Industry leader Michihiro Yamaki of Sigma Corporation dies

by

posted Friday, January 27, 2012 at 6:37 PM EST

Michihiro Yamaki, Founder and CEO, Sigma Corp. Photo provided by Sigma Corp.It's with great sadness that we observe the death of a true industry leader, Michihiro Yamaki, founder and CEO of Sigma Corporation. Mr. Yamaki almost single-handedly created the third-party lens business as we know it today. Starting from very modest beginnings, building and selling a rear-element teleconverter, he built what's today the leading manufacturer of third-party lenses in the world.

I met Mr. Yamaki personally on a number of occasions, but once had the opportunity to sit down for an extended conversation with him. At the time, I wasn't in "interview mode;" I'd actually arrived early for another meeting, and Mr. Yamaki happened to be sitting in the same area. We struck up a conversation, but I didn't realize how fascinating it would become until it was really too late to consider taking notes or recording it to share with our readers. It was a remarkable tour through the history of the modern camera market, and I was amazed at the perseverance and drive Mr. Yamaki showed in overcoming multiple obstacles to found Sigma. It was also fascinating to hear how the technology has evolved over time: In the early days of the lens business, ray-tracing calculations were accomplished by a roomful of Japanese ladies with calculators (!)

Throughout our conversation, Mr. Yamaki was gracious and accommodating of all my questions. As in all my other contacts with him, his intelligence and personal warmth easily came through the language barrier, making each meeting a pleasure.

Michihiro Yamaki, Founder and CEO, Sigma Corp. Photo provided by Sigma Corp.
In Memoriam
Michihiro Yamaki
1933 - 2012
 

Even though my contact with Mr. Yamaki was limited to a few casual meetings, I felt a great sense of personal loss when I learned today of his passing. He was truly a unique individual, and the entire photo industry owes him a debt of gratitude for his pioneering work in the lens market.

I don't know of his wife or other family members, but Mr. Yamaki's son Kazuto carries on from him at the reins of Sigma Corporation. Kazuto-san has been serving as Chief Operating Officer of the corporation for a number of years now, so Sigma's operations should continue smoothly in his capable hands.

Our deepest condolences to Kazuto Yamaki, the rest of the Yamaki family, and all the employees and friends of Sigma Corporation around the world, on Mr. Yamaki's passing.

Michihiro Yamaki, Founder and CEO, Sigma Corp. Photo provided by Sigma Corp.

Press Release

Sigma Corporation of America announces the passing of Michihiro Yamaki

Imaging manufacturer’s pioneering CEO, founder led company for more than 50 years

RONKONKOMA, NY, Jan. 27, 2012 – With great sadness, Sigma Corporation of America today announced the passing of Sigma Corporation’s founder and CEO Michihiro Yamaki. He died of liver cancer in Tokyo, Japan, on Jan. 18 at the age of 78.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “Mr. Yamaki was an industry visionary, and his leadership and enthusiasm has been the driving force behind our company’s innovation for more than 50 years. We’re sending our deepest condolences to the Yamaki family, and our entire Sigma family around the world, during this very difficult time.”

Yamaki founded Sigma Corporation on Sept. 9, 1961 with the development of the first-ever rear attached lens converter. At that time, most photo enthusiasts believed that a lens converter could only be attached to the front of a camera lens and the 27-year-old optical engineer turned conventional optical theory on its head. Sigma Corporation celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011 with Yamaki still at the company’s helm.

Throughout his years in the photo industry, Yamaki has been focused on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. His goal for the company has always been to make outstanding image quality accessible to all photographers. To this end, he grew the family-owned organization into a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of lenses, cameras and flashes. The company is now known as the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 50 current lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony.

In 2008, under Yamaki’s direction, Sigma Corporation purchased Foveon, a California-based company that’s renowned for developing the X3 image sensor technology. This patented, three-layer image sensor captures all primary RGB colors at each pixel location arranged in three layers to deliver outstanding, high-resolution, high-definition images with impressive three-dimensional detail and rich gradation. Last year, the company announced the arrival of its SD1, a groundbreaking, 46-megapixel direct image sensor camera, offering more megapixels than any other DSLR currently on the market. Sigma Corporation continued its theme of addressing gaps in the industry and the needs of photographers by kicking off 2012 with the launch of its new, Digital Neo (DN) line of lenses for Micro Four Thirds and E-mount camera systems.

In addition to his inventions and photographic foresight, Yamaki made many other contributions to the industry in his 78 years of life. He served organizations such as: the Japan Photographic Enterprises Association, Japan Machinery Design Center, Japan Optomechatronics Association, Photographic Society of Japan, and Japan Camera Industry Institute. He has also been honored with the “Person of the Year” award from The Photoimaging Manufacturers & Distributors Association (PMDA), the “Hall of Fame” award from the International Photographic Council (IPC), and the Golden Photokina Pin for his longtime contribution to the imaging industry.

About Sigma Corporation
For more than 50 years, Sigma Corporation’s expertise and innovation has driven the company’s core philosophy of “knowledge, plus experience, plus imagination,” with an emphasis on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. This family-owned organization is the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 40 lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax. Sigma Corporation also produces digital SLR cameras and high-definition digital compact cameras. The company is headquartered in Japan, with offices strategically located throughout Europe, Asia and North America. For information, please visit www.sigmaphoto.com.