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Tuesday, May 1st 2012, 3:18am

German Optical and Photographic Equipment Companies

Repository for data pertaining to the subject


Tuesday, May 1st 2012, 3:19am

Carl Zeiss AG

The origins of the Zeiss concern date from 1846, when Carl Zeiss opened an instrument maker's shop in Jena. He soon specialized in the manufacture of microscopes. Physicist Ernst Abbe designed instruments with better resolution power and better color rendition than was hitherto possible – which resulted in a steady demand for Zeiss instruments for medical research. In 1884 the chemist Otto Schott, together with Ernst Abbe, Carl Zeiss, and the latter's son Roderich, established a glass research laboratory, which developed into the Jenaer Glaswerk Schott und Genossen. By 1886, forty-four different types of optical glass were in production. In cooperation with Ernst Abbe, Otto Schott carried out systematic research work into the dependence of optical and other glass on chemical composition. Schott's inventions included thermometer glass and chemical- and heat-resistant borosilicate glass. His optical glass contributed to the development of modern optical instruments. For microscopes and later also for telescopes, optical systems with apochromatic correction, that is, considerably reduced color aberrations, were designed.

Product diversification and by a growing export organization contributed much to the concern’s expansion in the years prior to the Great War. In addition to microscopes Zeiss marketed photo lenses from 1890, measuring instruments from 1893, and terrestrial telescopes from 1894. Astronomical optics followed in 1897, medical instruments in 1898, photogrammetrical instruments in 1901, surveying instruments in 1908, and eyeglasses in 1912. International relations were cultivated at an early stage. Zeiss visited the Paris World Fair in 1867, and Schott was repeatedly active as a manager in Spain, establishing a chemical factory in Oviedo and a production facility for window glass in Reinosa. These were not, however, owned by Schott. In 1899 about two-thirds of Zeiss instruments were sold abroad. A network of branches and agencies was built up, beginning with Zeiss sales offices in London, in 1901, and Vienna, in 1902. Branch factories were established in Vienna; in Györ, Hungary; Riga; and London in the first years of the Twentieth Century. The reputation of the concern, the excellence of its products, and the commercial success of its enterprises had a far-reaching impact on the industries in which it was involved. Bausch and Lomb of Rochester, New York, acquired licenses from Zeiss, and the concern acquired a minority interest in this American company in 1908.

From 1910 to 1926 various German camera factories were amalgamated step-by-step into the Zeiss Ikon AG, famous for its Contax brand. The glass works at Jena, upon which much of the concern’s success was based, formally became a subsidiary in the year 1919. In 1928 the firm Hensoldt und Söhne of Wetzlar was acquired, followed by Anschütz und Compagnie, a manufacturer of navigational instruments. There followed a period of consolidation and expansion of the concern’s product line to encompass all sectors of optical instruments, photographic equipment and materials, and other instruments.

Subsidiaries of the firm include:

Anschütz AG, Frankfurt (navigational instruments)
Deutsche Spezialglas AG, Heidelberg (ophthalmic and technical glass products)
Goerz Photochemisches Werk AG, Berlin-Zehlendorf (specialist photographic materials)
Hanseatische Werkstätten für Feinmechanik und Optik AG, Hamburg (navigational and optical equipment)
Jenaer Glaswerk AG, Jena (high-quality glass and lenses)
Kamera-Werkstätten AG, Dresden-Niedersedlitz (cameras and photographic equipment)
Karl Braun Fabrik optischer Geräte und Metallwaren AG, Nürnberg (range-finders and optical equipment)
Optische Werk Osterrode AG, Osterrode (photographic and telescopic equipment)
Prontor-Werk Alfred Gauthier AG, Berlin (scientific instruments)
Rudolf Winkel AG, Göttingen (scientific instruments)
Schott Zwiesel-Glaswerke AG, Paderborn (consumer glassware)
Sendlinger Optische Glaswerke AG, Berlin-Zehlendorf (technical glass and lenses)
Wetzlar Optische Werke AG, Wetzlar (telescopes etc.)
Zeiss Ikon AG, Dresden (cameras and photographic equipment)


