A Detailed History of Sigma Corporation

In the world of photography and imaging, Sigma Corporation stands as a beacon of innovation and quality. Founded in the early 1960s, Sigma has grown from a small Japanese company into a global powerhouse, renowned for its lenses, cameras, and other optical equipment. This article delves into the rich history of Sigma Corporation, exploring its origins, milestones, and contributions to the field of photography.

Origins and Early Years

The story of Sigma Corporation begins in 1961, when Michihiro Yamaki founded the company in Tokyo, Japan. Yamaki, a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for optics, aimed to create high-quality photographic equipment that could compete with established brands. The company’s initial focus was on producing camera lenses, a market that was rapidly expanding during the post-war economic boom.

The First Product: The Telephoto Lens

Sigma’s first product was a telephoto lens, which quickly gained popularity among photographers for its exceptional quality and affordability. This early success set the stage for Sigma’s future growth and innovation. The company’s commitment to quality and precision became evident in its meticulous manufacturing processes and rigorous quality control standards.

Expansion and Innovation

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Sigma continued to expand its product line and innovate in the field of optics. The company introduced a range of lenses, including wide-angle, macro, and zoom lenses, catering to the diverse needs of photographers. Sigma’s dedication to research and development played a crucial role in its ability to stay ahead of the competition.

Introduction of the First Autofocus Lens

In 1986, Sigma made a significant breakthrough with the introduction of its first autofocus lens. This innovation marked a turning point in the industry, as autofocus technology revolutionized the way photographers captured images. Sigma’s autofocus lenses were praised for their speed, accuracy, and reliability, further solidifying the company’s reputation as a leader in optical technology.

Global Expansion

As Sigma’s reputation grew, so did its global presence. The company established subsidiaries and distribution networks in key markets around the world, including the United States, Europe, and Asia. This expansion allowed Sigma to reach a wider audience and cater to the needs of photographers in different regions.

Establishment of Sigma America

In 1985, Sigma America was established to serve the growing demand for Sigma products in the United States. This move was instrumental in increasing the company’s market share and brand recognition in North America. Sigma America played a crucial role in promoting the company’s products and providing support to customers and retailers.

Technological Advancements

The 1990s and 2000s were marked by significant technological advancements in the field of photography, and Sigma was at the forefront of these developments. The company continued to push the boundaries of optical technology, introducing innovative products that set new standards in the industry.

The Foveon X3 Sensor

One of Sigma’s most notable innovations during this period was the development of the Foveon X3 sensor. Introduced in 2002, the Foveon X3 sensor was a groundbreaking technology that captured images with unparalleled color accuracy and detail. Unlike traditional sensors, which used a single layer of pixels to capture color information, the Foveon X3 sensor utilized three layers, each capturing a different color. This resulted in images with richer colors and greater depth.

Introduction of the Sigma SD9 Camera

The introduction of the Sigma SD9 camera in 2002 marked the company’s entry into the digital camera market. The SD9 was the first camera to feature the Foveon X3 sensor, and it received widespread acclaim for its image quality and innovative technology. This move into digital cameras allowed Sigma to diversify its product line and compete with established camera manufacturers.

Continued Innovation and Growth

In the years that followed, Sigma continued to innovate and expand its product offerings. The company introduced a range of new lenses and cameras, each designed to meet the evolving needs of photographers. Sigma’s commitment to quality and innovation remained unwavering, and the company continued to set new standards in the industry.

The Art, Contemporary, and Sports Lens Lines

In 2012, Sigma introduced its Global Vision line of lenses, which included the Art, Contemporary, and Sports series. These lenses were designed to cater to different types of photography, from artistic and creative work to fast-paced sports and wildlife photography. The Global Vision line was praised for its exceptional optical performance, build quality, and versatility.

  • Art Series: Designed for artistic and creative photography, the Art series lenses are known for their exceptional image quality and wide apertures.
  • Contemporary Series: The Contemporary series offers a balance of performance and portability, making it ideal for everyday photography.
  • Sports Series: Built for fast-paced action, the Sports series lenses are designed to deliver high-speed autofocus and superior image quality.

Introduction of the Sigma fp Camera

In 2019, Sigma introduced the Sigma fp, the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless camera. The Sigma fp was designed to be highly portable and versatile, making it an ideal choice for photographers and videographers on the go. The camera received praise for its innovative design, image quality, and flexibility.

Statistics and Market Impact

Sigma’s impact on the photography industry can be seen in its market share and customer satisfaction ratings. According to a 2020 survey by Digital Photography Review, Sigma lenses were rated among the top in terms of image quality, build quality, and value for money. The survey also found that Sigma lenses were highly regarded by both amateur and professional photographers.

  • Market Share: Sigma holds a significant share of the global lens market, with a strong presence in both the consumer and professional segments.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Sigma lenses consistently receive high ratings for image quality, build quality, and value for money.
  • Innovation: Sigma is recognized as a leader in optical technology, with a track record of introducing groundbreaking products and technologies.

Challenges and Resilience

Like any company, Sigma has faced its share of challenges over the years. The rapid pace of technological change, intense competition, and economic fluctuations have all posed significant hurdles. However, Sigma’s resilience and commitment to innovation have allowed it to navigate these challenges successfully.

Adapting to Technological Change

The transition from film to digital photography was a major challenge for many companies in the industry. Sigma’s ability to adapt to this change and develop innovative digital products, such as the Foveon X3 sensor and the Sigma SD9 camera, played a crucial role in its continued success.

Competing with Established Brands

Competing with established brands like Canon, Nikon, and Sony has always been a challenge for Sigma. However, the company’s focus on quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction has allowed it to carve out a niche in the market and build a loyal customer base.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Sigma is not only committed to innovation and quality but also to corporate social responsibility. The company has implemented several initiatives aimed at reducing its environmental impact and contributing to the well-being of society.

Environmental Initiatives

Sigma has taken steps to reduce its environmental footprint by implementing sustainable manufacturing practices and using eco-friendly materials. The company is also committed to reducing waste and promoting recycling in its operations.

Community Engagement

Sigma actively engages with the communities in which it operates, supporting various social and cultural initiatives. The company has sponsored photography workshops, exhibitions, and competitions, providing opportunities for photographers to showcase their work and develop their skills.

Future Prospects

As Sigma looks to the future, the company remains committed to innovation and excellence. The rapid advancements in technology present both challenges and opportunities, and Sigma is well-positioned to continue its legacy of innovation and quality.

Embracing New Technologies

Sigma is actively exploring new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to enhance its products and improve the photography experience. The company is also investing in research and development to stay ahead of industry trends and meet the evolving needs of photographers.

Expanding Product Offerings

Sigma plans to continue expanding its product offerings, with a focus on developing new lenses and cameras that cater to different types of photography. The company is also exploring opportunities in emerging markets, aiming to reach a wider audience and grow its global presence.


The history of Sigma Corporation is a testament to the power of innovation, quality, and resilience. From its humble beginnings in Tokyo to its position as a global leader in optical technology, Sigma has consistently pushed the boundaries of what is possible in photography. The company’s commitment to excellence and its ability to adapt to changing technologies have allowed it to thrive in a competitive industry.

As Sigma looks to the future, it remains dedicated to its core values of innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction. With a strong foundation and a clear vision for the future, Sigma is poised to continue its legacy of excellence and make even greater contributions to the world of photography.

In summary, Sigma Corporation’s journey is a remarkable story of vision, innovation, and perseverance. The company’s impact on the photography industry is undeniable, and its future prospects are bright. Whether you are a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, Sigma’s products offer the quality and performance you need to capture stunning images and bring your creative vision to life.


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