Photography is a fun sport yet it can get expensive very quickly. Just as bulls are judged by the size of their horns, it seems as though some judge photographers are judged by the size of their glass. Many newcomers unaware of the great bargains out there are put off by the high cost of lenses.
We decided to take sticker shock to the next level and composed this list of the most expensive lenses ever sold. Don’t worry about leaving your American Express card at home– it won’t help you afford these bad boys. And of course, this is a great page to send to clients when they ask why you won’t shoot a wedding for $200.
Photo: Andrés Nieto Porras (CC BY-SA 2.0)
1. Leica 1600mm f/5.6 Telephoto Lens
Leica made this custom lens for Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar at a price just topping $2 million. There’s no word on just what he’s been using the lens for and why he needs a 1600mm focal length. Throw a 2x teleconverter on it and you’ve got 3200mm of close-up goodness. With a weight of 132 pounds, it’s no wonder the owner also bought a custom Mercedes for lugging it around. Al-Thani, who’s most likely one of those gear addicts who can’t compose anything, has not released any sample images.
Price: $2 million (via Apotelyt)
2. Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens
Nikon first unveiled this rare lens at Photokina in 1970. This prime, designed for special scientific and industrial applications, is actually able to see behind itself! A series of filters are built into the lens since you obviously can’t fit any on the front. Nikon later released an updated version in the 1980s, but good luck finding one anywhere. One Nikkor 6mm recently sold at auction for £100,000 ($160,000). The instruction manual can be viewed for free here.
3. Canon 1200mm– “The Mother of all Telephotos”
This is the largest Canon lens ever made and only a handful exist. B&H Photo dubs it, “The Mother of all Telephotos,” but this thing looks more like a monster than a mother to us. It’s more than capable of producing clear images of scenery miles away. B&H has a lightly used model priced at $120,000, but supposedly Canon has been custom building new ones since 1993. Minimum focusing distance: 46 feet.
Price: $120,000 at B&H Photo
4. Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 APO EX DG
The Sigma 200-500 is the only 500mm lens that shoot at an aperture of f/2.8. Its 34-pound weight makes it a featherweight compared to the Leica 1600mm. The $25,000 street price and included 2x teleconverter also makes it a relative bargain. You can pick one up for Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts.
5. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens
Expect to sell at least one organ to afford this expensive Canon lens. Priced at more than $13,000, the Canon EF 800mm is designed for the pros among us. It will be released in May 2008, it is meant for long-range photography like sports, wildlife, and nature. Don’t expect to use this thing without a tripod by the way. At over 10 pounds, it probably weighs more than your camera, too.
This is it for the list, but there are plenty of other expensive specimens out there. Keep in mind that these lenses were for the most part designed for very special circumstances. Gear is only a small part of the equation in taking good photos– ultimately the photographer’s skill is the most important factor. Don’t let gear lust get the best of you.