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Michihiro Yamaki, Sigma founder and CEO dies

By dpreview staff on Jan 27, 2012 at 17:27 GMT

It is with great sadness that we receive the news that Sigma's founder and CEO Michihiro Yamaki has died of liver cancer at the age of 78. Yamaki founded Sigma in 1961 and was still head of the company when it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. In that time he took it from being a maker of converter lenses to one of the largest independent lens makers in the industry. His passion for photography also saw Sigma create one of the first large sensor compact cameras. Everyone at would like to offer our deepest condolences to his family at this sad time.

Company statement

Sigma Corporation of America announces the passing of Michihiro Yamaki

Imaging manufacturer’s pioneering CEO, founder led company for more than 50 years

RONKONKOMA, NY, Jan. 27, 2012 – With great sadness, Sigma Corporation of America today announced the passing of Sigma Corporation’s founder and CEO Michihiro Yamaki. He died of liver cancer in Tokyo, Japan, on Jan. 18 at the age of 78.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “Mr. Yamaki was an industry visionary, and his leadership and enthusiasm has been the driving force behind our company’s innovation for more than 50 years. We’re sending our deepest condolences to the Yamaki family, and our entire Sigma family around the world, during this very difficult time.”

Yamaki founded Sigma Corporation on Sept. 9, 1961 with the development of the first-ever rear attached lens converter. At that time, most photo enthusiasts believed that a lens converter could only be attached to the front of a camera lens and the 27-year-old optical engineer turned conventional optical theory on its head. Sigma Corporation celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011 with Yamaki still at the company’s helm.

Throughout his years in the photo industry, Yamaki has been focused on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. His goal for the company has always been to make outstanding image quality accessible to all photographers. To this end, he grew the family-owned organization into a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of lenses, cameras and flashes. The company is now known as the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 50 current lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony.

In 2008, under Yamaki’s direction, Sigma Corporation purchased Foveon, a California-based company that’s renowned for developing the X3 image sensor technology. This patented, three-layer image sensor captures all primary RGB colors at each pixel location arranged in three layers to deliver outstanding, high-resolution, high-definition images with impressive three-dimensional detail and rich gradation. Last year, the company announced the arrival of its SD1, a groundbreaking, 46-megapixel direct image sensor camera, offering more megapixels than any other DSLR currently on the market. Sigma Corporation continued its theme of addressing gaps in the industry and the needs of photographers by kicking off 2012 with the launch of its new, Digital Neo (DN) line of lenses for Micro Four Thirds and E-mount camera systems.

In addition to his inventions and photographic foresight, Yamaki made many other contributions to the industry in his 78 years of life. He served organizations such as: the Japan Photographic Enterprises Association, Japan Machinery Design Center, Japan Optomechatronics Association, Photographic Society of Japan, and Japan Camera Industry Institute. He has also been honored with the “Person of the Year” award from The Photoimaging Manufacturers & Distributors Association (PMDA), the “Hall of Fame” award from the International Photographic Council (IPC), and the Golden Photokina Pin for his longtime contribution to the imaging industry.


Total comments: 56
By Scottelly (Mar 20, 2012)

I just learned of Mr. Yamaki passing on. I am glad he got to see the development of what will become a legend . . . the Sigma SD1. He traveled a path less-traveled, and he took his company along with him on a path of adventure! Hail Yamaki-san! Hail Yamaki-san! Hail Yamaki-san!

Arrigato Mr. Yamaki. Domo arrigato.

I will be buying a Sigma SD1 this year. In my opinion, it is the all-around best camera for producing high quality images in most types of photography, and it is Mr. Yamaki, with his company, that made it possible to exist. With his amazing line of lenses, the value, the quality . . . he accomplished something truly amazing, and photographers everywhere benefit from his work.

By polarhei (Feb 15, 2012)

At least, that person has chosen the right company to make something uniqueness.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Yamaki.

By Witof (Jan 31, 2012)

Thank you so much Mr Yamaki for you special care and attention given to the world of photography! It could sounds pathetic, but is very true; every photo taken with Sigma has a little atom of you.

Loren D Sanders Sr
By Loren D Sanders Sr (Jan 31, 2012)

I was saddened to hear of Mr Yamaki's demise. I benefited from 2 of his lenses that helped me to be a photographer for my son's real estate business. I could afford his prices and the quality of both of my wide angle lenses are excellent.
My condolences to the entire Yamaki family.
Loren Sanders Sr.

1 upvote
By jacketpotato (Jan 30, 2012)

Would have been so easy to take the Bayer route and bring one more Bayer dslr to the market in 2002. Yet to stand alone in the industry to champion Foveon. 2006 to bring an apsc in a compact with a superlative 28mm when it would have been so easy to bring a small sensor zoom. 2008 to bring a superlative 40mm aspc compact.

All of these took courage and even more the desire to bring to photographers the best imaging.

Arigato Yamaki San.

