Last Updated on 06/21/2023 by Chris Gampat
I can imagine that many of you reading this article will say, “Oh no, that’s sad. Anyway…” However, a post on the Fred Miranda forums stated that Zeiss has exited the photo industry, which we’re not surprised about. And to be honest, I’ve known about this for many years now. But all the old information tends to become new again. With that said, you should know that the company, which was once a juggernaut for lenses, only focuses on the cinema world these days. In fact, they’ve done so for several years now.
Update June 2023: We’ve updated, and we now have a response from Zeiss and other photographers which can be read here.
Typically, the Phoblographer would reach out to the brand for confirmation. But our Zeiss reps have been long silent. As it is, we haven’t heard from them since the pandemic.
According to the Fred Miranda forums post, Zeiss has discontinued all their lenses and filters in the photography world. That means that the Zeiss Batis, Milvus, Otus, and Loxia lenses are all gone. For a while now, their M-mount lenses have also been gone. This should be no surprise, as Carl Zeiss hasn’t been a regular member of CIPA for several years.
The last time Zeiss announced anything worth discussing was in 2019 when they revealed a Ventum lens for Sony E-mount drones. Since then, they’ve been reticent about photography lenses. In 2022, they announced that Kubrick’s famous lens had returned home to the Zeiss Museum. However, no new products for purchase specifically for photographers have been advertised.
Earlier this year, I bought a Zeiss Loxia lens only to see that it had a few fundamental usability problems. With more research, I discovered these to be fairly common problems that the rest of the press hadn’t reported on. So, after reviewing every single Zeiss Loxia lens, we went back and updated all of our reviews. This was back in March of 2023, and I’m optimistic that the problem will persist with this claim that Zeiss is shutting down all photographic operations.
Around the same time, Shotkit reported that Zeiss discontinued their ZV1 camera. This is unsurprising as it took quite a while to even hit the market. Our former Copy Editor, Mark Beckenbach, was also a tester for this camera before it came to market. When I saw it, he thought it still needed a lot of work. Our theory is that the lens on the camera is why we never saw an update to the Sony RX1r series.
What’s even crazier is that Zeiss never decided to capitalize on all the fame they gained from the Contax name in the recent past.
If all of this is news to you only now, you’re probably unaware of Zeiss. For many years, everything was made in Germany until they started outsourcing the manufacturing of their lenses to Cosina in Japan. When I founded the Phoblographer 14 years ago, this was the case for Zeiss lenses.
There is a longer and more in-depth breakdown of the fall of Zeiss that came within the last decade or so.
And for a few years now, they’ve seemingly quietly left the photography industry. It’s unfortunate as they made a great product and made all the other companies work harder. But their prices were out of reach for a lot of photographers.THE HEARTBREAKING DISASTER OF ZEISS LENSES AND HOW IT HAPPENED
Candidly speaking, I don’t think anyone should be surprised. Several years ago, our then-Zeiss rep told us that the brand would be exiting the photo industry slowly as they make money in the cinema world — not the photo world. This is why Zeiss has continued to create lenses for movies and cinema. Other brands have found similar success. Along with Tokina, Zeiss hasn’t really been heard from for a while. Tokina was allegedly rebranding Vilitrox lenses at one point, showing how some brands tend to phone it in regarding sales, development, etc.
This begs the question: is there a problem with photographers? Well, there are a few. Japanese manufacturers tend to copy one another too much and don’t truly innovate against smartphones. Panasonic, Sony, and Canon dominate the cinema world. But in the stills world, the kings are Canon, Sony, and Nikon. The innovators are more like Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Fujifilm, and Leica.
The bigger problem is that the manufacturers leaned so super heavily into the scientific, clinical world of photography and not enough into what gets to our heartstrings. Like the watch, the camera was thrown to the side because of the smartphone. But the watch industry adapted and became luxury-based while also embracing various audiences. The camera world, instead, leaned harder into science. In some cases, they’ve done an incredible job. In other cases, they keep giving consumers and passionate photographers a reason to not want to get a new camera or a lens. Professionals alike also are pretty happy with their purchases and are relying more on ways to fight against the problems with AI imagery. But manufacturers haven’t implemented a way to battle this the way they adapted quickly to make their devices work as streaming webcams.
If the end of Zeiss is true, then it’s one we’ve known as coming for a while. The photo industry isn’t on its deathbed. It just needs to desperately evolve.