Now among the most respected of lens makers for the film and broadcast markets, this company has its roots in 1846 when its namesake, Carl Zeiss, opened a workshop and small store in the German university town of Jena, 43 miles southwest of Leipzig. Zeiss was apprenticed to Dr. Friedrich Körner, a mechanic who supplied microscopes and other scientific apparatus to the German court. Zeiss attended the University of Jena, where he studied mathematics, experimental physics and optics among other subjects. In 1847 Zeiss began producing microscopes and over the next ten years worked on single lens and then double-lens models. His lenses were noted for being wide open, meaning they had a large aperture range that produces bright images.
Collaborations with physicist Ernst Abbe and glass chemist Otto Schott greatly improved the way lenses could be made and led to the formation in 1889 of the Carl Zeiss-Stiftung (Foundation). Abbe established the firm and named it after Zeiss, who had died the previous year. The company became known internationally for a range of optical instruments, from scientific models to those for binoculars, eyeglasses and measuring devices. The move into photography and cinematography began in 1896 with the appearance of the Planar lens, invented by Paul Rudolph, who went on to design cine lenses for the Hugo Meyer company.
Carl Zeiss camera and cine lenses have been recognised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with three Awards in the Science and Engineering category in 1982, 1999 and 2012. The current range of cinematography opticals comprises the Master range, including Primes, a macro and a zoom; the Ultra Primes and 16s; CZ.2 compact zooms, and Compact CP.2 Primes and Prime CP.2 super speed lenses. The company also works in conjunction with ARRI, most recently on a range of Master Anamorphic lenses.