The Rolleiflex factory
Paul Franke and Reinholt Heidecke were the founders of the first company of their names. The company seat was Vieweg Straße, Braunschweig, Germany, but moved to new premisses at Salzdahlumer Straße 196 some years later. After WWII they reorganised as Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke. After its first insolvency the factory was continued as Rollei Phototechnic by new owners. The next insolvency brought again new owners who separated the camera production from other assets like real estate and trade marks. Rollei Produktion evolved into the second company by the name of Franke & Heidecke. The factory was continued by part of its management as DHW. DHW also had to close and a small part is continued as DW Photo. The present DW Photo still resides at Salzdahlumer Straße 196, Braunschweig, Germany.
Lens production at Rollei
After taking full ownership of Voigtländer Optical Works in 1974 lens production was moved to the Rollei factory. Rollei continued the production of a number of lenses under licence from Zeiss. These lenses do not bare the Zeiss name but ‘Made by Rollei’ and the lens name, Planar for instance.
DHW and later DW no longer use the Zeiss or Schneider lens names but their own general lens name Apogon. I believe the lenses are still of the same design.
Carl Zeiss had developed the patented T* multi-coating for small batches. For Rollei the multi-coating process had to be adapted to mass production. The result was Rollei-HFT or simply HFT, High-Fidelity Transfer. For reasons of uniformity Carl Zeiss also used HFT on T* coated lenses delivered for Rollei(flex) cameras. [Source: Zeiss, Camera Lens News 13, Spring 2001.]
Rollei telegram codes
When mail took a long time to be delivered and the telephone was expensive and the lines were poor quality, ordering by wire was reliable but could be expensive too. To cut costs large companies had short ‘telegram addresses’ and products had short coded names in order to minimize the number of words and thus cost. The ‘Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke, Salzdahlumer Strasse 196, 68 Braunschweig, Germany’ used the telegram address ‘Rolleiflex Germany’. Just two words and the German Postamt would know where to deliver. When ordering a Rolleiflex f/2.8F Xenotar with coupled exposure meter, with factory installed Flat glass and Flat glass back the contents of your telegram would simply be “XUCIX PLADD”. A Rolleigrid lens could be ordered wiring “FOGRI”, etc. The system should be revived for apping orders. [grin]
Rollei order and identity numbers
Telegram codes were replaced for order numbersin the around 1960. The order number consists of 6 digits typically printed as two groups of 3 digits. In the late 1980s the order number was replaced for the idendity number having only 5 digits, printed as one group of two and another group of 3 digits. Identity numbers are still in use at the factory. I have listed order numbers in case products are nearly identical and the old number may help to identify a part or product. The number cannot be found on the product itself but it is printed on boxes. Of course that does not guarantee that the right product is in that box after so many years. People who purchased a upgraded part - a focusing screen for instance - usually put the replaced part in the box of the newly purchased part.
Carl Zeiss Foundation
The Carl Zeiss Foundation is owner of all companies of the Zeiss Group and the Schott Group. Schott is the famous glass maker founded by Otto Schott. The Carl Zeiss Foundation was established by Ernst Abbe at Jena, Germany, in the 19th century. This way Mr Abbe handed over the Zeiss company to its workers. The Carl Zeiss Foundation moved its seat to Heidenheim in West-Germany in the aftermath of World War II in an attempt to keep control of all companies it owned. This attempt was successful as far as it concerned the companies outside East-Germany. Companies in East-Germany - including the famous optical works in Jena - eventually came under communist rule. That ended with the re-unification of Germany.
Carl Zeiss Jena, CJZ and ‘auß Jena’
This company is the original lens factory. The company made no cameras, except for a some Contax cameras in 1946. After WWII the communists nationalised the company to turn it into a VEB (People owned company). They conveniently overlooked that the company was already owned by the workers through the Foundation. Under communist rule the company was joined with other DDR optical companies. "auß Jena" was used as a trade name in the Western world where the use of the Carl Zeiss brand was reserved to the West-German Zeiss companies.
After the re-unification of Germany the VEB Carl Zeiss Jena conglomerate was split up. One part became Jenoptik established in the traditional Zeiss buildings in the Jena town centre. Carl Zeiss Jena was re-established in modern buildings on the outskirts of Jena. This company returned into Foundation ownership.
