January 2017 marked exactly five years since the passing of Michihiro Yamaki, my father, the founder of SIGMA. In the years since, there have been significant changes in the camera market, and our company had to reinvent itself in many ways. As more and more people join our company who have never met my father, it realize that the baton truly has been handed over to a new generation.
But even though — or rather, precisely because — five years have passed, I notice every day what a huge influence my father has had on this company.
Michihiro Yamaki was a man of his generation. My father was an elegant-looking gentleman on first glance but he was driven by the same stubbornly strong will that he shared with many of his peers.
Especially when it comes to craftsmanship, the attention to detail of the generation preceding us was simply outstanding. Take the intricate inner structure of interchangeable lenses: a few decades ago, aligning the individual glasses inside a lens according to their center was a widespread practice during lens assembly. Our seniors, however, were not convinced. ‘Trying to achieve optimal performance by aligning the lenses is a fundamentally flawed approach. The key lies in perfecting the precision of all parts involved.’
‘The ground surface of a lens should resemble split bamboo’. When you hold an examination lens above a ground lens, interference patterns and round newton rings appear (like in the image at the start of this article). The one-liner I quoted above was our seniors’ figurative guideline for the ideal shape of the interference pattern.
Surpassing the precision of our existing machines was as difficult an endeavour as I had imagined, but thanks to everyone’s efforts we were able to realize our seniors’ ideals.
Although there are still a few manufacturers who adopt the pragmatic approach of aligning their lenses, at SIGMA it is our fundamental philosophy to pursue the utmost possible precision for each part and then fine-tune our lenses. We do this not because we assume our lenses to be imprecise, but to maintain the stoic manufacturing philosophy that has defined us. No matter how much time goes by, the ideals of my father continue to influence us.