The optics[]

Carl Zeiss of Germany is among the most renowned of the lens manufacturers. It's part of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, which also owned the Zeiss Ikon camera maker from its foundation in 1926 until it disappeared in 1972. In its long history it equipped many camera makers.

The company was founded in Jena in 1856 and called Carl Zeiss Jena. It produced microscopes and the refractometer, an optical instrument to measure the index of refraction of optical glass, developed by Carl Zeiss' partner Ernst Abbe. After Carl Zeiss' death in 1888, Abbe founded the Zeiss Foundation and built up its photographic optics branch and reduced daily working time of the company's employees to 8 hours.

Carl Zeiss' scientists like Paul Rudolph created such classic lens formulae as the Tessar, Planar, Biogon, and Sonnar. Around 1900 Zeiss lenses were licensed by Bausch & Lomb (Rochester), F. Koritska (Milano), E. Krauss (Paris), E. Suter (Basle), Fritsch (Vienna) and Ross (London). That way Zeiss avoided too fast growth of its own production facilities. In 1902 Zeiss bought the camera maker Palmos A.G. and continued it as Carl Zeiss Palmos. In 1909 the camera making daughter company was merged into the ICA group which later became part of Zeiss Ikon.

After World War II, Jena being in the Eastern part of Germany, the company split in two. One part was recreated in West Germany and based in Oberkochen, and kept within the Zeiss Foundation. The other part remained in Jena, but soon lost the right to use the traditional names, like the brand name Zeiss and the related famous lens names. In the Western countries it was known as aus Jena (means from Jena), and used obvious abbreviations, or other names reminding the past (for ex. T for Tessar, S for Sonnar). In the countries of the Eastern block, they continued to use the full names.

Carl Zeiss Oberkochen made lenses for the Western Zeiss Ikon after the war, but they have also made dedicated lenses for other camera marques. They continue to do so, notably for Rollei and Hasselblad. The Zeiss lenses for the Hasselblad series of medium format SLR cameras are known for their high quality, precision tolerances, resolution, and color rendition, and have been used by many well-known photographers.

From 1973, Carl Zeiss made a range of lenses with a bayonet mount for Yashica and Contax 35mm SLR cameras, in partnership with Yashica Camera Co. Ltd. The resulting Zeiss T* lenses were made both in Germany and under license in Japan, and developed a reputation for superb optical quality. Kyocera, which acquired Yashica, later partnered with Zeiss to introduce still other Zeiss T* lenses, including rangefinder and autofocus-mount models. In 2005, Kyocera ceased all camera production and discontinued the marketing of Carl Zeiss lenses.

Very recently the Carl Zeiss foundation has revived the Zeiss Ikon name for a new type of rangefinder camera, with lenses designed by Carl Zeiss and manufactured by Cosina in Japan. Sony uses Zeiss lenses for its digital cameras.

Some trademarks used by Carl Zeiss[]

Zeiss Super Tele Lens 4/1700

In 2006 Zeiss is working on a new super tele lens for Hasselblad medium format cameras. It was ordered by the Emirate of Katar and will be delivered in 2007[1].

It consists of 15 lens elements in 13 groups and weighs 256 kg. It will be used to make pictures of fast animals in natural environment, especially the Qatari heraldic animal, the Oryx antelope. It's the biggest tele lens ever made for non-military purposes.

  • Hologon
  • Biogon
  • Biometar (East only)
  • Biotar
  • Distagon (West only)
  • Flektogon (East only)
  • Flexon (East only)
  • Magnar
  • Pancolar (East only)
  • Planar

Lenses marked Novar were three element lenses, as others used for the Zeiss Ikon camera brand it's sometimes mistaken as a Carl Zeiss lens.

The Zeiss lenses of the Icarex had the names Ultron, Skoparex and Dynarex, that were originally Voigtländer trademarks.

See also[]

The links go directly to the Zeiss section:

Cameras with a fixed Carl Zeiss lens[]

cámaras fijas con un objetivo Carl Zeiss[]

The cameras[]

The Carl Zeiss Palmos[]

See Carl Zeiss Palmos.

The Jena Contax[]

See Contax rangefinder.

The Werra[]

See Werra.

Japanese subsidiary[]

Carl Zeiss lenses and ICA cameras were imported in Japan in the 1920s by the subsidiary company Carl Zeiss Gōshi-gaisha (カールツァイス合資会社). It became Carl Zeiss K.K. (カールツァイス㈱) at some time, and imported the Zeiss Ikon cameras in the 1930s.


  1. Super Tele, see Zeiss and Engadget
  2. This date is given as 1900 by Rudolph Kingslake.


  • Ars Camera. Advertisement by Carl Zeiss in April 1922. No page number.
  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Carl Zeiss in February 1930 (p.A6) and June 1932 (p.A6).
  • Camera Club. Saishin shashinki zenshū (最新写真機全集, All on the latest cameras). Supplement to the October 1936 issue. Advertisement by Carl Zeiss on p.1.
  • Rudolf Kingslake, A History of the Photographic Lens, Academic Press, 1989