Opton, Zeiss-Opton, Carl Zeiss, CZ, ZEISS
In 1945 the U.S. Army had seized Jena and the Carl Zeiss Jena factories but the Americans had to withdraw in favour of the Soviet Army that was given the right to occupy that part of Germany in the Yalta agreement. The Americans moved about 70 key scientists from Jena to the American Occupation Zone. Under very difficult circumstances these scientists and other workers who fled to the West established Opton Optische Werke Oberkochen (Optical Works Oberkochen). Afterwards many Zeiss people from Jena joined their colleagues at Oberkochen. At first Opton was a subsidiary of the Jena company. The newly established Oberkochen company was not allowed to use the Carl Zeiss company name. After Jena was nationalised Opton was renamed Zeiss-Opton and afterwards Carl Zeiss without the name of the company seat.
The Opton name was also used for sales by the West-German company in Eastern Europe where the use of the Zeiss brand and registered lens names was reserved to nationalised Carl Zeiss Jena after the London Agreement in which both Zeiss companies settled disputes over brands and names. A lens that was labeled Carl Zeiss Planar was sold and labeled Opton Pl in the East block. A Tessar was marketed as Opton Te. Please note that an Opton Tessar is from the early 1950s and an Opton Te is from the 1960s or later!
In 2013 Zeiss announced that in future lenses, etc, would be branded ZEISS instead of Carl Zeiss. First reactions were mixed, not to say mainly negative.
The Zeiss-Ikon camera works of the Carl Zeiss Foundation were established as result of a merger between several camera companies, all patrons of the Carl Zeiss Jena lens works, in 1926. Main seats were at Dresden (ICA-Werk and Ernemann-Werke) and Stuttgart (Contessa-Werk). With the exception of some lenses for cheap cameras Zeiss-Ikon made no lenses at all. Optics were purchased from Carl Zeiss Jena and later from Opton and Carl Zeiss (Oberkochen).
After WWII the Dresden works eventually evolved into VEB Pentacon. The Western part of Zeiss-Ikon continued in the Contessa-Werk in Stuttgart, West-Germany, as part of the Zeiss Foundation until camera production ceased in 1970.
For the time being the Zeiss-Ikon company stayed in business in Braunschweig as a producer of the excellent Zeiss-Ikon slide projectors. The company was later sold as Zett Projektorenwerk. Zett also made the famous Hasselblad slide projectors. The Zett factory was owned by Leica from 1990 until 2004.
Zeiss-Ikon Voigtländer, Optische Werke Voigtländer
The Voigtländer company was established at Vienna, Austria, in 1756. In 1956 the Zeiss Foundation acquired the majority of the shares and over the years acquired more. In 1965 at a time that the German photo industry was already in decline, Zeiss merged its photo camera interests into Zeiss-Ikon Voigtländer with their main seat in Braunschweig. Camera production stopped in 1972. The production rights of certain 35 mm cameras went to Rollei. With no camera production left, Zeiss also withdraw from lens production at Braunschweig. That too went to Rollei as the Voigtländer Optical Works, first as a joint venture with Zeiss. Voigtländer Optical Works produced optics for both Zeiss and Rollei from 1972. As long as Zeiss was one of the owners lenses were sold as ‘Carl Zeiss’. It is rumoured that some of the famous Contarex optics were made in Braunschweig. The year 1972 also marks the beginning of the Rollei HFT lens coating, based on the Zeiss T* coating. T* was the multi-coating version of the pre-WWII Zeiss T single coating. The company came into full Rollei ownership in 1974 and was the basis for major lens production at the Rollei Works.
Jos. Schneider Optische Werke GmbH
The Jos. Schneider Optische Werke GmbH became a second lens supplier after WWII. As result of the division of Germany in East and West lens supplies from the Jena lens works became unreliable. At the same time Opton needed more time to reach full scale production. Opton had to start from scratch with no tools and no machines at all. Another problem was that Zeiss required their customers to order lenses one whole year in advance. That made planning of a growing camera production at Rollei difficult. The solution was another first class lens supplier who could deliver on shorter notice, Josef Schneider of Kreuznach. The Schneider optics were similar to Zeiss lenses but not exactly the same. In some markets customers preferred the Zeiss lenses, mostly because of the famous company name. In other markets there was no customer preference with respect to the lens (or customers were smarter). So the U.S.A. got mostly Zeiss optics and many cameras fitted with Schneider lenses were shipped to France. Even today the Xenotars and Xenars have loyal followers.