Fuji was in a similar place, of course, but they were already making high-end cameras and they were selling well. I use a GW690ii from 1985 regularly and it has one of the best lenses I've ever used. They did not forget how to manufacture those over the intervening 30 years, and there is plenty of market for lenses. (Though I would still worry. Tiny cell phone cameras are becoming better and better every year, and that's really a function of the sensors, which they buy from Sony.)
Ironically, Fuji did kind of screw over the film photography community recently. They stopped making 4x5 Velvia 50. They stopped making Acros 100. Now everyone is using Kodak or Ilford film. But it's because they could afford to, getting someone to buy a new digital camera every couple years is way more profitable than making chemicals for a super niche industry. Kodak still doesn't understand that, but they do get some of my money as a result ;)
At the time the CEO was quoted “Mr Whitmore, who has been under pressure to restructure Kodak, said Eastman Chemical would be spun off as an independent public company...”.
> Steven Sasson invented the first self-contained digital camera at Eastman Kodak in 1975.
I'm not trying to trash the achievement of constructing that device, it was a marvel of engineering, but I think it must have created a misconception in the company that they had a special competence in this area that they really didn't have.
I remember Kodak supporters constantly turning to this as the reason why Kodak would succeed, while it was visibly failing. They did develop a CCD sensor business, but they divested themselves of it in 2011 as part of a strategy that "it would sell assets that are not central to its transformation to a profitable, sustainable digital company".
If they hadn't made market strides with a CCD by 2011; I'm pretty sure that means they missed the mark entirely. If they had beat Sony's digitization of Minolta; or figured out mirrorless first would have been there best out prior to 2011.
The entire digital camera industry was worth about 18 billion in 2017
Even if they captured 100% of the market (which would have been basically completely impossible), it would have been a massive disaster for them as a company, and to the hundreds of thousands of people they employed in photo processing.
Yes, cellphones contain a camera, but the similarities end there.
Smartphones replaced compact cameras for a huge portion of casual photographers but as you point out it's not like camera makers could easily pivot into making smartphones (some of them probably could have if they had anticipated the trend enough, but by the time the iphone came out it was probably already too late to catch up).
Nokia as a company is still doing well, in fact
Cellphone sensors are their biggest limiting factor. Specifically, the size. Apple already seems to have squeezed as much "photo" as it can out of its sensor+image processing combination, and is using its image processing for other things (3d photos, fake bokeh).
35mm is pretty much done too in terms of large advancements in basic photo IQ. Nikon's very first full frame camera (the D3) was already 90% of the way there, and for the last 10 years they have been squeezing that last 10% out. Fujifilm isn't even competing there - they have gone for a larger sensor out of the gate.
95% of Fujifilm's money is from smaller sensors. The niche "medium format" stuff aside, most of their cameras are APS-C.