How did the name ZEISS come about?

ZEISS is well-known across the globe and the associations with the brand are positive in every respect. Carl Zeiss is the name of the company’s founder and part of the company name Carl Zeiss AG. However, the brand has been called ZEISS for a long time. In general language usage, “ZEISS” is already well established in many countries and languages when referring to both the logo and the company. ZEISS is now taking this development into account in its decision to create consistency across its brand communications. The goal is to create an even clearer and more consistent image of ZEISS in the perception of its customers. ZEISS will be used as much as possible in future to eliminate the lack of consistency in how Carl Zeiss and ZEISS are used. As a result, ZEISS will also label its lenses differently: Carl Zeiss will become ZEISS.

Aus Carl Zeiss wird ZEISS.
Carl Zeiss turns into ZEISS.

ZEISS operates in many product areas: from microscopes and measuring machines to eyeglass lenses, binoculars and camera lenses. Throughout the company, the label ZEISS can be found on products in most markets and product areas. The lenses have for the most part been the exception here for historical reasons. The decision to also label all lenses “ZEISS” with immediate effect provides an opportunity to retell the history of the brand name.

Different ZEISS logos over the years.
Different ZEISS logos over the years.

“Carl Zeiss Jena” appeared in the first trademark of ZEISS, and as early as the 1920’s various subsidiaries used variations of this lens-shaped label. An example is the Zeiss Ikon AG, in which Carl Zeiss held a majority interest. After the Second World War, Carl Zeiss employees, who had been ordered by the American forces to relocate to southern Germany, established the Zeiss Opton factory in Oberkochen, Baden-Württemberg. It therefore made sense, like Zeiss Ikon, to adapt the trademark for the new company.

From the spring of 1953 Carl Zeiss Oberkochen and VEB Carl Zeiss Jens developed independently of one another. Carl Zeiss Oberkochen went its own way and called itself “Carl Zeiss” and removed the word “Jena” from the lens-shaped logo. This led to lawsuits around the world to clarify usage of the name Carl Zeiss, the trademark on the lens, as well as other trademarks and product names of Carl Zeiss Jena in the Federal Republic of Germany. It became the longest court case in the history of East Germany.

The so-called “London agreement” was reached in 1971, after nearly 18 years of litigation. Under the terms of the agreement, logos, trademarks and company names of Carl Zeiss in East and West should clearly be distinguishable from each another. In addition, as had already happened with “Jena,” the first name “Carl” was now also removed from the logo of the West German company. At the end of the 1970’s, the word “ZEISS” was included in a square, and in order to clearly differentiate itself from Jena, “West Germany” was added as the designation of origin.

The reunification of both Carl Zeiss companies in 1991 was also intended to raise the visibility the common logo. In 1993-1994, a new combined word and design mark was created with the curve of the lens incorporated in the logo, which is still in use today.   The color scheme of the ZEISS logo as we know it today has been in use since 1997.

In 2011-2012, the senior management set up a work group to investigate the current identity and positioning of ZEISS, and to make recommendations for further developing the brand. The result is a range of brand management principles that will govern the future use of the ZEISS brand, including the consistent use of the ZEISS logo in all labeling on all of our products.

Auf dem Frontring wird in Zukunft die Beschriftung ZEISS zu lesen sein.
Carl Zeiss will become ZEISS on the front ring of lenses.

As a result, we have decided to use only ZEISS on the front ring of lenses for all future product families and not, as has been the case up to now, the name of the company “Carl Zeiss.” “ZEISS has been a global brand for a long time and we can all be proud of that,” says Martin Dominicus, Head of Marketing of ZEISS Camera Lenses. “When you go on vacation or on a business trip anywhere in the world and mention you work for ZEISS, you are greeted with a smile.”

The changeover for the lenses will take place at the family level: existing lens families will not be changed after-the-fact, but future families will be labeled with ZEISS. The first family to introduce this change is the ZEISS Touit. For production-technical reasons, some Touit lenses were produced and placed on the market with the label “Carl Zeiss.” Perhaps these will one day become coveted collector items. Both versions are original lenses and do not differ from each other in any other respect.


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  1. Jerry Bruck

    I liked "Carl Zeiss". If it was old-fashioned, that was part of the charm, as are so many of your lenses' excellent qualities.

    At least you didn't change your name to "Canon" or "Nikon". Perhaps one or more of your competitors will now feel free to re-name themselves "Carl Zeiss". Then you'll be sorry!

