Can one camera really provide true home security all by itself?
That’s the question we pondered as we entered into our hands-on review of the Canary Pro (formerly called Canary All-in-One), one of three cameras in Canary’s small but powerful lineup of high-tech, flexible, Wi-Fi-enabled security devices.
Several things caught our interest as we first laid eyes on our Canary Pro, with its chic matte-black trim. Not only is this camera billed as a “total home security system camera” targeted to renters and folks on the move, it’s also the first camera we’d ever reviewed that includes indoor climate monitoring.
That’s pretty rare, don’t you think? Once we learned this, we knew we wanted to explore this feature more deeply.
But before we really dug in, we had a few lingering questions and concerns about the overall performance and user-friendliness of both our new Canary Pro and its accompany Canary app – each of which has generated mixed reviews from users who have noted issues with app responsiveness, Wi-Fi connectivity, signal strength, and missed or failed motion alerts.
Indeed, no security camera is perfect, but we really wanted to know if our Pro could truly be as “one size fits all” as Canary claims it is. We also wanted to know how it stacked up to cameras we’ve tested and reviewed previously – specifically Ring’s indoor camera, which has long been a customer favorite but lacks some of the advanced motion features and flexibility options we found in Canary.
With that, let’s get started with our hands-on review of Canary Pro.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: This camera doesn’t require any real installation, in the traditional sense. Great news if you’re not so handy.
Make no mistake: This is a well-built, nice-looking, sturdy indoor camera that we found lots of great locations and uses for, but it differs from other industry-leading indoor cameras in that you can’t really hang or mount it anywhere. There’s no mounting hardware included, for one, and it was clear as soon as we pulled our Canary Pro out of the box that it was going to be too bulky and heavy to try to affix to a wall.
Plus, it’s important to note that the plug-in Canary Pro is not quite as versatile as its sibling, the Flex, for the simple reason that it’s not meant for outdoors, while the Flex includes durable, weatherproof equipment and a battery backup.
The best home for this camera, we decided, is sitting on a flat surface, where it can stand on its own and keep an eye on our home when we can’t. To be honest, we were relieved to be free of drills, screws, and ladders.
Pro Tip: The Canary Pro comes with a USB cable in the box to plug into a power outlet, and it does not contain a battery backup. So when you’re looking for placement, it’s important to make sure you’re close enough to a power outlet to run the cable to the camera (or dig up an old extension cord like we did!).
But determining the physical location of our Pro represented just a small fraction of our overall experience. We think one of the biggest tests of a home security camera’s effectiveness and level of protection lies in how it interacts with its accompanying mobile app. Getting that process going, we learned, wasn’t as simple as we were hoping.
Beyond the sleek packaging and flowery marketing, we found Canary Pro to be a high-quality, easy-to-use indoor security camera that requires little technical expertise or skill to use and interact with every day.
But here’s something you should know now that so many brands are manufacturing wireless, or Wi-Fi, cameras: If you don’t have a stable connection, your camera will, at times, experience buffering, video and audio delays, and occasional missed motion. We’ve seen this happen to even the most advanced cameras.
With our previous review of our Wi-Fi-enabled Canary Flex, for example, we saw these same slowdowns at times, notably when both children and one adult were simultaneously attending online school from three different laptop computers situated throughout the house. So we expected some of the same issues when we attempted to sync our new Pro to the same Canary app.
What we didn’t expect, at least initially, was having to spend so much time attempting to pair the camera with either our phone’s Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. We tried numerous times, even after poring through Canary’s many troubleshooting pages on their website and within the app.
FYI: If your Wi-Fi tends to bottleneck like this, you might find that Wi-Fi cameras aren’t the best fit, as you could end up missing crucial activity. In that case, we suggest looking into one of Vivint’s fully wired systems that include alarms, sensors, and cameras. You’ll have a smoother experience with a fully wired system, but be warned that those packages can get pretty expensive.
Luckily, there was a Plan B, and we invoked it. Our Pro happens to include an Ethernet1 port, which we noticed as soon as we unboxed it. This is something we’ve seen in several cameras in our review arsenal: for extra flexibility and a more stable connection, some brands are offering both WiFi and PoE (power over Ethernet) options in one camera. We saw it most recently in our review of Amcrest, a robust brand of cameras that offer both Wi-Fi and PoE options.
