It’s ludicrous to think Canon is actually the threat, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. Of course, like a fly to fly-paper we’re drawn to the immediate thought that Canon’s mirrorless cameras are, for lack of a better word, rubbish; Lackluster, behind-the-times, and behind the 8-ball of Sony and Fuji. And they are, and they deserve to be somewhat hided for it because logic dictates they’re capable of more. But that’s the low hanging fruit, and if we stop looking just at the gear and instead at the numbers things start to look a little different. Then, if we look at the gear like we do a Japanese newspaper (in pieces rather than as a whole), like said Japanese newspaper Canon’s capabilities start coming into it’s own, and some of it really makes sense.

Not long ago Canon released its Q2 report, and after combing through it a few things stand out (aside from the grammatical issues that were lost in translation), perhaps chief among which is the fact mirrorless sales were up some 70% from the previous year’s period. For a camera market that has seen sales decline, that is something to reckon with.

“In this quarter as well, sales remained strong, particularly for mirrorless cameras. Within this trend, we grew sales of the EOS M6, a new mirrorless camera that has been highly rated not only for its high image quality, but also for its compact and lightweight form factor. This camera was designed to capture demand from people who, for example, are considering a step up to a camera with more features and better performance. Including this factor, first half unit sales of mirrorless camera grew more than 70% compared to the same period last year, leading to overall sales growth for interchangeable-lens cameras.”

As clearly stated from the report snippet above, much of this growth was attributed to the EOS M6, and while anyone who has used any variant of A7A6500 or Fuji XT2 can attest that Sony and Fuji not only have the M6 beat by years, but also by performance, that the M6 was so popular gives reason to pause and reflect. It’s a bit indicative of what’s possible, and it suggests that Canon has the base that’s not only large enough to disrupt a bit, but also one that’s willing and looking to mirrorless. Canon now simply has to provide.

Beyond that, however, Canon also has been able to do a few things not even Sony has, and specifically I’m speaking about touchscreen functionality and implementation. This matters when broad-base users buy, because they want to shoot with intuition and have good handling. If you’ve used the M5 or M6, or heck, even the 5D Mark IV or 1DX Mark II, you’ll know that Canon has figured out touchscreen and implemented it in a way no one else has. The Leica TL2‘s touchscreen is smoothest and their menu is brilliant and intuitive, but Canon’s touchscreen is adaptive, and agile. It makes the Sony touch screens feel like an afterthought.

The combination of ‘Relative’ AF method where, regardless of where you touch, the AF frame will move in the direction you drag, and by an amount that corresponds to the amount you drag, combined with the ‘Active Touch Area’ option to select what quadrant you’d like to use is actually very, very good. It sure makes life easy for southpaws, but it encourages anyone to use it because it works well, and smooth, unlike the stuttering mess of Sony’s.

Of course one great feature does not a good mirrorless camera make, but it offers a glimmer into the future and assures us Canon has promise here, and a willing client-base. But, while the growth is interesting, the feature great, and proves that they CAN deliver, will they?

“We have enhanced the appeal of our EOS lineup, incorporating proprietary high-speed AF-technology into all new products since the second half of last year. This year alone, we have already announced 5 new models. Going forward, we will continue to actively launch new cameras incorporating new technologies in order to stimulate the market.”

[REWIND: SONY A7II REVIEW | PROOF SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING, IT’S HOW YOU USE IT]

Canon has been releasing new bodies, and incorporating new AF tech which is great, but it’s clear they are choosing to extend their DSLR push in the same fashion of deliberately crippling some for market segmentation. It appears they know what the people want but seem unwilling to give it to them – at least up to this point. I’m not sure what’s worse, not having the know-how or withholding from your dedicated base. But suffice to say if they did push, it seems they could really leave a mark in marketshare. It’s the 80th anniversary of the company soon, so maybe they’ve got something up their sleeve.

Oh and for those who think Fuji is a challenge to Sony. No. It’s not.