Zeiss Ikon AG per se was founded in 1926, as a result of the merging of four of the biggest german camera makers of that era: Contessa-Nettel AG of Stuttgart, Ernemann AG of Dresden, C.P. Goerz of Berlin and Ica AG also of Dresden. Soon, two other companies were added: AG Hahn für Optik und Mechanik, of Kassel, and Goerz Photochemisches Werk GmbH, of Berlin. This way, it became one of the biggest companies in the area of Dresden, also with factories established at Stuttgart and Berlin. Until WWII, Zeiss Ikon was the main manufacturer of 8mm video cameras.

The name Ikon comes from the combination of "ICA" and "Contessa-Nettel", and also resembles some similarity with the greek "eikon", meaning "picture". The main company behind the new company was Carl Zeiss - by then the biggest photographic lenses manufacturer in the world, hence the first of the names.

After WWII, Zeiss Ikon was splitted as was Germany. In the West, it was refounded and some legal suits followed for branding rights with the East. Sttutgart would became headquarters and the company merged with Voigtländer in the 60s, the latter already under control by the Zeiss Foundation since 1956.

Zeiss Ikon stopped making cameras by 1972. Part of the business went to Rollei, and most of the know-how was applied into relaunching the Contax brand together with Yashica.

In the East, after was production began in May, 1945. although delayed due to the dismantling of some production machines, that were sent to Russia as a compensation for damages. Manufacturing of the new Contax rangefinder was prepared from Dresden, and done with the machines at Jena until they were moved to Kiev.

By 1948 the company became state-owned, and that same year the Contax-S was presented. In 1947 some other cameras such as the Tenax or the Ikonta (Ercona in the West) were already being sold. Soon, stock numbers for shutters decreased, and by 1950 it was decided they will manufacture their own. After the legal requirements, VEB Zeiss Ikon was renamed VEB Kinowerke Dresden in 1958, and soon after it would become part of VEB Pentacon.

More recently, Carl Zeiss is relaunching again the Zeiss Ikon name. The new camera, first shown at Photokina 2004, is a german design and japaneses construction (by Cosina, with lenses made at both Japan and Germany, as happened with those for the Contax G1 and G2) of a rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses using Leica's M39 mount.

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