By any measure, Canon (NYSE:CAJ) is a pretty big deal. The well-known maker of cameras, printers, and other imaging systems has a market cap of roughly $46 billion, annual sales stand at a kingly $34 billion, and the stock has rewarded investors with a market-beating 24% return, year to date.

But the company's daily trading volume works out to an anemic $7 million, only one analyst firm offers any kind of coverage of Canon's stock, and it's downright difficult to find any analysis of this powerhouse.

Why the radio silence on an important household name? Let's have a closer look.

Two office-class printers, side by side.

Image source: Getty Images.

What's wrong?

First of all, Canon is not an American company.

Headquartered in Japan, right between between Tokyo and Yokohama, Canon gets less media attention simply because it's a foreign business. The majority of Canon's sales come from markets including Japan, Asia at large, and Europe. It's not always easy to get excited about truly global consumer and business trends, so that's another strike against Canon's media exposure over here.

And of course, the Canon stock you can buy through American brokerages is actually an American depositary receipt (ADR) that corresponds to an equal number of stubs traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. So we're dealing with cross-border financial reporting, foreign currencies, and other tedious barriers to a complete understanding Canon as a company and as an investment.

Why should I care?

The Americas are actually Canon's largest target market these days.

This geographic segment accounted for a hefty 27% of Canon's total sales over the past two quarters, ahead of Japan at 26%. In particular, America stood for 32% of Canon's office products sales and 29% of revenuesin the field of large-scale imaging systems. So we live in Canon's favorite market for several important product categories, and the brand is a household name.

As for the stock, Canon's listing on the New York Stock Exchange is an officially sponsored ADR, and the company bends over backwards to support overseas investors. Besides providing 20-F filings to stay in compliance with NYSE and SEC listing rules, management also prepares its quarterly results in both Japanese yen and American dollars. If that weren't enough, Canon even supplies a separate business report in English, specifically for the benefit of non-Japanese shareholders.

So it isn't hard at all to stay on top of Canon's business trends and results -- you just have to know where to look for this information.

And as I said earlier, Canon's stock has been crushing the market in 2017. It is trading at elevated price-to-earnings ratios right now, but Canon is also showing stronger sales and earnings momentum than chief rivals Xerox (NYSE:XRX) and HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ).

If nothing else, this under-covered stock belongs on your watchlist in case the stock price takes a plunge for no obvious reason. Simply staying informed could turn into a serious investing advantage for lightly followed stocks like Canon.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.