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January 11, 2011

What’s so special about Carl Zeiss lenses anyway?

Nokia N8 and Carl Zeiss

If you’ve used a Nokia device, then the likelihood is you’ve used a Carl Zeiss lens. It’s an integral part of the Nokia N8, the world’s best cameraphone, and has helped ensure fantastic photos and videos on dozens of other devices. But have you ever wondered what exactly is so special about Carl Zeiss? To answer this very question, we got in touch with our German friends to find out.

Here’s what they had to say:

160 years of expertise

Carl Zeiss has been in optics and imaging for more than 160 years. Examples of our expertise can be found in all walks of life. Planes, trains and automobiles withstand the tests of time because measuring technology from Carl Zeiss is used to test their parts in production. Blockbuster movies such as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ benefit from the unique images made possible by ZEISS lenses. We’ve been pushing the boundaries in the fabrication and miniaturization of microchips for more than 40 years.

Approximately 60 percent of the microchips in mobile phones and other modern devices are manufactured using optics from Carl Zeiss. Nokia users profit from Carl Zeiss’ very long experience in developing photographic lenses, from cine and camera lenses to lenses for industrial applications, which have been used in everything from the moon landing to Nokia devices.

A unique co-operation that puts quality first

Together with Nokia we really take time to develop solutions for the best possible imaging result. Nokia devices with Carl Zeiss optics are never thrown on the market in a rush. We’re not interested in increasing megapixels by reducing the size of the single pixel to put more pixels on a similar sensor, while keeping the optics the same. What we do is continuously enhance the optics, because the lens is at the beginning of the image chain. Any image information that does not come through the lens to the sensor correctly will be lost.

At the same time we use our imaging expertise to optimize all the components within the entire imaging chain because the lens is only one part of the whole story. By considering every element, we ensure an extraordinary imaging experience and optimum image results.

The Tessar lens and the birth of mobile photography

For mobile camera devices, it’s important to remember that the Tessar lens used in devices is a benchmark in optics. Different lens elements were processed in one single lens for the first time in 1902. (The Tessar lens was designed by Paul Rudolph, a highly talented scientist who worked with Carl Zeiss). The high resolution of the classic 4 lens element design of the Tessar was the first compact lens design. The name Tessar gives a clear indication of the original structure of the lens: “tessares”, Greek for “four”, indicates that the lens consists of four lens elements. With its higher resolution, this innovative lens made mobile photography possible. The Tessar lens allowed, for the first time, small film formats (nowadays sensors), which in turn helped make cameras themselves smaller, lighter and more portable. All compact camera lenses are based on that original invention!

So there you have it. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty impressive resume and just goes to show why we can take such fantastic photos on our devices. Have you got any other questions for the optics wizards at Carl Zeiss? Then put them in your comments and we’ll find out the answer for you.