2018 - 120 years of Berlebach tripod technology

When the ore deposits were exhausted, the wood of the „Erzgebirge“ forests became the raw material that shaped the region and provided livelihoods for its inhabitants. Traditional wood carving, wooden toys and sports equipment made the „Erzgebirge“ known throughout the world. The history of Berlebach tripod technology also fits into this development.

For more than 120 years, high-quality tripods made of native ash wood have been produced in Mulda. The excellent characteristics of this type of wood in terms of vibration damping, stability and robustness were appreciated by the most famous photographer David and Meerwarth at the beginning of the 20th century. In their book "Ratgeber im Photographieren" they recommended all demanding photographers "a solid wooden Berlebach tripod".

Berlebach ® Ash Wood Tripods - The Genuine Alternative!


Tradition and Innovation

In October 1898, the foundation of the company Berlebach was laid in Mulda, Saxony, near Dresden, the city of art and it’s famous university, by the businessman Peter Otto Berlebach.

He bought a plot of land on the current Frauensteiner Straße with a shed in which a waterwheel drove the simplest machines, such as circular saws. Starting from a water-driven board mill, copying frames, drying stands and tripods were produced. A workforce of 6-10 people made these articles in two-shift operation under extremely simple and primitive conditions.

Already in 1903 the first modernization of the company took place. With the acquisition of a locomobile, the power was converted from hydropower to steam power.

The carpenters at that time were in possession of outstanding craftsmanship. Starting from the planed board to the polished ready to ship tripod, all operations in the chord had to be carried out by hand with simple technology.

In 1904, the modernization was continued by demolishing the buildings made of boards and replaced by massive rooms, which were already increased in 1906.

Packages and boxes were transported to the post office and to the train by means of a dog cart. A horse cart later replaced the dogs from that work.

At the end of the 19th / beginning of the 20th century, numerous experiences led to a rapid expansion of photography. With a keen sense of the rapidly evolving demand, Otto Berlebach was also able to supply the market internationally. This is documented in the "Hamburg Export Manual" from 1906.

The workforce had now risen to over 30 people but during the First World War (1914-1918) the team was forcibly reduced by a number of employees. But even in that difficult time, manufacturing and export could be maintained.

Otto Berlebach sold the company in 1918 and retired. Messrs. Biskaborn, Dittmar and Heisinger became new owners. They came from the company „Ernemann“, later „Zeiss-Ikon Dresden“.

Mr. Dittmar was a merchant and brought great experience in the field of photography. He led the company to a large clientele of well-known photo specialists.

Biskaborn and Heisinger were specialists in metalworking and woodworking. They continued the company under the name Otto Berlebach Nachf.

In order to meet the ever-growing demand for high-quality products, 1922 was another year of expansion. The great demand for metal fittings and accessories made of metal meant extension oft he facilities. The owners decided to buy the in the Randeck district of Saxony located factory F.E. Hertel & Co Nachf., in 1926. It was now possible to become more active in the metal sector.

In 1928 the horse-drawn vehicle was able to retire. The first company truck was bought and transported the goods to the bulk buyers.

Further investments followed in 1935 by adding to the water lines and with it the extension of the fire protection systems.

In 1937, the increase in capacity of the metal parts required an extension at the Randeck site.

In 1938, Mr. Heisinger left the company due to age.

1939 further structural investments at the woodworking site.

During the Second World War, the production of photographic special articles continued unabated. Unfortunately, this murderous war has also torn gaps in the ranks of the employees of Berlebach Nachf.

In 1945, the company loses by a tragic accident, the commercial partner, Mr. Wilhelm Dittmar.

In the midst of his work, the technical partner Mr Karl Biskaborn died in 1947. Mr. Herbert Dittmar, son of the deceased Wilhelm Dittmar takes over the commercial management and leads the enterprise further in the sense of the deceased.

1948 demolition of the half-timbered center building at the woodworking site and massive new construction with an increase in height as well as an installation and commissioning of a separate kitchen for supplying the employees.

From 1950 an extension of the production program for photo accessories took place. Lightweight tripods and heavy studio tripods equipped with 2- and 3-way tilts were manufactured. In addition, storage containers for films, slides and cassettes were made of wood in huge quantities.

In 1968, the company was awarded a gold medal for the new tripod UNI 67 at the International Leipzig Fair, as well as the quality mark "Q" for its outstanding quality.

