Cine-D interviewed Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki-san on the firm’s 60th anniversary. Interesting learnings include the fact that the new buildings on the company campus were not designed for increasing production capacity, but are assembly and service buildings designed to improve quality further.
When asked about the Foveon sensor camera project, Yamaki-san confirmed that the project was scrapped because the new sensor was not good enough relative to a rapidly improving market. He indicated that they were still at it, having started again from scratch, and that the biggest challenge was the tripled requirements for readout speed due to each photo site effectively having three different sensors.
The earlier effort was to have a 20 megapixel sensor, but with the three-ply sensor layers, the processing would have been the equivalent of a 60 megapixel load. Seeing as the image quality wasn’t deemed adequate then (although in good part due to old-school ADC conversion), expectations today would be for more megapixels, and even more processing requirements.
The primary new building added to the campus has three floors of additional testing machines and much more room in which to conduct assembly. The smaller of them is a logistics building for shipping and also houses service and repair.
In an interesting comment on the market Yamaki-san parried a question about lens “character” by noting that stills photographers’ needs are quite diverse, and that this multiple use case scenario requires lenses to be just about perfect. Character for one use case is simply a flaw in another. Sigma is sometimes criticized for making sterile, sharp lenses.
Video shooters, he said, tend to be sophisticated enough to know about “character” elements and actually design shoots around these elements. But he was clear: the primary mission for design for Sigma lenses is almost always stills.