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Sigma lenses riding the headwinds in the industry

The Japanese firm seems to be bucking the trend in a declining market, with a 5% rise in sales

Lens-maker Sigma is one bright spot in the declining digital-camera industry.

It registered a 5 per cent increase in worldwide sales last year, compared with 2015, according to Sigma's chief executive officer, Mr Kazuto Yamaki.

According to the camera industry trade group Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA), interchangeable-lens camera shipments fell by 11.6 per cent in 2016 as compared with 2015. Lens shipments also suffered a 11.4 per cent year-on-year decline in 2016.

Mr Yamaki, who spoke to The Straits Times at the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show in Yokohama last week, said Sigma faced uncertain local market situations and the Japanese yen's unfavourable exchange rate last year. "In some months, we lost money," he said.

Mr Yamaki attributed the company's growth to its products' quality and unique features.

Mr Yamaki with the four new lenses Sigma launched at the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show in Yokohama last week. He attributes the company's growth to its products' quality and unique features.
Mr Yamaki with the four new lenses Sigma launched at the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show in Yokohama last week. He attributes the company's growth to its products' quality and unique features. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

  • 5%

    Increase in sales of Sigma lenses worldwide last year, against 2015.

  • 11.4%

    Year-on-year decline in overall lens shipments last year.

MORE MIRRORLESS LENSES

We will release more mirrorless lenses in the future.

SIGMA CEO KAZUTO YAMAKI, noting that the mirrorless-camera segment is emerging.

"We prioritise image quality above everything else," he said.

The firm's manufacturing quality is aided by having its own factory in Aizu, Japan, which also allowed it to have an efficient supply chain.

Sigma also rolled out first-in-kind lenses. In 2013, it brought out an 18-35mm lens with a constant large aperture of f/1.8. It was lauded by pundits for having unsurpassed image sharpness, even now.

Last year, it released its 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art and 85mm f/1.4 Art lenses.

The former's constant f/1.4 aperture represented a first in lenses with the 50-100mm focal range.

The 85mm f/1.4 lens received the highest score ever awarded by image quality benchmark DxOMark.

WHAT'S AHEAD

This year at CP+, Sigma announced four new lenses - the ultra wide-angle 14mm f/1.8 Art, portrait-centric 135mm f/1.8 Art, versatile 24-70mm f/2.8 OS Art, and telephoto 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary.

The four lenses will be available by the second quarter of this year.

Looking ahead, Mr Yamaki noted that the mirrorless-camera segment is emerging.

"We will release more mirrorless lenses in the future," he said.

He revealed that Sigma will be looking to make lenses for Sony's E-mount and Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, but there are currently no plans for the Fujifilm X-series.

While there are no specific timelines for the Sigma's new mirrorless camera lenses, Mr Yamaki said that it usually take two years to design and make a new lens.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Sigma lenses riding the headwinds in the industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe