It has been said that without Carl Zeiss and his inventions, we would not really know what the world looks like. And anyone who has ever has the chance of handling or using a digital camera or smartphone fitted with a Zeiss lens knows that this is true.
Carl Zeiss, born on 11 September 1816 and died on 3 December 1888, was a German manufacturer of optical instruments known for the company he founded, Carl Zeiss Jena, now known as Carl Zeiss AG. Brought up in Weimar, Germany, he became an outstanding lens-maker in the 1840s when he produced expert lenses that had an exceptionally large aperture range which allowed for extremely bright images. This has become somewhat of a distinguishing feature in Carl Zeiss lenses as the images they capture are most often crystal clear and vividly detailed.
Zeiss worked in the university town of Jena, from which he got the original name of his company, at a workshop he set up himself where he commenced his lens-making vocation. His lenses were initially used solely in the production of microscopes but his company later began manufacturing their high-quality lenses when cameras were invented.
By the time Zeiss began creating microscopes for scientists in 1846, glass lenses were an accepted way of magnification, but it was a time-consuming, arduous and costly procedure using trial and error on each piece of glass. In his first year, he only sold 23 microscopes. But subsequently, it was the contribution Zeiss made to lens-manufacturing over 170 years ago that have facilitated the modern production of many lenses today.
The Carl Zeiss lens is most commonly known as a feature in Nokia smartphones, which is a major selling point for many of the brand’s products. However, the Carl Zeiss Master Prime umbrella of lenses, which merge an exceptionally high speed with brilliant image sharpness, perfect contrast, and true colour, has also set new standards in cinematography. These lenses have been used for numerous Academy Award-winning films, including “The Social Network”, “The Fighter”, and “The King’s Speech”. Even “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which won a total of 17 Oscars, was shot with a Carl Zeiss lens. And famed film director Stanley Kubrick also used a customized Zeiss lens, originally intended for NASA space missions, to shoot his film “Barry Lyndon”.
Carl Zeiss’s legacy now lives on through the lenses we take for granted, and are often unaware of, in cameras, smartphones, surgical equipment, and microscopes with the accuracy, precision and peak image quality that he strived to capture throughout his career being produced every single time.