With independence comes the energy to lead to the future.

Creation, development and adventure.
New beginnings give birth to moving stories.
Untold stories are revealed in our category ‘Groundbreaking’,
the first episode telling the story of SIGMA’s foundation.

Photo : Setagaya, Tokyo, 1960. The team that supported the early days of SIGMA research center. (Far left: Michihiro Yamaki)

The optics field was the star of post-war Japan’s export industry. New lens makers sprang up like mushrooms until there were almost 60 competing industries, to the point where the market offered then-popular twin-lens camera models whose names covered every letter of the alphabet.

At that time, SIGMA’s founder Michihiro Yamaki, the eldest son in his family, took on a part-time job at an optics maker to support the family while he studied at a university. He excelled and became regarded as a highly skilled engineer of binoculars. However, the company was threatened with bankruptcy after the sudden disappearing of its manager. Michihiro Yamaki became involved in emergency efforts to safe the remaining suppliers. After things were in order, the suppliers asked Michihiro Yamaki to “found a new company and resume business”. Having thought the proposition over, he made the decision to found a company: SIGMA Research Center, formed in 1961 in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward.

It was not a company launched with high hopes, and a ‘research center’ only in name. SIGMA started with a first step, as a small factory in the city. However, from the very beginning the company aspired to be an “independent maker”. Michihiro Yamaki was convinced that SIGMA “was not a company that should turn into a mere contractor. To survive, we have to develop our own products and create a brand focused on quality.”
Following suit, SIGMA independently developed the “rear converter” and the convertible mount system “YS [Yamaki System]”. As the last lens maker to enter the market, SIGMA built a solid foundation for its future.

Sigma is the Greek word for ‘sum’: the sum of skill, knowledge, experience, wisdom, passion — as laid down in SIGMA’s founding philosophy. This was the start of SIGMA’s history.

The Aizu factory, SIGMA’s only manufacturing base was established in 1973. The clear climate and the honest character of the people of Aizu was the decisive factor to set up the factory here.
The present-day Aizu factory
Michihiro Yamaki showing the products at the Japan Camera Show in 1961.

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