Spirit of India through Sigma’s signature lenses

It’s an image he hopes to change with the company’s newly-launched line of mirrorless full-frame cameras, which are touted to be the world’s smallest and lightest.
Spirit of India through Sigma’s signature lenses

CHENNAI: In the world of big camera brands, Sigma is a bit of an outlier. It’s got only one manufacturing plant based out of Aizu, Japan, and for its 60-year history, Sigma has been a family-owned business. Yet, the company is renowned the world over for its lenses and its line of cameras.

But Sigma has always been known for its lenses than for its cameras. Kazuto Yamaki, who took over as the company’s CEO from his father in 2012, remarks that the company started out as a lens manufacturer in 1961 before it made its first camera in the 70s. “My father was 27 years old when he opened Sigma in 1961 as a lens manufacturing company,” he added. It’s an image he hopes to change with the company’s newly-launched line of mirrorless full-frame cameras, which are touted to be the world’s smallest and lightest.

Photos: R Satish Babu
Photos: R Satish Babu

India impressions
Two of Sigma’s newest range of mirrorless cinema cameras the Sigma fp and the fp L were launched at Amethyst, Royapettah recently, and attending the launch was Yamaki himself. On his first trip to India, the CEO was greeted by a bevy of photographers whose works were on display at the gallery, all shot with the Sigma cameras. Titled “Spirit of India”, the one-day display featured over 50 photographs depicting India through slice-of-life portraits as well as sweeping views of its many monuments. Speaking at the gathering, Yamaki confessed to being overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality he received at the airport. “It was the best time to visit the country and experience market conditions. Meeting with various dealers and visiting the local markets has given me a better understanding of Sigma’s stand in India and also the audience segment,” he remarked.

Work ethic
As he sat down for a conversation, the CEO elaborated on his company’s approach to manufacturing, and especially why he chose to make them out of a single facility. “Lens making and polishing are analogue art. Though people might think digital is more advanced, analogue is the hardest to master. A camera body is easier to assemble, but a lens requires careful attention to detail,” he added. Despite the smaller scale at which it works, Sigma makes use of the most advanced machinery combined with an artisanal approach to manufacturing, almost in the vein of a Swiss precision device. In a country known for some of the most popular names in camera equipment, Sigma is unique in that it continues to manufacture its equipment in Japan. While having an in-house facility enables a greater focus on the final quality, Yamaki also reiterated the company’s commitment towards guaranteeing employee security.

On the newest line of cameras, Yamaki added, “These are the smallest full-frame cameras made yet, and are very suitable for professionals who don’t prefer carrying cumbersome equipment while travelling. These cameras also come with different user interfaces for still photography and cinema mode, which is not something you find on other cameras.” When compared to the bigger players, Sigma’s market share is comparatively modest, but that is no deterrent. “Our aim is not to compete with the other companies, but to stand out from the competition,” he claimed.

A separate stall at Amethyst displayed the two new products along with interchangeable lenses of varying focal lengths. The cameras come with a 35-mm full-frame sensor, 61 megapixels, and can shoot 4k, 30p video. The new products are aimed at photographers and filmmakers who seek high-quality reproduction in a camera that isn’t cumbersome to carry around. Others present at the event included Ananth Seshan, managing director, Shetala Agencies, Gopal Seshan, head of cine division, Shetala Agencies, Raja Ponsing, founder, Ambition 4 Photography Academy, and Mahesh Muthuswami, cinematographer.

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