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My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:01 pm
by wstenberg
Here is my Zeiss Axiomat. This is one that I just bought from a lab in Germany. It does reflected light, DIC and POL. Built in cameras for 35mm and 4" x 5".
I have a 4-place turret and a 6-place. They use a special series of objectives.They still come up on eBay, and the regular Zeiss infinity objectives seem to work with a thread adapter (at least my first trials with this seem successful).
Zeiss made about 650 of these. It was at the launch of their infinity objectives. The price was too expensive at the time, so sales lagged and they were discontinued, despite being an excellently engineered instrument.

I have a second Axiomat that will be going up for sale (to help finance the cost of this one). PM me if you are interested in a big microscope!

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:47 pm
by Wes
Beautiful machine! Thanks for posting your new instrument :)

I wondered why the Axiomat was a commercial failure, I guess price was to blame.

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:54 pm
by 75RR
Congratulations - amazing looking microscope in an ultra cool way!

Collection only I assume?

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:59 pm
by MicroBob
Hi William,
this is likely the most expensive and complicated light microscope ever made.
It would be nice if you would show over time a couple of work results in combination with the microscope in use.

Congratulations to your new "telephone box"! :lol:


Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:36 pm
by apochronaut
It's nice to see one still up and running. I used one some , back in the 90's . Back then, you could still get 5 digit prices for a working used one. They also made an inverted version and a metallograph.

It seems to me the Axiomat had 3 problems, the price being the front runner of them by far. I had heard some time ago, that by the time they discontinued it, which was perhaps 1985, the tab was up in the 6 digits more than a little.

The other thing was it's physical size and it's format. You literally had to arrange the room it was in around it's existence, if you wanted to take advantage of it's full features.

The other thing was the Reichert Univar and then Polyvar and Polylite. The Reichert instruments had similar features and performed equally well. They ended up having a more fully featured complement of objectives over the 30 or so years they were in production. They were slightly smaller, easier to use and could be fitted into an existing location, rather than the location fitting around them and they were way less expensive. The Reichert system, also utilized the same objectives for all contrast methods. Optical features that individual Axiomat objectives carried , were incorporated into modules above the nosepiece in the Reichert instruments. With the Zeiss, you had to invest in a plethora of incredibly expensive objectives in order to use the microscope's many features.

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:07 pm
by wstenberg
I'm guessing of the 650 or so Axiomat microscopes that were produced, more than a few ended up in a landfill at the end of their commercial life. I wonder how many are still around?
They were originally intended for Biomedical Applications. It turned out they were just too expensive. Some of the premiere labs had them ( and some of them are still using them!), but the $100,000+ price tag was a big obstacle. Fortunately, the semiconductor industry was just taking off, and probably 80% of them were sold for that purpose. I heard that IBM was a big purchaser of them, buying more than 25. Zeiss reconfigured them for semiconductors and material science, but some of these were sold for that purpose with various biological (i.e., phase contrast) attachments intact. I guess it was extra effort to take them off.

Money was no object to the engineers on the Axiomat project. They were given free reign to design the best microscope in the world. They actually won some major design awards for it in 1974-75. When you look it over, and check out the lightpaths, etc., you can tell it was an optical engineers dream. It's laid out light an optical design board, with access to every intermediate image and conjugate plane. This adds up to about 23 knobs and buttons. I'm getting used to it, but I still keep the manual open to figure out all the settings. Maybe designed more for the engineers than the biologists. The electric focus control is convenient, and way ahead of its time.

The objectives are very nice as well. They are specialized Axiomat objectives, and still fetch a healthy price on eBay. I've tried an RMS adapter with Zeiss infinity objectives- they will work OK. More on that later, after I test it out a little more.

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:27 am
by microb
There's one for sale at It looks like they want $10k.

But it looks cool.

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:42 am
by microb
Scroll down to the penultimate page (never get to use that word much) and wow, the axiomat has some serious light pathing. You gotta look for yourself: ... matter.pdf

Re: My Zeiss Axiomat

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 2:45 pm
by Sauerkraut
You weren't kidding microb. That's a serious maze of prisms.

wstenberg, hopefully you'll keep us updated on all of the cool things this scope has to offer, and post some images of pond life from the many optics pathways available.