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Jasper Huitink : October 10th 2005 - 00:02 CET

Carl Zeiss lenses & Sony partnership

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SonySony cameras & Carl Zeiss lenses partnership : In relation to digital photography and filming, only real pioneers can claim to have been at the forefront of the development for a decade. Sony and lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss, who are celebrating ten years of close collaboration, are among these pioneers. Thanks to their partnership approach, they are now accepted as technological leaders in the field of digital cameras and camcorders. Do you remember how you used to take pictures in the 1990s? Your recollection is probably somewhat hazy… Over the last ten years, digital technology has revolutionised filming and photography. As a result, the taking of pictures has become less cumbersome, easier, faster and cheaper, in a word: better.
Carl Zeiss lenses & Sony partnershipSony products & Carl Zeiss lenses
Not least thanks to its close cooperation with Carl Zeiss, Sony has established itself as a leading manufacturer of digital cameras and camcorders. Many products of the two partners, combining top quality Japanese digital imaging technology with lenses that many professionals consider the best optical solutions worldwide, have set new standards. This is also obvious from the numerous awards and prestigious prizes won by Sony digital camera & film products with Carl Zeiss lenses.

Sony CCD image sensors & Carl Zeiss optical lenses
As a pioneer in the development and production of CCD digital imaging sensors, Sony was on the lookout for a manufacturer of quality optical lenses with an excellent track record in photography. Such a partner was eventually found in 1995 in Carl Zeiss. The renowned manufacturer of quality optical equipment for top-of-the range cameras was among the first in its field to realise at this early stage the impact of digital technology and its requirements for high-performance lenses. As a consequence, Carl Zeiss developed a range of lenses specifically designed for use with digital imaging equipment.

Each lens meets stringent requirements
Each lens leaving the production premises of Carl Zeiss is in itself a masterpiece in fine optics. In order to guarantee that each lens meets the stringent requirements of the renowned Zeiss quality mark, the company's high-precision production processes are subject to constant in-process and final inspections. Every single lens surface is examined for perfection during the production and the lenses are individually worked for optimum image quality. Carl Zeiss is the only optical lens manufacturer using realtime MTF systems (MTF = modulation transfer function). They ensure 100% quality control, whereby each lens is examined during production for more than 100 defined parameters.

Carl-Zeiss lens - Production process
Optical lenses are made from optic-grade glass available in various qualities as regards refractive power, colour dispersion, weight and chemical composition. Camera lenses consist of several optical glasses and crystals. The lens blank is cut from the glass block and then ground roughly to shape, so that both lens faces have the correct radius. In a second process, the lens is fine-ground. Subsequently, the surfaces are polished. This takes between four and 25 minutes, depending on the lens diameter and glass type. During the polishing process, the rounded surfaces of each lens are individually checked with high-precision measuring technology. This ensures that even minute defects or irregularities on the surfaces are detected and can be rectified during processing. The lenses are then edged, until the optical centre and the physical centre coincide. The lens faces are then treated with a varnish to protect them against mechanical impact. During and after the edging process, the diameter of the individual lenses is measured for accuracy. In this process, the alignment of the optical and physical axes is also checked and adjusted, if necessary. After completion of the shaping of the lens, it is carefully cleaned so that all dirt particles and residue from auxiliaries used in the production are removed. In order to detect even the tiniest defects on the surface of the lens, it is examined manually under a special light source. If necessary, the lens is reworked by hand until it meets the stringent quality requirements of Carl Zeiss.

Sony cameras & camcorders - Carl Zeiss products
The lens surfaces are equipped with a vapour-deposited coat to reduce reflection. In this process, special substances are deposited on the glass surface in layers of a precisely controlled thickness. Subsequently, the lens surfaces undergo a visual inspection carried out by experienced specialists who detect even the slightest defects and irregularities. For certain camera lens types, individual lenses are now grouped into lens systems. In the next step, the mechanical and optical parts of the camera lenses are assembled to the final product. Each top-class lens by Carl Zeiss is manufactured in a high-precision process and subject to continuous quality checks. When purchasing a Carl Zeiss product, you can rest assured that you will not be given a mass-produced item but a valuable high-precision optical lens that has been manufactured with precision technology and hand-crafted from high-quality blanks. The engineers who design the top-quality lenses for Sony cameras and camcorders are actually the same specialists who develop lenses for space technology and medical purposes.

Sony digital still & video cameras
Virtually all Sony digital cameras and camcorders are equipped with Carl Zeiss quality lenses, which perfectly match the state-of-the art digital technology from Sony. For this purpose, we offer lens options that perfectly meet the requirements of the camera models.

Sony Cybershot - Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar lenses
Vario-Tessar lenses are used in Sony Cyber-shot cameras known for their elegant flat and user-friendly design. They produce excellent pictures of great brilliance and sharpness combined with high contrast and minimum distortion, thus allowing for fast-action autofocussing. The Vario-Tessar lens is the latest successor of the Zeiss Tessar lens, which was introduced by Zeiss more than 100 years ago as "the eagle eye for your camera".

Professional Cyber-shot - Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens
The cameras of the Sony Cyber-shot range for professionals are equipped with Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lenses. The Vario-Sonnar is slightly longer than the Vario-Tessar lens. It is however much faster and covers a greater zoom range. Thanks to its infinitely variable focal length, photographers can quickly and accurately choose a frame and depth. Vario-Sonnar lenses are also the preferred optics for Sony handycams. In any case, our principle of finding the best lens for any imaging application applies.

Sony & Carl Zeiss cooperating
The future development of digital still and video photography will continue to follow current trends towards smaller, more versatile and more elegant cameras with even better colour quality. Sony and Carl Zeiss are working together to shape this future. As we speak, the engineers of both companies are cooperating in developing the cameras and camcorders of tomorrow and beyond.

Cybershot DSC-T7 - Corner lens
One innovative product that is constantly developed further is for example our lens that can look around corners. This type of lens was first introduced by Carl Zeiss more than twenty years ago for aerial photography. Today, it is used in digital cameras such as the super-flat pocket-sized DSC-T7 Cyber-shot by Sony, as it allows for even more compact designs.

Carl Zeiss and Sony - Cameras and camcorders
We can of course not predict what the future will bring. Given however that the engineers at Carl Zeiss working in the development of lenses for space exploration and medicine are the same people that work together with Sony in the design of the next generation of high-performance cameras and camcorders, we are expecting great things. Prepare yourself for some surprises!

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