The moment we brought home our new Canary Flex Wi-Fi security camera to begin our hands-on review, the following three things happened:
“Hey, is that a new doorbell camera?”
“I thought we already had a doorbell camera.”
“Ooh, this doorbell camera looks fancy.”
We agree with our curious offspring’s first impressions; our Canary Flex indoor/outdoor security camera does look like it could be a great stand-in for a video doorbell, as it already closely resembles Google’s Nest Hello.
But, though the similarities are evident, our Flex is not actually a doorbell camera. It is, however, a powerful smart home security tool that gave us almost unprecedented flexibility and impressive coverage during our tests.
And when we say “flexibility” … trust us, there isn’t a nook or cranny this camera wouldn’t fit into. Between the super-easy installation (we love magnetic bases!) and the durable, weatherproof build, we knew right away we’d find a lot to love in our Canary Flex.
Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the emergency connection features on this camera. More than a standard emergency call button, our Canary includes a thumbprint safety feature that can communicate with us if we ever feel unsafe or in danger. This is quite a big deal.
Did You Know: Canary Flex is one of only three cameras sold by Canary (none of them doorbells, ironically) and the only one that has both indoor and outdoor functionality.
That said, this camera is no “magic pill,” despite the resemblance. Join us as we put our Flex to the test, interact with its features, learn its technology, and experience firsthand how this camera performs day-to-day in our home. It’s all right here!
And now, the reveal! Thankfully, inside our box, we found just five parts: the camera (which contains the battery), its magnetic base, a USB power adapter, and a plug for a standard A/C outlet. In our world, that’s a refreshing sign that we were about to have one very easy installation experience, just like we’ve had with other DIY brands like SimpliSafe.
And we were right! In fact, our Canary Flex set-up experience was one of the easiest installations we’ve ever had. Not even our experience testing out SimpliSafe’s SimpliCam could match the simplicity and flexibility we saw in our Flex.
Holding this small, capsule-shaped camera in our hands, we felt like we were test-driving a luxury car for the first time. Everything – from the matte black finish right down to that super-strong magnetic base – screamed “chic.” Looking further, those clean lines and rounded angles reminded us of Arlo cameras, with their adherence to “simple sophistication.”
Pro Tip: If you like the look of a Canary but aren’t sold on their lean product selection, we suggest checking into Arlo, starting with our review of Arlo’s latest line of products.
So, with all that sophistication packed into a single camera, we knew that wherever we decided this camera would live, it would look great as a welcome addition to our home.
By simply attaching the included magnetic base to the bottom of the camera, we already had tons of options for placement. From there, we could swivel our camera all the way around without worrying about the base falling off (did we mention how strong this magnet is?).
While we obviously like the looks of the camera, we did find a couple weaknesses when it came to features and tech, which we will dig into soon.
Did You Know: We just discovered that Canary now offers three different ways to mount the Canary Flex: the Stake Mount, which you can “plant” in your flower beds; the Twist Mount, which has a bendable “tail” to wrap your camera around thin objects like railings; and the Secure Mount, a ball-joint mount that locks the camera in place and secures it firmly to walls and surfaces.
Like our installation experience, syncing our Flex to its companion Canary app was easy and (mostly) hassle-free. Since the camera works on our Wi-Fi network, the setup process followed exactly the way we thought, with one exception: Instead of creating an account in the app after we downloaded it, we were told to leave the app, go to Canary’s website, create an account there, then go back to the app and continue setting up the camera.
Maybe we’re nitpicking too much, but doesn’t this seem like a step that could easily be avoided with a software update or two?
At any rate, we kept moving. Other than that minor inconvenience, we found Canary’s app to be pretty intuitive; not quite as user-friendly as our app experience with Ring cameras, for instance, but a pleasant experience nonetheless.
Pro Tip: Speaking of app functionality, if this is a big deal for you, it might be worth your time to check out some fully wired security systems before settling on an individual camera, as the apps that work with those systems tend to offer much more control to their users.
Next, we couldn’t help but notice how polished and clean Canary’s app is. Sure, not everyone needs to stare at Abercrombie & Fitch1 models while they’re setting up their security cameras, but for at least one of us, it didn’t exactly hurt.
Just a couple of steps after creating our account, the app automatically discovered our device without us having to scan a QR code or – worse – enter a long serial number.
While this is great, we also knew we’d hit upon something a bit unusual about this camera that we haven’t seen in most other DIY security products we’ve tested: It communicates with the app primarily by tracking our phone’s location.
To get our app to find our camera and sync to it, we found that we had to turn our smartphone’s location on. And to use our Flex day-to-day, we needed to keep location services2 turned on – otherwise we would risk missing crucial activity.
Pro Tip: If you’re not particularly thrilled about a security camera tracking your location, you might want to steer clear of Wi-Fi cameras and look into a fully wired system like Vivint, or go with a PoE (power over ethernet) camera so you can connect directly to your home Wi-Fi router. Keep in mind, though, some users like having their location tracked in case of an emergency.
