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This capsule-shaped security camera is extremely versatile, with a sophisticated design and somewhat limited AI features.
The moment I brought home the new Canary Flex Wi-Fi security camera to begin a hands-on review, the following three things were spoken:
“Hey, is that a new doorbell camera?”
“I thought we already had a doorbell camera.”
“Ooh, this doorbell camera looks fancy.”
The youngsters in the house had a point; the 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. (Read our full Nest Hello Doorbell review.)
But, though the similarities are evident, the Flex is no doorbell camera. It is, however, a powerful smart home security tool that provided almost unprecedented flexibility and impressive coverage during my testing.
And by “flexibility” … I mean there isn’t a nook or cranny this camera wouldn’t fit into. Between the super-easy installation and the durable, weatherproof build, there’s a lot to love about the Canary Flex.
Also, the emergency connection features on this camera are pretty remarkable. More than a standard emergency call button, the Canary includes a thumbprint safety feature that can promptly put you in touch with the proper authorities if you ever feel unsafe or in danger. That’s 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.” In this review, I put the Flex to the ultimate test, interacting with its features, learning its technology, and experiencing firsthand how this camera performs day to day. It’s all right here!
And now, the reveal! Thankfully, inside the box, you’ll find 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 this industry, that’s a refreshing sign that the installation experience will be pretty easy, just like you might have with a set of Ring cameras. Curious about Ring Cams? Check out my full Ring camera review.
Holding this small, capsule-shaped camera in your hands, you’ll get the impression that this is a good, solid piece of equipment – and it looks pretty slick, too. Everything – from the matte black finish right down to that super-strong magnetic base – screams “modern.” Looking further, those clean lines and rounded angles reminded me of Arlo’s cams, 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, consider an Arlo camera. Start with my Arlo camera review.
So, with all that sophistication packed into a single camera, you can see that it’ll look nice and discreet pretty much wherever you display it.
By simply attaching the included magnetic base to the bottom of the camera, you already have tons of options for placement. From there, you can swivel the camera all the way around without worrying about the base falling off. Again, you’re talking about equipment that stays put, which is really important for home security.
So, appearance-wise, you’ll be charmed. That said, you might run into a couple weaknesses when it comes to features and tech. More on that in just a moment.
Did You Know: Canary now offers three different ways to mount the 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 railings; and the Secure Mount, a ball-joint bracket that locks the camera in place.
Like the installation experience, syncing the Flex to its companion Canary app was easy and (mostly) hassle-free. Since the camera works off a Wi-Fi network, the setup process followed exactly the way I thought, with one exception: Instead of creating an account in the app after downloading it, you’ll have 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.
Honestly, this does seem like a step that could easily be avoided with a software update or two, doesn’t it?
Other than that minor inconvenience, I found Canary’s app to be pretty intuitive; not quite as user-friendly as my experience reviewing Blink 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 checking out some of the top-rated wired security systems before settling on an individual camera. The apps that work with those systems tend to offer much more control to their users.
Next, I couldn’t help but notice how polished and clean Canary’s app is. Sure, not everyone needs to stare at Abercrombie & Fitch models while they’re setting up their security cameras, but let’s be honest: It didn’t exactly hurt.
Another cool find: Just a couple of steps after creating your new account, the app automatically discovers the device without you having to scan a QR code or – worse – enter a long serial number. I’m grateful!
Of course, eventually you’ll hit upon something in Canary’s technology that’s a bit different than the way other cameras work: It communicates with the app primarily by tracking your phone’s location.1
To get the app to find your camera and sync to it, you do have to turn your smartphone’s location on. Otherwise, you 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. (You can read our in-depth analysis of Vivint to learn more.) Keep in mind, though, some users like having their location tracked in case of an emergency.
After successfully syncing the camera to the Canary app and following a few more prompts – including downloading a firmware update, which took a bit longer than I would’ve liked – the Flex should be ready for action.
After that relatively swift setup process, it was nice having the option to use either the built-in battery or the included USB cable to power the Flex. It’s easy to move this camera from place to place, free and clear of any wires or barriers. That’s a big plus when it comes to wire-free cameras, though one downside worth mentioning is that camera batteries tend to drain pretty fast.
Pro Tip: Check out my roundup of the best battery-powered security cameras to see how some of Canary’s competitors performed.
It was quite liberating, all this freedom from wires, but I did notice at times that the camera takes a few minutes to “wake up from battery mode,” establish a connection, adapt to its new setting, and start recording and sending alerts.
This was especially evident while using only the battery. Even still, the ease of movement and portability of the Canary Flex was a huge perk for me, so I didn’t mind three or four minutes of wait time after each setup.
Knowing that security cameras offer much-needed protection from package theft,2 I decided the front porch would be the first place to put the Flex.
It’s there that you should really start to see what this camera can do.
For one, it did a great job keeping an eye on the littles when I had to run errands. Here are a few other highlights of the Flex:
For starters, it’s important to note that Canary’s motion detection is organized by Modes. I set a mode – Home, Away, or Night – and the camera detects motion according to the settings under that mode.
This might take a minute or two to grasp. In its first go-round on the porch, the camera seemed to have no trouble detecting people right away. That, I believe, is due to Canary’s artificial intelligence-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.
I realized why after looking into Modes: The camera was set to Home Mode, which is the default setting, and it had been set to record motion for people only.
