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C. A. Steinheil was an optical company based in Munich, Germany.


C. A. Steinheil Söhne Optical and Astronomical Works was a German optical company based in Munich (München), Bavaria. It made optical equipment and camera lenses from the 19th century until at least the 1970s. The company was founded in 1855[1] by Carl August von Steinheil (1801-1870), a German physicist and astronomer. At the time of founding, the organization was known as the Steinheil Optical Institute. The company made many of the astronomical telescopes for German observatories include those at Upsala, Mannheim, Leipzig, and Utrecht.[2] Carl's son Hugo Adolph Steinheil (1832-1893) bought out father's interest in the Institute, renamed it to C. A. Steinheil Söhne and continued as owner of the company after his father's death in 1870.[3] In 1866 it invented the Aplanat lens. In 1890, Adolph's son, Rudolph Steinheil (1865-1930), joined the family business, eventually become owner in 1892. During the early years, the company referred to itself as C. A. Steinheil Söhne but was commonly known simply as Steinheil. In the 1930s, Steinheil became a stock company and was jointly owned by Rudolph Steinheil's five daughters.

Steinheil made a few cameras at various times, and during the late 1940s, it developed an advanced 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses, the Casca.

On 24 Oct, 1952 C.A. Steinheil filed for a United States trademark on the word Steinheil. The trademark registration was granted on 23 March, 1954. At the time of filing L. F. Von Hornstein was listed as the Director of the company and the address was listed as St. Martinstrasse 76, Munich 8, Germany. The company name on trademark filings in the 1950s was shown as Optische Werke C. A. Steinheil Sohne GmbH. The trademark application states that the name Steinheil was first used in commerce in 1884.[4]

During the early 1960s, Steinheil lenses were distributed in the United States by Ponder & Best. In 1962 The Elgeet Optical Company, a large, Rochester, NY based American lens manufacturer, acquired ownership of Steinheil through a purchase of 80% of the company's stock for $560,000 USD.[5][6] Two years later, in 1964, Elgeet sold Steinheil to Lear Siegler, Inc, an American aviation conglomerate. The company became a subsidiary known as Steinheil-Lear Siegler and primarily developed optics for aviation applications such as gun sights and navigation instruments. In the late 1980s Steinheil-Lear Siegler was sold to British Aerospace for £17 million.[7] The company was again renamed, this time to Steinheil Optronic. In 1995, British Aerospace dissolved Steinheil and sold off bits and pieces of the subsidiary to various companies. Tank site manufacturing was sold to STN Atlas Elektronik in 1995[8]; pump and actuator manufacturing was sold to an investor group[9]; gyroscope manufacturing to German company, Autoflug; some of the optical manufacturing and trademarks were acquired by Jenoptik AG.[10] The Steinheil trademark itself expired on 26 December 1994 and was not renewed.


Camera industry in Munich
Agfa | Deckel | Eder | Enna | Friedrich | Kilfitt | Leitmeyr | Linhof | Niezoldi & Krämer | Perka | Rex | Rietzschel | Staeble | Steinheil
  • Alto-Stereo-Quart (1903)
  • Alto-Stereo-Quart III (1905)
  • Alto-Stereo-Quart IV (1905)
  • Boxkamera
  • Casca I
  • Casca II
  • Daguerreotypie-KA
  • Detektiv-Camera (c1890)
  • Detectiv-Camera Stereo (Stereo Detective Camera; c.1896)
  • Detektiv-Geheim-Kamera (? a separate model to Detektiv?)
  • Folding plate camera (c.1930)
  • Klappkamera Stereo (Folding Stereo)
  • Kleinfilm-Kamera Mod.I and Mod.II
  • Multo-Nettel (1907)
  • Rocktaschenkamera (Pocket camera)
  • Steinheil Speed Camera (c.1933; 3x4 and 4x5cm versions)
  • Spectrographen Kamera
  • Tropical Camera (Klappkamera Tropen)
  • Universal Kamera


  • Steinheil München Cintagon 100mm f/3.5 (Argus C44)
  • Steinheil München Culmigon 35mm f/4.5 (Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Culminar 50mm f/2.8 VL
  • Steinheil München Culminar 85mm f/2.8 VL
  • Steinheil München Culminar 135mm f/4
  • Steinheil München Quinar 85mm f/3.5 (Leica M39)
  • Steinheil München Macro-S-Quinar 100mm f/2.8 (Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Auto Quinar 100mm f/3.5 (Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Auto Tele Quinar 135mm f/2.8 (Nikon F, Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Auto D Tele Quinar 135mm f/2.8 (Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Auto D Tele Quinar 135mm f/3.5 (Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Tele Quinar 200mm f/4 (Exakta, Nikon F)
  • Steinheil München Tele Quinar 300mm f/4.5 (Exakta, M42)
  • Steinheil München Auto-Quinaron 35mm f/2.8 (Exakta)
  • Steinheil München Auto Quinon 55mm f/1.9 (Exakta, Leica M, M42)
  • Steinheil München EDIXA-Auto-Cassaron 50mm f/2.8 (M42)
  • Steinheil München Doppelanastigmat Unofocal

Trademarks used by Steinheil:

  • Cassar: A basic three element anastigmat lens design.
  • Cassarit
  • Cassaron
  • Culmigon
  • Culminar: A Tessar design lens with four elements in three groups.
  • Noctar
  • Orthostigmat
  • Quinar and Tele-Quinar
  • Quinaron
  • Quinon
  • Triplar
  • Unofocal

Some Heliostar lenses are engraved "M. Steinheil München", but there is some doubt on their origin.

See also:

Steinheil München Cassar Enlarging Lenses

  • 45mm f/2.8 VL
  • 75mm f/3.5-4.5 VL

Cameras using a Steinheil lens




  1. C.A. Steinheil Söhne, Price-List of Astronomical and Physical Instruments, 1907 Digital Copy
  2. New International Encyclopedia, Volume 21, p 498, 1916 edition Google books link
  3. Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Vol 4, p 30 Google books link
  4. US Trademark registration for Steinheil
  5. A History of Rochester, NY Camera and Lens Companies
  6. Analytical Chemistry, ACS Publications, E.H. Sargent & Co., 1962, 34 (6) pp50A ACS Pubs link
  7. Flight International, Aug 1987, p3
  8. C. A. Steinheil & Söhne page on the German Wikipedia
  9. Report formerly published at about an Investor Group acquiring Steinheil Optronic business
  10. Jenoptik AG official history, 1990-1997, pdf, pages 28 & 29