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Carl Zeiss Age Lens by the Serial Number

Carlos Alberte Sendín , Nov 20, 2004; 08:59 a.m.

I have some Carl Zeiss Lens of Large format. How I Know its Age? by the serial number? someone has this information?


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Dan Fromm , Nov 20, 2004; 11:31 a.m.

Carlos Alberte, there are many lists of Zeiss serial numbers with dates of manufacture. What is your lens' serial number?



J. Mose , Nov 21, 2004; 08:01 a.m.

I can date Carl Zeiss lenses that are post WWII by serial number. I am leaving town for a week. Please send me an e-mail to remind me (otherwise I will probably forget, as I will not have any access to a computer).

Carlos Alberte Sendín , Nov 22, 2004; 06:07 a.m.

where can i see the lists of zeiss serial number with dates of manufacture?

The lens:

Carl Zeiss Jena D.R.P Anastigmag 195/9 84984 Carl Zeiss Jena series Ic 180/4,5 399520 Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 135/4,5 2131960 Carl Zeiss Planar 80/2.8 4120253 Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 250/4,5 5637142 Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar 300/4,5 3538 Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar 210/4,5 10229470

Dan Fromm , Nov 22, 2004; 07:55 a.m.

From the Lens Collector's Vade Mecum:

(a) Classic Zeiss Jena numbers. It does seem that very low numbers do exist, and it is suggested that they begin at Jena at 1,000 in about 1890, unless information to the contrary is found. There may also be unnumbered lenses, possibly when they are one of a stereo pair, though confusion with licencees lenses can occur. There seems then to be a gap to 1912. Two listings then exist, and run very much in parallel. One is by G. Gilbert, in "Collecting Photographica" and is reproduced in the back of McKeown's "Price Guide". The other is given in "Chiffres Cles" by P-H. Pont. As a collector, the main point is that they do tell the same story within the time span that interests one. The following is a shortened version of the one in "Chiffres Clef" with some extra notes added from experience here. It is tentative in places. !890 Anastigmat production begins. this is partly licensed to others, including Voigtlaender for Germany.The earliest Zeiss Anastigmat noted so far is No1,51x suggesting a possible No1000 start at Jena for camera lenses: but note an aplanat for projection seems anomalous. 1895 Voigtlaender stops production of Zeiss designs, suggesting Zeiss had expanded production facilities to make the lenses at Jena. 1900 c. 44,040 as Unar sales begin, production of anastigmats reaches 100,000, with about 44,000 by Zeiss and 56,000 under license. 1902 Tessar f6.3 launched. This must have been one factor leading to a big expansion of demand and production. 1908 91,711 + 103,3xx, 104,2xx noted on cameras burgled at N&G, London (Manthos article), but note N&G may have lagged in fitting as cameras made in 1912 had lenses No133,73x- say a year in store or transit. Year Serial Numbers Number of (begin + end) numbers used 1912 No173,418- 200,520 27,102 1913 No208,473-249,350 40,877 Carl Zeiss London here (see below) 1914 249,886-c252,739 2853 1915 c282,800-c284,500 1700 1916 c285,200-c288,100 2900 1917 289,087-298,157 9070 1918 298,215-322,748 24,533 1919 322,799-351,611 28,812 1920 375,194-419,823 44,629 1921 433,273-438,361 5088 1922 422,899-498,006 75,107 1923 561,270-578,297 17,027 1924 c631,500-578,297 17,000 1925 c631,500-c648,500 29,513 1926 666,790-703,198 36,408 1927 722,196-798,251 76,055 1928 c903,100-c908,150 5,050 1929 919,794-1,016,885 97,091 This is about the change over to rimset Compur shutters 1930 922,488-1,239,697 317,209 1931 1,239,699-1,365,582 125,883 First Contax lenses here. 1932 1,364,483-1,389,279 24,796 1933 1,436,671-1,456,003 19,332 1934 1,500,474-1,590,000 89,526 1935 1,615,764-1,752,303 136,539 1936 1,674,882-1,942,806 267,924 The switch to chrome finish begins at about 1.89 million. 1937 1,930,150-2,219,775 289,625 1938 2,267,991-2,527,984 259,993 1939 2,527,999-2,651,211 123,212 1940 2,652,000-c2,678,000 26,000 1941 2,678,326-2,790,346 112,020 1942 2,800,000- ? 1946 2.8m * The last numbers are from an obviously different source and are of unknown 1947 2.9m accuracy. It is an anonymous item. Thus they are distinguished by quoting as M 1948 3.0m for million. 1950 3.2m 1951 3.3m 1952 3.4m 1953 3.6m 1954 3.8m 1957 4.5m 1960 5.0m Note the variation in the number per year. Now a plant of a successful company does not vary that much in production rate unless there is diversion to other products, as is likely during a war (binoculars?, gunsights?) numbered in another series. Or there is a cessation of materials or labour, which can also happen in war. These will have affected things in say 1916 to 1918 but it does seem likely that the numbers used in 1913 are a "funny" and one feels they include some for 1914 as well. Also note that there are gaps between the "Years lens" numbers, as for No252,739 in 1914 end and No282,800 for 1915 begin, where 30,061 numbers are "missing." The tables admit that the WW1 data is approximate and this might explain the low figure apparent for 1914. It seems likely that there was a carry over of numbers in some years from one year to the next, due to numbers being booked for a contract or sale in advance- or some such mechanism. There is a instinctive feeling that in 1912, the plant was actually normally making about 25,000-30,000 lenses. Now going backwards, it is likely that production had built up slowly as labour was trained and plant designed and built, and that a typical serial number for 1900 might be No40,000 (as suggested above), rather than No75,000 which would be the mid-point from No1000 to say No151,000 in 1910. After WW1, there is a rapid recovery of production, but again there are big fluctuations in the apparent yearly numbers produced. There are also still gaps between the blocks of numbers attributed to years. It does seem that production was set to rise steadily in the 1920's, even though there was a recession, and especially after the formation of Zeiss Ikon with the related rationalizations and a "captive" market. Thus by 1930, there do seem to be some 100,000 or more per year, and then in the 1930's, up to 250,000 or 300,000 numbers per year used. This suggests a major expansion at Jena, or just possible the use of the redundant plants of Goerz/Berlin and Ernemann/Dresden to support the production in some way. All this does also raise one point: that any maker quickly finds that while brass and glass cost money, numbers are "free" and makers often "waste" numbers when plans change or products are cancelled. Thus it is normal to find cases where lenses were never made to match numbers reserved for them. One is left with a feeling that early Zeiss lenses are rare and should be very desired items. An authentic list Carl Zeiss supplied to a friend in 1967, with the same general result, was as follows: 150,000-200,000 around 1912 200,000-300,000 1912-1916 300,000-350,000 1916-1919 350,000-500,000 1919-1923 500,000-750,000 1923-1926 750,000-1,000,000 1926-1929 1,000,000-1,500,000 1929-1934 1,500,000-2,000,000 1934-1937 2,000,000-2,800,000 1937-1942 After WW2, Carl Zeiss at Oberkochen began a new series of numbers, probably at No1000 or 10,000 and as indicated above, these were normally also marked Opton and coated. The Opton mark lasted for most purposes until about 1953 at No1,100,000 but was used for many more years for items sold in the Comecon countries- which will cause confusion if it is not realized. More data than this is in P-H Pont's "Chiffres Cles".

(b) CZJ =Carl Zeiss, Jena Postwar. 1945-1949 3.0-3.2 million. Initially these were calibrated with the focal length in centimeters. 1949-1952 3.2-3.47 million 1952-1955 347,000-4.0 million From here focal lengths were given in millimeters. 1955-1958 4.0-5.0 million 1958-1961 5.0-6.0 million 1961-1964 6.0-6.7 million 1964-1967 7.0-8.0 million 1967-1970 8.0-9.0 million 1970-1975 9.0-10.0 million. (c) Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, West Germany. 1946-1951 10,000-500,000 These will be engraved Zeiss Opton. 1951-1953 500,000-1,100,000 same 1953-1959 1,100,000-2,600,000 Now just Carl Zeiss except for Comecon sales. 1959-1961 2,600,000-3,000,000 1961-1965 3,000,000-4,000,000 1965-1969 4,000,000-5,000,000 1969-1971 5,000,000-6,000,000 1971-1975 6,000,000-7.300,000.

mark andes , Nov 24, 2004; 02:41 p.m.

If you go to the Carl Zeiss web page and send them an email with the serial number of the lens, they will look it up for you and tell you exactly the month and year the lens was manufactured.

Carlos Alberte Sendín , Dec 10, 2004; 11:14 a.m.

Thanks for the answer, Dan. They was very useful.

What are the Serial Number after 1975?

does you Knonw Other Books as Lens Collector's Vade Mecum?


Dan Fromm , Dec 10, 2004; 01:33 p.m.

Carlos Alberte, I'm sorry but I don't know of a published source for Zeiss lenses' chronology after 1975. What you want may have been published by the Zeiss Historica Society. May have, but since I don't belong to ZHS I don't know. One of my neighbors is a member of ZHS' ruling junta, so if I wanted to know I'd just ask him. HE has a list he's compiled. Go to http://www.zeisshistorica.org/ to find out about joining.

There is nothing like the Vade Mecum. Andrew Glover, who sells on eBay as dagor77, tells me that much of the Vade Mecum's contents were lifted from Hans Martin Brandt's book The Photographic Lens. I have a copy of it, and I don't agree with Andrew. Diagrams in the VM may have been copied from Brandt, but not text. What makes the Vade Mecum more useful than other books filled with diagrams of lenses is that it passes judgement (right or wrong I can't say) on how well lenses' perform.



Carlos Alberte Sendín , Dec 10, 2004; 02:25 p.m.

I will buy the Lens Collector's Vade Mecum. In this Shop i found a reference http://www.mwclassic.com/acatalog/MW_Classic_Cameras_VADEMECUM_CD_ROM_79.html this is the book?



Ole Tjugen , Dec 10, 2004; 04:08 p.m.

Carlos, that is indeed the book. Just make sure you get version 3 (2001) or newer.

BTW, I checked your lenses in a 1910 book - and the Series Ic should be an f:3.5 "schnellarbeiter", not a Tessar...

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