Strategic alliances have characterized ZEISS throughout its history. Thanks to this interaction of the ZEISS core competencies with those of selected companies, both partners are able to tap into new markets – this is a model that offers distinct benefits for both parties and has proven successful time and again. As such, ZEISS can now proudly look back on long-standing and some highly exclusive partnerships with renowned companies in the area of image capturing, covering everything from the broad consumer market to Hollywood itself.
Around the globe, Sony is the brand of choice for people looking for great design and high quality. In 1996, the company came out with its first camcorder with a ZEISS lens: the Handycam® CCD-TR555. Since then, Sony’s cooperation has expanded to include lens-style cameras that can be attached to smartphones, the Cyber-shot™, camcorders, Action and Music Cams as well as interchangeable lenses. Besides Sony/ZEISS interchangeable lenses, ZEISS also has its own camera lenses that are fully compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras and perfectly round off the product portfolio.
Sony and ZEISS have combined their core competencies in electronics and optics. Thanks to this interaction, both partners are able to tap into new markets – this is a model that offers distinct benefits for both parties. After all, Sony/ZEISS interchangeable lenses are developed jointly by Sony and ZEISS. ZEISS supports Sony throughout the optical design and development process and then tests and approves the prototypes. Finally, ZEISS determines the test specifications for serial production.
The most common lens designs in Sony/ZEISS products are the ZEISS Tessar, ZEISS Sonnar and ZEISS Vario-Sonnar – each of them with the T* anti-reflective coating from ZEISS. Sony/ZEISS lenses are manufactured at Sony facilities in Asia, where Sony uses testing equipment designed and produced by ZEISS. One example is the ZEISS K8 MTF tester, a compact and versatile piece of equipment that measures the modulation transfer function of camera lenses and similar systems for objects at infinity. Sony/ZEISS lenses are sold solely through Sony’s distribution channels. ZEISS lenses are sold exclusively through ZEISS’s own distribution channels.
ZEISS’s leading-edge expertise in optics and lens solutions combined with Microsoft’s technological expertise and understanding of the mobile devices make the two companies an ideal fit. The partnership was formed back in 2005 with the then global market leader Nokia. The first product was the N90 with 2 megapixels, a feat of pure wizardry at the time. The partnership is still ongoing, despite Microsoft conquering the smartphone market.
The Microsoft Lumia smartphones with integrated cameras are big hits thanks to their superior image quality. Thus, mobile devices offer best-in-class optical functions in their picture quality, for example a mechanical shutter for pictures with less motion blur and a high-end sensor for higher resolution. But it’s the optical image stabilizer in the Microsoft Lumia devices that enjoys great popularity. Millions upon millions of smartphones with ZEISS optics have been sold to date. The US manufacturer determines the specifications for smartphone cameras, and engineers from ZEISS and Microsoft develop the perfect camera modules together; these are then produced under Microsoft’s watchful eye in accordance with ZEISS quality standards.
Microsoft mobile devices are equipped with ZEISS Tessar lenses, which correspond to the classic four-element lens design invented in 1902. Despite its small size, the special features of this lens include its high definition, low chromatic aberration and high speed. When it comes to taking digital photos, it’s the quality of the lens and the sensor that counts, not just the number of pixels. A high-resolution sensor with a low-quality lens can only capture low-quality pictures in high resolution. Also, the image quality does not only depend on the number of sensor pixels but also on the quality of each pixel displayed. The displayed pixel size changes according to the physical size and properties of the display device.
Logitech released its first webcam in 1995 and has been a major force in the development of webcam technology since the inception of video communication over the internet. In 2007, ZEISS began a partnership with Logitech. This marked a significant step in the development of webcam optics. Today, the partnership with Logitech focuses on B2B ConferenceCams.
Lens quality is the most important feature of a webcam. If your webcam’s lens isn’t good, your image quality won’t be good either – no matter how many megapixels you’ve got. A webcam lens captures the light that the sensor then transforms into the image you see. You need a high-quality lens to capture more light and produce the best images. Together with ZEISS, Logitech developed an advanced lens design with more image clarity and less distortion.
Developed with Logitech, the ZEISS webcam lens is a new take on the Tessar lens design. While the original Tessar design was patented back in 1902, it’s the most famous camera lens for a reason. It delivers crystal-clear images in a compact, lightweight form – which also happens to make it perfect for webcams. To bring you the best webcam images possible, Logitech and ZEISS turned the classic four-element Tessar design into a five-element design. Two of the lenses in the stack are cemented together to focus the light onto the sensor with maximum detail and minimal distortion. You can see the difference in your images.
Since 2016, ZEISS has been working with the Fellowes Brand ExoLens®, a US manufacturer of high-end mobile device accessories. The collaboration between the two companies represents an important step in the development of accessory lenses for mobile devices. The modern, elegant and intuitive design means the accessory lenses offer excellent optic properties. All ExoLens lenses developed jointly with ZEISS come with the proven T*® antireflective coating from ZEISS, which minimizes reflections on glass-to-air surfaces and improves the transmission of light.
Using a screw thread, the lenses are attached to the machined aluminum bracket that matches the user's mobile device. For the market launch, brackets for the iPhone® 1) 6/s and the iPhone® 6/s Plus will be available.
The jointly developed lenses turn the integrated mobile device lens into either a wide angle or telephoto lens. The optical design used for both lenses is called Mutar™ 2). The lens has no focal length, i.e. the focus is set at infinity. This enables photography of objects from infinity to the close up range, making this optical design suitable for both landscape and detailed photography.
Both lenses therefore offer image excellence by using an aspheric lens and outstanding contrast rendition right to the edges. Chromatic aberrations are also corrected. Bright-dark transitions in the image, and highlights in particular, are largely free from colored artifacts. Protection against dust and spray water makes the wide angle or telephoto lens perfect for the challenges of outdoor use.
The macro lens complements the wide angle and telephoto lenses and enables currently unparalleled close-up photography with cameras built into mobile devices. It offers edge-to-edge image excellence and no discernible distortion or chromatic aberration. It is currently also the only accessory lens for mobile devices to offer a continuous zoom function, permitting the full-frame capture of objects with diameters of between three and eleven centimeters. An optionally attachable and semi-transparent diffusor servers as a spacer, allowing light to shine evenly on the object to be photographed and enabling convenient focusing, even with a short object distance and shallow depth of field.
ExoLens® is a pioneer in the new and growing field of application for photography using mobile devices. The collective goal of ZEISS and ExoLens™ is to bring never-before-seen quality and versatility to this rapidly growing market.
1) iPhone® is a trademark of Apple Inc.
2) The ZEISS registered trademark Mutar stands for afocal accessory lens systems (also known as converter). For the purposes of a unified communications, we decided to refer to the converters as lenses.