I have a
chance to buy a lens marked “aus Jena”.
In a word, “YES”.
After the Second World War, the Carl Zeiss factory in Jena recommenced production, making over the next 45 + years many of the wonderful lenses described elsewhere on this website.
When the war ended in 1945, the town of Jena in eastern Germany, home of the Carl Zeiss company, was behind American lines. However, in accord with the then-secret Yalta agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, Jena was to be in the Soviet sector of Germany, so – to the surprise and concern of the local Germans, who particularly feared the Russians – the Americans withdrew to the west, letting the Russians come into the area.
As the Americans moved west, they took (stole) some German technology (they called it “liberating” it) and encouraged or persuaded some highly-qualified Germans to go with them. Some of the Germans concerned needed little encouragement. Some others refused to go.
So it was that some staff from the Carl Zeiss lens
factory in Jena moved west with the Americans. They
set up a new factory in South West Germany, in a village
So, from the late 1940s on there were two Carl Zeiss factories:
During the 1950s and 60s, Carl Zeiss Oberkochen took Carl Zeiss Jena to court in various countries, to try to stop the original Carl Zeiss factory using the Carl Zeiss name.
The American court case in New York ran from 1967 to 1968, and the judge found in favour of the right of the West German Carl Zeiss Oberkochen firm to use the name “Carl Zeiss” exclusively in the United States. Thereafter, Carl Zeiss Jena exported its lenses to the USA with the marking “aus Jena”, which just means “from Jena”, on the lens ring, instead of “Carl Zeiss Jena”. For the same reason, Sonnar lenses were labelled “aus Jena S”, instead of the full name.
A similar court case that started in the 1960s in London
found in favour of Carl Zeiss Jena (where the judge
concerned had studied in the 1920’s!). Various appeals
were lodged by Carl Zeiss Oberkochen, and legal
proceedings dragged on for years. With severe financial
crises affecting West German photographic firms from about
1970/71, the initiation of contacts between East and West
Germany, and the costs faced by Carl Zeiss Jena in the
trial, the opposing Carl Zeiss companies decided to reach
an out-of-court agreement, which was concluded on 26 April
In fact, for certain export markets where the use of the name Carl Zeiss was not permitted, a new “aus Jena” lens ring was screwed on top of the original Carl Zeiss ring, so if you have a lens that is labelled “aus Jena”, it might be worth removing this name ring (if you have the right tool!), to check if the Zeiss ring is still there. You can see a picture of one such lens here.
It is of course nice to have the Carl Zeiss name on the lens, but the image quality is the same, and those who know the history will know that this is a genuine Carl Zeiss lens.
If you buy the lens, I am sure that you will be delighted
with the results.
You can read more about the name ring on some Carl Zeiss
Jena lenses, along with a photo, here.
Those who wish to have an in-depth account of the history
of the two Carl Zeiss companies between 1945 and about
1991, will – if they read German! – be fascinated
by Professor Armin Hermann’s excellent and authoritative
book “Und trozdem Brüder Die
deutsch-deutsche Geschichte der Firma Carl Zeiss”
(unfortunately out of print, but I got mine via www.Amazon.de).
To see how the country of origin was specified on
photographic equipment and literature produced in East
Germany between 1945 and 1990, click here.
To go back to the Frequently-asked Questions front page, click here.
To contact me, click here.
© TRA November 2005 Latest revision with improved link: