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A look inside Sigma's lens factory

By dpreview staff on Feb 15, 2014 at 09:00 GMT

Sigma gives us another behind the scenes look at their Aizu, Japan lens factory in a video released during the CP+ trade show. It's an artsy factory tour highlighting the craftsmanship and the process of how their lenses are assembled. They released a similar video during Photokina 2012 and have since gained some popularity with their higher end 35mm F1.4 DG HSM and the 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM lenses.  

What do you think of Sigma's factory tour video? 

Source: Sigma

Comments

Total comments: 89
12
Felts
By Felts (1 month ago)

This video is beautiful...

0 upvotes
rmbackus
By rmbackus (2 months ago)

Random piano keys.

0 upvotes
sgtsween
By sgtsween (2 months ago)

Pretty rad.

0 upvotes
Paul Crouse
By Paul Crouse (2 months ago)

It is funny how some people here want to see more of the productions done by robots. Heaven forbid you a pay person a reasonable wage and give them an opportunity to have meaningful work.

6 upvotes
Artistico
By Artistico (2 months ago)

i like the downbeat style of the video. It doesn't show so much of how the lens is constructed - not quite like "How it's made". The music, the outdoor winter scenes - it all has a certain Zen meditative calmness about it. The only Sigma lens I've ever owned was the absolutely stunning 16.6mm on the DP1. I think they are capable of great things.

2 upvotes
Grenou
By Grenou (2 months ago)

Wonderful filming!
Makes me want to visit, the factory AND the surrounding landscape.

2 upvotes
riknash
By riknash (2 months ago)

I'm surprised that so many who commented, wanted to see more automation at the Sigma factory. Why?

2 upvotes
FullFocus
By FullFocus (2 months ago)

Pure Japanese poetry!

6 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (2 months ago)

Lots of expensive manual work which should be eliminated both for cost and quality.

3 upvotes
Tonio Loewald
By Tonio Loewald (2 months ago)

The economics probably don't support it. It's not like you can tool up a robot assembly line for a product which only sells 10k copies cheaply. They probably manufacture a bunch of lenses of a given type and stick them in a warehouse for years, slowly selling them. (Certainly seems to be how Nikon, which has far bigger volumes, operates.)

This is also why there's such a vast price difference between kit lenses and technically simpler primes and why various manufactures rev comparatively uninteresting kit lenses (which sell far more predictably) constantly, while continuing to sell obsolete lenses enthusiasts think are obviously in need of replacement. What is Nikon going to do with its unsold stocks of 300mm f4 lenses if it releases a new 300mm f4 VR at a reasonable price?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Photoman
By Photoman (2 months ago)

Some things can't be done by robots. Same in Leica's factory.

3 upvotes
JohnDM
By JohnDM (2 months ago)

I agree, but I think that we might not be seeing the full story.
The machining we see is more of a tool room environment and the machined part that we see getting checked looks like it was made on something different. Sigma have to keep the video vague and would probably not show any manufacturing processes that might damage business one way of another.

4 upvotes
Derp
By Derp (2 months ago)

Yes, let's let every one of those people starve, so you can have a less expensive lens.

2 upvotes
plevyadophy
By plevyadophy (2 months ago)

Lovely

1 upvote
AlpCns2
By AlpCns2 (2 months ago)

Well done and tasteful, somewhat minimalistic video. Not revealing too much of course, but it does leave the impression of dedication, quality, and precision. Which is what (good) lens making is all about.

5 upvotes
AussieBarb
By AussieBarb (2 months ago)

I like it. So much engineering goes into making a lens. Their 18-35mm 1.8 is awesome!

1 upvote
SushiEater
By SushiEater (2 months ago)

Hmmmmmm.....
I love Sigma. Most of my lenses are Sigma but....
1.Very few workers. Are they on vacation? Looks like factory is closed for maintenance. I used to work at the factory like this as a designer, toolmaker and CNC programmer in charge of several people and we looked a lot busier.
2. Very few old workers. Young people with no experience.
3. I don't see anything special shown.

1 upvote
The Big One
By The Big One (1 month ago)

It is an artistic video, not a 'how we make lenses' video.

0 upvotes
Deutsch
By Deutsch (2 months ago)

Good Video. First I've seen from Sigma.

I think each company has their own twist, and Sigma did a good job.

Nikon had did an 80th Anniv one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Abybv2LrmK8

0 upvotes
raztec
By raztec (2 months ago)

Of all the 3rd party lens manufacturers, isn't Sigma known as having one of the worst QC and being a bit hit and miss as to whether you're getting a good copy lens or not?

Maybe that was lens specific and could have changed in more recent years.

Comment edited 60 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
SushiEater
By SushiEater (2 months ago)

Since 2010 their QC is much better maybe even better than Nikon and Canon.

6 upvotes
brecklundin
By brecklundin (2 months ago)

I recally recently reading that Sigma is the ONLY lens Japanese camera maker who makes their products solely in Japan. That may be one reason they have improved their QC. They can hire the folks who lost jobs as Canon, Nikon & Pentax moved the skilled jobs to other countries.

3 upvotes
krisposner
By krisposner (2 months ago)

They changed their QC lens testing sensor from an outdated Kodak one to a more sophisticated in-house foveon sensor.

1 upvote
Model Mike
By Model Mike (2 months ago)

No longer.

1 upvote
fredofoto
By fredofoto (2 months ago)

i had read about their hit/miss q.c. issues also, but i bought the 30mm 1.4, love it, and their 50mm 1.4 and i love that one as well/ they are quite solid and i have had zero outta focus issues. just my 2 cents. p.s. this is my first comment in the dp forum

i use em on a canon 50d. ive taken over 4500 pics with them (total)

0 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (2 months ago)

With regards to a PR show, it covers the bases with medical grade clean rooms, workers patiently focusing on their work (rather than conversing and joking with one another). Setup workers making routine QC checks. Tool and Die Makers performing maintenance on molds and tooling.

There's a fine balance of hand's on vs. automation. Hand painted and polished parts with the all critical final hand assembly, translates into a more personable product that suggests a craftsmanship once regarded to a much higher priced product.

What's missing, however, is a brief take on the workers on break, perhaps conversing and showing some humor. Also missing is a small snippet on any safety (such as the typical "zero injuries in X days" sign on wall -if it exists). A safe and happy work place translates into a higher quality product.

1 upvote
88SAL
By 88SAL (2 months ago)

I took the Leica factory tour and it was mostly like how you describe, the lens grinding room and finishing was a no jpking affair, but actually few staff in these depts. Lens assembly and even sensor installation had workers conversing

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (2 months ago)

"Also missing is a small snippet on any safety (such as the typical "zero injuries in X days" sign on wall -if it exists). A safe and happy work place translates into a higher quality product."

How dangerous can working there be?

I worked a very dangerous job most of my life and such a thing is not a daily concern for most workers. It is simply part of the job.

1 upvote
Earthlight
By Earthlight (2 months ago)

I love it! And I totally get it. This film makes me even more interested in Sigma optics.

5 upvotes
DaytonR
By DaytonR (2 months ago)

Awesome !

1 upvote
oz75
By oz75 (2 months ago)

Lovely!!!

1 upvote
Morpho Hunter
By Morpho Hunter (2 months ago)

Well it's a great video .... but I simply do not understand why ...given all that expensive modern technology ...most (but not all) Sigma lenses are ....

0 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (2 months ago)

The worst of Sigma's lenses are no worse than the major camera makers.

1 upvote
Mark Banas
By Mark Banas (2 months ago)

These very introspective, "pseudo-marketing" videos from Sigma are very well done, and showcase what Sigma prefers to be known for. There is no sign saying "Budget Alternative to the Big Brands!" Rather, we see pride and dedication in the automation, testing and handwork that goes into Sigma products.

Yes, the factory looks sterile and boring at times (imagine injection-painting all those lens switches!), and the beautiful scenery interspersed in the video serves mostly as a reminder of why these things are built, not how. Still, I don't see anything depressing or disheartening about the video overall, and I think Kazuto Yamaki knows that the Sigma name is getting closer to being a Big Brand as every year goes by.

If the video was re-edited to have the Canon, Nikon or Sony name at the front (and on the camera at the end), my guess is that there would be a chorus of "amens," followed by "so that's why everything is so expensive" coming from the comment section. Just a supposition...

