Nikon could potentially dominate the indie filmmaking market with such a product. If Nikon were to develop a V-DSLR, with a DX-sized sensor (which is roughly the same size as Super35), in the form factor of a traditional cine camera, I bet it would sell like hotcakes. Microbudget filmmakers have been Jonesing for years for a large-sensor, digital filmmaking tool that takes Nikkor lenses directly. A crinkle-finish, cine-style form factor (essentially, an elongated black box), with either an optical or EVF (or both, in a high-end model), and with a native F-mount, would be many a filmmaker's dream come true. Nikon could develop two products:
1. A $2,000-$3,000 DX-sensored D-cinema camera to compete with the Sony VG10, Panasonic AG-AF100, Scarlet, etc.
2. A $4,000-$7,000 FX-sensored D-cinema camera to fill the gap between much higher-end, Super35-sized sensor cameras, such as RED, Arri Alexa, and the Sony F35.
Soon after RED's launch into Hollywood, about 18 shows began shooting on RED. More recently, I'm seeing more and more Sony F35s lensing higher-end network dramas. The original base price of RED ONE was $17,500. Arri Alexa sells for about $50,000 (camera only--without recorder). Sony's F35 sells for about $200,000 (and, guess how many mega-pixels its Super35 sensor has?).
But short of these three very expensive digital filmmaking tools, what do I see more and more of in Hollywood these days? Yup. Canon 5Ds and 7Ds. I see them shooting everything from major-label musicvideos to a handful of cable-network episodics, and at least one broadcast network drama. But camera operators don't like shooting on DSLRs. They're kludgey, and have the wrong ergonomics for filmmaking. The industry is waiting for a better form factor for this technology. I just heard that one show that formally shot with 5Ds and 7Ds, was recently told by the studio to switch to "more conventional" cameras (I think they're now shooting with F35s).
There seems to be a huge gap in the DX/APS-C/Super35-sized product offerings for digital cinema production: on one end, you have the Canon 5D and 7D (and soon, the D7000), and on the other, you have the uber-expensive Sony F35. The time seems right for a compact, cine-style form factor, D-cinema body with a large sensor to enter the market. The technology is here. It just seems like it's a product category just waiting to happen.
And, I bet if Nikon doesn't do it soon, Canon will.
Nikon already has the base sensor and 1080p24 processing technology, and has already implemented the AVCHD CODEC in two of its products. The two most critical technical hurdles have already been scaled: both the sensor hardware and CODEC firmware is already developed, tested, and productized. Now, they just need to define a product concept.