Many industry pundits were surprised when Nikon announced the release of the F6, a new flagship professional film camera. What was Nikon thinking? Canon has said that it doesn't foresee the release of an updated to its flagship EOS 1v and the other manufacturers (Konica-Minolta; Pentax) are also trimming back. Nikon had been rumored to have been developing the F6 for a while, but most people thought they would be crazy to release it in the current digital-only environment.
So why release a $2300/Y240,000 camera? First, film is not totally dead and the F6 leapfrogs Canon's flagship 1v in many areas. Nikon very wisely built-in backwards compatibility not only for all of its auto-focus lenses, but also for all of its manual lenses. Previously, Nikon's famed RGB metering was not available with non-AF lenses. You can program the F6 to recognize ten different manual-focus lenses. This is great for those of us who think the old MF glass is better than the current AF plastics.
If you're one of the three remaining people looking for a professional film camera, the F6 is a no brainer. That being said, the market may be larger than pundits think. At the camera stores I've been hitting in Tokyo, the F6 has been in strong demand even at the current price levels. So perhaps there is a market after all.
But I think the real reason that Nikon came out with it is because they are current basing their digital cameras on a film camera chassis (the F100). The F6 gives them an entirely new chassis to build a digital body around. Some have speculated that Nikon will release a replaceable digital back for the F6, like the Leica DMR module for the R8/R9. I doubt this. The F6's back is connected to the body with a flexible cable that carries the info to the rear LCD panel. This cable is threaded internally and not user-replaceable. And the price of the Leica DMR and the fact that Leica does not want you to field-replace it with the film back suggests this technology works better on paper than in the field.
So, while the Nikon D2X is being released next month, I fully expect a professional series flagship Nikon digital camera based on the F6 to be announced sometime next year.