Zeiss has left the photography industry
According to reports stemming from a post on the Fred Miranda forums, Zeiss is leaving the world of photography. The post, by the user Petegh, states that they’ve received confirmation from the Australian Zeiss distributor that they will be discontinuing all of their lenses and filters, including Batis, Loxia, etc.
It’s probably not much of a surprise. While Zeiss was once one of the biggest names in the industry, in recent years, they’ve been rather limited. Their recent mirrorless lenses releases are only really available for Sony E mount, and since Sony caught up and started making their own lenses, Zeiss kind of fell by the wayside. And then there’s the somewhat disastrous and recently discontinued ZX1 camera.
Update June 8th: The company has issued a statement confirming that Zeiss is not leaving the photography industry. You can read the full statement here.
Sony E mount mirrorless lenses aren’t the only lenses Zeiss has been making. They still have their range of DSLR lenses in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts and a decent list of lenses for Leica M rangefinders. However, the last lens they released of note, the Zeiss Otus 100mm f/1.4 (buy here), was back in 2019 – and that was for DSLRs, not mirrorless cameras. It’s a sad end for a company with such a long photographic legacy.
Zeiss started in 1946 as a microscope manufacturer. In 1890, they moved on to lenses. In 2010, they sent out a big press announcement celebrating their 120th anniversary of making lenses. Ten years after, for their 130th anniversary, another, more extensive release was made exploring Zeiss’ history. The only new item and potential promise for the future was the Android-powered Zeiss ZX1 camera (buy here). This camera took way too long to come to market and was ultimately discontinued after only three years, with no successor announced or even rumoured.
Now it seems that Zeiss won’t be announcing anything new for the photographic industry. If or when we’ll see an announcement from Zeiss themselves, or if they’ll ever update their website to reflect this is unknown. After, the website still doesn’t say that the ZX1 is continued. It just links to B&H to buy one, and it’s B&H that tells you it’s discontinued.
It’s a shame to see them disappear from the photography industry. And I don’t mean that in a “they’ve been around for so long! How could they disappear?” kind of way. It’s just that they did make some excellent lenses. I own several of their older M42 lenses that I regularly use to shoot video. At one time, they were the best you could get. These days, though, I’m not so sure they’re of sufficient quality to justify their cost over the modern competition.
We’ve seen camera and third-party lens manufacturers stepping up their lens game over the last decade. I expect the pandemic price increases didn’t help Zeiss with sales, either. If Zeiss has left the photography industry, it seems I’m not the only one to think that way. If Zeiss were getting the sales, they wouldn’t be packing it in.
It looks like Zeiss won’t be going away from the world of camera optics completely, though. Instead, they’ll likely be sticking with cinema lenses. At Photokina 2018, the company announced its Supreme Prime cine lens range, set for release in 2019. In 2020, they added three new lenses to the lineup, and four more in 2021. By April 2022, the Supreme Prime cine lens lineup totalled 14, with the release of the 15mm T1.8 (buy here).
If word from the Australian distributor is true, it is a shame to see Zeiss bow out of the photography lens market. But they haven’t really been all that relevant for a while. Certainly not since Sony started making their own lenses. Their pricing structure also kept them well out of the budget of most photographers, especially with today’s post-processing technology to compensate for most lens issues.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.