Seeing the world of master lens maker
German lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss is a household name among filmmakers, photographers and camera devotees all over the world. The headquarters of Zeiss is located in Oberkochen, which is about 3 hours drive to the southwest from German commerce and trade center, Frankfurt. In Japan, this would be about the same distance from Tokyo to Nagano or Tochigi, and like these two cities, Oberkochen is also blessed with rich nature.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of founder Carl Friedrich Zeiss in 1816. In the early days of the Zeiss Workshop, there were two other key persons who supported Zeiss.
The company was founded 170 years ago – in 1846 in Jena. Zeiss began as a manufacturer of scientific tools and instruments. The company started to expand after Zeiss partnered with Ernst Karl Abbe, a respected scientist at the University of Jena. The collaboration between the men led to Abbe’s Theory of Image Formation and Diffraction and the creation of a lens that would provide a sharp image regardless of the optical axis. The company’s production method improved dramatically thanks to this and the fact that now, prior to production, specialists could select the lens configuration they needed to achieve the level of performance they were seeking. And the with the implementation of Friedrich Otto Schott’s advanced glass technology, the company soon became known as the world class optical manufacturer.
Upon the death of Carl Zeiss in 1888, Abbe became the company’s sole director, and he wanted to secure the company’s long-term future. He concerned that if only one person were to run the company, the company’s capital could be used for personal gain, so he created the Carl Zeiss Foundation. In a foundation, no single person would be able to withdraw capital for personal profit; instead the capital could be reinvested in the research and development of new products. With Zeiss and Otto Schott, Abbe established Glastechnisches Labortorium Otto Schott & Genossen, which remained under the umbrella of the Carl Zeiss Foundation. Currently, the Carl Zeiss Foundation is the sole owner of Carl Zeiss AG in Oberkochen and Schott AG in Mainz.
Window to the world of moving pictures
Lenses are vital components of the world’s motion picture industry. For the first special edition issue of HOTSHOT, we visited the Zeiss headquarters located in Oberkochen, which was only fitting, as the company is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Carl Zeiss’ birth this year.
Currently, ZEISS camera lenses are manufactured in Germany and also in Japan. Cinema lenses’ optical elements and mechanical components are prepared in Jena factory, and then sent to Oberkochen factory for assembly and quality control. These factories in Germany are optimized for high precision, low volume yet producing wide variety of products. The photo lenses are produced in Japan by partnering companies under Zeiss’ direct quality control.
The ZEISS cinema lenses – Master Anamorphics, Master Primes, Ultra Primes – which are well-known lenses among the world’s leading cinematographers, as well as the Compact Primes and Compact Zooms, which are highly popular among owner operators, are all produced in-house and exported worldwide from Oberkochen.
So, what is the reason of ZEISS being the world leader in the imaging and optical industry for so many years. Below you will find the exclusive interviews and product information which helps to understand ZEISS and its direction in the future.