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How to Identify and Date Carl Zeiss Jena Lenses by Their Serial Numbers

How to Identify and Date Carl Zeiss Jena Lenses by Their Serial Numbers

Carl Zeiss Jena was one of the most renowned and prolific lens manufacturers in the world, producing high-quality optics for cameras, microscopes, binoculars, and other instruments. The company was founded in 1846 in Jena, Germany, and became part of the Carl Zeiss Foundation in 1889. After World War II, Germany was divided into East and West, and so was Carl Zeiss. The original factory in Jena remained in the Soviet-occupied zone, while a new branch was established in Oberkochen, West Germany. Both companies continued to use the Carl Zeiss name and logo, but with different serial number systems.

Carl Zeiss Jena Lens Serial Numbers

If you have a Carl Zeiss Jena lens and want to know more about its history and age, you can use the serial number to find out when it was made. The serial number is usually engraved on the front or side of the lens barrel, sometimes with a prefix or suffix indicating the lens type or mount. For example, a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 1:4 f=6.8 lens serial number 7822-1 is a third successive production run of the Sonnar series. The serial number 7822 indicates that it was made in 1930, and the suffix -1 means that it has a Contax mount.

The following table shows the serial number ranges and corresponding years of manufacture for Carl Zeiss Jena lenses from 1912 to 1975 [^1^] [^2^]. Note that some gaps and overlaps may exist due to war, relocation, or production errors.

YearsSerial Number Range






















Carl Zeiss Jena lenses have a long and rich history, dating back to the origins of the company in 1846. Carl Zeiss, who was originally from Weimar, Germany, founded a workshop for precision mechanics and optics in Jena. Initially, microscopes were almost exclusively manufactured there. Physicist Ernst Abbe became a partner and put the companyâs lens production on a scientific footing [^3^]. In 1890, he began to expand the product range and started developing photographic lenses and binoculars. Types of glass with significantly improved optical properties, which chemist Otto Schott had first produced in the 1880s, opened up entirely new possibilities. With the invention of the first anastigmatic, distortion-free imaging lens (later named Protar) by scientist Paul Rudolph, ZEISS ushered in a new era in the development of camera lenses [^1^].

The company began to develop models of lenses with unprecedented speed, such as the Tessar, the Sonnar, the Pancolar and the Flektogon. These lenses were known for their excellent image quality, reliability, and outstanding results. They were used by professional and amateur photographers alike, as well as by filmmakers and scientists. Some of the most iconic images of the 20th century were captured with Carl Zeiss Jena lenses, such as the photos from the first moon landings in 1969 [^1^]. The lenses were also popular among Hollywood directors, such as Stanley Kubrick, who used a specially modified Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7 lens for his film Barry Lyndon (1975), which allowed him to shoot scenes by candlelight [^1^].

Carl Zeiss Jena lenses were produced in various mounts, such as M42, Exakta, Prakticar, and Contax. They also had different exterior designs and trims over the years: the older ones were chromed and then came the "zebra" type. The latest generation of classic Carl Zeiss Jena lenses was made of plain metal with red or green markings [^2^]. Some of these lenses are very rare and sought-after by collectors today, such as the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 75mm f/1.5 or the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 180mm f/2.8. e0e6b7cb5c


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