History of ZEISS Photo and Cine Lenses

  • How it all started

    How it all started

    Every photographer wants the perfect lens for each situation. For over 100 years, ZEISS has been offering the camera lenses of choice across a broad product spectrum. The story started with the renowned Planar® from 1896. ZEISS is now the world's leading company in the development and production of high-performance camera lenses for all areas of photography and cinematography. Whether it be for architecture or sport, fashion or portraits, landscapes or nature, still-life or scientific applications, ZEISS offers the right lens for every purpose. Hollywood knows their value too: ZEISS camera lenses have won three Academy Awards in the category of Science and Engineering (1987, 1999 and 2012).

  • 1890 – 1901


    With the invention of the first anastigmatic lens with distortion-free imaging (later: Protar®) by Paul Rudolph, Carl Zeiss launches a new era of camera lens development.


    Paul Rudolph develops the prototype of the Planar® lens, the Planar f/3.6.

  • 1902 – 1945


    Tessar® lens, the "eagle eye of the camera".


    High-speed Sonnar® f/2 lens for the Contax® cameras, which increases the range of use of 35 mm cameras considerably.

    Topogon 4/25 for Contax


    Robert Richter develops the topogon, the first boosted, distortion-free lens with a 90° image angle. This lens revolutionizes the technology of photogrammetry.


    Alexander Smakula develops anti-reflection coating for glass surfaces (Carl Zeiss T-coating). These provide the optical designer with totally new possibilities for the development of multi-element lenses.


  • 1946 – 1989


    Biogon® lens f/4.5 based on Ludwig Bertele’s design expands the possibilities of 90° wide-angle photography.


    The world's fastest lens: Planar® 0.7/50.


    Photos of the first lunar landing were taken with Zeiss lenses.

    New Contarex lens F-Distagon 2.8/16 for Contarex, 1972.


    The super wide-angle F-Distagon lens, a fisheye-type lens, is launched.


    The first camera lens with perfect chromatic correction: Sonnar Superachromat® f/5.6/250 for Hasselblad® camera systems.


    Start of the partnership with Kyocera, which by this time has acquired camera manufacturer Yashica (Contax)

  • 1990 – 1999
    In 1987, 1999, and 2012, Carl Zeiss receives the Ampas Scientific and Engineering Award.


    Carl Zeiss develops Vario zoom lenses with exceptional imaging performance (Variable Primes) for Arri® 35 mm movie cameras.


    The first Carl Zeiss lens for a SONY camcorder marks the beginning of a long-lasting partnership.


    First lens for a consumer digital camera (Sony DSC-F55E) is introduced: the Distagon 2.8/6.85 marks the first venture into amateur digital photography.

  • 2000 – today


    DigiPrime® lenses – extremely powerful and with hitherto unparalleled quality – are used in the film industry.


    Beginning of partnership with Nokia. The Nokia N90 device marks the beginning of Nseries.


    ZEISS SLR-lenses for F-Bajonett (ZF).


    Interchangeable lenses (ZA) for Sony alpha cameras are launched on the market.


    Start of the partnership with Logitech.

    The VPL-VW200 is equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens.


    Collaboration with Sony on lenses for projector (VW200).


    ZEISS SLR-lenses for EF-Bajonett (ZE).


    Compact Zoom CZ.2 70-200/T2.9: Unique Cine-Zoom lens for current and future HD video and cine cameras.