Our President, Mark Amir-Hamzeh, is celebrating 30 years with Sigma Corporation of America. We sat down and talked with him for a few minutes about his experience with Sigma and the journey the company has made over the past three decades.
Mark’s Rise to the Top
Mark started in a completely different industry before making his move to Sigma in 1989—photography was just a hobby while working in the research and development field for a pharmaceutical company.
A friend working at Sigma pitched the company to Mark and helped to set a meeting with the current president of Sigma America. Mark could tell this was the company for him, and he knew that to understand Sigma and their products truly, he would need to start from the ground up—in service, repair, and customer service.
“I wanted to know about the products and Sigma itself. The best way was to work in the service department.”
He spent his time disassembling each lens entirely and then putting them back together again. He understood he had to break down the lenses into their key components to discern how the whole worked together, true for lenses and true for a company. Since his start in the late eighties, he moved up the ladder from service to service manager to national sales manager and became the president of Sigma Corp of America in 2011.
The company actually asked him once before to take the position of president, but Mark chose to turn it down at the time. He didn’t feel he had set up enough systems in place to confidently step away from national sales manager.
“I implemented systems…I was trying to reach out to photographers more…implementing loaner programs. Doing things…I had started and it was my responsibility to make sure…it was working well before I moved to something new. I didn’t want to leave everything hanging until everything was in place.”
Sigma U.S. Through the Years
Sigma Corp. of America came about with humble beginnings with about eight full-time people working in the office. Since opening in 1986, Sigma slowly integrated people over time with Mark joining the company just a few years later. Currently, there are only around thirty-eight people who work in the U.S. branches. Compared to most photography corporations, SCA is considered a very lean-sized company with a very small physical footprint in the US.
Mark explained that working with such a small team means having the ability to swiftly adapt to evolving technology and communication and new processes can spread quickly throughout the company. No one in Sigma Corp utilizes an assistant so all members, including Mark, are accessible both internally and externally.
“Our strength is that we can do so much with a small number of people and that we get to work closely with one another.”
Having a quality product can only take you so far, having a human touch can put you over the top.
The most significant recent change in direction came with the launch of the Sigma Global Vision in 2012. That was the start of a new brand identity for Sigma, reaching into markets they have never touched before.
“The Sigma Global Vision was a complete brand reinvention moment: Revamping the whole product line, the build quality, and the optical quality, along with implementing the strictest quality control protocols in the industry.”
In just the past two years, Sigma opened the Burbank office on the west coast as well as doubled the size of the Ronkonkoma office. Along with the Global Vision line, Sigma launched the Cine High Speed line in 2012. These lenses are crafted with the quality of the art line but with mechanics specific to cinematographers.
“We are able to make decisions quickly and be able to adapt to whatever the market situation is more quickly than bigger companies. The introduction of the Sigma Cine lenses, and the incredible reception from the filmmaking community is a perfect example of Sigma’s continuing evolution”
When asked to look back and ponder on one of the greatest achievements Sigma has had throughout the years, Mark quickly mentioned Michihiro Yamaki’s Golden Photokina Pin award given in 2011. Especially to have been given such a prestigious award just months before his passing.
“One of the hardest working dedicated people I have ever met…I admired what he believed in as far as providing customers with the product, being honest to the brand. He was very hardworking, and that made a huge impression on me.”
Mark notes how similar, Kazuto Yamaki, is as the current head of the company, in terms of work ethic, creativity, and approachable leadership.
“Following in his father’s legacy and continuing that legacy. It’s great to see his visions, his ideas. He’s a great head of the company. He’s also very smart, very approachable, and he’s open to new ideas, which continues to show with our continued innovation”
The Future of Sigma
Although Sigma was primarily known as a still photography company for many years, it’s evident that the company has grown in a multitude of directions. The latest being the release of the fp camera, the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame digital camera. Sigma has also delved into the cinematography market by releasing the cinema line of lenses in 2012.
Mark is always looking ahead for Sigma’s future, and he notes the importance of mirrorless cameras as well as the ever expanding cinematography world.
“I see the future as pretty bright on those two: Cine and mirrorless systems”
When asked about making changes in the past to better the future, Mark mentioned that he never felt like Sigma missed an opportunity or lost out on anything. Of course, the only thing he would have changed about the past was having more Sigma products available to consumers. Ever since the launch of the Global Vision Line, there hasn’t been any shortages of new products coming out.
“Every year, the fan base is excited about the new, innovative lenses Sigma brings to the market. And now, with the fp camera and the L-Mount Alliance, plus Cine, our product line is more robust than ever. But our team is up to the challenge”
As far as opening new Sigma locations, Mark is beyond pleased with the bi-coastal teams that we have now. If a new need arises in a particular area, then you can be sure we will expand to meet it.
From all of us who work in Sigma Corp of America: Thank you Mark, for your 30 years of dedication, support, insight, and love for the company and its people.