16 upvotes
ulfie
By ulfie (2 months ago)

Reality check: This is a PR (Public Relations) video, a form of advertising, not a detailed and exact QA (Quality Assurance) documentary nor one on Japanese work values, ethics and non-smiling. Get real folks. Caveat: I lived/worked in Japan for 8 years and have in-laws there. You want to see or know Japan, go there for more than a week as a tourist. Corporate PR videos are just that corporate PR. Not all that is Japan.

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (2 months ago)

I think the video is widely perceived as a public relations product. And what of it? And what's the point of bringing up a more comprehensive understanding of Japan? Must I "get real" to enjoy the video?

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (2 months ago)

Okay, after reading earlier posts, I do understand your motivation in mentioning a wider Japanese context, as generalizations were expressed.

0 upvotes
Prairie Pal
By Prairie Pal (2 months ago)

A beautiful film that profoundly expresses Sigma's values, their passion for imaging, and their dedication to skills for precise manufacturing. A well crafted film weaves more than just one idea into the story. Sigma is saying: this is what we believe, this is who we are serving, and this is our promise to people who share their passion. The juxtaposing feelings between cold winter and warm summer serves two purposes; to show that there is a season for serious preparation and a season to consume and enjoy the fruit. The film finishes with a Sigma employee contently standing in the winter scene confidently holding the finished product staring directly at the viewer. The work is done, Sigma has put their hearts and souls into the work and they stand behind their product (really...in the last scene he is STANDING BEHIND THE PRODUCT).
People who only comment on depressed smiles miss the entire message. They are only morons with nothing better to do. Not everyone is a real photographer.

10 upvotes
John_Y
By John_Y (2 months ago)

I come away with the feeling of focus and precision. All business. Seems cold, dark, and impersonal, however I an "more trusting" of product out of that factory after the video. Can't put my finger on it.

1 upvote
HenryKyla
By HenryKyla (2 months ago)

Nice video!

0 upvotes
vbuhay
By vbuhay (2 months ago)

On the Sigma II video at the 45 sec. frame shows an employee glueing 2 lens elements by hand with out any tooling???? Wouldn't that cause decentering from on unit to another? How do you insure its centered???Surely this method could not be that precise!!!

0 upvotes
Omexis
By Omexis (2 months ago)

You just see the employee applying optical cement to two lenses, the alignment would happen after and the cement is most likely cured using UV light.

1 upvote
vbuhay
By vbuhay (2 months ago)

If the precision occurs during curing, they should at least show it or give a hint that it is the case or is that a trade secret? It is somewhat misleading in my eyes. I own 4 sigma lenses.

0 upvotes
PLShutterbug
By PLShutterbug (2 months ago)

Vbuhay, obviously you appreciate Sigma's quality or you would not have purchased 4 of their lenses (I have one, a 28-105 purchased years ago for a film Nikon). Given this, why are you suddenly concerned about their quality NOW, after watching a five minute promo video, when you have the output of your own lenses to provide concrete proof of your satisfaction?

3 upvotes
Edmund Dorf
By Edmund Dorf (2 months ago)

I'm surprised at how many operations are done by hand with all of the possible variations that can entail. It does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling about wanting a Sigma lens.

0 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (2 months ago)

Why? Sigma's best newest lenses are class leading lenses.

1 upvote
Dimitris Servis
By Dimitris Servis (2 months ago)

Factory is good, QC would be more interesting

0 upvotes
s_grins
By s_grins (2 months ago)

It is good to see people who take their jobs seriously, instead of taking it easy. I trust them and their products.

5 upvotes
Retzius
By Retzius (2 months ago)

Does anyone at Sigma smile?

It looks about as fun working there as in a forced labor camp.

1 upvote
ThomasSwitzerland
By ThomasSwitzerland (2 months ago)

The work is repetitive: grinding lenses and measuring tolerances. Boring. Why should they smile? That’s why they need more automation liberating them from basic work. Then they can sit in creative work teams to discuss, plan, design, and prototype the next generations. And might get a twist of California. I have not been to Japan but think that they are very different and come from an Empire which was lost. They made a jump, stalled and are now in a phase of reflection.

