Thinking about
the tools of photography

20 years have passed since the advent of the digital camera. On the one hand, the number of manufacturers in the camera market as a whole is shrinking, but there is a sense that the strength and power of “photography” is spreading across the world. Being a part of this great trend, we wonder what contribution SIGMA could make. 4 lovers of SIGMA who use our products publicly and privately, along with the CEO of SIGMA Kazuto Yamaki, came together to discuss the subject and prospects of photography equipment manufacturing.

Text: SEIN Editorial Division photo: Kitchen Minoru Lens: SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and others.

Will smartphones change ‘photography’?

Kazuto Yamaki:  At this moment, the penetration rate of smartphones has surpassed 60% in Japan, and high resolution models with cameras over 10 Megapixels are emerging in the market. In the case of music for example, the lifestyle of the listener has a significant influence upon how music is distributed and listened to. Do you think photography and the culture of photography itself will change according to the environment?

Satoshi Seno:  I do believe there will be a change. A smartphone can be carried around anytime, and there is no such ‘camera’ around that can be used in an instant like a smartphone.

Yamaki:  To be able to capture something at any given moment in time is, in the case of keeping a record, the most marvelous function one could have.

Shinichi Hanawa: The way I see it, I believe there are two kinds of ÅephotographyÅf. One is to purely record personal memories like your child growing up or family memories. The other is to express the beauty or feelings captured by the person taking the image. A smartphone is neither of these. It is something more akin to instinctively capturing something only seen or felt at that given moment in time.

Yamaki: A smartphone is more like a daily memo. A cameraÅfs function is as a record or to capture memories, so their roles are different from the outset.

Yutaka Tsuda: I take a slightly different view to what has been said. Though Instagram is in the mainstream among young people, they are merely capturing a reflexive action. ItÅfs not to use what they take as a stock image, but as a tool to express themselves and say that they are taking an image. As well as being a non-verbal and more reactive form of communication, the strength of desire to capture or process with what they are feeling and to send that image, is the ideal setting for an app like Instagram to flourish.

Kazuto Yamaki


Entered SIGMA in 1993. Became CEO in 2012. The photograph above is a family memory taken with a DP2 Merril in 2012.

Towards more liberal photography

Tsuda:  A long time ago, there were a large number of photographic magazines, and it was the standard for them to judge what image is considered ‘good photography’. Today, with popular photographers emerging through SNS, judging the merits is on the side of the people. It’s not necessarily saying that a pro equals evidence of a great photograph, but I think meaning perhaps that things will become more liberal than before.

Mina Daimon:  Though I upload photographs of the lunch box I make every day on my blog ‘Honjitsu No Hakoniwa’ (Today’s Mini Garden), when I first started, I took photographs with an iPhone merely to keep a record. However, as I kept doing this, a desire emerged to take them properly seeing that they are being made public, so I began taking them with the DP3 Merrill.

Yamaki:  iphone to DP3 Merrill…what a challenger (laughs).

Daimon:  I go out of the way on busy mornings to fix the dp3 Quattro on a tripod and properly set up to shoot (laughs). Since it is a forum where people from not one place in particular are seeing my work, even if the initial impetus is through an SNS app, I believe that gradually you would take an image more as a photographic ‘work’ in mind.

Seno:  There are people on SNS who are shooting seriously every day and remarkably improving. They surprise me. There are even people I know who subsequently held their own solo exhibition after being motivated to print out their work. I think there are a lot of those who have potential underneath. Whether it’s a smartphone or SNS that sets this off, the awareness of photography should grow through these opportunities.

Tsuda:  It is also an increase in opportunities and the desire to spend more time with ‘photography’ on a routine basis, that the parameters have become larger than before in my opinion. Plus there is the increased wondering of how to create the path that leads to truly compelling photography. Whatever the trigger, it’s something that touches people for real at the time and which could change their world. And with a photograph, I believe that there are plenty of people who would find the persuasiveness and expressiveness behind a printed image.

