Here is a discussion with SIGMA CEO Kazuto Yamaki from last September. It was a follow-up to an interview in Tokyo at the Spiral Art Center in July where SIGMA announced new still photography lenses, new cine lenses and the new fp camera. This launch event was covered in the August edition of FDTimes.
JON FAUER: How did you pick the Spiral location?
KAZUTO YAMAKI: We considered several potential locations at first and then picked Spiral because we wanted to have the event in a unique and sophisticated place. We found that Spiral was the best choice. It has style. Also, the area, Omotesando, has always been my favorite place since I was a teenager.
Someone said, “Photography is like fashion.”
Fashion may not be the correct terminology because it is always about a matter of trends. Having said that, photography sometimes has such an aspect. I would prefer to call it “style,” and not “fashion,” for both the still photography and cine worlds.
Classic Art Prime Lenses
How did you decide to make Classic Art Primes? Who asked?
Almost everyone: rental houses, pro dealers and Cinematographers were making requests. They asked for lenses that recalled the atmosphere of classic films produced in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Therefore, SIGMA is releasing a new series of 10 Full-Frame cine lenses with modern mechanics and optical specifications that produce a vintage look.
How did you decide on the amount of flare and how “vintage” the Classic Art Primes should look?
We made several prototypes and had some Cinematographers try them. We picked the ones they liked the most. To replicate the look of historic lenses, we have used many uncoated elements. Some glass elements in the lenses have a simple, single-layer coating that provides a warm color tone reproduction, which is one of the characteristics of vintage lenses.
Are the coatings old formulas used in the 1970s or other eras?
Not exactly. We use a simple single coating like the one used in 70s, but we use new formulas and new coating materials.
Why do the Classics stop down to T25 (when they show T22 on the aperture scale and the FF High Speed lenses stop down to T16)?
Due to the lower transmission factors, the original smallest T value of 16 becomes T25. But we print T22 as the minimum aperture on the lens.
Delivery and cost?
We start delivery at the end of 2019. The price is approximately 15% higher than the original FF High Speed versions. The cost is higher because of the smaller production volume.
What trends do you see in the coming years for vintage vs modern lenses?
We assume the demand for these kinds of special lenses are limited to special customers, but we strongly believe that this classic series of lenses give DPs more options for wider cinematic expressions.
When did the SIGMA fp Full-Frame L-Mount camera project begin?
I got the idea at the end of 2016. Then, we started the project in the first half of 2017.
You called it “deconstructing a digital camera?” What inspired that concept?
I’m always monitoring how professionals and enthusiasts use cameras. And, I became aware that they often use several different cameras depending on the occasion. For example, still photographers sometimes use a cinema camera, professional people use a smartphone or action cam, etc. Then, I thought it would be nice if we deconstructed the essence of each type of digital camera.
When will delivery and prices be announced?
We’re still studying the price. Once the development is done, we will decide. We start delivery this fall. This camera has features (12-bit RAW internal video recording, tiny size) that no one else has done.
How was this possible?
Our electronic and firmware engineers did a great job. The powerful DSP (Digital Signal Processor) also contributes to it.
How has the building of cameras evolved?
The processors have been playing an important role in camera manufacturing. And when it comes to serious cinema cameras, it’s getting more and more important. However, mechanical build quality and thermal management are also very important.
Is SIGMA planning grips and accessories for the fp camera?
Yes, we are working on it. We plan to sell 2 types of grips, but I also hope other accessory companies will make additional things that fit the fp.
SIGMA L-Mount and E-mount Lenses
Please explain what you said about short flange focal depth helping lens designers.
It makes the optical design for wide angle lenses much easier. The shorter flange focal distance gives manufacturers a wider range of options for techniques used in the lens design. In many cases, it helps to achieve better optical performance as well.
Did you say there might be 15 additional SIGMA L-mount lenses coming by the end of 2020?
More than that. We already announced that we are making our existing 14 mirrorless lenses available in L-Mount. They are currently available only in Sony E-mount and Micro Four Thirds mount. In addition to that, we have developed brand new lenses. On July 11, we announced 3 new lenses for L-Mount. Moving forward, we will continuously release new L-Mount lenses.
Why did you decide to include the Sony E-mount in your new lens roadmap?
Because there are so many customers and the demand is so strong.
But not Canon RF and Nikon Z mirrorless lens mounts?
We’re still studying those new systems.
Do you see growth in independent cine production?
I believe so. The young generation is interested in making films and benefitting from the new technologies that support the art.
Is the high-end in cinema production growing or is it giving way to more affordable products?
I assume that the high-end continues to grow, especially in new markets and countries where we didn’t see much of that kind of production before.
Do you see the L-Mount becoming popular for cine cameras?
Yes, I hope so because the L-Mount has ideal parameters for cine. We need to work hard to attract cine customers to the L-Mount.
Looking into a crystal ball, without revealing specific ongoing projects, do customers request more SIGMA FF cine zooms?
Yes, we have such requests every day.
Where does SIGMA go from here?
We will strive to deliver more innovative, higher quality and higher performing products.
SIGMA boutique shops in major cities?
It’s one of my dreams. If there’s a chance…
What are your plans to build the SIGMA brand?
Making SIGMA the best brand in the imaging industry is my passion and my life-time goal.
I have 3 visions on becoming the best brand:
1. To be a company that continues to create the most innovative products with the highest performance, quality and dignity in the imaging (photo/video/cinema) industry.
2. To become the most reliable and beloved brand.
3. In terms of corporate culture, growth and creativity are motivated and one’s strength is fully expected.
We are aiming to be an energetic company driven by a free spirit that encourages every single employee to take responsibility and challenge the status quo. We can’t be a gigantic company like Canon or Sony. We can’t create the great history like Leica or ARRI. However, with our all efforts, we can strive to be the most valuable brand for our users, business clients, community and all the employees. This may not be achieved during my lifetime, but by keeping such a vision and continuously working hard, we may be able to get closer to that point.