R&D Competencies

ZEISS Mobile Imaging

Our Commitment to the Future
We keep learning today so we can tackle the challenges of tomorrow

Our more than 130 years of experience in advancing photography give us a comprehensive technological foundation for mobile imaging. Combining this existing expertise with our partners’ and listening to our customers and experts allows us to create state-of-the-art technology that provides an incomparable mobile photography experience.” 

Dr. Torsten Sievers
Head of Technology & Innovation,
ZEISS Consumer Products

Dedicated Technologies

A unique tradition of expertise applied to state-of-the-art solutions

ZEISS stands for leading-edge imaging systems, and mobile imaging fits this tradition seamlessly. In other words: Smartphones with the ZEISS label represent the culmination of 130 years of ZEISS innovation. Lens and coating technologies that once revolutionized professional photography and cinema today bring the ZEISS look everywhere you go – with sharp, distortion-free images without aberration and with lifelike colors in a wide and dynamic range.

Tessar & Vario-Tessar:
Sharpness and clarity in a compact lens

ZEISS lenses revolutionized photography as early as 1890. And ZEISS Tessar laid the foundation for mobile imaging in the most literal sense, with great picture quality comparable to studio cameras but in a small form factor so it can be used on the move.

The history of Tessar

The Tessar lens, also called "The Eagle's Eye," was designed by ZEISS optical designer Paul Rudolph in 1902. It was one of several breakthrough developments by ZEISS around the turn of the 20th century. The exceptional level of image sharpness for a compact lens allowed for cameras that could be carried and used anywhere while producing the same great pictures as their studio-bound equivalents – if not even better.

The legacy lives on

Tessar’s heritage lives on in smartphone lenses modeled on the Tessar design, due to the small space available for the camera system. For example, the Sony Xperia PRO-I features a ZEISS Tessar optics with an aspherical lens. And the label "Vario-Tessar" – a Tessar-based zoom feature adapted for mobile imaging systems – is engraved on vivo X60 Series smartphones.

A smartphone lens cut in half
ZEISS T* Coating:
An essential technology for all kinds of optical surfaces

A major factor in the performance of optics is an anti-reflective coating: A stack of several thin-film layers made from different materials reduces undesirable effects of stray light, ghosting, or flares to obtain purer, clearer photos and an excellent shooting effect.

The origins

Invented and patented in 1935 by Olexander Smakula at ZEISS, this coating technology was first used for binoculars and spotting scopes but soon became the industry standard for optical surfaces of all kinds.

1935 – Anti-reflective T* coating optimizing light transmission from 60 to 87%, achieving a brightness gain of 45%.

The technology today

ZEISS T* coating is the most advanced anti-reflective coating for optical lenses at ZEISS, including those in smartphone imaging systems. T* stands for "Transmission Layer" and significantly improves light transmission, helps accurately reproduce object colors, and reduces undesirable reflections. As a result, this creates clearer images in complex lighting scenarios, such as night and backlight situations – a must, especially for photography on the go.

ZEISS T* coating

Smartphone applications

Flagship smartphones such as the Sony Xperia 1 series, 5 series, Xperia PRO, and PRO-I or the vivo X60 Pro+ and X70 series proudly bear the T* label on their rear camera – achieving T* standard, after thorough and strict ZEISS quality control, vouches for the premium image quality customers expect from this class of mobile device.

zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-t-star-coating-gallery-01.jpg © Thomas Chu | Sony Xperia 1 III
zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-t-star-coating-gallery-02.jpg © Thomas Chu | Sony Xperia 1 III
zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-t-star-coating-gallery-03.jpg © E-Jay Zhang | vivo X70 Pro
zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-t-star-coating-gallery-04.jpg © E-Jay Zhang | vivo X70 Pro+
What is the "ZEISS Look" in Smartphones?

The renowned ZEISS look is characterized by sharpness, true colors, and a great bokeh – the so-called 3D pop effect. Photos and videos shot with ZEISS optics feature a certain quality and brilliance millions of consumers and professional artists appreciate: Sharp, distortion-free images with no aberration and with true color in a wide and dynamic range.

