Zion (France)

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Zion (early products are marked Ed. Zion or J. Zion Opticien Fabricant) was a camera-maker in Paris, from 1890 until at least 1930.[1] The firm was started by Joseph Zion, born in Russia in 1855, with a partner, J. Munch.[2] Zion was the first in France to make an anastigmat lens, the Anastigmatique, presented to the Société Française de Photographie in 1892.[2] The company's cameras are mostly jumelle cameras. The first of these was the Simili-Jumelle, patented in 1895-6.[3] The notes at Cinematographes describe this as inspired by Jules Carpentier's Photo-Jumelle.[2]

Zion expanded the company in 1899 by taking a large investment from two new partners, Louis Philippe Ernest Lazies and Georges Victor Jung, but the new company (J. Zion et Companie) was dissolved again in August the following year.[2]Advertising shown at Collection Appareils gives the shop's address in about 1899 as 7, Rue du Jouy, with the factory at 14, Rue Pelleport.[4] Zion subsequently moved to 140 boulevard Richard-Lenoir (Cinematographes gives this address; a later news report gives the address as no. 184,[5] but, at least the present-day numbering of the boulevard only goes as far as 142).

Zion was made bankrupt in 1909, but continued to work, under an agreement giving him seven years to clear his debt.[2]

During the First World War Zion made binoculars for the army.[5]

Joseph Zion ceased operations in 1913, and his son Edmond took over, from premises at 30 bis Rue Bergère.[2][6]


  • Strut-folding rollfilm camera for 8.5x10 cm exposures: a simple shallow wooden body with leather covering, with the lens and a simple rotary shutter, mounted on the front of an unpleated leather cone, held straight by four plain rod struts. The camera has a Newton finder on top, with the targeting pointer at the front.[7]
  • Simili-Jumelle both mono and stereo jumelle cameras[3][8][9][10]
  • La Liput; a version of the Simili-Jumelle with a Newton finder instead of the Galilean one,[11] for 6.5x9 cm, 9x12 cm and 83x108 mm plates.
  • Austral 9x12 cm detective camera offered as falling-plate and drawer-magazine models.[4][12]
  • Star Stereo stereo jumelle camera attributed to Zion by Collection Appareils (the lenses are certainly by Zion).[13] The camera is convertable to a stereo viewer by detaching the shutter assembly.
  • Zionscope stereo/panoramic magazine camera for 4.5x10.7 cm or 6x13 cm plates.[6][14]
  • Pocket metal-bodied strut-folding cameras for 6.5x9 cm plates and film-packs, with focusing by variable strut-extension, like the Nettel and Deckrullo-Nettel.[15][16] The cameras no longer have Zion's own lenses (at least in examples seen).
  • Stéréo-Pocket metal-bodied strut-folding stereo camera for 6x13 plates and film-packs, with Berthiot lenses and Gitzo, Ibso or Compur stereo shutter.[17]

Cine cameras

  • Mouvementoscope cine camera which can be used to copy and project films.[18]