The A-Team
By The A-Team (Jan 30, 2012)

I'm a proud and happy user of several Sigma lenses. Mr Yamaki, thanks for your contributions to photography!

By Kesha (Jan 30, 2012)

Deepest condolences to Mr. Yamaki.

By paksiew (Jan 30, 2012)

My condolences to Mr Yamaki Family. In his leadership brings a lot of "wow" factor to Sigma.

Bowie, Malaysia

By alexisgreat (Jan 29, 2012)

I wanted to read through all the comments first before posting and I am not surprised by the overwhelming surge of appreciation for a great man (even though it did bring tears to my eyes), it's as if he brought us into his family and we brought him into ours, with every picture we took or will take with a wonderful product produced under his leadership. But even moreso than the products, the wonderful service and kindness provided by himself and the company really shows what a big heart he had. I also agree with those who say that rather than mourning him, we should celebrate Yamaki-San, his life, his great accomplishments and how he improved the lives of so many people, and inspired so many with his vision of bringing quality photography to the masses.

By alexisgreat (Jan 29, 2012)

May you be in a better place, Yamaki-San, a place where photographic opportunities are not limited by the gear we use or our own compositional skills, but are eternal and infinite, in a higher reality not tainted by war, famine, disease or any other kind of suffering. For you, as surely as any, have a special place reserved for you because of how much you have done and meant to the creative community. If intelligence nourishes the mind, creativity nourishes the soul, and if the universe created us in order to understand itself better, surely in the process of being creative, we fulfill our ultimate purpose and embody the spirit of the universe itself by doing what it does best: create! Yamaki-San made that dream a wonderful reality for so many more people than it would have been otherwise and the universe thanks him and I believe has reserved a special place for him amongst its heroes and heroines.

Once again, thank you, and may you find such fulfillment again in the next realm.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 12 minutes after posting
By avins (Jan 29, 2012)

Condolences to his family

Chaitanya S
By Chaitanya S (Jan 29, 2012)


By Blackfjord (Jan 29, 2012)

Much Respect.

By aidin594 (Jan 28, 2012)

Condolences to his family

By Kissel (Jan 28, 2012)

R.I.P., Yamaki-San
Condolences to his family.

Man Mac
By Man Mac (Jan 28, 2012)

My condolences to the Yamaki family.

ross attix
By ross attix (Jan 28, 2012)

While I do not know if Mr. Yamaki was ever aware of it, I was the beneficiary of a huge kindness on the part of Sigma Japan. I live in the US.

Back about 2003, there was an ad for a Sigma lens in one of the photo magazines. It was a dramatic, gorgeous scene taken in Croatia by Yuji Obata. I contacted Sigma to see if there might be a poster using that photo that I could get. The NY headquarters replied that no such thing existed, but they put me in touch with someone at the Japanese head office.

After emailing him, a few months went by and I had forgotten about it, assuming that there would not be any way to get a copy of the photo. It was a pretty unusual request on my part.

Then one day, a FedEx parcel arrived from Japan. It was thin, about 16x20 inches, and I excitedly tore it open to find an original signed color print from Yuji Obata.

I will never forget the kindness and extraordinary effort that went into that on the part of Sigma and the artist. Thank you Mr. Yamaki!

By nawknai (Jan 30, 2012)

Great story.

By jacketpotato (Jan 28, 2012)

In celebration and honour of Yamaki San i shall hope to continue taking photos with the DP1 of simple elegance.

By Feud (Jan 29, 2012)

I still use my DP1, wonderful landscape camera, and think Mr Yamaki's legacy is running a company brave enough to be different.

Great Bustard
By Great Bustard (Jan 28, 2012)

My condolences to his family and the employees. A couple of my favorite lenses were manufactured under Yamki-san's watch!

Jay Kelbley
By Jay Kelbley (Jan 28, 2012)

Yamaki-san was a great innovator, and one of the most honorable men in the industry.

I will miss him...

By mukeshk (Jan 28, 2012)

Just when i started enjoying my 85 1.4 and believing in Sigma - the legend bade adieu. Rest in peace Yamaki-san. I am sure Sigma would continue with the spirit of offering great gears at down to earth prices

1 upvote
By dopravopat (Jan 28, 2012)

He spent his life in pursuit to give us high quality lenses for reasonable prices and really made a dream come true not only for himself, but for countless photographers, being amateur or professional. Rest in peace, Michihiro Yamaki. There is nothing better than have lived a productive life with passion and reason. Another great visionary has left the world - but also left a lot behind. I do not feel sadness, just humble appreciation. I hope the family and friends of Mr. Yamaki can grasp on that and find strength to keep his legacy alive.

By GeekBrains (Jan 28, 2012)

My condolences to the Yamaki family..

By ExNewt (Jan 28, 2012)

Our condolences - you left a great legacy

By unotisto (Jan 28, 2012)


By PaulSnowcat (Jan 28, 2012)

Rest in peace! I hope Sigma will not diminish without it's founder and head. My condolenses to the Yamaki family.

