Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Is This the World's Most Expensive Camera?

And is it the first commercially available camera?

According to Viennese the auction house WestLicht, it most likely is.

On May 26, WestLicht will auction off this Le Daguerreotype Susse Freres 6.5" x8.5" full-plate camera from 1839. The auction house says the camera features "soft wood, stained black, brass fittings, a manufacturer’s label is affixed to one side with the legend: LE DAGUERRÉOTYPE, D´aprés les Plans officiels déposés par Mr. DAGUERRE au Ministére de l´Interérieur. SUSSE Frères, 31, Place de la Bourse."

The Susse Freres camera was produced according to instructions from Daguerre and was marketed about 10 days earlier than his brother-in-law Alphonse Giroux's own Daguerreotype camera, which was widely believed to be the first commercially available camera. The Susse Freres camera were rumored to exist, but no known examples were ever seen. Some doubted they ever existed.

Apparently the rumors were correct.

According to the auction house:

The overall, original condition of the camera is exceptionally good and it has never been restored...Numerous experts attest that it is very likely the oldest commercially-produced camera in the world. An expertise by the well known specialist for early photography and author of numerous books on the subject, Michel Auer, is included.

The starting bid for the Susse Freres camera is 100,000 Euros, about $136,000. The final price for the camera is likely to go for much more than the opening bid. If it is indeed the first commercially available camera, I would be surprised to see it go for 10 times the opening bid. Online bidding via eBay will begin May 16.

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