Bonhams dedicates auction to Leica cameras

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 4:20am

British auction house Bonhams will set a precedent tomorrow with Hong Kong's first auction dedicated to Leica cameras.

The company is banking on the allure of the Leica, a name whose history and reliability are legendary among photography and technology buffs.

The brand was favoured by the late French artist-photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the giants of the craft.

About 250 lots of cameras and other photography gear is to go on sale from the personal collections of the late British watchmaker George Daniels, and others.

"We're trying something innovative [for Hong Kong]," Bonhams managing director Jon Baddeley said.

In Hong Kong, as elsewhere, Leica is well known for its cameras' quality, durability - and high prices. Leicas are generally smaller and lighter than the digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras made by competitors such as Nikon and Canon, which dominate the market.

"Our customers who are 30 to 40 years old don't want a heavy DSLR; it hurts their necks. The Leica is smaller and more compact. You can just throw it in a bag," said Gilbert Yuen Chi-tat, 24, who owns a gallery and camera gear store focusing on Leicas.

Yuen opened Fotopia in Jordan in 2010, when the camera maker began manufacturing digital cameras.

He said that while the market for new Leicas was buoyed by mainland tourists, the demand for collectible Leicas at his shop came mostly from Hong Kong and international buyers.

Albert Yim, a Mong Kok camera shop owner and Leica collector, warned that there were fakes on the market which, to the untrained eye, looked very much like real Leicas.

"There are probably fakes at this auction," Yim said, adding that he didn't think the auction houses would take responsibility if fakes were discovered.

But Bonhams rejects that. "There are all sorts of rumours … If something is bought from Bonhams and it's proven to be a fake, we guarantee their money back," Baddeley said.

The auction takes place at 8pm at the Island Shangri-La ballroom in Central. Proceeds from the sales of the Daniels collection will go to the George Daniels Education Trust. Estimated prices range from HK$750 to HK$1.8 million per lot.