Japanese camera and lens maker Sigma will remain a family-owned business following the recent death of its CEO and founder Michihiro Yamaki.

The news comes as Sigma pays tribute to Yamaki (pictured), who set up the company more than 50 years ago and died on 18 January aged 78 after a battle against cancer.

His son, Kazuto Yamaki will now head up the company, the firm confirmed in a statement.

A spokesman for Sigma Imaging (UK) Ltd said Yamaki senior will be sadly missed and paid tribute to his ?energetic, capable and compassionate leadership style?.

Yamaki founded Sigma in September 1961, developing the first ever rear-attached lens converter.

?At the time, most photo enthusiasts believed that a lens converter could only be attached to the front of a camera lens, and the 27-year-old optical engineer turned conventional optical theory on its head,? said Sigma Corporation of America in a statement.

Sigma currently makes more than 50 lenses that are compatible with major camera brands including Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Pentax.

In 2008, Sigma bought US company Foveon, which is renowned for developing the X3 image sensor technology housed in Sigma?s line of DSLR cameras.

Earlier this month Sigma announced its first lenses for the micro four thirds compact camera system.

Sigma Imaging (UK) Ltd added: ?Mr Michihiro Yamaki guided the Sigma Corporation from its modest beginnings as the smallest of over 50 lens manufacturers in Japan, to its eminent position today as a leading and well-respected lens designer and manufacturer and an innovative, cutting-edge maker of digital cameras.

?All who knew Mr Yamaki admired his hard work and dedication to Sigma, yet his total commitment was tempered by his consideration for his employees, associates and customers.

?His considerable contribution to the photographic world was recognised by many accolades throughout his life, not least the PMA Hall of Fame Award, the Golden Photokina Pin and the United Nations International Photographic Council Hall of Fame Award.?

Amateur Photographer Editor Damien Demolder said: ‘What struck me about Mr Yamaki senior every time I met him was his immense wisdom. We would talk about lenses of course, and he would explain why Sigma had done whatever it was that Sigma had done that time.

‘But he would always introduce some insight about the direction of the industry, what was coming and where the camera manufacturers were headed.’

Damien added: ‘He knew what was worth doing and what should be ignored, what lens fittings would be successful and those no-one would bother to buy.

‘In the time I knew him, Sigma transformed from a secondary brand that built cheaper options, to a company whose lenses you would actually set out to buy as a first choice.

‘The introduction of the EX range brought first-rate quality and prestige to the company. Sigma is now in the safe hands of Michihiro’s son, Kazuto, but the great man himself will still be missed by all those who knew him.’