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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 May 2007, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
World's 'oldest camera' auctioned
There are only a few intact daguerroptypes around the world

One of the world's oldest cameras has sold to an anonymous bidder at auction for almost 600,000 euros (400,000).

The daguerreotype camera, made by French firm Susse Freres no later than 1839, was found in a German attic and sold at a Vienna auction house.

Bids came from around the world for the daguerreotype, said by an expert to be the only remaining Susse Freres model.

The daguerreotype process, only perfected in 1839, was judged the first viable form of commercial photography.

The head of the Vienna auction house said he was convinced the piece was from the earliest years of popular photography.

"I was of course shocked because every camera dealer dreams of one day owning a daguerreotype camera," said Peter Coeln.

Portrait technique

The daguerreotype was named after the man who invented the process, Frenchman Louis Daguerre.

Each daguerreotype developed a positive image - not a negative, like later photographic processes - on a plate of mirror-polished silver, and did not allow for any reproductions.

But the relative speed of the process compared to previous techniques made the daguerreotype the first kind of "popular" photography, and was particularly suited to portraits.

The first photograph of Abraham Lincoln was believed to have been taken using a daguerreotype, in the 1840s.

Today few daguerreotypes survive intact in private hands, and the discovery of the Susse Freres model, in a Munich loft where it had lain undisturbed since 1940, prompted a frenzy of interest.

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