Zeiss Marks 125th Anniversary of Producing Camera Lenses

Zeiss Marks 125th Anniversary of Producing Camera Lenses


Thornwood, NY—Zeiss is celebrating its 125th year of producing camera lenses. The first camera lens left its Jena production facility on March 21, 1890. The company continues to focus on its tradition of “creating major innovations,” including its current Zeiss Otus SLR lenses.

“ Camera lenses have been an important field of business for us for over 100 years,” said Dr. Michael Kaschke, president and CEO of Zeiss. “We are very proud that cameras featuring our lenses have already been to the moon and have been used by many famous photographers. For us, this tradition is an obligation to continue offering the highest quality and developing pioneering new technologies.”

Zeiss was founded as a workshop for precision mechanics and optics in the German city of Jena in 1846. Until the death of company founder Carl Zeiss in 1888, the company’s production portfolio was focused primarily on microscopes. From that point on, Ernst Abbe, who was responsible for many developments in the early days of the company, started to expand the product line and added camera lenses as a new business sector.

The lenses comprised glass materials, displaying enhanced optical properties, produced by Otto Schott for the first time in the 1880s. Although the main methods of photography had been discovered about 50 years previously, it was not until this period that they were widely used.

Zeiss developed new types of camera lenses that were designed to be faster than previous models. Paul Rudolph, a scientist who worked at Zeiss, created the Anastigmat camera lens that was produced from 1890 on and renamed the Protar in 1900. The basic optical design used for some of Rudolph’s developments, like the Zeiss Planar and Zeiss Tessar lenses, is still incorporated in today’s camera lenses. Tessar lenses are used, for example, in many Sony cameras and Microsoft smartphones as they offer high image definition on a tiny area.

Another important development occurred in 1935, when Zeiss introduced an antireflective coating that is now labeled with the T* symbol. This surface coating reduces distracting reflections and stray light. Eight years later, Zeiss developed a process for measuring the image quality of lenses through MTF (modulation transfer function) curves that is still used by numerous manufacturers today. Later, in 1961, the introduction of CAD (computer aided design) in the development of lenses allowed much more complex constructions than with manual design.

July 20, 1969 marked a major milestone: the first landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used a Hasselblad 500EL equipped with a Zeiss Biogon lens to capture the first images of the lunar surface. Because mass-produced lenses do not work properly on the moon, this lens was developed specially for the mission. The “moon lens” had a different lubricant and no leather or plastic parts. The mounts feature pressure-compensating openings, and the operating elements were modified for gloved users.

“Zeiss has not only written photographic history, but continues to impress and inspire the world with its first-class developments,” said Dr. Winfried Scherle, head of the Consumer Optics business group at Zeiss. “For example, the Zeiss Otus SLR lenses introduced in 2013 meet even the most challenging requirements of professional photographers.”

Zeiss Otus lenses “guarantee a neutral bokeh in the background, highly detailed images without distracting artifacts, high resolution across the entire image field, no color fringes or distortion, and outstanding image contrast right into the periphery. The image performance remains constant over all distances. ”

Zeiss employees about 25,000 employees and generated revenue of 4.3 billion euros in fiscal year 2013/14. The company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany, and Carl Zeiss AG is fully owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung (Carl Zeiss Foundation). The company’s Consumer Optics business group produces camera and movie lenses, binoculars, spotting scopes, hunting optics and planetarium technology. zeiss.com