Tuesday, May 1st 2012, 2:09pm

Ernst Leitz Optische Werke AG

Ernst Leitz established his optical workshop in 1890, in the city of Wetzlar, and quickly came to specialise in the manufacture of lenses and microscopes. In 1911, the firm’s chief engineer, Oskar Barnack, began development of a compact, lightweight camera using 35mm film, aimed at the landscape photography. While the first prototypes were produced in 1913, the onset of the Great War delayed introduction of the design for several years and it was not until 1925 that the Leica I camera was introduced at the Leipzig Trade Fair. Demand for the camera was substantial – more than sixty thousand units were manufactured between 1925 and 1932. The Leica Standard (Model E) was succeeded the Leica I in 1932, in which year the Leica II was introduced, a design which incorporated a built-in rangefinder. The slow-speed Leica III was introduced in 1933.

In the years since, Leica has expanded its line of photographic equipment to include a wide variety of lenses that can be mounted on its camera bodies to offer the photography enthusiast a wide variety of options.


Tuesday, May 1st 2012, 6:56pm

Prisma AG

This firm was established in 1923 as a small workshop for the production of lenses and other components for the expanding photographic industry, and sustained itself as a subcontractor to larger firms during the 1920s and the early 1930s. However, in 1933, the firm came under the control of a group of well-connected Berlin financiers who used it as a base to build a far larger enterprise engaged principally in defence work. A number of optical and mechanical engineering companies were acquired and integrated into a major manufacturer of rangefinders, aerial photographic equipment, surveying equipment and optical apparatus for the Heer, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe. It would later be found that the principals of the firm were tied to the Aerobank, and in the wake of that scandal, control of the firm passed to an investor group that included the industrial holding company Vereinigte Industrie-Unternehmungen and the Zeiss combine.

Operating subsidiaries of the firm include:

Hugo Meyer Optische und Feinmaschinenwerke AG, Görlitz (optical equipment for defence purposes)
Optische Anstalt Saalfeld GmbH, Saalfeld (optical equipment for defence purposes)
Optische Mechanische Instrumente Busch AG, Berlin-Rathenow (optical equipment for defence purposes)
Optische Mechanische Instrumente Leiss AG, Berlin-Steglitz (aerial photographic cameras)
Optische Werke Ernst Ludwig AG, Weixdorf (aerial photographic cameras)
Optische Werke Osterrode GmbH, Freiheit bei Osterrode (optical equipment for defence purposes)


Wednesday, May 23rd 2012, 6:28pm

Möller Optische Werke GmbH

In 1864 Johann Diedrich Möller opened his workshop in Wedel for the production of precision optical equipment, including microscopes, binoculars, optical measuring equipment (comparators) and lenses. It rapidly established a reputation for its products, which were widely exported to other nations. In 1915 the firm was engaged to manufacture submarine periscopes, a field to which it returned in 1940.


Tuesday, February 5th 2013, 10:51pm

Josef Schneider Optische Werke KG

This firm was founded in 1913 in the town of Bad Kreuznach by Josef Schneider, with the intention of manufacturing photographic lenses. In 1915 the firm produced its first lenses for cinema cameras and in 1920 introduced the wide-angle lens to the photographic and cinematic markets. During the years of the Great War it had been involved in the manufacture of lenses for military products, and continued to produce such for optical rangefinders and surveying instruments from the middle 1920s. Chief constructor Albrecht Wilhelm Tronnier has been responsible for many of the new products developed by the firm, which presently employs more than six hundred skilled workers at its facilities, producing for both the governmental and private sectors.


Friday, June 14th 2013, 3:04pm

Geyer Werke AG

In 1911 Karl August Geyer founded a film laboratory, Kino-Kopier-Gesellschaft, in Berlin-Lankwitz. This was the first such laboratory in Germany, which at the time was concerned with developing photographic negatives, as well as producing positive copies for the cinema. Its work laid the foundation for the emergence of a new branch of service in the industry, post production. In 1918, the Geyer-Maschinenbau GmbH, which was dedicated for the production of film cameras, film editing equipment and similar devices was separated from the actual post-production work. In 1922 the firm introduced specialised equipment to speed the production of duplicate copies of motion pictures from a master, and, in 1923 Geyer, together with Hans Vogt, Joseph Massolle and Jo Engl develoed the Tri-Ergon light tone process for production of sound films.