Their area seems to be quite harsh in climate. That’s where they live. You will find the same situation in Northern Germany or Switzerland. They are not depressed but serious. With improved factory technology they might get more relaxed and discover new horizons, freeing the spirits.

3 upvotes
Retzius
By Retzius (2 months ago)

Here is the impression that the video gives.

Sigma is:

1. serious; no joy is to be found here
2. populated by middle aged men with stoic frowns
3. isolated
4. located in a land of punishing wind, snow, and freezing rain
5. dimly lit
6. quiet; no words are spoken

It looks to me like someone at Sigma management has a case of "warrior-monk" syndrome

2 upvotes
Dimitris Servis
By Dimitris Servis (2 months ago)

Ahem, I hate to mention the suicide ratios in CH...

1 upvote
ThomasSwitzerland
By ThomasSwitzerland (2 months ago)

For that we have the Romandie, the French speaking part. They drink wine at lunch and are easy with fun. Just 20 minutes around the corner. Watch Lausanne.

"Warrior-monk" is a good observation. Really, gives speculation on the new dp quattro - which I like by design and function.

2 upvotes
Mark Roberts
By Mark Roberts (2 months ago)

Very classy! I so wish media would get out of the habit of blasting stuff into our faces and ears. This was beautiful, and inspires me to pay more attention to Sigma offerings.

10 upvotes
Thomas Kachadurian
By Thomas Kachadurian (2 months ago)

Kinda depressing with the cold and music.

0 upvotes
PaulDavis
By PaulDavis (2 months ago)

Lol,. It is a little bit.

0 upvotes
Vlad S
By Vlad S (2 months ago)

Did you miss the spring, summer and autumn shots?

2 upvotes
ThomasSwitzerland
By ThomasSwitzerland (2 months ago)

The Sigma factory tour reminds me of our German and Swiss machinery industry. Very similar people and dedication. But a high level of still basic handwork at Sigma and outdated installations.

I admire Sigma and use their cameras and great lenses.

Nevertheless, this video reminds me when working in German machinery engineering about 25 years ago.

The only one manufacturer of lenses in Germany now is Leica. But Leica has not got innovation, runs unclear “Mythos” niches, and their capital basis is weak. Presently, they invest into factory automation. Sigma has got better foundations and outlook by serving the markets of the future. They got vision and produce innovation.

If Sigma make smart investments into top factory automation and process flows, they get the chance to conquer the markets as dominant quality and innovation leaders. I will support them as consumer, buying unique Foveon cameras and their outstanding art lenses.

Continue smart and courageous, Sigma, you will win.

11 upvotes
iae aa eia
By iae aa eia (2 months ago)

Sigma is a winner already. Its one of the best lens makers, has a good reputation, innovates, and sells well, but just as happens to any other, some lenses do not do great and some do. So, I don't agree with your "Sigma, you will win."

2 upvotes
ThomasSwitzerland
By ThomasSwitzerland (2 months ago)

I agree. You just could throw away many of their lenses. But their Art line is marvelous. You should not forget the competition from Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, Canon. I thought of the “monk-warrior” analogy by <Retzius> from above. They really stand behind this. Their prices are very good. Then they launched the Foveons. From my feelings: This is great. The dp quattro seems to look horrible, but is big step ahead.

I cannot make a business plan. But my emotions say that Sigma is on the right track. Tradition, experience, new territories. They avoid the uninspired “retro” look of the Fifties which our Big Optical Three cultivate.

The controversial discussion on Sigma shows interest and desire. Their video confirms substance and roots. I see their glass half full.

4 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (2 months ago)

"The Sigma factory tour reminds me of our German and Swiss machinery industry."

What do you mean by "our?" You are talking about two countries.

0 upvotes
dw2001
By dw2001 (2 months ago)

not buying this...

2 upvotes
Lan
By Lan (2 months ago)

Well I guess that explains the sample variation; hand cementing doublets was not something I was expecting to see!

0 upvotes
Revenant
By Revenant (2 months ago)

Actually, if you read the IR article I linked to further down this thread, you'll learn that Sigma nowadays checks every single lens leaving the production line, instead of just doing spot-checking, which seems to be the industry standard.

