60 years of SIGMA

60 years of SIGMA

The SIGMA story so far – 1961-2021

On 9 September 1961, Michihiro Yamaki opened the SIGMA Research Institute Co. Ltd. in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. Although a small outfit at the time, he and his team started creating a range of optics for interchangeable lens cameras, and SIGMA even developed it’s own camera mount, the YS fit (Yamaki System). During the 60s, a range of lenses were produced, including a 500mm mirror lens, a 12mm fisheye and even the industry’s first ever teleconverter.


Michihiro Yamaki (far right) outside the Sigma Research Institute in Tokyo


SIGMA employee trip to Hakone in 1965. Michihiro Yamaki is pictured far left.
The industry’s first teleconverter, released in 1961



By the early 1970s the SIGMA Corporation was in full swing. A new headquarters had been opened in Komae in Tokyo, and a factory was under construction in Aizu in the mountainous Fukushima prefecture, where it is still located today. Despite being a 4-5 hour drive north of Tokyo, Aizu was initially chosen as the best location for the factory because of its plentiful supply of very clean water, which is essential for polishing glass.


The new head office located in Komae, Tokyo, 1965


The first phase of the Aizu factory construction in 1973


The Aizu factory at the time of its establishment in 1974


In 1976 SIGMA released its first 35mm SLR camera, the Mark I, and three years later pioneered the 21-35mm F3.5-4, the world’s first wide-angle zoom starting as wide as 21mm.

In 1979 the company spread its wings and opened its first overseas office, in Germany, helping it sell its products in the European market. This was followed up with an office in Hong Kong in 1983 and in the USA in 1984, making SIGMA a truly global company.

SIGMA’s first 35mm SLR camera, the Mark I, released 1976


The SIGMA 21-35mm F3.5-4, the world’s first wide-angle zoom starting as wide as 21mm


The next major milestone came in 1986, when SIGMA unveiled its first AF lens, the ZOOM-βⅡ 60-200mm F4-5.6, and by 1993, it also had an AF DSLR camera, the AF300.

A new range of lenses was created in the late 90s called the EX range, which had a totally different look and feel to previous lens models, and some EX optics were actually still on sale until very recently. By the early 2000s, the digital revolution was well underway, and SIGMA responded with its first DG lens that was fully compatible with interchangeable lens DSLRs, the 20mm F1.8 EX DG ASPHERICAL RF. Over the next few years SIGMA developed the Foveon sensor, a triple-layered sensor that produced astounding colour depth and a medium-format-like look. Foveon technology still has a cult following today, especially with landscape photographers using the DP Quattro and SD Quattro range of cameras.

By now, SIGMA had also opened office in France, the Netherlands and the UK, and SIGMA had become a very well known camera and lens manufacturer all around the world.


SIGMA founder Michihiro Yamaki at a show in Germany in 1979


In 2012, Chairman Michihiro Yamaki, who founded the company 51 years earlier, sadly passed away. His son, Kazuto Yamaki, took the helm, and quickly unveiled his Global Vision range of lenses, broken down into the Art, Sports and Contemporary lines, which offered spectacular image quality, wide apertures, robust build quality and sleek styling. The first Global Vision lens was the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art, and since then there have been more than 50 Global Vision lenses released.

The 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art was SIGMA’s very first Global Vision lens, released in 2012


SIGMA released its line of high-performance cine zoom and prime lenses in 2016, using the same optical design as Global Vision stills lenses but with different outer barrels. A recoated Classic line was later added for lower contrast results with more flare.

In 2016 SIGMA introduced its line of high-performance cine lenses


In 2019 the SIGMA fp was introduced, which was SIGMA’s first camera with a Bayer sensor, and the smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless camera ever built. The fp used Leica’s L-Mount, with SIGMA joining the L-Mount alliance with Leica and Panasonic. It was followed up in 2021 with the brilliant 61MP fp L, which is still the joint-highest resolution full-frame camera on the market. Both cameras were equally proficient at stills and video, so have had broad appeal with image-makers across the world.

The full-frame SIGMA fp mirrorless camera was released in 2019


The imaging industry has been through huge changes since 1961, but SIGMA’s constant will to innovate and push new boundaries has remained constant. Still very much a family-run business, CEO Mr Yamaki holds true to the ethos his father set in motion 60 years ago, to pursue accuracy and perfection in everything SIGMA does.

From everyone at SIGMA, thank you for purchasing our products over the past six decades. We hope you have enjoyed using them as much we have enjoyed making them.


SIGMA founder Michihiro Yamaki (left) with his son and current CEO Kazuto Yamaki (right)