In 1930 the holding company Geyer Werke was formed to bring both the equipment manufacturing and film production companies into one corporate structure.


Friday, August 2nd 2013, 1:01am

Optische Werke Rodenstock KG

One of the largest manufacturers of commercial grade lenses in the nation, this firm originated as Optisches Institut G. Rodenstock, the workshop of founder Josef Rodenstock, in Würzburg. Barometer and eyeglass lenses, and eyeglass frames, scales and various measuring instruments were among the firms original products. In 1880, Rodenstock developed its first patented diaphragm lenses and within two years it was exporting its products to Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and Russia. In 1899 the firm introduced the first prescription sunglass lenses with ultra-violet protection. The headquarters of the firm were shifted to München in 1883, with the remaining operations following by 1905.

By the 1920s the firm was the principal producer of lenses for mass-market cameras, supplying not only German manufacturers but camera firms across Western Europe and the United States. It also developed viewing prisms for tank periscopes and episcopes. Manufacture of eyeglass lenses is maintained.


Wednesday, August 28th 2013, 4:14pm

Voigtländer und Sohn AG

The Voigtlander firm was founded in the year 1756 in Vienna by Johann Christoph Voigtländer and initially produced optical instruments such as telescopes and opera glasses. With the advent of photography, the firm began production of camera lenses in 1839, and complete cameras in 1840. The Voigtländer lenses were revolutionary, because they were the first mathematically calculated precision lenses of in photography history, constructed by the mathematics professor Józef Maximilián Petzval. In 1849 however, following a dispute with Petzval, the firm relocated to the city of Braunschweig in north Germany. The firm was converted to a joint stock company in 1888. The precision and craftsmanship of the Voigtländer camera kept it competitive with the Zeiss product. Production was moved to a larger factory in 1915 located in the Gliesmarode district. Originally producing plate cameras, the firm introduced its first panel camera in 1908, and its first film-roll camera in 1910 under the trade names Bergheil and Avus respectively. Following the Great War the firm introduced new more compact designs, including the Bessa medium-form camera in 1930, the Brilliant reflex camera in 1932 and the Superb twin-lens reflex camera in 1938.


Friday, July 18th 2014, 4:58pm

Feinmechanik und Optik Franke und Heidecke AG

Founded in 1920 this firm has grown in the last two decades to be one of Germany’s largest manufacturers of cameras and other photographic equipment. It was founded by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, both of whom had worked for the Voigtländer firm during the Great War. Their first product, a twin-lens reflex camera utilising film rolls was introduced in 1922. In 1929 the firm introduced its famous “Rolleiflex” design to the market, which would be the basis of its prosperity in the forthcoming years. By 1930 the firm was producing more than 20,000 cameras per year, principally for the professional market. In 1936 it introduced the Rolleiflex Automat, with an automatic film counter, which won the Grand Prix award at the Paris World's Fair in 1937. In 1933 the firm had introduced a simplified camera for the amateur photographer under the trademark “Rolleicord”. The success of the Rolleicord prompted the construction of a new factory in Braunschweig. The firm presently employs more than one thousand workers at its two facilities in Braunschweig.


Friday, April 1st 2016, 8:53pm

Freiberger Präzisionsmechanik GmbH

This firm, a designer and manufacturer of precision measuring devices and equipment, dates from 1771, when Gottlieb Friedrich Schubert was appointed mining master mechanic by the Elector of Saxony. To pursue his work he founded a workshop for the production of mining and metallurgical instruments from which the current firm descends. In 1791 Johann Gottfried Studer took control of the workshop in succession to Schubert and introduced new instruments, including the theodolite; he in turn was succeeded as mining master mechanic by Wilhelm Friedrich Lingke in 1823. By 1873, under the direction of master mechanic Max Hildebrand the workshop had grown to a small factory producing instruments on an industrial scale, and employed more than eighty workmen. Since that time the firm has expended to keep pace with the rising demand of German industry and for the export market around the globe.

It products include geodetic measurement instruments, nautical instruments, deformation measuring instruments, compasses, special measuring equipment, optical equipment, accessories, and precision instruments made to customer specifications.