Sharp and distortion-free images

Carl Zeiss's partner, Ernst Abbe, who discovered the basics for modern scientific optics, recognized the importance of aperture for all imaging, be it in microscopy or in photography. To get as little distortion as possible, high resolution and professionally managed contrast is required. ZEISS lenses accomplish this through innovative new ideas, elaborate optical designs, premium-quality components, and a precise mechanical design. This tradition is continued in all smartphones that carry the ZEISS symbol.

zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-zeiss-look-distortion-gallery-01.jpg © Emilio Henry | vivo X70 Pro
zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-zeiss-look-distortion-gallery-02.jpg © Emilio Henry | vivo X70 Pro+

ZEISS true colors

Natural colors are a prerequisite, not just for a great look out of the box, but also to provide the optimal foundation for post-processing. Each element of the imaging chain affects color reproduction: lens, sensor, and software. The proper adjustment of all those factors needs a lot of experience with, and scrutiny over, every single component of the imaging system. Be it for traditional camera systems or optics for smartphones, photography experts at ZEISS define natural colors as a profile for optics and software based on decades of experience with analog or digital color processing in imaging.

zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-zeiss-look-true-colors-gallery-01.jpg © Sundeep Bali| vivo X70 Pro+

ZEISS unique portrait bokeh

Bokeh effects, caused by different lens aberrations and aperture shapes, give pictures their distinctive esthetic and let the object in focus stand out almost plastically from its surroundings. ZEISS lenses create a one-of-a-kind bokeh, a mesmerizing effect often called the ZEISS 3D pop effect. Inspired by iconic ZEISS lenses, unique bokeh characteristics are replicated in our partners’ flagship smartphones to create portraits with the unique ZEISS look.

For example, ZEISS Biotar Style bokeh in the vivo X60 and X70 series smartphones allows users to take portrait shots in a similar style to the iconic look of the ZEISS Biotar lens (inspired by ZEISS Contax Biotar 1.5/75). It presents a swirling, eye-catching, dreamy out-of-focus bokeh while capturing the central figure clearly.

But our efforts don’t stop here. We also work on enabling cinematic look and feel to smartphone photos and videos, providing the oval shaped bokeh effect to mobile imaging, starting with the vivo X80 series.

zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-zeiss-look-bokeh-gallery-01.jpg © E-Jay Zhang | vivo X70 Pro
zeiss-mobile-imaging-dedicated-technologies-zeiss-look-bokeh-gallery-02.jpg © Emilio Henry| vivo X70 Pro+
© Francesco Gola | vivo X60 Pro

ZEISS Imaging Lab

R&D to Shape the Future of Mobile Imaging

More than 130 years of experience in innovating photography and decades of experience in mobile imaging are always calling to be put into practice. In the ZEISS Imaging Lab, all relevant competencies flow into research and development on the imaging technologies of the future. Just as ZEISS has always continued to develop photography, experts here are also always exploring new ways to improve imaging and reduce artefacts in the context of mobile imaging. For example, digital twins of hardware prototypes are used for stray light predictions. This method minimizes ghosting and lens flares by identifying their root causes and taking countermeasures even before the first hardware prototype is built.

130 Years of ZEISS Photography

Unique experience

A smartphone with a ZEISS label means users enjoy state-of-the-art mobile imaging technology with brilliant sharpness, vivid colors, and unique portrait styles. But such qualities are not achieved with a snap of the fingers: Of its 176 years of history, ZEISS has dedicated over 130 years to innovating and pioneering imaging technologies for professional and ambitious photographers and videographers.

Dr. Paul Rudolph

At the end of the 19th century, ZEISS optical designer Paul Rudolph and his team revolutionize photography with the ground-breaking lenses Protar, Planar, and Tessar.

ZEISS Protar and Planar – revolutionizing imaging technology

Paul Rudolph is credited with designing the first anastigmatic lens, ZEISS Protar, in 1890. Thanks to the complete lack of field curvature and astigmatism, it enables distortion-free imaging and is the foundation for many further developments. One of them, the ZEISS Planar lens, patented in 1897, produces flat images with significantly reduced spheric and chromatic aberrations and is to this day the basis of professional optical tools for photography.

ZEISS Tessar – clear pictures, compact form factor

In 1902, the ZEISS Tessar lens, also called “The Eagle’s Eye,” provides a previously unattainable level of image sharpness in a compact form factor, enabling the company to build cameras that are no longer confined to the studio – a milestone achievement that is still the archetypal design for mobile imaging lenses. The premium zoom feature “Vario-Tessar” in modern smartphones still refers to this revolutionary lens technology today, based both in name and in functionality on Tessar characteristics.

Dr. Paul Rudolph
Olexander Smakula

Olexander Smakula

1935 marks another milestone moment in photography history: Physicist Olexander Smakula, during his time at ZEISS, invents and patents a coating for glass surfaces with highly effective anti-reflective properties. The invention provides a new level of clarity and quality and becomes the industry standard for optical surfaces of all kinds.

