses. It remained in the family until 1960, when it was sold to an American collector.

The unit and the included accessories are described as follows by Leitz Photographica Auction:

‘The lot includes an original leather lens cap on a string, later aluminium cap, engraved with initials ‘O.B.’ and heavily-modified Nettel camera that Barnack used for his photographic research studies, as well as numerous documents and letters concerning the Barnack’s camera. The Leica 0-Series no.105 we have a pleasure to offer for sale is not only the most distinguished Leica existing but also one of the major historical milestones from the history of photography.’

The organizers of the Leitz Photographica Auction estimates this camera, whose bidding will start at €1,000,000, will go for around €2,000,000 ($2.2M) to €3,000,000 ($3.3M), which is within the range of a previous 0-Series model that sold for a record-breaking €2,400,000 ($2.6M) back in 2018.

If you’re interested in learning more about the 40th Leitz Photographica Auction, head on over to the Leitz Auction website.

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