Interview with Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of Sigma (L-mount, E-mount and more)


Lenstip published an interview with Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of Sigma - here is the recap from 43addict:

Background

  • Sigma is in the process of building new facilities while using old ones for storage and office space
  • The magnesium alloy facility is one of the most recent ones
  • In the future, they might make a new assembly building, to add more procedure and checking in their assembly line
  • Sigma’s assembly line is getting physically longer and needs more space, which is required for high-quality lenses
  • Kazuto Yamaki was always told as a child he would take over his fathers business
  • When he was young they lived on top of the factory so he got to know their 300 employees well and he was reminded that they were responsible for them and their families so about 1200 people
  • He wanted to escape the stress for a time as a kid
  • Kazuto Yamaki was sent to University to study business management and originally intended to go work for a big company to learn their ways before returning to Sigma, but while studying he decided it would be best to just return and learn with the employees, which seems to have worked out well
  • He started at Sigma in 1993 as a mechanical design engineer
  • In the 90’s Sigma wasn’t doing well due to the yen being weak so it was a hard time
  • He then moved to the business planning division to deal with cash flow and cost calculations
  • After the business planning division, he went back to the engineering division before going into product planning and optical design
  • Yazuto Yamaki did not design optics but was just a manager
  • He also managed software design, PR, and marketing for a time to have different experiences in different divisions of the company
  • Yazuto Yamaki is very humble about his job at CEO and says he still isn’t sure he is good at the job
  • Product development is his favorite thing to do
  • His least favorite part of the job is contracts, agreements, negotiating with clients, basically anything legal
  • Kazuto Yamaki travels a lot and likes to travel because of the opportunities to learn new and interesting things
  • LensTip was the first professional lens review site that Yazuto Yamaki became aware of
  • Kazu means peace and to means man so it means a man working for peace and that’s what his parents wanted him to do
  • K-Consult has been a great partner
  • Poland is the fastest market to adopt Art, Contemporary and Sports lenses and K-Consult and LensTip helped that adoption
  • Other markets prefer their cheaper lenses
  • Now high-end sales are consistent across markets
  • Sigma had nothing to show at CP+ because it was too early to show their new products
  • Sigma originally planned to announce their new products at Photokina 2019, but it was canceled so they will just reveal some of them later this year
  • Picking what to announce at CP+ and Photokina next year will be difficult since they will be so close together

L-Mount

  • The L-Mount alliance first started talks conceived 1.5 years ago
  • Sigma will release lenses designed exclusively for mirrorless in the future.
  • They didn’t start with lenses designed for mirrorless first because they take time to design
  • It takes Sigma two years to develop one lens and launching a new camera system requires a wide range of lenses so they prioritized the L-Mount support first support the camera with a variety of existing optical designs.
  • No comment about when we will see native mirrorless lenses.
  • Sigma decided to abandon SA mount before they joined the L-Mount alliance and were working on a new mirrorless mount, but after Panasonic and later Leica approached them they decided to not use their new mirrorless mount and to go with the L-Mount alliance.
  • Future lenses will come with SA mount so the mount/system isn’t dead yet, but they haven’t decided for how long beyond as long as they make DSLR lenses they will make SA mount lenses
  • Sigma’s first L-Mount camera will come out next year
  • Sigma intends to use Foveon since they own it, but if they find another very good sensor they might use it, but Foveon will live on
  • They are even entertaining using APS-C again, but they intend to use a Full Frame sensor
  • The camera coming next year will be Foveon

E-Mount

  • Growing very rapidly and it impresses Kazuto Yamaki
  • Sigma will release a short flange back lens for E-Mount this year
  • The Sony a7 launched right after they announced Art, Contemporary and Sport series lenses so they had to prioritize them and they also started work on cinema lenses so that took a lot of resources so there was no time to focus on mirrorless.

Other

  • There Cinema lenses are selling well especially in America even though it’s a very different market with established brands like Arri, Cooke, and Zeiss
  • They will maintain their four lines Art, Cinema, Contemporary, and Sport and Sigma believes that mirrorless is the future
  • Full Frame Mirrorless is their priority and then APS-C followed by DSLR going forward
  • Sigma wants to develop for Fujifilm X Mount, but their resources are limited and it is not their priority now
  • Kazuto Yamaki wishes they could make a lens for X Mount right now, but they have too much to do with their limited resources
  • Sigma Tokyo now has more than 180 engineers and it is still not enough
  • Their typical team consists of 1 optical designer engineer and 3 or 4 mechanical engineers, with 1 or 2 software engineers and possibly 1 or 2 electronic engineers, so less than 10 people in the first stage of lens design
  • Once a lens leaves the first stage of design specialists, prototype engineers, and production system engineers get involved, which then brings the number up to several dozen people working on the new lens design.
  • Adding die design brings the total amount of people involved to around 100 for one product.
  • Sigma doesn’t always have enough capacity to do all of their dies in house so sometimes they ask a supplier to make dies for them
  • Curved sensors are a good idea technically, but they are better for fixed lens cameras
  • If camera companies go with curved sensors on ILC then each lens will have to be designed for that specific camera/mount
  • Curved sensors are just as difficult to design for as flat, but each company could release something different and then it would be a mess
  • Kazuto Yamaki’s favorite lens is the 35mm f/1.4 Art
  • If they failed with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art they might not have survived
  • Kazuto Yamaki also likes the 18-35mm f/1.8 because it is unique and the 60-600mm because no one else has anything like it.
  • The 150-600m sports, 60-600mm  contemporary, and 60-600mm were all intentionally designed to be similar in aperture and use for photographers that cant swap a lens out quickly like aviation photographers
  • Kazuto Yamaki would like to design some long fast fixed focal length glass but limited resources prevent them from doing this at this time because of priorities
  • Sigma priorities making the best quality lenses so that will continue and maybe in the future, they will release some unique lenses that stand out from what they have been making that is compact and lightweight under the Contemporary line

Via Lenstip


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