Rare Leica cameras arrive in city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2011, 12:00am


Two rare Leica cameras with a combined price tag of almost HK$1.6 million have arrived in Hong Kong ahead of the first auction of the legendary German cameras in the city, planned for next year. They have been brought by the German retailer and collector Rahn AG Foto & Fine Art in an effort to tap into growing interest among Asian collectors in the cameras that blazed a trail for 35mm photography almost a century ago.

There is no guarantee, however, that either of the cameras - in particular a prototype of the custom-made Leica presented to Queen Elizabeth II on her 60th birthday in 1986 and expected to sell for more than HK$1.3 million - will still be available when then auction goes ahead as it is already being hotly pursued by collectors. The other camera, one of only 500 examples of the current M9 model which were crafted from a single piece of titanium, has an expected price tag of HK$266,5000.

'We found that 20 years ago the Japanese market was the biggest market for Leica collectors,' Rahn proprietor Nicholas Uhl said. '[But] in the past five or six years everything changed. Now most worldwide collectors are in Hong Kong and China.'

At a Vienna auction in June, an Asian collector bought a Leica O-Series for Euro1.3 million (HK$14.4 million), the highest price paid for a Leica.

The cameras will be in Hong Kong until November, when the company will hold an auction of 90 per cent Leica products in Frankfurt.

While they would not go on public show, Rahn said it hoped that by bringing the items to Hong Kong the company would establish links with Chinese collectors and attract camera collectors and enthusiasts to next year's auction - the first it will have held here or on the mainland.

A date has yet to be set, but the auction will also involve mostly Leica products.

'Hong Kong is the door into China,' said Uhl.

'The people here are extremely enthusiastic about collecting and taking pictures ... they pay attention to detail and the history of Leica in particular.'

According to Uhl, there are two reasons for the growing interest among Chinese collectors. The first is increased disposable income. Secondly, more and more Chinese people are studying and living abroad, thus being able to bring back with them the knowledge of Leica and an enthusiasm for collecting when they return from overseas.