Hanawa:  For my generation, a ‘print equals a photograph’. The fact is, from the point of carrying and showing people, it’s a fact that there is a large number of people who reckon image data is superior. As a result, with the previous problem of the time and effort and appeal, there is no doubt there is a growing number of people who question if printing is necessary.

Mina Daimon

Born in Yokohama, currently residing in Chigasaki. Experimented with a variety of visual arts, then launched her photography career after successfully participating in a gallery’s call for submissions. Collaborations and exhibitions with various fashion brands (e.g. MUJI) followed. Main exhibitions include “Portugal”, “The Miniature Garden”; publications include “Al-Andalus”. Daimon received an Honorable Mention at the International Photography Awards 2017.

To touch real power

Yamaki:  Finding myself changing to the topic of music (laughs), but the need for CD’s and vinyl records have all but gone, and with it the significance of audio has waned… could it be something along those lines with photography?

Seno:  But young people in the USA are returning to vinyl records. The audio of records is clearly superior and that’s why young people, upon experiencing records, can feel their range and authenticity. It’s the same with photography. I entirely agree with Mr. Hanawa where I feel people who shoot with smartphones first of all do not print. However for people with the photographer spirit in them, if you let them experience what a print can be from a photograph taken with a camera, they may say to themselves ‘I will shoot with a camera next time’.

Shinichi Hanawa

Mainly photographing people for Almighty. Also presiding over a photography classes. The photograph above was taken with a dp0 Quattro.

Yamaki:  Truth be told, I wasn’t that interested in photography in my younger days (laughs). But then one day, I came across a print taken with an 8×10 camera and thought it was amazing. It wasn’t anything fine art, just a print of a normal scenery but the photo itself carried this irresistible power.but the photograph itself carried this irresistible power. It would be nice for people today to have that opportunity like I had.

Hanawa:  A printed image has the intention of the taker, or the tension faced by the subject. An ‘art-like’ image can easily be taken with a smartphone, but it is an altogether different world to find out what you want to take by pursuing it through one image. I feel the value of a photograph becomes less if you view them the same way. That’s why I think those involved with camera manufacturing or photography should put more care into that one photograph.

Why do you pursue ‘photography’?

Yamaki:  The urge to take a photograph is the same whether it’s a smartphone or camera. This is an abstract question but why do you think people take photographs?

Seno:  Perhaps it’s because everyone wants to stop time. A photograph is the only way where the flow of time can be stopped. There are moments when I’m walking along the street and upon seeing something, I say to myself; ‘if I don’t take it, then it would be overlook forever’. With a portrait, a photograph is limited to one moment in a series of successive movements by the subject. So time is stopped by doing this, and upon looking at the image afterwards, it’s because something that wasn’t planned appears is what makes me want to do it again. Though I also shoot films, I think that shooting with the aim of capturing a certain moment with a photograph and achieving a series of movement in filming are two different things.

Yamaki:  From the stance of the subject, it’s a completely different means of expression.

Hanawa:  In my case, even if there is blurring or the image is out of focus, I don’t delete even a single image I have taken. After all, in the limited time we have in our lives, it was something that you took the time to stop and take. To delete that is to make your own feelings at that time, the time spent, and the effort behind it become something that didn’t happen.

Tsuda:  A photograph is a sad thing because it is a moment that becomes the past. It is memory of times gone by. That’s why they all have value and just as much love to us.

Yamaki:  Mrs Daimon, do memories come back when you look back at your lunch boxes?

Daimon:  Oh yes, all of them! This one was after a fight with my husband, this one I carefully made so he can take me for granted (laughs).

Hanawa:  What someone is feeling at the time comes to the fore in a photograph.

Yamaki:  Compared with other forms of expression, photography is extremely personal. Even if the way it’s enjoyed changes, it’s something that isn’t easily absorbed as for the taker themselves, it takes them back to that moment. For the taker and receiver, there are a lot of things to face up to.

