One of the World’s Largest Camera Collections Goes to Auction

Australia is distraught with the recent closure of Michaels Camera Video Digital. It has been made world famous for its dedication to the photographic community and its extraordinary camera museum.

Michaels was more than just a camera store, offering a range of services including fine art printing, film development and printing, photography lessons, equipment rental, repairs cameras and expert advice on Australia’s largest range of photographic and cinematographic equipment.

It also provided access to one of the largest collections of private cameras in the world, as seen in an episode of Snap Happy.

106 years at the service of photographers

Announcing the store’s closure, Peter Michael, the General Manager of the Elizabeth Street business, shared the following statement via Meta:

“After 106 years serving the Melbourne community from the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale streets, first as a pawnbroker and gunsmith, then as a chemist, then for the past 46 years as the largest department store of specialized cameras at a single site in Australia, Michaels is closing their doors.

On behalf of the 5 generations of the Michael family who have traded from this corner since 1916, and all of our team members, we sincerely thank all of our customers for their loyal support over the years.

He then said on June 25 at 9 a.m. that Michaels would donate his remaining stock, including filters, cases, books, inkjet paper, batteries, adapters, used cameras, lenses , spotlights and more as reported in the local Nine News. cover.

Photo courtesy Peter Michael
Photo courtesy Peter Michael
Photo courtesy Peter Michael
Photo courtesy Peter Michael

“The people of Melbourne have supported us from day one. It was over 100 years ago. Donating our stock balance was a token of our appreciation by giving back to the community.

An interview with Peter Michael

Following the award ceremony, PetaPixel sat down with Michael to learn more about what’s next for the Family and Camera Museum, as well as some ideas for a legacy career in the imaging industry:

Leigh Diprose: Michaels was an institution for Australian photographers and filmmakers, locally and nationally. Can you share any advice on the generational success and longevity of imagery retailers, especially family businesses, given that the 100+ year old retail company has been in business since 1916?

Peter Michael: “I think the key is simple: listen and learn from your predecessors while bringing new ideas and new methods yourself. »

Photo courtesy of Peter Michael.

You are well known for having probably the largest collection of private cameras in the world, with over 10,000 pieces. Can you explain why you were initially going to donate the collection and what came out of conversations with the Melbourne Museum or the State Library?

“Ideally, our collection, which was truly a world-class collection, would have remained intact under the care of either of these institutions. However, in discussions with the two, it was clear that neither had unlimited physical or financial resources. Also, although our collection is large, there were very few Australian sourced pieces, which is their main focus.

Will you withhold pieces for sentimental reasons from your famous camera collection, or will it all go to Leski Auctions?

“I keep an Olympus Pen-F cutaway. As a child visiting the Melbourne Museum with a school excursion, I noticed an Olympus Pen-F cup and was mystified. It also happens to be the only coin in our collection that has a five-star rating – this means it’s the rarest coin and hardly ever comes up for sale.

Since the auction is large, what do you think will fetch the highest price? Do you have an estimate of the total collection and what rare items should people watch out for?

Lot 112 from the Michael Family Camera Museum Auction – Estimate: AU$60,000 – AU$80,000 (~$41,400 – $55,300)

“An extremely rare Chinese Red Flag 20 with a full set of lenses – 50/1.4, 35/1.4 and 90/2. This is likely to attract the most attention due to its rarity and history. auction will be held in four parts over the next two years and features many rare and interesting items.

Does a member of your family continue in the photography industry to carry on the legacy?

“Our son David runs our camera rental business as Michaels Camera Hire. Many photographers and videographers have trusted this service. He took all of our rental equipment, added more and has a dedicated rental shop conveniently located in Chapel Street in St Kilda.

Our daughter Carly is passionate about helping people preserve their photographic family stories. She started a new company called PhotoGenie. We hear so many stories of people running through burning houses to save photo albums because they are precious. Carly digitizes, brilliantly organizes, and provides robust backup solutions for the photo albums, shoeboxes of photos, movies, and videos that families have accumulated over time. Interestingly, she found that people are already losing images they thought were safely stored in “the cloud.” She has a “bag” of tools and techniques she has developed to keep them safe.

LOT 42. LEITZ: Leica I Model B [#6074] with Compur dial shutter [#348156]; with square base accessory shoe with Elmar f3.5 50mm lens. Total production was 638 units. Estimate: AUD12,000-AUD15,000 (~$8,300-$10,400)
LOT 48. LEITZ: Gold-plated replica Leica “Luxus” [#23355], red lizard skin body cover, fitted with Elmar f3.5 50mm lens and matching lens cap, with matching Leica leather ERC. Estimate: AUD1,500 – AUD2,000 (~$1,000 – $1,400)
LOT 74. LEITZ: Leica 250 Reporter (GG) 35mm Rangefinder Camera [#150164 series]1943, with Summar f2 50mm lens [#335133]with both film magazines and shutter speed at 1000. Estimate: AUD12,000-AUD18,000 (~$8,300-$12,400)
LOT 229. Canon Model J-II Camera [#8569] Seiki-Kogaku barrel engraved on the top plate, 1945-46, with Serenar 50mm f3.5 lens [#8050] and metal cap. Production began in late 1945, largely using parts from the Model S. The camera appears identical to the Model S except for the smaller rewind knob and curved end of the viewfinder housing . This camera became popular with the occupying troops, but fewer than 525 were produced. Estimate: AUD5,000-AUD7,500 (~$3,400-$5,200)

From your experience in the industry, what is one customer interaction or story that stands out?

“Throughout all our generations, we have never wavered in our commitment to providing genuine customer service. We have countless stories where we have been told that we have succeeded.

As an industry leader for so many years, can you tell us about the future of cameras and e-commerce in the next ten years?

“An excellent question. I am confident that rapidly evolving technologies will continue to propel the development of cameras and e-commerce. »

Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to work in the imaging industry?

“Hard work, dedication, listening to customers and finding opportunities.”


The first part of the Michael Family Camera Museum will begin at 6:00 p.m. AEST on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, via Leski Auctions or Invaluable. The remaining three parts of the auction will take place over the next two years.

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