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Sigma in winner-picking business

Sigma, one of the leading specialist camera lens manufacturers, has released twice as many Sony E-mount lenses in the last two years than it has for both Canon and Nikon combined.

It’s in Sigma’s best interest to manufacture third-party products that result in maximum sales, so the logical business strategy would be to focus on camera systems best positioned for growth.

That is, Sigma is in the business of picking winners.

Inside Imaging went through every lens release from the beginning of 2018, to find that Sigma has clearly embraced the Sony full-frame mirrorles E-mount, while only occasionally updating its EOS EF and Nikon F offerings. So far there has been nothing for the mirrorless Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts.

Over a two-year period Sigma released a whopping 18 lenses for Sony E-mount cameras, while rolling out a combined total of nine for both Canon and Nikon. It’s remarkable considering Sigma only debuted its premium Art lenses for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras in February 2018, at CP+ in Japan. Since then the manufacturer has dramatically expanded the line up – across 12 Art prime lenses, Sigma now covers focal lengths from 14mm to 135mm.

Some of the Sigma Sony range.

Sony now has a broad range of premium third-party lens options. The significance is that a couple years ago, one of the major criticisms of Sony’s full-frame cameras was the lack of affordable quality glass. This is no longer the case.

When looking at Sigma’s releases year-by-year, things really slowed down for Canon and Nikon this year. Sigma released seven lenses for Sony E in 2019, and just two for Canon EF and three for Nikon F. The year before Sigma released 11 Sony lenses, while there were seven for Canon and six for Nikon. With Canon and Nikon going all-in on mirrorless this year, it’s possible Sigma is on the sidelines observing how things play out before committing to either or both of the new formats.

Of course, Sigma releases from the last two years aren’t a definitive indication of where the camera market is headed. But the bias towards Sony products from the leading specialist lens manufacturer correlates with the latest financial reports and camera shipment figures that favours the mirrorless market leader over Canon and Nikon.

It’s also worth mentioning that product development for the two big DSLR manufacturers may have slowed because the shelves are already full. Sigma’s largest offering for any system is for Canon EF, with 19 Art lenses; followed by Nikon F with 18 lenses. Sigma also has a series of ‘Sports’ super telephoto lenses, which have yet to be developed for mounts other than Canon EF and Nikon F.

Kazuto Yamaki (right), Sigma CEO, told Imaging Resource in 2018 that while Canon and then Nikon accounted for the most sales, Sony was growing. ‘I think the majority of interchangeable-lens cameras will be mirrorless [in the future]. Probably 80 percent will be mirrorless?’

It’s interesting that Sigma (and Tamron) hasn’t yet flagged releases for the EOS RF or Nikon Z full-frame mirrorless cameras. The company instead advises customers to purchase an adapter and use its existing EF or F lenses. With competition heating up in the mirrorless full-frame department, the third-parties have so far only jumped on board with the established system from Sony.

Impeccably timed with this report, Canon Rumours has just been informed that Sigma is working on an EOS RF lens roadmap, scheduled for release in early 2020. The rumour is unsubstantiated, but if true it’s welcome news for enthusiast photographers who were attracted to the $1999 EOS RP (a mirrorless equivalent of a 6D Mk II) due to the affordable price tag. The Canon RF lens range features some astronomical prices, with most well above $3000, whereas Sigma lenses have a reputation of marrying high performance specs with competitive pricing. In some instances Sigma lenses are half the price, while matching the specs and performance of an equivalent camera-makers’s lens.

As one DPReview commenter puts it, ‘Sigma is getting ready… to get ready to develop RF lenses’.

No word yet on a roadmap for Nikon Z.

Beyond the big three
The only other system Sigma is backing, for obvious reasons, is its own mirrorless L-mount. It has released 14 Art lenses and one ‘prosumer’ Contemporary lens for the L-mount – currently consisting of the Sigma’s flagship fp full-frame mirrorless camera, along with the Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R, and a few Leica bodies.

From memory, there was just one Micro-Four Thirds lens released in the last two years, with the entire Sigma line up consisting of five products.

See related story: Whither Olympus? Whither M43?

Beyond Sigma
As stated earlier, both Nikon and Canon have gone all out on mirrorless in the past 12 months, resulting in barely any new DSLRs or DSLR lens releases.

According to DPReview‘s Product Timeline, since September 2018 Canon only released RF lenses – a total of 10. Likewise, since August 2018 Nikon has released 10 Z lenses and just one AF-S.

Considering all the Sigma, Nikon, and Canon lenses released in the past 12 months, it certainly looks as if the future is mirrorless. And if Sigma is placing bets on who has the edge in the battle of mirrorless full-frame systems, it seems its money is on Sony – with L-mount the each-way speccy.


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