The $2 Million Dollar Camera – Plus the Images That Made it Famous

PHOTO: BNPS.CO.UK

If you take photos for a living – or simply love the craft – you are probably like me in that you’ve spent more of your hard earned dough on cameras and photographic gadgetry than the average Joe. But would you be willing to pay 2 million dollars for a camera? That’s a whole new level of love for the magic light-box.

I’m referring to David Douglas Duncan‘s Leica M3, a camera that captured some of the most well known war images along with incredible portraits of his good friend Pablo Picasso. It was just sold for $2.19 million – making it the most expensive commercially manufactured camera ever to be sold.

Although this camera is special because of who wielded it and the incredible images that passed through its innards, it is also unique in that it is one of four Leica M3Ds ever created – the D stands for Duncan. Leica created this battle hardened camera specifically for him, so that he could get in the midst of the action without compromising the integrity of this remarkable tool.

Scroll down for some of Duncan’s famous images and ask yourself the question: if you had all the money in the world, would YOU pay 2 million for a camera with such a deep and rich history?

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85 Responses to The $2 Million Dollar Camera – Plus the Images That Made it Famous

  1. Chris December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Damn !
    Ok that is a well Camera but 2$ is a way to much , may I spend 1Million for it hehe !
    Have a great day !

  2. Anthony December 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Wow, i think because of its history, and if i had all the money in the world i would definitely spend $2m on the camera, its a piece of history!

  3. Barbar December 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    No, i would not.

  4. Lou Goodman December 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I would love to have heard his response to,” What great pictures…what kind of camera do you use”?

    • tim gray April 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      His answer would have been, “my kind of camera”

  5. Chris December 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Yes sir I would.

  6. Jeff Krutsinger December 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I believe that the camera is simply the creative tool that allows artists to express themselves. Im amazing how much photographers are so fixated on the equipment rather than the craft. After all, you never ask a writer what kind of pen, pencil or typewriter they used. You don’t ask a painter what kind of brush they used to apply color to a canvas nor do you ask a ccok what kind of oven, spatula or knife they use to make an incredible meal. So why do photographers pay more attention to the equipment and over look the craft, artistry and craftsmanship a photographer puts behind the thought before pushing the shutter release?

    • ScottAblaze December 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      This happens in a lot of fields that use require technology as a creative tool. I’m primarily in the audio profession, and people will argue for days on the internet about what analog to digital converters where used… the real masters, however, couldn’t care less beyond a certain threshold of quality gear.

      • Jon April 6, 2013 at 11:28 am #

        Same here, I totally agree!

    • Kevin Sheehan December 12, 2012 at 5:22 am #

      I appreciate what you are saying and agree that it is a shame that often the technology overtakes the thought processes in discussions. But whatever the merits I think it happens in all fields, being exposed to the catering industry I can tell you that many chefs can have quite animated discussions over which over is best for what meal.

    • digitalkoh December 12, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Amen!

    • Brian Krecik December 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

      Jeff, that is a easy question that is easily answered. Those that fixate on the equipment rather than the intent or vision of the artist simply lack the knowledge or artistic intent needed to understand and critique another artists work. Their belief is simply, what tools did you use in the hopes I too can capture such great images. If you want to learn to create images that are uniquely your own, delve deep and explore what makes you tick – then you will come close to finding your voice to express yourself no matter what artistic intent you choose.

      Warmly,
      Brian Krecik

    • JohnnyLA March 22, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      “You don’t ask a painter what kind of brush they used to apply color to a canvas nor do you ask a ccok what kind of oven, spatula or knife they use to make an incredible meal.”

      Oh, yes they do! I am a amateur painter and you have no idea the discussions around me in class about brushes and especially the quality of paint (oil, watercolor, etc).

      Same with cooking. Le Creuset pots or Lodge? Steel or rubberized spatulas.

      Same even with programming. C++ or C#. Java or Python. ViM or eMacs.

    • nikki April 6, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      The most important part of the camera is the 6 inches behind it.

    • photo2010 April 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      As a pro photographer, I believe that a good photographer can make great images with a ‘Brownie’ camera. No, I would not spend 2 million for this Leica. Better to donate the money to a charity.

  7. Levin den Boer December 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Oh yes I would!!!

  8. Jim Felt December 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    DDD very unlike W. Eugene Smith, Alfred Eisenstadt and other peers of that era were not shameless self promoters!
    Duncan was. He is also frequently credited with conning Joe Ehrenreich into becoming the original Post WWII American importer of Chase’s (not so much any longer Japanese made) brand Nikon.
    I’m, of course, referring to the rangefinder Nippon Kogaku knockoffs of Zeiss. Just as Canon copied Leica.
    It’s all a distant and dusty past.

  9. Russell December 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    should the photographs/film be more expensive? the camera doesn’t have a trace to those stunning pictures expect to the owner of the camera.

