Basic designs of Carl Zeiss lenses for 35mm film SLR cameras

Carl Zeiss lenses are classified in various types according to the basic designs. These are as follows:


The name Distagon designates a type of wide-angle lens with a back focal length longer than its focal length. While this is a design technicality, it is necessary in order to allow free movement of the deflection mirrors used in SLR type cameras. This design permits wide angular fields of up to 100 degrees with large maximum apertures and remarkable correction of all forms of aberration usually found in wide-angle lenses. Definition is excellent, even at full aperture. And there is virtually no focus shift when the aperture is varied.


The original Planar was a milestone in the development of photographic lenses since it was the first to offer anastigmatic flatness of the image field, excellent correction of spherical aberration and nearly total correction of chromatic aberration with a relatively large aperture. Due to the fact that the front and rear halves of this lens have the features of a Gauss telescope objective, it is sometimes referred to as a Gauss type lens. A design which is used by many lens manufacturers. Due to excellent and uniform sharpness across the entire image field, the Planar is a true universal lens. Its large back focal length makes it ideal for use with SLR cameras because there is no interference with the movement of the mirror.


The original Sonnar lenses contributed much to the early development of 35mm photography. Their outstanding optical performance coupled with compact size and short focal lengths were important factors for use with the rangefinder type cameras of that time. Continuous improvements have been made over the years, and Sonnar lenses feature high speed, superior definition and excellent illumination of the image field. They are widely prized by both professional and amateur photographers for use in portraiture, sports and stage photography, news photography and technical applications.


The product of traditional know-how enhanced by modern computer design techniques, the Vario-Sonnar is of the highest optical and mechanical quality available. The main purpose of this design, of course, is to provide continuously variable focal lengths, and thus do the work of several lenses. Image quality is excellent over the entire focal length range, yet the lens is compact and lightweight. And the various mechanical parts required for shifting the focal length are made to resist wear even with protracted hard use.


The Tele-Tessar is a compact design which provides a small angular field and long focal length in relation to the image format. This type, featuring four to six lens elements, is characterized by the long distance between the positive front and negative rear components. These lenses are also relatively light and can be used for handheld photography because of their stability. This type of lens is especially suitable for sports and other forms of photography where it is not possible or desirable to approach the subject.


The Mirotar is a high-speed mirror lens of extra long focal length. The use of mirrors completely eliminates the chromatic aberrations so prevalent in conventional lenses of such long focal lengths. Focus is also maintained over the entire photographic spectrum, even for infrared photography. One of the major features is the compact design made possible by the doubly reversed ray path. The excellent correction of aberrations, plus the utmost precision in manufacturing the mirrors, lens elements and mounts, as well as in the assembly, guarantee uniform image quality over the entire image field. These lenses are especially notable for their extremely high speeds, considering the long focal lengths.


  • "CONTAX Real Time Photography" brochure;
  • "Rolleiflex 3003: The 35-mm reflex system with the creative potential of medium-format cameras" brochure.
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