Once I adjusted it 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: At one point, Canary listed package detection in their feature set. As of now, it looks like package detection is not available with Canary. If this is a priority for you, consider a doorbell camera, which is really the best way to keep tabs on your deliveries. Read my thorough Lorex Video Doorbell review for more tips.
That said, as long as your Wi-Fi is stable, you should see some great footage out of the Flex. Even with the lack of package detection – which was marginally disappointing to discover – I enjoyed high-quality, mostly accurate motion detection thanks to Canary’s Modes settings.
As is written plainly and clearly on the box, the Flex camera is equipped with 1080p video resolution. I knew this would deliver clear, detailed footage, as this is still the standard resolution for security cameras across the bulk of the industry.
At first glance, however, the recordings didn’t rise to the level of other 1080p cameras out there. It looked more like standard definition, around 720p. This is one of the first things I focus on in testing, as it’s generally something folks really value when they’re choosing security cameras. (For more help choosing the right security equipment, check out our home security comparison tool.)
Upon further examination, I 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,3 or if there’s a large amount of activity in the camera’s view. Lots of other cameras allow this type of fluid transmission – especially wireless cameras that have to rely on a Wi-Fi connection.
OK, makes sense. But this also means you have a little less control. I would have preferred the ability to manually adjust this setting. It does feel like an omission, especially for a camera that boasts AI person detection and cutting-edge technology. But it didn’t affect the overall experience too much – this camera still records smoothly and clearly in almost every scenario.
Perhaps I only noticed it because so many cameras these days (like the Lorex cameras I unpacked, which let you manually choose between 1080p and 720p resolution) do have a manual adjustment. If you’d rather have more control over video quality, the above-mentioned Lorex cameras are a good choice.
Canary calls the Flex a “complete security system in a single device.” It was in the Flex’s emergency connection features that the “complete security” component really stood out – with some obvious limitations that would be present in any wireless camera.
More than a standard emergency call button, Canary’s emergency response feature is basically a panic button in the palm of your hands. Should you ever find yourself 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),4 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.) But hands down, this is one of the strongest security features I’ve seen in a wireless camera.
The Flex also has Masking, which is a great way to customize your activity zones. This is where you can draw areas in your camera’s view where you want the camera to avoid, so that you’re not met with false or unnecessary notifications.
I took advantage of this feature several times 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 you’ll be glad to see it here, too.
To see how this feature handles in other brands, 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 that Canary, too, has gotten onboard the smart home automation bandwagon.
The Canary Flex integrates with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s assistant. For me, that meant enabling the Canary skill in the Amazon Echo Show, then using voice commands like, “Alexa, show me my porch!” to pull up the camera’s live view.
Did You Know: Many security cameras now work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, including the Canary Flex camera. To find other options, read our guide to the best security systems that work with Alexa. Or if you’re a Google Home user, check out our list of the top security systems that work with Google Home.
Let’s be real here: Canary’s cameras are not cheap, but I wouldn’t call them overpriced, either. At $199, the indoor/outdoor Flex happens to be the most expensive of Canary’s three models. It’s also significantly pricier than most of Ring’s cameras, 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 I like to say in the mad world of security cameras: You usually get what you pay for. With that in mind, check out Canary costs below. Or for a deeper dive, read my latest Canary pricing breakdown.
|Image Quality||1080p HD||1080p HD||1080p HD|
Beyond all the fancy features, though, $199 isn’t exactly cheap for one camera – and that’s just the up-front cost.
You see, there are no local storage options for the Flex. There is only the cloud. So for decent video storage, and in order to unlock many of those features I described above, you’re going to have to buy a cloud subscription.
In my 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 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, I felt it was necessary to spring for the subscription plan.
After all is said and done, though, you might find it makes even more sense to go for something like a Google Nest IQ camera, which raises the bar even higher on AI with actual facial recognition. Just something to think about.
For a small, pill-shaped camera you can fit into the palm of your hands, this Canary Flex sure does pack a punch.
The price may be steep, but it’s reasonable, especially when you consider the impressive technology and feature set on this camera.
But, if the cost of Canary stretches your budget a bit too tightly, there are great Canary alternatives out there in both traditional security systems and individual cameras that don’t look quite as cute as the Flex, but still earn high marks for value and performance.
For instance, when I reviewed the Zmodo Sight 180 C camera, like Flex, it came 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 AI person detection.
And finally, when it comes to versatility, there aren’t too many cameras out there that can stack up against the Flex. For a camera with this many possibilities, it’s surely a worthwhile purchase.
Of course, there are more affordable security cameras 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 I had no trouble distinguishing between objects at night, and the camera still gave me high-quality, informative recordings using person detection.
Battery life tends to depend very heavily on how much motion the camera captures. In the Flex, the built-in lithium-ion battery only dropped to 83 percent 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.
With Canary, a phone number isn’t super easy to find. I did find success with Canary’s support team via email. “Kevin” from customer service responded within a couple of hours and was knowledgeable and helpful.
At only 116 degrees, the 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, you could try 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.
Roberts, Paul. (2010, Jun 17). Location services: The security risks of oversharing. InfoWorld.
Schoolov, Katie. (2020, Jan 10). With package theft at an all-time high, Amazon and others are fighting back. CNBC.
Cooper, Tyler. (2021, May 14). How to Tell if Your Internet Is Being Throttled. Broadbandnow.com.
Canary. (2021). Safety Button.