Voigtländer is an optical company founded by Johann Christoph Voigtländer in Vienna in 1756 and is thus the oldest name in cameras. It produced the Petzval photographic lens (the fastest lens at that time: f/3.7) in 1840, and the world's first all-metal daguerrotype camera (Ganzmetallkamera) in 1841, also bringing out plate cameras shortly afterwards. It set up a branch office in Braunschweig in 1849, moving its headquarters there later. The company issued stock in 1898.
After WW 1 Voigtländer had to restrict its production and lay off workers. In 1925 Schering AG took over the majority block of shares and granted the mass production of lenses and photographic equipment even more space than before. The product range had been reduced. No binoculars and microscopes were produced at that time.
Since the situation was still difficult, Voigtländer & Sohn tried in 1933 at the Army Ordnance Department, which was under the leadership of the new Nazi Reich government to win contracts for the manufacture of binoculars. This contract was awarded to the company and was able to survive WW 2 with the production of binoculars, periscopes, scopes and aiming circles.
Over the next three decades, Voigtländer became a technology leader and the first manufacturer to introduce several new kinds of product that later became commonplace. These include the first zoom lens (36–82/2.8 Zoomar) in 1960 and the first 35mm compact camera with built-in electronic flash (Vitrona) in 1965.
Schering sold its share of the company to the Carl Zeiss Foundation in 1956, and Zeiss and Voigtländer integrated in 1965. In 1972 Zeiss/Voigtländer stopped producing cameras, and a year later Zeiss sold Voigtländer brand to Rollei. On the collapse of Rollei in 1982, Plusfoto took over the name, selling it in 1997 to Ringfoto.