Ensign Multex camera could snap up thousands

A rare British-made precision camera, found in a box of old cameras and lenses received as a gift, could bring up to £30,000 when offered for sale in London this month.

The Ensign Multex Model O Rangefinder Camera comes for sale with its highly desirable 53mm Xpres lens by Ross of London. 

Ensign Multex Model O Rangefinder Camera

Austin Farahar, head of cameras and photography at Chiswick Auctions, was recently contacted by a budding documentary photographer in Vienna who had recently been given a collection of old cameras by his in-laws who were moving house. Staying up into the early hours to research his new acquisitions, at around 4am in the morning he had come across a similar camera that had sold for thousands of euros. Chiswick specialist Austin Farahar was delighted to confirm his hunch and suggested an auction estimate of £20,000-£30,000. 

The Multex was made in two models between 1936-38. It was described in Ensign catalogues as ‘a precision miniature camera of unrivalled merit without any of the disadvantages of extreme long length of film, necessitating a large number of exposures before developing’.

Costing as much as many Leica cameras at the time, it was sold with a range of five lenses ascending in price from £19 10s to £40. The Ross Xpres f/.9 lens was among the most expensive additions and it is highly-prized today. 

A box of vintage cameras

Austin Farahar said that less than five similar cameras have been offered at auction in the last 20 years and estimates that fewer than 50 were likely produced at the time. “Prices for these cameras have rocketed in the last 20 years. The most exciting thing about this one is it’s a completely new discovery, complete with the maker’s Eveready case and fresh to the market.” 

The current owner plans to use some of the proceeds from the sale to fund a photography trip to Ukraine and is considering eye surgery so he can use his camera without the need for glasses. He has told his generous benefactors about the discovery but they kindly said ‘what’s gifted is given’. 

The Ensign Multex Model O Rangefinder Camera forms part of the March 21 sale at Chiswick Auctions titled The Bigger Picture: Fine Photographica & Panoramas.