So we were pleased to see that Canary includes Ethernet connectivity in its Pro model, too. After several failed attempts, we went back into the app and chose the Ethernet setup option.
We realized that Canary did not provide us with an actual Ethernet cable. So we had to dig up an old one from our basement. Not such a big deal for us, since we had one on-hand, but if we didn’t, we would have faced yet another hurdle to connecting our camera.
After all that, we finally had our Canary Pro up and running.
That said, it wasn’t the first time we’d encountered setup stumbles like this. In our review of Reolink’s Wi-Fi cameras, for example, we hit many snags trying to get those cameras set up. We finally did, and we learned later that it had just been a blip in our Wi-Fi. Needless to say, Wi-Fi speed and reliability matters when it comes to setting up and using Wi-Fi cameras (go figure).
We then began to interact with our Canary Pro and incorporate it into our daily lives. Now, we want to share a few key findings, keeping in mind that your experience might be quite different from ours.
Did You Know: We think it’s really important to warn folks that Canary’s cameras are location-based, which means you’ll need to keep your location turned on at all times on your smartphone. Turning it off could mean missing some activity. Just something to keep in mind.
Right off the bat, once we had both Canary cams running through the app, we could simply swipe left or right from one live view to another. We thought this was pretty neat, but you’ll have the same functionality with Arlo cameras and other top camera brands. In addition, when we pulled up our timeline, we could see recordings from both cameras in reverse chronological order.
We appreciated this primarily because it allowed us to keep an eye on two cameras at once without having to close out one display and open another. For this, we’re giving Canary high marks for app user experience.
Like all three Canary cameras on the market, our Canary Pro provides 1080p video resolution, which is currently the most common benchmark for video dimensions in home security cameras. This, too, brings us to a weakness we observed in Canary’s products: with our less-than-perfect Wi-Fi connection, we didn’t always see the ideal 1080p quality we were hoping for. From time to time, our picture was pretty grainy.
But we might be a bit hyper-observant about this factor. As experts, we tend to pay extra attention to video quality in all of our reviews, as we know that resolution is one of the most important qualities people look for in a security camera. Here, have a look at our view…
What we were actually looking at, for the most part, was a 720p picture. That’s still decent, but we tend to place that at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to video quality. So we had to dock Canary a few points for that.
FYI: If you’re looking for consistently crystal-clear images and videos from your security cameras, you might want to take a look at a 2K or even a 4K camera from Lorex. Though you’ll end up spending a bit more for 4K resolution,2 they do produce some wow-worthy images.
Our Canary Pro comes with a wide-angle lens that produces a 147-degree field of view, which is relatively high as far as camera angles go. Held up against, say, a Blink XT2 camera – with a 110-degree range, as we noted in our Blink camera review – the Canary Pro allows us to observe and be notified about more motion without worrying something would be missed. This really helps when we’re not home, and our little ankle-biter starts looking for trouble (see the vid below).
So, for its wide field of view, Canary once again gets our seal of approval.
This just in: When it comes to motion detection in security cameras, “modes” are the hot new trend. What are modes, exactly? It’s basically a way for us to streamline our notifications in the app without having to manually adjust each setting, so that the camera performs according to our preferences and can automatically switch between Home, Away, and Night Mode. Don’t worry, we’ll explain.
For example, since we’re home so frequently nowadays, we decided to program our Canary Pro to stop recording all motion when Home mode is on. But when it was time to leave the house – oh, the horror – the camera automatically switched to Away mode, at which point we started getting an occasional glimpse at this little guy…
Going into the app, we did notice how often our pooch was confused for a human; clearly Canary’s A.I.-powered person detection3 is not 100% accurate. So while our Canary Pro was supposed to decipher between people and other types of motion, it didn’t seem to know how to decipher between people and animals. But no worries; we don’t mind giving our little rabble-rouser the limelight sometimes.
As we briefly mentioned earlier in this review, Canary Pro has climate monitoring. We haven’t seen this exact feature in DIY security cameras before; we have, however, seen it as a service offered by some of the best traditional security system brands as part of a package (there, it’s often called environmental monitoring, or environmental protection).
SimpliSafe, for instance, has an interactive plan that includes environmental monitoring, which means you’d be notified through SimpliSafe’s app if the air quality in your home suddenly changes. This can be especially helpful if you’re the forgetful type who might accidentally leave an oven on after cooking. We appreciate this level of protection, as it goes a long way toward preventing a house fire or other environmental calamities.
