Carl Zeiss

Carl Zeiss is a German manufacturer of optical systems, founded in 1846. There are currently two parts of the company, Carl Zeiss AG located in Oberkochen with important subsidiaries in Aalen, Göttingen and Munich, and Carl Zeiss GmbH located in Jena.

The organization is named after a founder, the German optician Carl Zeiss (1816–1888), and is one of the oldest existing optics manufacturers in the world. The history of the company begins in the city of Jena before World War I, then the world’s largest location of camera production. Zeiss Ikon represented a significant part of the production along with dozens of other brands and factories, and also had major works at Dresden.

Like many German companies, Zeiss used slave labor during the Second World War. At the end of the war Jena was occupied by the US Army. When Jena and Dresden were incorporated into the Soviet occupation zone, later East Germany, Zeiss Jena was assisted by the US army to relocate to the Contessa manufacturing facility in Stuttgart, West Germany, while the remainder of Zeiss Jena was taken over by the (Eastern) German Democratic Republic. The occupying Russians took most of the existing Zeiss factories and tooling back to the Soviet Union as the Kiev camera works, which produced copies of the Contax and other Zeiss Ikon products.

A unique pair of fast lenses (50mm F/0.7) originally created by Zeiss for NASA’s lunar program had the distinction of being reused by Stanley Kubrick in the filming of his historical drama, ‘Barry Lyndon.’ The period atmosphere of the film demanded that several indoor scenes be filmed by candlelight. To facilitate this, Kubrick had, with great difficulty, the lenses modified to mount onto a cinema camera.


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