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© 1998-2019 Ferdi Stutterheim

Page Index

  1. Carl Zeiss Foundation
  2. Carl Zeiss Jena, CZJ, ‘auß Jena’
  3. Opton, Zeiss-Opton, Carl Zeiss, CZ, ZEISS
  4. Zeiss-Ikon
  5. Zeiss-Ikon Voigtländer, Optische Werke Voigtländer
  6. Optische Werke Josef Schneider, Kreuznach

Institutions and Companies mentioned on this website

Carl Zeiss Foundation

The Carl Zeiss Foundation is owner of all companies of the Zeiss Group and the Schott Group. Schott is the famous glass maker founded by Otto Schott. The Carl Zeiss Foundation was established by Ernst Abbe at Jena, Germany, in the 19th century. This way Mr Abbe handed over the Zeiss company to its workers. The Carl Zeiss Foundation moved its seat to Heidenheim in West-Germany in the aftermath of World War II in an attempt to keep control of all companies it owned. This attempt was successful as far as it concerned the companies outside East-Germany. Companies in East-Germany - including the famous optical works in Jena -eventually came under communist rule.

Ernemann-Werke, Schandauer Straße, Dresden. Later known as Pentacon Tower. Photo made with a Rolleiflex 2.8 GX, © F.W. Stutterheim.
Carl Zeiss Jena, CJZ and ‘auß Jena’

This company is the original lens factory. The company made no cameras, except for a few Contax cameras in 1946. After WWII the communists nationalised the company to turn it into a VEB (People owned company). They conveniently overlooked that the company was already owned by the workers through the Foundation. Under communist rule the company was joined with other DDR optical companies. "auß Jena" was used as a trade name in the Western world where the use of the Carl Zeiss brand was reserved to the West-German Zeiss companies.

After the re-unification of Germany the VEB Carl Zeiss Jena conglomerate was split up. One part became Jenoptik established in the traditional Zeiss buildings in the Jena town centre. Carl Zeiss Jena was re-established in modern buildings on the outskirts of Jena. This company returned into Foundation ownership.

Opton, Zeiss-Opton, Carl Zeiss, CZ, ZEISS

In 1945 the U.S. Army had seized Jena and the Carl Zeiss Jena factories but the Americans had to withdraw in favour of the Soviet Army that was given the right to occupy that part of Germany in the Yalta agreement. The Americans moved about 70 key scientists from Jena into the American Occupation Zone. Under very difficult circumstances these scientists and other workers who fled to the West established Opton Optische Werke Oberkochen (Optical Works Oberkochen). Afterwards many Zeiss people from Jena joined their colleagues at Oberkochen. At first Opton was a subsidiary of the Jena company. The newly established Oberkochen company was not allowed to use the Carl Zeiss company name. After Jena was nationalised Opton was renamed Zeiss-Opton and afterwards Carl Zeiss without the name of the company seat.

The Opton name was also used for sales by the West-German company in Eastern Europe where the use of the Zeiss brand and registered lens names was reserved to nationalised Carl Zeiss Jena. A lens that was labeled Carl Zeiss Planar was sold and labeled Opton P in the East block.

In 2013 Zeiss announced that in future lenses, etc, would be branded ZEISS instead of Carl Zeiss. First reactions were mixed, not to say mainly negative.

ICA-Werk (1937), Schandauer Straße, Dresden. Home of the Contax I and II. Now Penta Park after VEB Pentacon. Photo made with a Rolleiflex 2.8 GX, © F.W. Stutterheim.

The Zeiss-Ikon camera works of the Carl Zeiss Foundation were established as result of a merger between several camera companies, all patrons of the Carl Zeiss Jena lens works, in 1926. Main seats were at Dresden (ICA-Werk and Ernemann-Werke) and Stuttgart (Contessa-Werk). With the exception of some lenses for cheap cameras Zeiss-Ikon made no lenses at all. Optics were purchased from Carl Zeiss Jena and later from Opton and Carl Zeiss (Oberkochen).

After WWII the Dresden works eventually evolved into VEB Pentacon. The Western part of Zeiss-Ikon continued in the Contessa-Werk in Stuttgart, West-Germany, as part of the Zeiss Foundation until camera production ceased in 1970.

For the time being the Zeiss-Ikon company stayed in business in Braunschweig as a producer of the excellent Zeiss-Ikon slide projectors. The company was later sold as Zett Projektorenwerk. Zett also made the famous Hasselblad slide projectors. The Zett factory was owned by Leica from 1990 until 2004.

Zeiss-Ikon Voigtländer, Optische Werke Voigtländer

The Voigtländer company was established at Vienna, Austria, in 1756. In 1956 the Zeiss Foundation acquired the majority of the shares and over the years acquired more. In 1965 at a time when the German photo industry was already in decline, Zeiss merged its photo camera interests into Zeiss-Ikon Voigtländer with their main seat in Braunschweig. Camera production stopped in 1972. The production rights of certain 35 mm cameras went to Rollei. Rollei and Zeiss joined forces in the Voigtländer Optical Works. The company produced optics for both Zeiss and Rollei. It is rumoured that some of the famous Contarex optics were made in Braunschweig. The company came into full Rollei ownership a few years later and it was the basis for major lens production at the Rollei Works. Rollei continued the production of a number of lenses under a licence from Zeiss. This is also the origin of the Rollei HFT lens coating, based on the Zeiss T* coating.

Optische Werke Josef Schneider, Kreuznach

The Optical Works Josef Scheider Kreuznach became a second lens supplier after WWII. As result of the division of Germany in East and West lens supplies from the Jena lens works became unreliable. At the same time Opton needed more time to reach full scale production. Opton had to start in Oberkochen from scratch with no tools and no machines at all. Another problem was that Zeiss required their customers to order lenses one whole year in advance. That made the planning of camera production difficult. The solution was another first class supplier who could deliver on short notice, Josef Schneider at Kreuznach. The Schneider optics were similar to Zeiss lenses but not exactly the same. In some markets customers preferred the Zeiss lenses, mostly because of the famous company name. In other markets there was no customer preference with respect to the lens (or customers were smarter). So the U.S.A. got mostly Zeiss optics and many cameras fitted with Schneider lenses were shipped to France. Even today the Xenotars and Xenars have loyal followers.