Interview with Kazuto Yamaki - CEO of Sigma Corporation

21 November 2012
Arkadiusz Olech

1. Warsaw, November 2012

Interview with Kazuto Yamaki - CEO of  Sigma Corporation - Warsaw, November 2012

Kazuto Yamaki - CEO of Sigma Corporation was visiting Poland in the beginning of November. We had opportunity to meet him and ask several questions.

Arkadiusz Olech: Welcome and thank you for finding the time for our interview. Firstly I would like to ask you whether it is Your first visit in Poland?
Kazuto Yamaki: Yes, I'm visiting Poland for the first time. To tell you the truth I should have come here much earlier; still I'm enjoying my visit very much.

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AO: It is a common knowledge you are the CEO of Sigma and you have got a lot of duties; despite that fact you managed to visit our country. Does it mean that the Polish market is important to your company?
KY: Definitely yes. From our point of view the Polish market is among the most important ones. Polish customers are very well-informed and demanding - they really appreciate high quality and they don't hesitate to let it show. Often they are among those customers who choose the best products from our line-up. A success on such a market is very important to Sigma because it means we are doing our job well.

AO: I won't ask you what lenses you are going to show next year because I know there will be no answer. Perhaps you can at least reveal how many new instruments you are going to launch?
KY: We have a lot of plans but our processing capacities are limited. I am yet to discuss a lot of details with my engineers so I really cannot answer that question right now.

AO: Currently there are only three fixed-focal DC lenses for reflex cameras with an APS-C sensor (two fisheye instruments and the 1.4/30) on Sigma's offer. Can we expect some new devices in this segment in the near future?
KY: We don't exclude any possibility of enlarging our offer. Still we haven't had any precise specifications in that particular segment. However if those are the expectations of our customers it will be definitely one of discussion topics with our engineers.

AO: Lately you've launched several fast and relatively expensive ,,primes", e.g. the 1.4/35, the 1.4/50, the 1.4/85. Is there any chance we will see their slower and a bit cheaper equivalents as well e.g. 2/35, 1.8/50 or 1.8/85 models?
KY: Our goal is to offer a very wide choice of lenses in practically every category; perhaps some of these lenses you've just mentioned are going to be included in our line-up but currently we are not sure. We have our priorities and the closest launches will be connected to those priorities.

AO: Sigma offers as many as five categories of products - there are Foveon sensor cameras, flashes and three types of lenses: full frame, for APS-C sensors and for mirrorless systems. Which of these categories is going to be the most important one in the near future for Sigma?
KY: To tell you the truth it depends on the interest of our customers but I admit lenses definitely have always been the most important category. Our dream is to become an important producer of digital cameras as well and that's why that category is also very important. Sigma is the only producer on the market which offers Foveon sensors and it entails great responsibility to those customers who appreciate high quality of those detectors and their type of rendering images. We would like to continue our production in this segment.

AO: As we've already started discussing cameras let me ask you next two questions concerning this topic. Does the current technology allows you to produce full frame Foveon sensors?
KY: The Foveon technology doesn't limit the size of a detector in itself so you can manufacture bigger or smaller sensors. Technologically speaking there are no obstacles to producing a full frame Foveon sensor.

AO: Lately the price of the Sigma SD1 Merill has dropped significantly. Are you satisfied with the current sales volume of that camera?
KY: To tell you the truth not really. The current sales volume is not especially satisfying, we expected it to be higher. On the other hand those people who decided to buy that camera seem to be very satisfied with its performance. Of course you can remember that the SD1 is a specific camera which can't be used for just any purpose; still it has its strong points. I am glad there are customers who are able to find and appreciate them.

AO: What is your favourite Sigma lens?
KY: Currently it is definitely the 1.4/50.

AO: What about the new Sigma 1.4/35?
KY: I would buy that one as well - I really buy and use our products in private. The 35 mm focal length model could be also one of my favourite lenses because it is a very all-purpose and interesting focal length.

AO: I also like the Sigma 1.4/35 very much but, to be honest, I expected a higher price. The price tag of 3590 PLN surprised me very nicely.
KY: At such a price point the quality remained high, though. The great quality of rendered images has always been a priority here. We wanted to make it possible for the widest group of customers to enjoy it so we strive to lower financial costs. Lately we've invested a lot in our production and engineering department, there are no savings here. However, we try to limit administrative costs for a change. That policy and the fact that we are indeed a small company make us very flexible when it comes to our market situation. Still the Sigma 1.4/35 shouldn't be perceived as a cheap lens. The price is lower not because of the inferior quality but because we tried to minimize additional and not always essential expenses.

AO: The 85 mm model is currently the portrait lens with the longest focal length in the Sigma line-up. Can customers expect that, in the era of digital full frame becoming more and more popular, there will be a 135 mm device launched in the near future? What's your opinion?
KY: There have been a lot of requests concerning that type of lens. It used to be a very popular device; now it is not so popular anymore. Still there seem to be an increase of interest in it and, as I've already said, we want to have a full line-up of lenses so definitely I would like to launch it as soon as possible and include in our offer.

AO: There are a lot of interesting lenses in the Sigma line-up which don't feature image stabilization - it's enough to mention here such models as the 2.8/300 or the 100-300 mm f/4.0. Are we going to see new versions of these instruments?
KY: I can't reveal details concerning future launches. If there are enough processing capacities we will be eager to produce them but still it is a matter of priorities.

AO: Mirrorless devices have become very popular lately, especially in Japan. What's Your opinion about that market segment?
KY: I think it is a very promising segment. Currently mirrorless cameras are attracting a great number of customers, especially in Japan, Korea or Taiwan. The sales volume of these products has been increasing also elsewhere. It is undoubtedly a result of small dimensions which are an important feature for most of customers. These cameras can offer a lot to professional photographers as well - you can mention here a very accurate focusing system or electronic viewfinders which give you an immediate control over the exposure parameters or white balance. I suppose this segment is very promising and it will increase on every market, even when it comes to more expensive cameras. From our point of view, however, the fact that the majority of customers buy cameras of that type only and solely with kit lenses is rather unfavourable.

AO: When it comes to your latest launches I was very surprised by your introduction of the next version of the Sigma 120-300 mm OS. Its predecessor was launched in 2010. What was the reason of such a quick substitution?
KY: First of all we are in the middle of reorganization of our line-up of products as all lenses are going to be sold in new casings. Sooner or later the Sigma 120-300 mm would have to be remodelled as well. Its optical construction is so perfect that we currently cannot noticeably improve it. We decided to leave it unchanged and present it in a new, better casing with switches that allow you to use new possibilities of the Sigma Optimalization Pro software as soon as possible.

AO: The LensRentals claims that the Sigma 120-300 OS, launched in 2010, is often returned to them with a damaged casing; they suggested it might be the reason of introducing a new version with a better casing. Would you like to comment?
KY: There were some problems but they concerned only the very first lens series delivered to the market. These problems have been completely eliminated.

AO: You sell lenses with a vide variety of mounts - in fact with most of mounts available on the market. Can you tell us what mount type is the most popular one?
KY: Canon and Nikon mounts are the most popular - their levels of sales are similar.

AO: How does the Sony mount compares here?
KY: Its market share is steadily increasing every year.

AO: Thank you very much for our meeting and the conversation. I hope that now you will be visiting Poland more and more often.
KY: I really would like to. Thank you.

Interview with Kazuto Yamaki - CEO of  Sigma Corporation - Warsaw, November 2012

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