  1. These dates are covered by the models shown in the Zion chronology at Sylvain Halgand's Collection Appareils (in French).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Notes on Zion at the French-language site Cinematographes. The notes refer to Zion's development of the Mouvementoscope, a cine camera, also used with a lamphouse to project films, and gives two associated patent numbers (one is cited below).
  3. 3.0 3.1 British Patent 11302 of 1895, Improvements in photographic cameras, filed June 1895 and granted May 1896 to Joseph Zion, describing the Simili-Jumelle (unusually named as such in the patent), listed at at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office. The camera is shown with a reverse-Galilean finder on the side, with a prismatic front element to correct parallax error. There is a radial pointer showing the focus distance on a scale. The camera has a plate magazine with a pull-push changing mechanism. The text of the patent suggests that a second finder could be mounted, showing the focus according to Zion's earlier patent, linked below, and this finder is seen in one of the examples shown at Collection Appareils.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Contemporary advertisement (in French) for the Austral detective camera, giving the company addresses in about 1899, at Collection Appareils.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Le Matin, 20 June 1915 (in French), p2 (column 5, second story from the bottom), Le cas de l'Allemand Holzhauser tells how a German, Paul Holzhauser, had been employed by Zion in 1913 at his premises at 184 bvd Richard-Lenoir. Holzhauser was interned at the start of the War. A number of prismatic binoculars intended for the army, stolen from Zion, were subsequently found buried in his garden; he was imprisoned for eight months. Newspaper archived in the Gallica digital archive of the Bibliothèque National de France.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Advertisement for the Zionscope (in French) from Photo Index July 1914, giving the company's new address, at Collection Appareils. The camera is advertised for 6x13 cm plates, held in a drawer-magazine. It has f/4.5 Zion Anastigmat lenses, in a lensboard allowing rise/fall and sideways shift. The advertisement notes that the board can be quickly removed to insert filters for colour photography. The stereo septum folds away automatically when one lens is covered for panoramic photographs.
  7. Zion rollfilm camera dated to about 1895 by the auctioneer, sold at the Photographica and Film auction by Auction Team Breker on 30 September 2006 (listing at liveauctioneers.com - the camera is not in Breker's 'Highlights' page).
  8. Simili-Jumelle, early model, with an advertisement for it from February 1896, at Collection appareils. (in French)
  9. Simili-Jumelle fitted with both Galilean and focusing viewfinders, at Collection Appareils (in French).
  10. Advertisement for the Simili-Jumelle Stéréoscopique offering the camera for 6x13 cm, 7x15 cm or 9x18 cm plates, eighteen of each in a magazine, with either a drawer-changer or a changing bag; at Collection Appareils (in French).
  11. La Liput at Collection Appareils (in French) (it is listed as Lilliput but the advertisement clearly names it La Liput).
  12. Austral falling-plate detective camera at Collection Appareils (in French), with Zion Objectif Periscope wide-angle lens, and shutter with four instantaneous speeds ('lent', 'moyenne', 'rapide' and 'extra-rapide'), plus 'B'. It has small reflex finders with folding covers/shades, for vertical and horizontal use, and bubble levels for each orientation. It has a plate-counter. It is covered with brown leather.
  13. Star Stereo camera for 45x107 mm plates, with three-speed shutter (plus 'B') and Newton finder, at Collection Appareils (in French).
  14. 4.5x10.7 cm Zionscope with 65 mm f/6.8 Zion Anastigmat lenses, sold at the Photographica 5 auction by Rahn AG, on 12 May 2007.
  15. Pocket at Collection Appareils (in French) (the camera is engraved with 'Pocket' and a large 'Z' in a circle; given the existence of the Pocket 2 it seems likely the name is actually 'Pocket', and the Z simple stands for Zion), with a Boyer 105 mm f/4.5 Saphir lens and dial-set Compur shutter.
  16. Pocket-2 with an (apparently German) Doppel-Anastigmat lens and Vario shutter, at Collection G. Even's site (in French).
  17. Advertisement for Stéréo-Pocket cameras by Photo-Omnia, dated 1926 by Collection Appareils (in French).
  18. French Patent 256036, Un appareil photographique dit 'Mouvementoscope', filed May 1896 and granted August 1897 to Joseph Zion, reproduced at Cinematographes.


  • Zion cameras at Collection Appareils (in French)
  • Zion cameras at Gérard Langlois' Marques Français (in French)
  • Other patents held by Joseph and Edmond Zion, listed at Espacenet:
    • Swiss Patent 7587 of 1894, Viseur automatique pour chambres photographiques de tous systèmes (Automatic viewfinder for all types of camera), filed October 1893 and granted May 1894 to Joseph Zion, describing a telescopic focusing viewfinder, coupled to the camera's focusing mechanism.
    • French Patent 338597 Jumelle photographique pliante (folding jumelle camera), filed December 1903 and granted May 1904 to Joseph Zion, describing a stereo jumelle camera body. In use, the camera has the tapered shape typical of a jumelle camera (the rear, with the plate, is taller than the lens board) but the side panels fold when not in use, making the camera more compact. The patent shows a plate magazine with a changing mechanism.
    • French Patent 464925, Magasin photographique à tiroir (photographic drawer-magazine), filed November 1913 and granted April 1914 to Edmond Zion.