  2. Derek

    Yeah I liked the name Carl Zeiss too and often looked upon just the branding of Zeiss as a space constrained compromise. The name Carl Zeiss had a long and distinguished history and its a pitty that it had to change. Be honest I'm pretty disappointed with the Zeiss Touit 32mm. It just isn't as compelling considering its more than double the price. Still very pleased with my Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70 mm thou.

  3. David

    I like Carl Zeiss better. ZEISS seems a bit...stupid.

    Single word names are too common now, and without those extra letters on the lens' cosmetic ring, it looks a tad...blank.

  4. Greetings,
    I also agree that if Carl Zeiss AG need reunification of logos and names then it should reunion in 'Carl Zeiss' brand-name - not to 'ZEISS'.
    If I look into 'ZEISS' it sounds commonly like 'Canon' or 'Nikon', 'Sigma' or 'Samyang'. 'Carl Zeiss' has it own charm. For many customers I believe the brand loose on distinguishing ability among other brand names with more aggressive marketing but I may agree that professionals in optics aspect use just 'Zeiss' name for practical reasons. I am proud that all of my lenses are signed 'Carl Zeiss' and I don't know if I really need new lenses labeled just 'ZEISS'.
    Best regards, WZ.

  5. I could agree with Ryan, it a good point. Short version sound clean and modern :)
    But most of You, are You visual learners and auditory learners?
    Best regards, WZ.

  6. Uladzimir

    Yes, indeed, Carl Zeiss does sound a bit "old" and that is why for ages it's associated with quality and "made in Germany", and not something new and plastic and "made in you-know-where".

    1. Roy

      Oh dear, suddenly I'm feeling sooooooo old.
      I'm 74, older than dirt to some, but getting better by the day. My daddy brought a binocular from Switzerland when he immigrated about 1920. It's 6x30 and very clear. I can look throught it for a long time w/o eyes tiring. It's a "Carl Zeiss" Jena--Silva/Mar. (Jena a city in Germany, Silva/Mar standing for Forest/Ocean. That's my proudest old world possession ready to pass to the kids. So, you think that "ZEISS'' alone is better? Give credit to the real optical masters and leave their name alone.

  7. 29-years old person

    For me it is a real shock that change of name. And I don't feel like 'older' generation

  8. To the Management and CEO of Carl Zeiss

    I prefer the name Carl Zeiss, as it mentions the past and the future, plus the iconic "lens" icon stands out - simple but powerful.

    The name ZEISS only seems to represent the current generation with no reference to the history via the naming alone. Carl Zeiss sounds much more professional, and its been used for many many years and is much more common, especially when most photographers are older.

    The name Carl Zeiss exudes prestige and German quality, because its named after the founder. The ZEISS naming, just seems to be a change for change sake, with the possibility of it causing confusion with possible fake Carl Zeiss lenses which are just called ZEISS which no doubt will exist. It seems to be a change, with little benefit yet major expense to the company.

    Carl Zeiss could have also chose Carl ZEISS, which also mentions the past and the future but retains the full name as used today. It keeps the past and present in one.

    Here's an example of changing for change sake: Nissan had a car called Pulsar which was a massive seller around the world for well over 10 years, then suddenly some marketing genius (guarantee he has been fired since) decided, to dump the name for Tiida, which sounds damn awful, and had no name history, and effectively killed off the history of the Pulsar brand for many years. It was a new car, but had no brand recognition of its own.

    The result: The Tiida car was a poor seller, and never sold as much as its Pulsar variants did. What happened 8 years later, Nissan brought back the name Pulsar with a different shape car, because they had lost a big market primarily by name change. Result: Big sales of the new car with the original name.

    Proof changing a name does not always pay off as you risk partially alienating long term buyers. I trust Carl Zeiss don't want to risk going down this path, just to seem "modern".

  9. Henning Vandenberg

    I do not like dropping "Carl" do you just ignore your pass and founder I see it as disrespectful just like the new generation you talk about

  10. The name does not matter, as long as the company continue to make the best lenses in the world. I decided to take one lens only with me, for my one month long trip to India. Guess which one? (See answer on!

  11. I hope to continue to expand through the operator channel sales scale,improve profits through high-end products and brand image.In fact,Huawei P6 bear "walking quantity" with the dual task of building mobile phone brands.