In 1970, a heating house was built in the woodworking division and the old locomobile could be taken out of service.

In 1972, Berlebach Nachf. was forcibly nationalized and continued as a state-owned enterprise „VEB Foto-Kino“. The VEB was given the task of covering the needs of tripods and photographic accessories throughout the Eastern Bloc by the higher-level authorities. By the former „Foreign Trade Ministry“ of the GDR, the products were sold very cheaply for foreign currency in the Federal Republic of Germany, France and the Netherlands and other western countries

In 1972, a structural expansion of the operating part of the metal production took place, a new mounting room was build.

In 1977, a passenger and freight elevator was installed over three floors in the wood processing division. Finally, the physically heavy work of transporting materials and finished products over three floors came to an end.

In 1981 the company was incorporated into the „Kombinat Polytechnik und Präzisionsgeräte“ in Karl-Marx-Stadt (today called Chemnitz again).

In 1987a social wing was developed after massive pressure from employees. This improved the previously unreasonable conditions.

1989/90 Peaceful revolution, accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany.

01.07.1990 Transformation of the company into a GmbH with 100% trust share.

The entire export to the Eastern Bloc countries has disappeared, new distribution channels were sought. This was followed by three years of stagnation in development. Urgent investments in ailing old-established machinery and equipment could not be made.

After endless negotiations with the „Treuhandanstalt“ and various disruptive maneuvers (whose description should rather be waived at this point) the company was saved from from bankruptcy. That happened with the support of the mayor of Mulda and a lawyer literally at the last minute.

In 1993, the then Technical Director, Wolfgang Fleischer, who had been employed at the company since 1962, bought land and buildings, production facilities and the name "Berlebach" from the „Treuhandanstalt“. This gave Germany's oldest tripod factory the chance for a new beginning.

In August 1993, he and seven employees took over the production of solid tripods made of ash wood. It quickly became apparent that the high quality standard of the products could not be maintained with the existing scrap-tire technology.

After the fair "Photokina" in Cologne in 1994, where the privatized "Berlebach tripod technology" was represented with its own exhibition stand, it became clear that a fundamental renewal of the technical equipment was inevitable.

In 1995, just under Deutsch Mark 1 million was invested. A renewal of the machinery in wood and metalworking was made. From that moment, they were able to produce more effectively with the new technologies, maintain high quality standards and push new developments. In 2002, the company could already offer special tripods for the astronomy sector.

The participation in national and international trade fairs as well as advertising-effective prospectus documents ensured the ever-increasing popularity of Berlebach tripod technology.

In 1999 the company was certified according to DIN EN ISO 9002.

In the year 2000, the demolition of unused old buildings took place on the property of the woodworking department at the Frauensteiner Road.

In 2001, the entire building complex in the area of metal fabrication was extensively renovated.

2005/2006 Demolition of the ancient heating house (former location of the locomobiles) and construction of a modern sanitary area as an extension to the building of the wood production and subsequent renovation of the entire building complex.

In 2006, „Berlebach tripod technology“ developed and manufactured the world's first composite stand made of wood and carbon in collaboration with the TU Dresden.

In 2007 Berlebach received the order to equip all rooms of the 7 star luxury hotel "Buj Al Arab" in Dubai with tripods.

In 2010, the development and production of the multifunctional modular construction of the 552/652 series of tripod heads took place.

In 2013, the tripod series „Report“ has been completely reworked and realigned.

Based on the successful concept of the modular system of the tripod heads, the conversion of the tripods to a modular principle started. The user now has the advantage to use 18 different modules in the basic stand and is able to configure a personal tripod according to to specific needs.

But also in the accessories sector, Berlebach tripod technology was constantly innovative. Here to mention, the folding angle "MR 190" for panoramic photography and the patented camera tracking system "Speedy".

New products require new technology and plenty of space. After the purchase of additional land, the condition for a spatial extension was created. As metalworking was bursting at the seams, action was urgently needed. In 2015, for example, the foundation was laid for a new production hall for metalworking and in June 2016, it was inaugurated. With this investment in millions, there is now room for more new CNC machines that are indispensable for the progress of a positive development and will boost global exports.

Not only is Berlebach a household name for photographers today, but it is also a reliable partner to global companies in EMC and astronomy technology.