The Perfect Sunrise

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There are smartphones on the market that have a focus towards photography. Some are equipped with a Carl Zeiss lens. I have looked into Wikipedia, which tells me that they are a brand who produces lenses. What makes their lenses so special?

What do you think about a 5MP camera in phones, one which is branded Carl Zeiss, versus another one which isn't? The device I have in mind is the Nokia N900.

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16  
Good lens, crappy miniature sensor != good photos. –  Nick Bedford Nov 9 '10 at 13:30
3  
Wait for the Leica smartphone... –  Berzemus Nov 9 '10 at 14:07
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3 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Carl Zeiss is a very well respected lens maker, and very literally one of the reasons "German engineering" conjures images of precision and care. Camera phone manufacturers license the name (and, maybe but not necessarily, actual lens technology) from Zeiss in order to borrow some of that high-end image.

This isn't necessarily all chicanery: companies who are doing this are at least somewhat interested in appearing to be high quality, and the name isn't completely diluted, so you have a reasonable expectation that if the lens says Zeiss, it's probably above run-of-the-mill.

In the case of the N900, the lens is quite good for a smartphone, and more importantly, the sensor is relatively large. 5mpix is a decent resolution for that size of sensor — at this point in the technology, you're not going to get a lot out of having more.

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This is a classic example of the power of branding and marketing.

If you're a manufacturer that hasn't made a name for itself in optics (like Nokia), you can create the idea of a premium product by using a lens from someone who does (like Carl Zeiss).

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I don't think that pure marketing can bring such magics. There must be something good about those lenses. –  kadaj Nov 11 '10 at 5:16
3  
@jase21 It's analogous to the bottled water vs. tap water debate. Both are products with similar raw materials, and different amounts of processing, but one is significantly more expensive per litre... –  Rowland Shaw Nov 11 '10 at 9:12
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Rowland, are you suggesting that Zeiss lenses have no real advantage (in terms of glass - or plastic in case of some low-end devices - quality) over unbranded lenses? –  ysap Jul 4 '11 at 16:15
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Carl Zeiss lenses are indeed usually better but for a smartphone the benefits would be negated by the sensor... –  Nick Bedford Jul 4 '11 at 22:32
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@ysap: indeed. While some companies may use rubbish, most will use decent materials no worse than the cheapest Zeiss can churn out for cellphone camera lenses (and Zeiss knows they don't have to produce anything good as the rest of the system as well as the future operator won't notice anyway). –  jwenting Jul 6 '11 at 5:14
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On the one hand is the brand name as Rowland say, and because Sony and Nokia and maybe other brands can't produce their own lenses, maybe on the contract have to say that this lens are Carl Zeiss.

On the other hand is the unique knowlege of the glass creation specially for lenses.

Every glass is not made with the same procedure. Carl Zeiss claims that can create very clear, and solid high quality glass and lens that are so good/clear/bright so can be used on small devices.

I am a fan of Olympus OM, and in past a lens for the Olympus OM system called Zuiko. Zuiko was special small and compact high quality lens that was not only a brand name.

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