Fire-damaged and unusable Leica M4 and Summicron lens sells for around $2,000
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Fire-damaged and unusable Leica M4 and Summicron lens sells for around $2,000

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You’d think an inoperable camera and lens damaged in a fire would be worthless. That’s probably true most of the time, but not the case when the gear in question is a Leica M4 with a Summicron 50mm lens. The 1968 camera and lens, described by Flints Auctions in the United Kingdom as ‘chargrilled,’ sold for £1,488 including UK VAT, which is just over $2,100 at current conversion rates. The actual hammer price was £1,200 ($1,700).

While a clean Leica M4 rangefinder camera is a beautiful camera with a timeless style, the fire-damaged one auctioned off looks rough. Really rough. Likewise, the Leitz Summicron 50mm F2 lens has seen better days.

Image credit: Flints Auctions

A Leica M4 in good condition can cost anywhere from $2,000 to more than $4,000, depending on its provenance, condition and what’s included with the camera, such as original packaging. The Summicron 50mm F2 lens is less expensive, ranging from $500 to more than $1,000, although there’s a wide range of conditions for lenses up for sale.

It’s not immediately clear how the sold Leica M4 and lens ended up at Flints Auctions. However, Kosmo Foto has more information on this particular camera. The camera was once owned by Jonathan Bloom, who reports that the camera was damaged in a house fire before he purchased it at a camera show for $900. He eventually sold it to a collector. Of the camera and why he purchased it in the first place, Bloom says, ‘I thought of it as pared down to the basics of design. An object, perfect in its form. Stripped of its utility but perfect in its design. That is what’s cool about this. Anyone who bemoans the broken camera is full of s–t.’

Image credit: Flints Auctions

He’s right that the camera is a stunning example of classic design. It’s odd to think about a camera as a piece of art in and of itself rather than as simply a tool for artists. But there’s no doubt that cameras can transcend the medium itself and become something special independent of their ability to produce photographs for some people. Companies put a lot of thought and time into the design of their cameras, not always just for usability reasons, but also for purely aesthetic ones. That care and precision show through in many cameras, the Leica M4 included.

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