  12. MIchael S

    Carl Zeiss was a household name and seems more personal than simply Zeiss. It portrays a man that had a vision and built a company that excelled at quality products. Dropping the founders name makes this somewhat impersonal - a company taken over by the bean counters.

    If they should change any name it should be the "Touit" name that now goes with their new mirrorless line of lenses. Touit sounds silly and girly.

    These days it seems many companies keep breaking things that never needed fixing. I prefer leaving the name alone. But, I am okay with Fujifilm shortening the name to simply Fuji for obvious reasons.

  13. Joseph Coates

    I'm a designer specializing in corporate identity design. The change was made for all the right reasons but, I would *still* prefer the whole name on the front of the lens!
    It is like a Louis Vuitton or Ralph Lauren or Paul Rand. The full name means something on a highly crafted or technical device. Zeiss missed this intrinsic quality that the full name carries with it irrespective of “brand” or common use. The signature on the product is *not* the brand.
    Simplicity for the sake of simplicity is not a solution.
    Call the company Zeiss but *sign* your optical lenses Carl Zeiss.

  14. Jerry Bruck

    Very well put, Joseph Coates. Of course it's only name. But the fact that a senior management committee, after years of meetings, "missed this special quality" in what they're throwing away, might bode ill for those special qualities in their lenses that are hard to measure but expensive to produce.

  15. Mauro Castiglione

    "Carl Zeiss will become ZEISS on the front ring of lenses"

    Zeiss with capital Z only would be better

    What about to live the achromatic couplet lens as a Logo with only the capital ZEISS and without CARL?

    Furthermote it could have been a negative image with some kind of blue background and a white foreground that reads ZEISS, if you would escape from black and white.

    You made too much leap from the past in my opinion, it was unnecessay.

  16. turboengine

    In my opinion it is a mistake to omit "Carl" in the brand name. The brand name looses uniqueness and flair. Nikon, Sony, Canon, Leica ... Zeiss. Streamlined and utterly boring. I simply don't like it. You should reconsider your choice born by marketing staff obviously. Also reconsider the lunatic choice of "Touit" for your mirrorless lens line - a word nobody can pronounce and a ridiculous connotation to a parrot. You better invest some mony to fix the somewhat flimsy build quality of the new lenses - the rubber ring of the Touits covering holes is embarrassing - and compensate by cuts in your rebranding department. It will pay off in the long run for sure.

  17. ME

    I have to agree with the majority of comments here. 'Carl Zeiss' is the better brand name.
    Anyway, it is not going to harm the sales though, as people are not going to stop buying lenses from 'Carl Zeiss' because of the branding.

  18. aidualk

    'Carl Zeiss' is a very respectful name worldwide. Others would do everything for such a big name. 'ZEISS' is mainstream and, now in vogue and... boring.
    I promise you: In some years you will come back to the name 'Carl Zeiss'. 😉

  19. Lollus

    As an affectioned customer, I dislike this change that spits on your glorious history. You are a foundation, so put that money to better use instead of wasting it to get a worse brand name I say.

  20. Raul Sanjur

    Don't know...the front ring now seems too empty without the Carl and Zeiss instead of Zeiss.. In latinamerica, people get excited when hearing about "Carl Zeiss" lenses as it sounds sophisticated, professional, and traditional. Tradition is something several companies lack, and I believe, droping the Carl from the Zeiss eliminates some of the tradition. Even with all those changes with the branding..remember that all of you now have a job thanks to the name and person of Carl Zeiss.

  21. Carl, is it true?

    Yeah, very soon you'll also get your Junk-Food at Donald's and your coffee from Bucks…

  22. Omar

    I prefer the name Carl Zeiss as well, and considers Zeiss as a space constraint.

    And why make the word Zeiss as all caps?

  23. It makes sense to change it to be used in media like but to change it on product is a foolish move when both are possible and makes perfect sense. Of course it will have no affect on sales either way but the customer prefers the personalization in a world where there is little. Carl Zeiss then is like the designer name in signature and for such a technological dependent product it juxtaposes in perfect symmetry. ZEISS is the corporate product that comes along with our purchase of the Carl Zeiss lens. ZEISS makes the awful lens cap, ZEISS has a reflective chrome ring on a makro lens. ZEISS made the hood on the 15 to be hacksawed.

    Those of us that are familiar call them ZEISS like the name of a friend but formal introduction as Carl were made when we bought them.
    Identify to us the executive that thinks this a good idea ....and we will call him Schmidt.