Yutaka Tsuda
Planning Director

Working in a wide range of fields as a designer, musician and photographer. The photograph above was taken with 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM/EX DC

Camera as a ‘tool of photography’

Yamaki:  Since the occasion calls for it, as a user, I’d like to hear your thoughts and any requests you have of SIGMA?

Hanawa:  I liken a camera to a chef’s knife. You want to use a sashimi knife to cut raw fish, a bread knife for bread. That’s why, I have just about one of every Japanese manufacturer’s camera in my arsenal, and I use based on what the kind of image I want to take. So if you ask me on what occasion I use a SIGMA camera, it’s extreme but it’s the times where I think if that was taken with a SIGMA, it would be amazing, even if it’s just one photograph (laughs).

Tsuda:  I know what you mean. With a SIGMA, ‘power’ is required even for the person behind the camera.

Hanawa: Yes it is. It’s like in baseball where we swing the bat to try to get a home-run, but even at times we go back to the dugout without getting to swing the bat, it doesn’t matter (laughs). On the contrary, it’s better to use another camera if the need is to take anything that comes. That is the wonderful aspect about SIGMA. Though you make lenses with a high hitting average and with nothing to complain about, it can be said the camera is cold one moment, warm the next (laughs). And of course, the Foveon sensor has a distinct color of its own. Most photographs from America used Kodak film in the past and it’s close to that Kodak chrome that I really yearn for.

Yamaki:  I hear that a lot. We made our cameras a great deal tamer than before, but we do get asked by some users to make them like they were in the past.

Hanawa:  I like them as they are now. Before they were ‘odd’, but now they are a ‘little odd’ (laughs).

Seno:  I’m more attracted to resolution than to color. To give you an example, it’s already decided that when I’m taking photographs in San Francisco, it has to be with a SIGMA. That city has a lot of architecture from the past remaining and the light is very clear. Although the ability to reproduce the details of those buildings bathed in sunlight is important to me, with a SIGMA, it remains sharp no matter the distance; even up to the blinds of the windows in the buildings. It’s wonderful. The resonance of photography and diversity of equipment.

The resonance of photography and diversity of equipment.

Yamaki:  Generally speaking, I sense that male customers are mostly attracted to strong features whereas females mostly favor equipment containing an intuitive quality of image or photograph.

Daimon:  In my case, my first digital camera was the first DP2. It was the time when digital cameras began to spread and I couldn’t quite find a camera I wanted. I was browsing through the DP2 catalogue when I happened upon an image of Bali. I could feel the unique climate of Bali in the image, so I bought it. That means I was one of those people drawn to SIGMA by their photographs.

Yamaki:  Wait, you went straight from film to a DP2!?

Daimon:  Yes I did. That’s why, though other people say SIGMA is just ‘slow, just slow’, I had no idea what they were going on about (laughs). I found out later they meant the software. If you compare it to film, there is no contest. There is no point even comparing it with other companies’ products. Rather, all I ask of SIGMA is to stay true to their identity.

Tsuda:  If it were a car, you could say it’s like an Italian car. Sometimes hard to handle, but said to have that something about it that can’t be found elsewhere. For us, it’s great to have more and more choice, and even though SIGMA is different to other companies, we want it to be a manufacturer that specialized in good ‘photographs’ and who would refine its essential functions.

Satoshi Seno
Movie Cameraman

Became a freelance commercial cameraman via Tohokushinsha Film Corporation. The photograph is a shot of San Francisco with a dp2 Quattro.

Yamaki:  For myself, I always want to do things that other large companies can’t do. I want to offer products where our craftsmanship would delight people who like photography and cameras. I believe the industry as a whole want to complement the customer’s needs, to contribute and arouse that sense that would make them feel ‘photography is great’ and ‘cameras are fun’.

Hanawa:  That’s the reason you are said to be ‘crazy’ (laughs).

Yamaki:  Well that is how things are when the outcome goes that way (laughs), But, I will devote myself to enrich the depth and variety of photography as well as making sure it is essential to us. Thank you very much for joining me today in this helpful discussion.

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