When it comes to cameras and lens technology, we’ll bet our smartphones that you’ve heard of Canon and Nikon. But did you know that ZEISS, formerly known as Carl Zeiss, is a favourite brand amongst the worlds’ top photographers? And not only are ZEISS the producers of top-range camera equipment, but they’ve been heading the field in microscope and other optical technology for decades. With millions of photographic and scientific professionals putting their trust in ZEISS lens every day, then, it’s no wonder that Nokia chose ZEISS as their partners in developing the world’s finest and most powerful smartphone cameras.
Pioneers from the beginning
So who are ZEISS and what do they bring to the photographic table? Carl Zeiss started out making microscopes for German scientists in the town of Jena back in 1846. At that time, magnifying lenses were useful, but unreliable, as they were made individually on a trial-and-error basis.
Zeiss changed the game by teaming up with Ernst Abbe, a physicist at the University of Jena and the brains behind the Abbe Sine Theory of imaging; together, their research and computational methodology enabled Zeiss to come up with the first microscope in the world to be constructed via physical laws. That was in 1872. By 1886, Otto Schott, a glass chemist, had joined the team, and Zeiss was able to make the apochromatic lens, a piece of kit that eliminated colour distortion in magnification. At that point, Zeiss had made over 10,000 microscopes.
First lens on the moon
The scientific advances enabled by Zeiss’s team, and, subsequent to his death, his company’s further developments, beggars belief. They’re responsible for the metallographic microsope, the anastigmatic photolens, binocular microscopes with image-reversing prisms, the stereomicroscope, and new lithography tech used in microchip production. Every manned NASA mission since 1962 has used ZEISS lenses. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the moon, it was a ZEISS lens that recorded his famous leap.
Much of the high-quality aerial mapping you see online is taken with cameras using ZEISS lenses. Nobel prize-winners who’ve used ZEISS lenses in their research have included Robert Koch, discoverer of the bacilli behind TB and cholera; Allvar Gullstrand, one of the pioneers of modern opthalmology and modern-day glasses; Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, who works on the genetic control of embryonic development. Impressed yet?
The film-makers choice
The impact of ZEISS technology extends outside the lab, of course, as Nokia customers will know: its contribution to photography is just as amazing as its scientific prowess. Paul Rudolph is a key figure here: his work back at the turn of the twentieth century produced the Tessar lens, a four-in-one piece of equipment that brought different types of glass elements together to make a lens that was both powerful and portable (Check it out on the Lumia 800!).
ZEISS also came up with anti-reflective coating, which is used on every single lens you’ll find today. Real-world examples of top-class photography from ZEISS lens includes the camerawork on The Kings’ Speech, The Social Network, and, perhaps the one with the highest wow-factor, Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Working with ZEISS puts Nokia at the forefront of innovative and reliable imaging technology. One feature in particular that’s been developed in conjunction with ZEISS is Optical Image Stabilization, which is unique to Nokia, making its smartphones the most capable cameras in low-light condition.
And you know you can trust the tech, coming as it does from the same company chosen by Stanley Kubrick to record the famous candle-lit scenes in Barry Lyndon.