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 called Oberkochen.
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 1971.
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.
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).
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© TRA November 2005, June 2010