This Prototype Noctilux Lens from 1964 Might Sell for $500K

photo of Leica Noctilux prototype lens

We’ve all seen some very pricey lens models emerge for sale as used or new models over the years, but one particular Noctilux takes the cake.

The old lens, a prototype Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 model from 1964 is expected to retail at auction for $500,000 dollars at an auction to be held next week. This of course is an estimated price and it might really sell for less, or possibly even more.

photo of leica noctilux 50mm prototype lens

The exceptionally rare lens was the basis for one of the first mass-produced optics to include an aspherical set of elements, which were introduced for mass production in 1966.

Leica/Leitz created the Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 B702 chrome prototype as a concept test run a couple of years before beginning mass production of a consumer-model version with the same essential technology in 1966.

According to the Leitz Auction, this particular little silver-colored lens was for its time the very pinnacle of optical design and technological advancement due to its capability at creating nearly perfect images with superb contrast and next to no coma aberrations.

In the words of the Auction’s organizers, “50 years ago, it was a great challenge even for Leitz to develop such a lens, which was also reflected in the price: the lens was almost twice as expensive as the body of a Leica M4,”

Leica went on to produce the mass-market version of this optic at a rate of one per day for the next decade. This amounts to a total of roughly 1800 units made.

For a consumer lens, this is a small number and causes even the mass-market post-1966 edition of the 50mm to be a rare and valuable item today.

The 1964 prototype model is something else entirely, being a one-of-a-kind creation and thus with such a high expectation for its final auction price. The Leitz Auction is even calling it a “unicorn” among special Leica lenses.

photo of prototype noctilux leica lens

As can be seen in the photos here, the entire optic is chromed over for a fine silver finish and has been kept in excellent, even working condition despite being more than 50 years old.

The Leitz auction even verified this, stating, “The photographic test shows that the lens still delivers the beautiful, dreamy images that the first version of the Noctilux is famous for. A small piece of graph paper is taped over the depth of field scale — it was used at the factory to mark test results on it,”

Notable too is that the word “Noctilux” isn’t engraved on this unique prototype device. The Leitz Photographica Auction’s valuation experts have estimated its sale value at between $400,000 and $500,000. It will start auctioning at a $200,000 base price.

photo of 1964 prototype leica noctilux 50mm lens

That the lens model comes from a brand as prestigious and old as Leica certainly helps give it even more gravitas at a photographic memorabilia auction.

This item and many others will be put up for bidding at the 41st Leitz Photographica Auction, which will be held this weekend on November 26th in Vienna, Austria.

Some of the other items that will be presented at the auction include a Leica M3 prototype optic, a Leica M2 Black Paint edition and an M3 OLIV Bundeseigentum camera that has previously sold at the Wetzlar Auction for a whopping $450,000 according to the site KosmoFoto.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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