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The largest camera lens manufacturer in the world, SIGMA, will concentrate on expanding its operations in India

Even ten years ago, photographers needed a specific device, whether it a simple point-and-shoot or a full-fledged professional camera, to capture their subjects. But how can established camera manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, etc. compete today that practically every smartphone has a powerful camera system enhanced by computational photography? But Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of SIGMA, one of the world’s largest camera lens manufacturers, says that specialised camera kits are superior.

Professional camera equipment will always be preferred by professionals, advanced amateurs, and enthusiasts over a smartphone, according to Yamaki, who recently visited India to assess SIGMA’s company.

They’re keen on our premium offerings. I’ve noticed that smartphone cameras have come a long way in a short amount of time, but that our ideal clients are more interested in high-end SLRs and lenses. I believe the smartphone and the professional camera and lenses can live together,” he remarked.

Computational photography is one reason why smartphones are coming up to DSLRs, at least in terms of immediate picture quality. Regardless of the actual quality of the lenses, the smartphone’s imaging processor uses software to enhance the photos.

When asked whether he approves of employing computational photography to improve picture quality, Yamaki contradicts the stereotype of professional camera designers who are opposed to such tools. The aggressive use of technology in the creation of images by smartphones has dramatically raised the bar for picture quality. He then said, “I believe high-end cameras and lenses should employ comparable technologies to what cellphones do.

To back up his claim, he said that mirrorless cameras are now available from SIGMA and that the company plans to aggressively roll out additional products that use this technology in the near future. Our ideal clientele consists of both experienced photographers and novices. He emphasised the company’s commitment to provide all consumers with “the greatest quality goods and services.”

In India, SIGMA has had a market growth of 20-25 percent over the last three years. During only this year alone, it has expanded by at least 20%. Manufacturer SIGMA debuted its SIGMA Global Lenses in 2012, a collection of 48 lenses split into three distinct lines catering to different aesthetic preferences and lifestyles: art, modern, and sports. In 2016, it also debuted 25 CINE lenses, divided into four families—full-frame (FF) zoom, high-speed (HS) zoom, full-frame (FF) high-speed prime, and full-frame (FF) classic prime.

SIGMA has found a significant amount of success in the Indian market. In comparison to other goods, SIGMA’s prime lenses have the highest level of success in the Indian market, namely the art series lenses designed for mirrorless cameras.

Although it is best known for its lenses, SIGMA also produces many lines of cutting-edge digital cameras with interchangeable and integrated lenses, such as the SIGMA fp series, SIGMA sd Quattro, and SIGMA dp Quattro.

“We do some OEM business, but that’s not our major area of work and it’s a rather minor portion of our company,” he said.

Yamaki had intended to go to India in 2019, but a cyclone destroyed his plans. He put it off until 2020, but then the global epidemic of COVID-19 hit. Therefore, he was able to visit India in October of 2022, and on the basis of his trip, he is fairly satisfied with the India narrative.

Yes, we want to expand our operations in India. It is one of SIGMA’s top 10 markets worldwide, and it is growing rapidly right now,” he added, referring to SIGMA’s expansion into the Indian market.

It so, that doesn’t prove the firm’s primary goal is expanding its physical presence.

We have a solid business relationship with an Indian partner and have no plans to expand our network of distributors there. I’m certain that we can grow our company in India with the help of our existing distributor. Having said that, we will prioritise improving the quality of our offerings above expanding our output. “As long as we keep up the quality of our services and continue to supply them, the volume should increase,” he said.

In the hands of the family

SIGMA’s plant in Aizu, Japan, produces between 100,000 and 900,000 units annually. Family-owned Yamaki claimed they could have shifted production overseas in the 1990s or early 2000s to take advantage of cheaper labour costs, but they choose to keep production in Japan instead. People with many years of service to the firm are essential for the smooth operation of our analogue technology. He said, “So, we chose to stay in Japan to secure the employment of our staff as well.”

The Art of Doing Without Chips
How did Sigma, a family firm, survive the prolonged semiconductor scarcity that is just now beginning to show signs of abating?

When asked how the lens manufacturer managed to get by during the semiconductor crisis, Yamaki said that the company’s longstanding suppliers gave SIGMA first priority. In addition, the engineers put in a lot of time and effort. They worked hard to modify the design so that it would operate with substitute components if we discovered that a certain semiconductor would not be available for a long period. “We did anything we could to stay alive,” he said.

Yamaki said it was difficult but things are looking up. “When compared to other nations, we fared rather well. This is because our manufacturing method is very adaptable,” he added.