Here's the thing about film cameras: they're actually more valuable now than they've been for decades. Film is experiencing a major popularity boom among today's photographers, and there are a lot of old cameras worth money.
Very few companies still make film cameras, so modern photographers compete for the old Polaroids, Hasselblads, Leicas, and Rolleis of previous generations, driving up the price for these still-functional tools. There are a few models that stand out for their high value, and it's good to know what they are if you're browsing or considering selling one.
10 Most Valuable Old Cameras to Watch For
Although a gold-plated Leica will set you back more than half a million dollars, you're not likely to encounter one of those in real life. You might, however, run into any of these super valuable beauties in a photography store or online (or if you're one of the lucky few, in your uncle's attic).
|Value in Good Condition
Introduced in 1999 (at the end of the film era), the Mamiya 7ii is one of the most valuable cameras out there. Very few were made, and they have some serious practical advantages for photographers. They take 120 film and make a large negative (offering super-high resolution), have awesome lenses, and they are lighter than many 35mm systems. They regularly sell in the $3,400 range in excellent condition, but if you find one with the box, it's worth even more. An unused Mamiya 7ii with an 80mm lens sold for almost $10,000.
Released in 2003, the Leica MP is a 35mm rangefinder from the hottest label in film photography. It's fully mechanical, other than the light meter, which means it has the simplicity and beautiful engineering people expect from a Leica. They regularly sell for around $5,000, but new in the box, they can fetch up to $9,000.
Any time you find a Leica camera, it's really worth looking at carefully. This is one of the most coveted camera brands, and there are lots of different models. Same goes for Leica glass (lenses).
Made between 1984 and 1998, the Leica M6 was the top-of-the-line 35mm system at the very end of the film camera era (just before digital took over photography). In addition to the Leica name and the quality this means, we're talking about a camera that's fairly young in the world of valuable old cameras (only about three or four decades!). In excellent condition, they sell for around $3,200 generally, but if you can find one new in the box or in mint condition, it could be worth even more. One with its original box and paperwork sold for about $9,000.
The Leica M2 is a classic film camera that almost all photographers want. It's a 35mm rangefinder and was made between 1957 and 1968. In original (functional) condition, M2s regularly sell for $1,800 or more. If the camera has been repainted and given a CLA (clean, lube, and adjust), you might just have a treasure. A period-appropriate repaint of a classic Leica M2 in fully functional condition sold for $7,400.
Most old cameras worth money sell for more if they've recently been looked over by a professional. A CLA is a cleaning and adjustment done by a pro, and it shows buyers that the camera works well. This is important for value.
Rollei is another big name in film cameras, and the classic TLR (twin lens reflex) is what you may think of when you imagine a camera from the 1960s or 1970s. Rollei made the iconic Rolleiflex for decades, but the 2.8 GX was one of the last models made. It came out in 1987 and continued to be made in special editions through 2000. Regular editions sell for around $3,800 in excellent shape, and special editions can be worth as much as $7,200 due to their rarity.
Hasselblad is another legendary camera manufacturer, and you'll see many of their cameras on the most valuable lists. The Xpan was a unique 35mm rangefinder camera that could switch between a normal 35mm photo and a panorama without the photographer switching film. It came out at the tail end of the film era in 1998. Part of what makes the Hasselblad Xpan so valuable is its rarity — just under 17,000 were ever made. In excellent shape with the original box and a 45mm lens, the Xpan sells for about $6,600. In good used condition, they still sell for about $4,000.
The Contax 645 is a cult classic among film photographers for a few reasons. It uses (and is often sold with) amazing Zeiss lenses, and it's really easy to use. Like a lot of valuable old cameras, it comes from the 1990s. It's light and has some really user-friendly features like auto exposure and autofocus. It makes a big negative, too (6cm by 4.5cm, hence the name). They often sell in the $3,500 range with a good lens, but in mint condition with an 80mm Zeiss lens, they can go for up to $5,500.
The classic Hasselblad system pretty much every film photographer wants is the Hasselblad 501CM. It's an icon and an ultra-useful, mechanical camera with some of the best lenses out there. It hails from around 1997 to 2005, so again, it's young for an old film camera. The body alone sells for about $2,200 in excellent condition, and if you can find one in the original box with a Zeiss 80mm lens, expect it to be worth around $5,000.
The Hasselblad 503CW came out in 1996 from the legendary camera manufacturer. It's a joy to shoot, and as a later model, it's in high demand among photographers. The body alone regularly sells for about $1,800, and it's worth a lot more with one of the amazing Zeiss lenses sold for this system. A Hasselblad 503CW with an 80mm Zeiss lens and the original boxes and paperwork can sell for about $4,600.
This camera is a little different than anything else on the list, but it's one of the most iconic and valuable old cameras out there. This wood and metal large-format camera shoots 8x10 film (as in eight inches by ten inches). Made between 1923 and 1988, this was the top-of-the-line large-format camera for professional photographers in the 20th century. This antique camera's value depends on its condition and the features it has, but they tend to be worth around $3,000 in great condition. Exceptional examples can be worth $4,400 or more.
Are Other Old Cameras Worth Money?
If you have a Leica or a Hasselblad, chances are good you've got your hands on something valuable. Certain names just carry a lot of cache. But what about other old cameras? It all depends on a few factors:
- Film availability: You can find film for most old cameras, but sometimes you need an adapter. Cameras that take weird film types like 620 or 116 may be worth less because of the hassle. If it shoots 35mm, 120, or sheet film, chances are it's valuable.
- Condition: Above all else, a camera is a tool. It has to work to be worth a lot. You can sell a non-functional camera for parts, but working cameras are worth the most.
- Reputation: The main reason a lot of Leicas have such high value is their reputation for quality. Some camera brands don't have that kind of association (even if they still take great pictures). For example, and Argus camera value may only be around $100, while a Rolleiflex can easily be $1,000 or more.
- Charm: People who shoot film love their cameras; it's just part of the art. A pretty, charming camera tends to be worth more than an ugly one — photographic quality aside. For instance, old Polaroid camera values rely heavily on the nostalgia factor (plus film availability).
Valuable Tools for Film Photographers
All old cameras are worth money, but some are worth more money than others. Even as a decorative object, a vintage camera can be worth $20 or more. But the real value is for tools that today's film photographers want to use. If you've got a camera that works and takes great photos, you have something valuable.