By Simou51 (Jan 28, 2012)

My condolenses to the Yamaki family, and to all the enthousiasts for the photography.
Rest in Peace

By farrukh (Jan 28, 2012)

It is a loss to us all when a person with vision passes away.

By Marco (Jan 28, 2012)

He had a great vision and the strenght to make it reality.
Rest in peace.

Felix Tan
By Felix Tan (Jan 28, 2012)

My condolenses to the Yamaki family.

By albertTD (Jan 28, 2012)

Rest in peace

"Throughout his years in the photo industry, Yamaki has been focused on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. His goal for the company has always been to make outstanding image quality accessible to all photographers."

Right on, EX lenses with IQ on par with Canon L lenses, but with the price of EF lenses :)

By sbc (Jan 28, 2012)

Rest in peace. You have created a great company!

1 upvote
By ThunderLance (Jan 28, 2012)

My condolences

1 upvote
Philippe R
By Philippe R (Jan 27, 2012)


By tkbslc (Jan 27, 2012)

To me, it is not sad when a man accomplishes his dreams and dies in old age. That sounds like a life well lived and should be celebrated, not mourned.

Manuel DF
By Manuel DF (Jan 27, 2012)

My condolences.

Nancy and Pete Spader
By Nancy and Pete Spader (Jan 27, 2012)

News of the death of Michihiro Yamaki-san is sad news, indeed. His vision and dedication to making Sigma a camera company produced a series of cameras, starting with the SD9, which have given my wife Nancy and I great joy and satisfaction. We offer our condolences to his son, Kazuto Yamaki-san and the rest of his family, and to all who knew and loved him. May he rest in peace.

Pete and Nancy Spader

1 upvote
By unlearny (Jan 27, 2012)

My condolences.

The Big One
By The Big One (Jan 27, 2012)

RIP. My pro Sigma lenses are my favourite part of my kit, and Sigma service is second to none.

Mau D7000
By Mau D7000 (Jan 27, 2012)

condolences, thank you for your work in the photography industry

By revio (Jan 27, 2012)

I have owned three of Sigma´s lenses:
The wonderfully sharp (first version of the) 18-50mm/2,8 EX, the 24mm/2,8 "macro", the 70-210/4-5,6 APO. All these were good, especially the 18-50 & the 24mm, which were really superb optically.

I especially do miss the small 24mm/2,8 which I used in its manual version on my then owned Nikon FE/F-601 & F-801, during almost a decade. Its 18cm close focus distance was a nice bonus to its sharpnes and compactness, and it was also very well built.

Thank you, Mr Yamaki!

Comment edited 28 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Martin Ocando
By Martin Ocando (Jan 27, 2012)

Great man with a great vision and passion for our passion. We can't escape to celebrate the life of ones brother in arms, in this life changing world of Photography.

Thank you Mr. Yamaki, for all your years dedicated to make our passion affordable, with high quality.

keith james taylor
By keith james taylor (Jan 27, 2012)

thanks i have had much pleasure fom my sigma sd7 favron it takes real vision to help photographers use there vision tanks xxx

1 upvote
Jon Stern
By Jon Stern (Jan 27, 2012)

Sounds to me as though there is an opportunity to celebrate a life here, rather than us focusing on mourning a passing.

Without knowing that much about Michihiro Yamaki, it seems inescapable to conclude anything other than his being a fulfilled life. 78 years and so much accomplished seems like a life well led.

By wildeone (Jan 27, 2012)

rest in peace, dear sir

By papparazzi (Jan 27, 2012)

Rest in Peace.

1 upvote
By jkokich (Jan 27, 2012)

A great loss. Let us send our best thoughts to his family and friends, and also to Sigma, that they may carry on and honor this gentleman's memory.

Peter A. Stavrakoglou
By Peter A. Stavrakoglou (Jan 27, 2012)

I had the honor of meeting Mr. Yamaki a few years ago. He was a gracious and kind gentleman. My condolences to his family.

By Gesture (Jan 27, 2012)

Many greats in the Japanese photo, optical and imaging industries that should be better known to us in the US, a la Mr. Mamiya. While the electronics side has emerged in recent years (Sony, Panasonic, Casio, Samsung, etc.), consider the lasting strength and immense contributions of the post WWII optical/imaging firms, including Canon, Nikon, Mamiya, Pentax, Olympus, Konica, Minolta, Ricoh, Topcon, Chinon, Cosina, etc plus contributions from Fujica, Kyocera (Contax), etc.. Second, the admiration for the German photographic industry shared by many of the pioneers (from which forms they went on to innovate) and their love of photography beyond being business people. My condolences to the family and greater Sigma community.

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
By Valkender (Jan 27, 2012)

An innovator of our time, Mr. Yamaki will be thought of for years to come. My condolences to the family and heartfelt wishes to them.

Total comments: 56