  24. peter filtness

    Maybe the time is right for a name change. The 'Carl Zeiss' lenses on my Hasselblad are synonymous for quality and precision and will not be confused with the new generation of 'ZEISS' lenses manufactured elsewhere? What were you thinking...

  25. Ivan

    can you make a hood with filter inside that can be rotated and removed without removing the actual hood? I have a cpl filter and I can not use hood at the same time... I love Carl lenses, also please make some anamorphic lenses for general masses,

  26. Josef

    The most important aspects of a company are its products and creativity behind. Changing name is just marketing gimmicks and doesn't help. Thank about Yves Saint Laurent being changed to Saint Laurent Paris ...

  27. Tillman

    I do not care for this. To me, seeing the name "Carl Zeiss" is a simple understatement of quality, it's not bold, flashy, or trendy. It's simply a man's name that is synonymous with quality. In my opinion "ZEISS" (in all caps especially) takes that old world symbol of quality and throws it in the trash. Sure, the man's name was Zeiss and therefore part of his name is still on it, but by dropping his first name and capitalizing every letter in his last, it converts it into a corporate name, a logo, just another one word name that gets blended into the rest of the one word corporate names. The thing that always stood out to me and made an impression on me as a kid looking at old Carl Zeiss lenses was the fact that there was a man's name on them which conjured up visions in my mind of a solitary craftsman in his shop building each piece by hand until it was PERFECT. Now we all know that isn't the case, but that imagery (and photographers inherently are visual people, right?) still sticks in my mind when I see that name, and I think it's foolhardy for a company to just snub it's founder, it indicates to me a company that has forgotten it's past and therefore will soon be letting it's name be plastered on anything (ie. Kodak, Bell & Howell, Minox, etc). To be clear, I'm 31 and I've been involved in photographic history for 16 years. I'm not the older generation.

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  29. Jane

    I'm only 34, and I much prefer Carl Zeiss. It's your history, and your customers know about it and appreciate it. As others have pointed out, Carl Zeiss is much more valuable than just Zeiss. Maybe you could limit the change to mass-market lenses like the Touit.

  30. Christian S

    I think ZEISS is a step in the wrong direction. Customers like differentiation, and it is never a mistake to personalize a brand by using the name of the founder. ZEISS is okay as a logo, but ZEISS on the lens is not a logo but the capitalized brand name, and capitalizing isn't considered elegant in typography. But we know that LEICA lenses have the capitals, so ZEISS needs them as well. Not important, but disappointing. Like the strange name 'Touit'. I couldn't believe that such a lens exists, thus I came to this site. By the way, I really like my 'Carl Zeiss' lenses for the Contax RTS and G.

  31. Derek

    Just bought the new Sony A7 and got the newly launched Carl Zeiss 35mm f2.8 FE lens. Was really very pleased it still said Carl Zeiss.

  32. Zograf

    I remember in my country the glasses were quite often called "Zeissie" - as most lenses for them were coming from Carl Zeiss. Good luck with the refreshed brand name, but for me ZEISS will remain as a slang of the golden standard Carl Zeiss.

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  34. mark sternheimer

    You have managed to hide excellent technical articles by Dr. H.H. Nasse ( lens names Distagon, Planar etc.) Also technical articles By Dr. V. Blahnik (Camera lenses),
    These are some of the best Zeiss articles ever written and should be collected and listed under "technical articles " .. Where are they hidden??? No longer in blog.


    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Post author

      Dear Mark,

      They are still there, we didn't hide them. But you're right, they might be a bit tricky to find. We'll soon publish a blog post containing all the links to the articles.

      Best regards,
      Your ZEISS Camera Lenses Team

  35. Hout Francis

    I received a Carl Zeiss UV filter recently but initially, I thought it was a fake. Something was missing, I was darned sure, but what? I brought out an older Carl Zeiss box and realized that "Carl Zeiss" was missing. I wasn't aware at the time of Zeiss top management's decision to drop the first name. I think this is a mistake. Yes, as long as they make good optics, who cares about the name, Zeiss or just CZ? But some of us do care! One must not forget history, Carl Zeiss represents some glorious technological history. I may be old-fashioned, I much prefer Asahi Pentax to Pentax. Maybe one day, our wish will be taken into consideration by Zeiss management to redo justice to its meritorious founder.


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