January and February are months when the air hangs thick with new-camera introductions.

DP Review went a bit lightheaded keeping track of them all; but now, they’ve updated their camera database to reflect the latest unveilings and announcements.

We’re also approaching this country’s wildest Lost Weekend of photo-equipment marketing, PMA 2010, which starts February 19th.

So, it’s the right moment to look our camera industry straight in the bleary eye, and ask the hard question. Are you on drugs?

Crack Detail

"I can stop adding megapixels any time"

Regular readers of this blog know my arguments well: Overdosing cameras with millions of teensy pixels is risky behavior—in fact, irrational and damaging.

Not unlike drug abuse.

But to survey the full breadth of this scourge, I’ve needed to pore over DP Review’s specs listings—noting the pixel density of every model introduced since January, 2008. (There were almost 400 in total.)

No doubt I’ve missed some models somewhere, or copied some numbers wrong. But I’ve made a sincere attempt to find out: Which brand has the worst megapixel-monkey on its back?

Here’s how it works:

  • Camera models of 35 Mp/sq. cm or more (but less than 40) earn one crack pipe
  • Models having 40 Mp/sq. cm or above (but below 45) get two crack pipes
  • Any model with 45 Mp/sq. cm or “higher” is awarded the unprecedented three crack pipes.

But a camera maker can redeem themselves, somewhat. All I want to see is evidence they’re entering rehab and doing community service.

That is,

  • Any model with a pixel density of 5 to 15 Mp/sq. cm subtracts one crack pipe
  • A camera having 2.5 to 5 Mp/sq. cm knocks off two pipes
  • A model of less than 2.5 Mp/sq. cm expunges three whole pipes.

[Note: Currently, the last category only includes Nikon’s high-end D700 and D3s. The Micro Four Thirds models included are all a whisker over 5 Mp/sq. cm.]

First, we must single out Sigma—Boy Scout among camera makers.

Better known for their lenses, they have a small lineup of cameras using the Foveon sensor, which is 20.7 x 13.8mm.

This makes them the only current camera manufacturer to be 100% CRACK FREE. We may find their products a bit geeky and lacking in social graces, but at least they’re leading the clean life.

But for the others, it’s a grim tragedy. In reverse order of crackheadedness, here is the ranking:

  • Ricoh: 2 crack pipes
  • Pentax: 12 crack pipes
  • Tied, with 24 crack pipes each: Sony and Kodak

I must interrupt here to mention that Sony’s crack score should have been 20 points higher—except that, like an agitated street person muttering “I’m getting my life together!”, Sony somehow introduced eleven different DSLR models in the past two years.

But I’m going to let that slide. Sony has at least admitted a problem. Their new (and unproven) detox plan involves a medication named “Exmor R,” and a risky procedure called “back illumination.”

Sadly, we all know how fragile recovery can be.

  • Okay. Back to Nikon: 25 crack pipes
  • Fujifilm: 31
  • Casio: 34
  • Canon: 37

(Canon does earn a special “we’re getting help” mention—for tapering off their S90 and G11 models to a slightly lower dose of 10 mg. Er… Mp.)

  • Samsung: 39

Samsung! Snap out of it! There’s still time to go home to your family, bringing more NX-mount cameras. I am speaking to you as a concerned friend.

And finally—we get to the two saddest cases in the whole megapixel ward.

Like many addicts, they always seemed able to hold it together in public. But the numbers don’t lie.

  • Yes, Olympus: 54 crack pipes

…and perhaps most shocking,

  • Panasonic: 67 crack pipes
67 Crack Pipes

This is Panasonic's Brain on Drugs

Tell me it’s not true. The two leaders of Micro Four Thirds? The upstanding citizens who gathered us all in the church basement, to spread the good news about large chips in compact cameras—living a lie?

It’s tragic. One day, you’re a respected member of your industry. Then suddenly, you’re passed out in a seedy motel, wearing nothing but a frayed terry-cloth robe, surrounded by crumpled marketing plans.

Camera makers: There is still time to clean up, and save yourselves.