Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1997/07/16

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From: Marc James Small <>
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 1997 12:22:39 -0400

At 04:13 PM 7/16/97 +0100, Joe Berenbaum wrote:
>I'm curious; does this mean that only the original Leitz Anastimat was a
>Tessar clone, or does this apply to other makers lenses that were also
>called "Anastigmat"?

Boy, I'm glad you asked that!  Time for even more optical history!  But
I'll keep it to the Readers Digest version.

Rudolph designed the symmetrical six-element Planar in 1896.  It was a
wonderful lens, but prone to flare in those pre-coating days.  He and
Wandersleb then designed the four-element Tessar to escape the flare while
preserving most of the outstanding optical performance of the Planar.  The
original name for the Tessar was the 'Anastigmat'.  From 1900 until 1917,
the American agents for Zeiss were Bausch & Lomb, who manufactured Zeiss
lenses in the US, hence the 'B&L Anastigmat'.  Through some sloppiness, B&L
managed to compromise the rights to the Anastigmat name in the US, though
Zeiss successfully preserved it elsewhere.  For instance, Zeiss insisted
that Leitz call the original Leica lens an 'Anastigmat' to show its Zeiss
connexions.  Once the Tessar's patent expired in 1922, Leitz was free to
call the lens anything they desired, so it became the Elmax, for 'Ernst
Leitz Max', the last recognizing the rising star of Leitz lens design, Max
Berek and, subsequently, the Elmar following a minor reworking.

So, the long and short is that virtually all non-US lenses made prior to
1923 with the Anastigmat name are Tessars.  Almost all US lenses follow
this pattern.  Kodak Anastigmat lenses of this era are Tessars as well, and
royalties were paid, via B&L, to Carl Zeiss.  The first camera on the upper
reaches of Mount Everest was a VP Kodak carried by Somervell on the '22 and
'24 climbs, disappearing with Mallory & Irving:  this camera has a
Zeiss-designed Kodak 'Anastigmat' lens.  

(So much for those Everest Johnny-come-latelies, E Leitz Wetzlar, with
their 1982 Mount Everest M4-P's -- sixty years behind the times, guys!
Even Rollei was on Everest a decade earlier, when the Dyrenfuerth
International Climb used Rollei 35's as their climbing camera, an inspired
choice.  And Retina, of course, made it up with Hillary in the first
ascent, this particular Prewar model sporting, of course, a Zeiss lens.)

The Anastigmat name was fair game after 1922, and the Zeiss connexion
ceases at that point.  Zeiss was careful to trade-mark the Tessar name, and
this has been proprietary ever since.


Marc James Small
Cha Robh Bas Fir, Gun Ghras Fir!
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