World's oldest camera fetches record price

Updated on May 27, 2007 01:05 AM IST
The camera was a myth among experts for 170 years before it was found gathering dust in an attic in Munich.
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DPA | By, Vienna

The oldest commercially built photo camera, a so-called Daguerrotype Susses Freres was auctioned at Vienna's WestLicht gallery and auction house on Saturday for 588,613 euros ($792,333), making it the most expensive camera ever sold.

The Vienna camera is the only known example of its kind. Before it was found gathering dust in an attic in Munich, Germany, it was regarded as a myth among photography experts for the past 170 years.

Invented by French chemist Lois Daguerre, a daguerreotype is an early type of photograph.

It produces a direct image on a polished silver surface that bears a coating of silver halide particles, deposited by iodine bromide or chlorine vapours. As there was no negative original like in modern photography, no copies of pictures could be made.

The process was widespread in Europe and the US for about one decade after its initial development before it was supplanted by different techniques.

The camera on auction in Vienna was first advertised for sale on Sep 5, 1839, weeks before another Daguerrotype, produced by Daguerre's brother-in-law, Alphonse Giroux was commercially available.

The Giroux Daguerrotype is widely regarded as the first commercially produced camera. Around 10 of those cameras still exist in museums worldwide.

The camera in Saturday's auction was sold to an online bidder who wished to remain anonymous, WestLicht said in a press release. Bidders from Korea, Japan, the US and France participated in the auction in which the base price was 100,000 euros.

Ahead of the auction some experts expected an even higher price, but for WestLicht owner Peter Coeln the price fetched was already "sensational".

WestLicht, a small private photo gallery and auction house, organises photographica auctions twice a year.

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