SIGMA Background Check – Part 1

Recently I realized how much I actually know about SIGMA lenses and with how many evaluations and test reviews I permanently expand my knowledge while I never asked myself what’s really behind the name SIMGA. Success, of course. And a vision. And lots of ambitions that made the company achieve its extraordinarily good position on the photographic market. But there’s more than that. Here are the first 4 of the 8 most thrilling and interesting facts in a summary:

  1. Michihiro Yamaki

In his late twenties and a student in optical industry. And with a great vision and ambitions. The man behind the name Michirhiro Yamaki founded SIGMA in Tokyo on 09 September 1961. The market was quite big and complex already – at that time there were about 50 lens manufacturers when SIGMA started as the latest and smallest enterprise and with Michihiro Yamaki it became one of the leaders and most important players in this industry.

He can claim many great innovations and he remained closely affiliated to his company for a lifetime. In 2011 he was awarded the Golden photokina Needle for the photographic and imaging industry. Michihiro Yamaki died in 2012. SIGMA’s present CEO is his son, Kazuto Yamaki, who wants to continue operating the enterprise by following his father’s footsteps.


An older image of Michihiro Yamaki – SIGMA CEO



  1. Origins and expansion

Until today Tokyo, the place for SIGMA’s foundation, has remained the center and head office of the company.

In 1979 SIGMA Deutschland GmbH was founded. In later years the company opened offices in Hong Kong, in America, in the Benelux countries, in Singapore, France, in the US and lately in China in 2013.

  1. Where do our SIGMA products come from?

SIGMA owns a manufactory in the city of Aizu in Fukushima, which is its only location for manufacturing. Apart from a few processes everything is made here, the grinding of the lenses, the casting with synthetic material, the varnishing, the adding of substrate material, the montage, and even the production of specific screws, forms and other smaller elements. Cameras, lenses and flash units are all produced here.


In order to reduce costs Michihiro moved the company’s head office from downtown Tokyo to the surrounding countryside at the time of his son’s birth. The building had five floors and the Yamaki family was living on the top floor.

  1. “Small office, big factory”. So how big is SIGMA really?

Well – guess how many lenses can be produced on a daily basis? I admit that my guesses were very wrong.

Here’s a selection of answers – you can find the solution at the end of this article.

Is it

  • about 2,500
  • about 4,000
  • about 8,000
  • about 11,000

lenses a day?

And here’s another guessing game for the quizmasters among you:

How many employees are working for SIGMA approximately?

  • 1,700
  • 3,550
  • 9,400
  • 10,500

By the way – according to Kazuto Yamaki about 75% of the employees are engineers and only 25 persons are working in marketing (in the head office). All other departments, such as the administration office, are very small. The statement “small office, big factory” was given by Michihiro Yamaki himself.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of my background check – Part Two is coming soon!

Stay tuned 🙂

PS: Here comes the solution to our little guessing game: In Aizu about 4,000 lenses are being produced every day. SIGMA employs about 1,700 workers and, although the company has a big and important position on the market, it still is a small enterprise in the industry. By comparison Nikon has about 24,000 employees and Canon has 196,968 employees.


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