Aizu-made cine lenses used to film "Top Gun:Maverick"

Photo: SIGMA Corp. CEO Kazuto Yamaki shows off cine lenses that receive high marks from the movie industry. They were used in filming "Top Gun: Maverick."

Lenses for motion picture cameras, or cine lenses, made at a factory in Bandai town of Fukushima Prefecture have proven their technological prowess as they became pivotal in shooting "Top Gun: Maverick," a blockbuster U.S. movie that is still flying high at the box-office worldwide. Those "cine lenses" of SIGMA Corp., a camera and lens manufacturer based in Kawasaki city, adjoining Tokyo, were used to film the bulk of the movie, including fighter jet dogfights and many other gripping scenes. SIGMA CEO Kazuto Yamaki recalled when he was first told his company's cine lenses would be adopted for the sequel to the 1986 movie "Top Gun." It was also the moment when the technology that SIGMA had honed over the years in the inland region of Aizu received recognition as among the world's finest. "Our lenses were evaluated to be the best by the filming staff even as they compared those to U.S. and European brands having histories of nearly 100 years," Yamaki said. "I was truly delighted then." The U.S. movie industry tends to respect track records and longstanding credibility, resulting in the frequent use of time-honored brands and leaving little room for Japanese companies to enter the cine lens market there. However, SIGMA was chosen as its products met the needs of the "Top Gun: Maverick" filming team that sought lenses suited for the vivid, state-of-the-art cinematography that a movie full of challenging live-action sequences demands. The shooting took place from 2018 to 2019. It was in 2016 that SIGMA began manufacturing cine lenses. And it was their high optical performance that won them a reputation as the best in the business, to the point where they were selected for what would become an epic Hollywood movie after only a few years. Motion picture cameras are mostly made of precision metal components -- unlike plastic parts, which are easier to process -- and thus require greater precision in processing. Assembling lenses requires an even greater, extremely high level of processing precision. SIGMA made it possible for its cine lenses to capture fine details of the movie's images by polishing concave-convex lenses and putting them together. SIGMA's Aizu factory has had a half-century history of developing and improving its photographic lens technologies in cooperation with local business partners, making it possible to manufacture high-performance cine lenses in just a short time. "I was confident (when selected) that they had the world's top-class performance," Yamaki said of the cine lenses. "In the United States, they say 'what's good is good.' That's their natural inclination in seeing things. I appreciate the decision they made, which came after a close look at our products and despite their very short history." Looking back on the past success of the Japanese manufacturing industry, it was the U.S. market that recognized the good performances of Toyota and Honda cars sooner than elsewhere overseas. Japanese businesses enjoy high shares in the global photographic camera and lens markets. Yamaki is resolved to further promote globally his company's Aizu-derived high technologies. "We will take the levels of our technologies higher to an extent where the Aizu factory is called the world's best and make it something like a sacred place of lenses," he said. "As for cine lenses, we will keep pursuing state-of-the-art technologies as well so as to continue satisfying the needs of Hollywood." (Translated by Kyodo News)

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