ZEISS T* coating – the industry standard anti-reflective technology

Called ZEISS T* coating in its most advanced form today, it significantly minimizes undesirable effects of stray light, ghosting, and flares, increases light transmission, and significantly improves the shooting effect in complex lighting scenarios – such as in outdoor situations.

Space Photography

Space, the final frontier, also for photography: The Space Race in the middle of the 20th century takes the term “mobile imaging” to literal new heights. Soon after the first missions begin, the significance of photography in space becomes clear, and ZEISS is commissioned to develop imaging technology for the extreme conditions of space.

The first photos in orbit

In 1962, a Hasselblad 500C with a slightly modified ZEISS Planar lens takes the first photos in orbit around the Earth.

The first images from an American spacewalk

In 1965, a ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special camera accompanies the first American spacewalk. It is attached to a gas-powered propulsion gun, which enables the astronaut to maneuver while floating in zero gravity. The images cement the importance of photography during space missions.

ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50

The first color photo of the Earth from lunar orbit

In 1968, a Hasselblad 500C camera onboard the Apollo 8 is once again used, this time to take the first color photograph of the Earth from lunar orbit, forever changing mankind’s perspective on our planet.

Capturing the moon landing

And in 1969, a ZEISS Biogon wide-angle lens specifically designed for the moon landing mission in a Hasselblad Data Camera captures the moon’s surface with excellent edge-to-edge contrast and in ultra-high definition.

ZEISS Biogon wide-angle 5.6/60, specifically designed for the moon landing
Earthrise captured in 1968 during Apollo 8 with the ZEISS Sonnar 5.6/250 lens
ZEISS Planar 50mm F0.7, used by Stanley Kubrick in his film Barry Lyndon


1937: ZEISS develops the Arriflex 35 movie camera in collaboration with camera system manufacturer ARRI. Moviemakers can now see the image in full quality, directly through the lens in the viewfinder while filming. In the following years, countless films in Hollywood and beyond are shot using ZEISS lenses, creating fascinating visual highlights for audiences across the world.

Scientific and Engineering Award®

Cinematography lenses from ZEISS have helped to create distinctive images in many famous movies. The outstanding ZEISS film technology has been awarded three Scientific and Engineering Awards®..

ZEISS ZX1: When Professional Photography and Smart Connectivity Meet

More and more functions and features of traditional cameras, among them many groundbreaking ZEISS technologies, are making their way into modern mobile devices. With the ZEISS ZX1, ZEISS took an innovative approach: The company’s first full-frame digital camera integrates an Android platform into a classic camera body. Thus, it provides the smart and connected user experience of a powerful modern smartphone for professional photo editing on a premium camera system. This makes it the only full-frame camera on the market today that allows photographers to edit RAW images directly on the camera and share them online.

Exceptional image quality

In the ZEISS ZX1, the best of both analog and digital worlds come together: A fast, high-performance ZEISS Distagon lens is combined with a full-frame 37.4 Megapixel CMOS sensor to provide exceptional image quality for photography on the move – be it for street, travel, or documentary photography.


Shoot. Edit. Share.

Thanks to the integrated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software suite, users can process their photos and videos from anywhere in-camera, from exposure and color correction to selective editing. An intuitive multi-touch navigation with an easy-to-use tool bar helps make this seamless editing process as convenient as it is on a smartphone. With the Wi-Fi connectivity, users can then share their work with their followers on their preferred social media platforms, or back it up to their cloud storage or NAS system.


Expertise in photography hardware

The ZEISS ZX1 is the culmination and proof of ZEISS’s expertise in photography hardware, software, and system integration. The technological insights gathered in its development also spill over into joint mobile imaging projects with partners such as Sony or vivo. With the ZEISS ZX1 and mobile imaging systems that include ZEISS optics and technologies, ZEISS is ready to shape the future together with them.

zeiss-mobile-imaging-130-years-of-photography-zx1-gallery-01.jpg © Andreas Bogenschütz| ZEISS ZX1, f/6.3, 47sec, ISO 100
zeiss-mobile-imaging-130-years-of-photography-zx1-gallery-02.jpg © Ilan Derech | ZEISS ZX1, f/4, 1.5sec, ISO 80
zeiss-mobile-imaging-130-years-of-photography-zx1-gallery-03.jpg © Hans Strand| ZEISS ZX1, f/8, 1/125sec, ISO 200

ZEISS Mobile Imaging

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Sony | vivo

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ZEISS Mobile Imaging

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Mobile Photography