Did You Know ...

... that ZEISS camera lenses are turning 125 years old?

On 21 March 1890, the first batch of camera lenses left production in Jena. While this business was only a small offshoot for the company at the outset, together with cine lenses, it plays a significant role today. But how did ZEISS get the idea of producing camera lenses in the first place?

The workshop for precision mechanics and optics founded in 1846 practically produced microscopes alone right up until the death of company founder Carl Zeiss in 1888. There was only one exception: the ZEISS Abbe refractometer. This is a device for determining the refractive index of fluids, for example those used in immersion microscopy. Ernst Abbe was responsible for many outstanding developments at the beginning of the company's history. However, besides a scientific mind, he also had good business sense. He therefore recognized the new possibilities that would be enabled by incorporating greatly enhanced optical properties into types of glass originally produced by Otto Schott in the 1880s.

From 1888, Ernst Abbe started to diversify the product portfolio and added camera lenses as a new offshoot of the company's business. Although the main methods of photography had been discovered about 50 years previously, it was not until this period that they only came to be widely used. For instance, 1883 saw the first German publication of a scanned photograph. It appeared in "Illustrirte Zeitung", a weekly magazine published in Leipzig, Germany.

ZEISS would not be ZEISS if it just re-used existing concepts. The company therefore developed new types of camera lenses that were more powerful than those which had been introduced previously. Paul Rudolph, a scientist who worked at ZEISS, came up with the ZEISS Anastigmat camera lens produced in 1890, which was renamed ZEISS Protar in 1900. Some optical constructions based on his developments such as ZEISS Planar and ZEISS Tessar lenses are still produced by the company to this day. The latter are used in many Sony cameras or Microsoft cellphones as they have a high degree of image definition on a tiny area. The successors of the ZEISS camera lenses initially produced 125 years ago are used by millions of people around the world today. The company also develops groundbreaking innovations for the future. The current ZEISS Otus SLR lenses set new standards in image quality, for instance through their high resolution and extremely high contrast across the entire image field.


25 March 2015