Once we had successfully synced our camera to the Canary app and followed a few more prompts – including downloading a firmware update, which took a bit longer than we would’ve liked – we had our camera in place and in action.
After that relatively swift setup process, we concluded that one of our favorite things about our Flex is having the choice to use either the built-in battery or the included USB cable to power it. We just really enjoyed toting our Canary Flex around the house, free and clear of any wires or barriers, and trying out new angles with ease. That’s a big plus when it comes to wire-free cameras, though one downside we’ve observed is that camera batteries tend to drain pretty fast. Check out our top battery-powered camera options to see how some of Canary’s competitors performed.
It was quite liberating, but we did notice at times that when we moved the camera, it took a few minutes to “wake up from battery mode,” establish a connection, adapt to its new setting, and start recording (and alerting us to) motion.
This was especially evident as we tested the camera using only the battery. Even still, the ease of movement and portability of our Canary Flex was a huge perk for us, so we didn’t mind 3- to 5-minutes of wait time after each setup.
Knowing that security cameras offer much-needed protection from package theft,3 we decided our front porch would be the first place to house our Flex.
It was about that time that we really started to see what our camera could do.
For one, it did a great job keeping an eye on the littles when we had to run errands.
For starters, it’s important to note that Canary’s motion detection is organized by Modes. We set a mode – Home, Away, or Night – and the camera detects motion according to the settings under that mode.
This took us a little time to grasp. In its first go-round on our porch, the camera seemed to have no trouble detecting people right away. That, we believe, is due to Canary’s A.I.-powered person detection, which learns to detect people through a combination of GPS, human shape, and body heat. But objects – like cars, animals, or a ball being thrown in the air – didn’t seem to trigger it.
Going into Modes, we realized why: We were in Home Mode, which is the camera’s default setting, and we’d had it set to record motion for people only.
Once we adjusted that mode to record all motion, the missed triggers were reduced, but not eliminated entirely. Here’s the thing: the best Wi-Fi cameras in the industry all offer flexibility, but remember that they only work as well as their owners’ Wi-Fi networks do. That basically means if your internet connection slows down and causes your apps to buffer, it’s very possible that you’ll miss some activity on your camera.
FYI: In early 2018, Canary announced they were adding package detection to their feature set for the Flex. We checked … and it turns out this never actually happened. According to “Kevin” from customer service, package detection is still unavailable, with no timeline for further updates. If you’re still looking for a camera with package detection, we urge you to look again into Arlo, which recently rolled out their own package detection feature4 for all of their cameras.
That said, when our Wi-Fi was stable, we got some great footage out of our Flex. Even without package detection – which we admit we were a bit disappointed about – we enjoyed high-quality, mostly accurate motion detection thanks to Canary’s Modes settings.
As is written plainly and clearly on the box, our Flex camera is equipped with 1080p video resolution. We knew this would give us clear, high-quality video, as this is still the standard resolution for security cameras across the bulk of the industry.
At first glance, though, we were a bit skeptical. Though we were getting a decent picture, it didn’t rise to the level of other 1080p cameras we’ve reviewed. And trust us: We’ve reviewed a lot of them, and we’ve shared some great takeaways on what to look for in a security camera.
Rather, it seemed like we were looking through a 720p camera. Had we read that box wrong?
Upon further examination, we learned that Canary’s cameras are capable of producing 1080p resolution images, but it’s normal for the quality to dip down at times when the Wi-Fi connection slows down, or if there’s a large amount of activity in the camera’s view.
OK, makes sense. But this also meant that we were stuck with whatever resolution our camera decided to put out at that particular moment. Canary, unfortunately, didn’t give us the option to adjust this manually. This felt to us like a pretty gaping omission, especially for a camera that boasts A.I. person detection and cutting-edge technology.
Perhaps we only noticed it because so many cameras these days (like Lorex cameras, which let you toggle between 1080p and 720p resolution) allow us to adjust video quality in order to save bandwidth. We like this level of control, rather than relying on an app to take care of it behind the scenes. But that’s just us.
It was when we began to learn about our Canary Flex’s emergency features that we discovered why Canary calls the Flex a “complete security system in a single device.”
More than a standard emergency call button, Canary’s emergency response feature is basically a panic button in the palm of our hands. Should we ever find ourselves in an unsafe situation, this could come in very handy.
There are two things to keep in mind before activating this feature, though: First, it does involve linking to a third party (Noonlight), which means you will have to provide personal information. Second, it only works with Canary’s Premium cloud storage plan, which costs $99 per year. (More on that cloud storage plan in a moment.)
We were also pleased to see that our Canary has Masking, which is a great way to customize our activity zones. This is where we can draw areas in our camera’s view where we want the camera to avoid, so that we’re not met with false or unnecessary notifications.
We took advantage of this feature several times for both our indoor and porch views, to avoid getting notifications every time a car passed by. These days, it’s hard to find a security camera that doesn’t have some degree of motion zoning or masking, so we were glad to see it here, too.
To see how this feature handles in other brands, we invite you to browse through our list of the best motion detection security cameras.