7 upvotes
Smeggypants
By Smeggypants (2 months ago)

Sample variation? Would that be the "sample variation" caused by many people not calibrating their AF with the lenses? :)

0 upvotes
Frank C.
By Frank C. (2 months ago)

Aizu is in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan if I'm not mistaken, I wonder how affected they are by the goings on at nuclear plant not too far away...

0 upvotes
CanonKen
By CanonKen (2 months ago)

There is a Canon lens (among others) factory in Fukushima Prefecture as well.

0 upvotes
aarkp
By aarkp (2 months ago)

Lovely video, understated and quite minimalist. Not too revealing... but one gets the idea. Manufacturing lenses is about precision engineering and human finesse.

Am an admirer of Sigma. Wish them well.

11 upvotes
pew pew
By pew pew (2 months ago)

great video.

1 upvote
Deanaaargh
By Deanaaargh (2 months ago)

I don't know, its got really soft corners, and poor contrast. It may not be how I would advertise my lenses :p

Comment edited 22 seconds after posting
1 upvote
quokka
By quokka (2 months ago)

Brilliant video. This NOT-in-your-face advertisement is very effective. It probably boosts morale at the plant as well.

3 upvotes
rtogog
By rtogog (2 months ago)

Surprise me, the role of human being are very dominant on the production line of the process of making of lens.

1 upvote
Colin Stuart
By Colin Stuart (2 months ago)

we wonder why it's expensive. Just a bunch of ground elements slapped together... much more then just that!

0 upvotes
Coliban
By Coliban (2 months ago)

Nice commercial production video, i love these films (although some pictures seems to have a little low contrast (?), but that could be a result of the compression for this video)

Nevertheless, very beautiful piece of film, nearly minimalistic and it gives me the clean illusion of building a perfect lens. The landscape, the snow, the nature, well done Sigma. I haven´t got any lenses from sigma until now, but i am thinking of getting the 35mm/1,4, it seems to be a hight quality product and like this video suggests, it should be a perfect lens, build in an perfect environment :-)

0 upvotes
RyanBoston
By RyanBoston (2 months ago)

Great video and I have a whole new outlook for Sigma. I never considered Sigma lenses before, but recently used a few and I am totally impressed.

0 upvotes
Revenant
By Revenant (2 months ago)

These videos are nicely complemented by Imaging Resource's article on the Sigma factory:

https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2013/09/19/a-geeks-tour-of-sigmas-aizu-lens-factory-precision-production-from-the-insi

4 upvotes
maksa
By maksa (2 months ago)

I very appreciate Sigma's philosophy and hope to help promoting the company in my country and all over the world.

1 upvote
Samuel Dilworth
By Samuel Dilworth (2 months ago)

Nice. (I am a total sucker for this kind of thing.)

6 upvotes
3DSimmon
By 3DSimmon (2 months ago)

Very nicely put together, both the video and the lenses. Sigma produces and assembles all parts themselves by the looks, love that charm.

0 upvotes
Bronx Slugger
By Bronx Slugger (2 months ago)

Very nice video, I will soon get the 35mm f/1.4 Art and I really cannot wait for the new 50mm f/1.4 Art.

0 upvotes
ric63
By ric63 (2 months ago)

Great video, would like to see more.
The 50-500 I have it a stunning lens, super fast, super sharp and the coulours are amazing.
I would not hesitate to recomend Sigma to anyone.

2 upvotes
Rickard Hansson
By Rickard Hansson (2 months ago)

I have their 50-500 also, i had both the previouls version (without OS) and now i have the new one with OS and i liked both of the.
I can also recommend the 50-500 lens.
But i also have the new 70-200 2.8 OS lens and i am quite dissapointed about it, it is really soft and lacks contrast wide open and when the OS kicks in it shifts the image a bit.

0 upvotes
Ian SS
By Ian SS (2 months ago)

Sigma has come a long way, years ago, they were considered inferior but with new lens line-up and razor sharp lenses, it has become one of the best lens manufacturers! This is the result of hard work and good management, well done!

14 upvotes
hydrospanner
By hydrospanner (2 months ago)

I love examples like this, where effort, innovation, and commitment are rewarded with success.

Especially in the case of the major 3rd party lens makers, they seem to be in tune with the consumer, as well as identifying weak points in OEM lens lineups. When they give the consumers what they want at competitive prices, they deserve their success.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 89
12