5 May 2020

Ernemann Universal Stereoscope

Category: Stereoscopes   Tags: Ernemann
Ernemann Universal Stereoscope - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

The Ernemann Universal Stereoscope is a versatile folding stereo viewer for glass and paper stereoviews that supports different formats.

About Ernemann

In 1889, Heinrich Ernemann formed together with Wilhelm Franz Matthias the Dresdner photographische Apparate-Fabrik Ernemann & Matthias. Matthias left the company in 1891 and Ernemann continued the business activities alone. From 1899 the company was called Heinrich Ernemann, Aktiengesellschaft für Camerafabrikation in Dresden.

In the beginning it produced only the wooden parts of a camera. The other parts were supplied by other manufactures. Later it switched to the production of complete cameras. Its product portfolio also included stereo cameras and stereoscopes.

The Ernemann factory was located in the Striesen district of Dresden and the buildings were expanded in phases. The original building dates from 1898 and contains the mosaic Lichtgöttin (goddess of light). It was designed by the Art Nouveau painter Hans Unger. It was the famous Ernemann trademark from 1903 to 1920. The factory was expanded further after the First World War with a central tower. The buildings still exist and the tower is known as the Ernemann Tower. Today, it houses the Technischen Sammlungen (technical collections) of the city of Dresden.

Ernemann trademark - goddess of light
Ernemann trademark - Goddess of light

When his son Alexander Ernemann joined the company in 1904, they focused more on the production of cinema equipment for amateurs. The Imperator became the most successful cinema projector before the First World War.

In 1923 it produced the Ernostar, a fast lens for the Ermanox camera. It was the fastest lens at that time (f/2) and allowed shooting in challenging lighting conditions. In 1926, Ernemann merged with ICA, Goerz and Contessa-Nettel to the new Zeiss Ikon company.

Ernemann Catalog from 1914
Ernemann Catalog from 1914

Ernemann Universal Stereoscope

The Ernemann Universal Stereoscope is the most versatile stereo viewer in my collection. It's a wooden foldable viewer that supports both paper and glass views in the formats 45x107 up to 8,5x17.

Ernemann Universal Stereoscope in folded position
Ernemann Universal Stereoscope in folded position

Unfolded, it consists of two parts that are mounted on a base plate. The front panel contains the lenses. While focusing, the whole front panel moves forward or backward. The distance between the lenses is adjustable and the set distance is visible in millimetres. The rear part consists of a frosted glass where the stereoviews are placed. Behind the glass, a folding white flap provides a neutral background while viewing the stereoviews.

Ernemann Universal Stereoscope
The front panel

This compact and versatile stereo viewer has its disadvantages. It's an open system so it's prone to reflections and it lacks the intimate viewing experience of a closed hand-held stereoscope. Another drawback is the small focus knob, which is partly built into the base plate. It contributes to the compact size of the viewer, but it makes focusing more difficult. Finally, the stereoviews should be placed behind a metal clip. Placing is cumbersome and you have to be careful to not scratch the stereoviews.

So this device may not be the most user-friendly stereo viewer, but its unique design makes it a cherished part of my collection.

Ernemann Universal Stereoscope