  10. Matt Ebenezer December 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    The images are the legacy, not the camera.

    If I had all the money in the world I hope I would use it to make more of a difference in the world than buying this camera ever would.

  11. Chrisw December 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I would love that camera but I’d rather donate it to a youth center or use it to make history rather than purchase it. It’s a beautiful camera but no camera is worth 2 million regardless if even Ansel Adams or Jesus used it.

  12. Matthew Peake December 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    It is amazing to own a tool that an amazing photographer used. DDD created amazing images from the time he started the photo department for Hallmark cards to his Vietnam War photographs. I own a few photographs of his and cherish them. I am of course more interested in the images he took than the machine he used, however to hold the camera he used day in and out is much like putting on a pair of Rocky Marciano’s boxing gloves.

  13. Jiffy December 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    PEANUT BUTTERRRRRRRRR

  14. Francisco Javier December 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I would… I would spend that much money just to have the camera… and I will spend more just to give that camera to the owner, the person who took the photos…
    Can you imagine how special it would be for that person? o.o

  15. Adil December 10, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    I’d rather have the films instead.

  16. Anonymous December 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Absolutely !

    as long as it comes with full ownership rights of the photos it made…

  17. Franz Scheurer December 11, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    If I had an spare couple of Millions, I would spend it with Leica to make me an M9D :-)

  18. faisal December 11, 2012 at 5:25 am #

    Amazing camera, if I had that much money, I would make another camera of that quality ;p

  19. Nicolae Cioloca December 11, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    No.

    Selling the cam + the Prints = great marketing.

    I think the “main” product are the photographys which have been sold with the cam.

    It`s just a camera, its worth what any other Leica M3(D) is worth nowadays. These might not be cheap anyway.

    Who sold the package?

    Nic

  20. ZDP-189 December 11, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    If you would pay two million for this, you’d pay twenty million for a renaissance master’s oil knife and a hundred million for Leonardo’s pencil. I’d pay no more than two grand for this camera and then I’d shoot it till there was no paint left and then some.

  21. George December 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    $2 Million for a camera! I hope that money went into doing something good for the less fortunate!

    • renatorock December 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      i agree… this camera is taking another picture of the world in which we live now

  22. Renatorock December 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    The right question here would be: if you lived in a perfect world where there were not millions of people in starvation…
    Having or not money for that is really an irrelevant point too make a decision although I have too agree that this camera is very special in many ways.

  23. Brian Krecik December 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    If I had the money I would purchase then donate to a museum. A great piece of history that should be shared with the world.

  24. RichSib December 13, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    Is it worth $2M? Don’t know, how many megapixels? What’s the burst rate?

    • john April 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

      Film idiot

  25. Christy Harper December 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    This is a great article thanks for sharing :)

  26. Daniel kappelle December 22, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Wow, the shots are awesome. $2 million for a camera? Well, if I had all the money in the world, I would take it. Just to look at it, I would probably dedicate a room to it full of huge prints of photos that were shot with this camera and then put the camera in the middle of the room. I would come in that room now and then, pat the camera, admire the shots and then think: “how can I be as awesome as that guy?”

    Yep, that’s probably what I would do :D

  27. Crash Taylor December 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Of course I would. I would pay 3 million for it.

  28. Haw December 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    “If I have all the money in the world”, then yes I would buy it for 2 million dollars. Not only that. I would also buy every print this camera had taken …if I have all the money in the world :)

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  49. D March 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    How much have Picasso’s paintbrushes, or Di Vinci’s pens sold for at auction? Exactly the same historical value as this camera.

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  57. Clarice James March 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Love the images and yes if I had. Alll the money in the world I sure would flaunt it on that baby and a piece of history is a plus…

  58. Stephen April 6, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I would donate it to a museum.

  59. Sathya April 6, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Now quick find the typewriter that Shakespeare used, it would be worth couple of millions !

    p.s: i know he might not have used one, but you get the point :)

  60. Davor April 6, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I don’t need a camera with a history, I need a camera with a future.
    With all the money in the world, yes, I’d buy my dream equipment, but spend the rest on photographing oportunities.

  61. Jacque April 6, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I have 3 Leicas and I love them all. I’ve spent a LOT of money on my babies, but my M3 was a couple thousand for the same camera.

  62. L Dewar April 6, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    It does not matter how much money I had, I would rather see the images captured with the camera, than have the camera.

  63. Gabriel April 6, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Sure, though it be a chore to explain its worth to whoever came to visit.

  64. Jane April 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    If I was wealthy enough to buy that camera, it would give me a greater pleasure to donate 2 million to a deserving charity. I’m not at all caught up in material possessions.

  65. Olmon April 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    That is an easy question to answer. No, I wouldn’t.

  66. Tom April 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Wouldn’t spend a penny over 1.9 million.

  67. Sergio Sarnicola April 7, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    No, never.

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