With so many security cameras out there upping the ante with new features and tech, it wasn’t surprising to us that Canary, too, has gotten on board the smart home automation bandwagon.
We were still pleased to find that our Canary Flex integrates with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s assistant. For us, that meant enabling the Canary skill in our Amazon Echo Show, then using voice commands like, “Alexa, show me my porch!” to pull up the camera’s live view.
Now, we’ve entered the portion of our review where we tell you how much this is all going to cost you. Let’s be real here: Canary’s cameras are not cheap. We would definitely place them on the higher end of the pricing spectrum in DIY security cameras; at $199, our indoor/outdoor Flex happens to be the most expensive of Canary’s three models. It’s also significantly pricier than both of Ring’s indoor models, for comparison’s sake.
But don’t forget, this is one of the most versatile cameras in the market, with a pretty unique feature set that stacks up well against most competitors. You’ll spend a good chunk of money on equipment, but you’re getting a ton of power, flexibility, and performance in return. As we like to say in the mad world of security cameras: You usually get what you pay for. With that in mind, here’s our latest Canary pricing breakdown.
|Type||Indoor||Indoor or Outdoor||Indoor|
Beyond all the fancy features, though, we do think $199 isn’t exactly cheap for one camera – and that’s just the upfront cost.
You see, there are no local storage options for our Flex. There is only the cloud. So for decent video storage, and in order to unlock many of those features we described above, you’re going to have to buy a cloud subscription.
If you’re like us, you’re not too fond of subscription plans in home security, so we understand if this is a turnoff. But in our opinion, it would be unwise to buy a Canary Flex without a subscription. Note, however, that Canary does offer a free plan; it’s not much, but we do think it could be suitable for folks who don’t require much monitoring in their home security. See below for a breakdown of Canary’s cloud storage plans.
|24-7 Live Feed||Yes||Yes|
|Motion-Activated Recording||Video Clips||Full-Length Video|
|Video History||1 Day||30 Days|
|Activity Zones (Masking)||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||1 Year||2 Years|
|Price||Free||$9.99 per month|
So even though it does cost $9.99 per month for “premium” service, we felt it was necessary to spring for the subscription plan.
After all was said and done, though, we did have a thought: If we wanted to spend that much, it might even make more sense to go for something like a Google Nest IQ camera, which raises the bar even higher on A.I. with actual facial recognition. Just something to think about.
We’ll say this: For a small, pill-shaped camera we can fit into the palm of our hands, this Canary Flex sure does pack a punch.
The price may be steep, but we still think it’s reasonable, especially knowing what we know about the technology and feature set on this camera. And, of course, remember that design-forward equipment like this usually yields a higher price.
But, if the cost of Canary stretches your budget a bit too tightly, there are great alternatives out there in both traditional security systems and individual cameras that won’t look quite as cute as our Flex, but still earned high marks in our tests for value and performance.
For instance, the Zmodo Sight 180 C camera, like Flex, allows for both indoor and outdoor use, with some limitations. At $79, it’s a better deal than Flex, but do keep in mind that you’d have to forgo some features like an emergency siren, masking, and A.I. person detection.
And finally, when it comes to versatility, there aren’t too many cameras out there that can stack up against our Flex. We think all of this makes this camera a great purchase for just about anyone, for the simple reason that you can set it up, install it, and use it virtually anywhere you’d like.
That said, the Canary Flex earns our recommendation as a highly effective indoor/outdoor security camera, but we also understand if the price is still too steep for your liking; there are plenty of affordable camera options out there that work great, too. The choice, as always, is yours.
It’s very clear, because Canary uses LED infrared sensors in all of its devices, including the Flex. This means we had no trouble distinguishing between objects at night, and the camera still gave us high-quality, informative recordings using person detection.
In our experience, battery life tends to depend very heavily on how much motion the camera captures. In our Flex, the built-in lithium-ion battery only dropped to 83% from a full charge after a day of use. But your experience may be different, for example, if you have your modes set to record all motion rather than just people, or if you place your camera in a high-traffic area.
Yes, but it only works if you purchase the Premium cloud storage plan, which costs $9.99 per month, or $99 for the year.
Though we couldn’t find a phone number to call for help with our Canary Flex, we did find success with Canary’s support team via email. “Kevin” from customer service responded within a couple of hours and was knowledgeable and patient while we emailed back and forth a few times throughout the day.
At only 116 degrees, our Flex’s field of view is small by comparison, which means you might end up missing activity that’s out of range. For slightly better coverage, we recommend trying one of Canary’s other two cameras: the View and the Pro, which offer a generous 147-degree field of view. Keep in mind, though, that those are not made for outdoors.
Wilson, M. (2020, March 26). The rise and fall and rise again of Abercrombie & Fitch. Business Insider.
Fowler, B. (2018, Jan. 24). How to Turn Off Location Services on Your Smartphone. Consumer Reports.
Schoolov, K. (2020, Jan. 11). Package theft: How Amazon, Google, others are fighting back. CNBC.
Arlo. (2019, Aug. 26) Arlo Smart Package Detection.