24 June 2020

Carl Zeiss Jena Stereoscopes

Category: Stereoscopes   Tags: Zeiss
Carl Zeiss Jena Stereoscopes - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

Today, Zeiss lenses are known for their high optical quality. The company has a long history and at the beginning of the 20th century it also produced stereoscopes. I recently added a rare Carl Zeiss Jena stereoscope to my collection

In 1846, Carl Zeiss started the company that would become Carl Zeiss Jena. At the beginning it was specialised in the manufacturing of microscopes. Over the years, it distinguished itself in optimising and improving optics. Some of its famous lens designs are still used in the lenses of today's digital cameras. There's a lot to write about the history of this leading company, but I will save that for a future post. For now I'm focussing on a stereoscope that I recently found.

Carl Zeiss Jena produced a number of stereoscopes. They were all open viewers constructed of metal. Its designs distinguished from other manufacturers who built the more common hand-held viewers and slide-tray table stereoscopes.

The professional look and sturdy metal construction of the stereoscopes makes me suspect that Carl Zeiss Jena focused more on industrial and scientific users than on consumers. The most well known model in their portfolio is the Verant. This stereo viewer offers all possibilities for a good viewing experience: the lenses can be focused, the distance between the lenses is adjustable and the viewing angle can be changed. Its design looks a bit like the Ernemann Universal Viewer, but the construction is made of metal instead of wood.

Carl Zeiss Jena Verant in a catalog from 1910
Carl Zeiss Jena Verant in a catalog from 1910

The stereoscope in my collection seems to be a very basic variant of the Verant that supports 18x9cm glass stereoviews. It's based on the same metal construction but it lacks some of the Verant's features. The lenses can't be focussed and the distance between the lenses is not adjustable. The viewing angle can be changed by a folding metal leg. The stereoscope has serial number 8740 and is complete with a wooden box and five test slides.

Carl Zeiss Jena stereoscope
Box with stereoscope and test slides

I have to say that this stereo viewer is a bit of a mystery to me. I haven't found any references on the web, in catalogs or literature. If anyone can tell me more about this stereo viewer, please let me know.

Carl Zeiss Jena stereoscope