Pro Tip: If you do end up with a home security system or camera with climate or environmental monitoring, we have a money-saving suggestion: Call your insurance company. Adding environmental monitoring to your home security setup might qualify you for a discount on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy.
With our Canary Pro, we got a real-time reading of our current indoor temperature, humidity, and air quality in our app. And we have to say, it was a great little bonus to have.
To customize our alerts, we simply tapped on one of those readings to see detailed activity charts from the past 24 hours. We snapped a screenshot of the app interface for you…
And, for an extra shot of customization, we learned that we could also adjust our preferences for even more fine-tuned alerts. Here, have a look…
So for this nifty feature, we say kudos to Canary. We think you’ll like the functionality, but if you think it’s overkill, you can always just ignore it.
More and more, we’re seeing almost every type of security camera get on board the smart home train. Most security brands these days offer the option to integrate with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, or at least one of the two, in order to monitor your home using voice commands.
From our Alexa app, we enabled the Canary skill to display on our Echo Show using voice commands. That step, thankfully, took just a couple of minutes.
While it’s not across the board, we’ve generally found security cameras to be pretty straightforward in pricing. We haven’t seen evidence that a more expensive camera with fancier features actually protects us better from break-ins or other emergencies than a standard, middle-of-the-road camera. With that said, in most cases, you get what you pay for.
Here’s a quick look at Canary’s pricing:
|Type||Indoor||Indoor or Outdoor||Indoor|
Our Canary Pro cost $169 upfront, but keep in mind we did spring for the premium plan, which brought that up to $268. If you were thinking that’s a bit steep for one indoor camera, you’d be right. So tread carefully, and remember that there are lots of indoor cameras that can get the job done for cheaper. Our favorite would have to be Ring’s Stick Up Cam, which is $99 and comes in both battery and wired options. Though slightly smaller than the Canary Pro, it delivers the same quality video and includes many of the same features, except for climate monitoring.
Our Canary Pro came with a yearlong membership to Canary’s premium cloud storage service, which costs $99 per year, or $9.99 per month, if bought separately.
With our plan, we enjoyed 30 days of video history, two-way talk (only available through premium service), unlimited video downloads, a personal safety button, and a 2-year warranty. There is a basic (free) option available, but bear in mind it’s as basic as basic gets: only 24 hours of video history, and you can only save 10-second video clips of motion-activated recordings, rather than the whole video.
In all honesty, we have to say that getting the premium service is pretty essential for this camera. With such a varied feature set being tied to this service, we think it would be pointless to buy this camera without being able to take advantage of everything it can do.
FYI: At $9.99 per month, Canary’s subscription is definitely on the higher side compared to the brand’s competitors. Even Arlo’s “premium” cloud storage plan costs only $2.99 per month, but do remember that part of that cost disparity is due to Canary’s one-touch emergency dispatch service, which Arlo doesn’t have.
Keep in mind, also, that Canary doesn’t allow for local storage. There’s no micro SD card4 slot, so the only practical choice is going with the cloud.
For true flexibility, we think Canary should definitely consider adding a micro SD card slot to at least one of its cameras. It would also really help us justify the Pro’s retail price, which is on the higher end of indoor cameras on the market (but not quite as high as Google Nest’s $299 Indoor IQ Cam, just FYI).
Here’s a more detailed 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|
We do have one more gripe about Canary’s subscription model before we wrap up. We knew buying a camera with built-in cloud storage would make setup easier, but one thing we didn’t anticipate was having to enter our credit card information for payment, even though we weren’t paying anything for another year.
We would understand this if, say, we were signing up for a month-long free trial, wherein the full price would kick in the following month. But who wants to have their financial information stored in an app for a year for no reason?
That complaint doesn’t just end with us; we noticed that a few users on Amazon mentioned their frustration with this format in their reviews, too. It just doesn’t lend itself to a fully user-friendly experience, in our view.
Between the multiple tech hiccups, network slowdowns, and the lack of an Ethernet cable, we initially thought we were going to come away from our Canary Pro with a bit of a sour taste.
That said, we think it would be unfair to blame Canary squarely for the slowdowns. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Wi-Fi cameras – or any Wi-Fi-enabled electronic device, for that matter – it’s that they tend to be unpredictable at times.
And speaking of Wi-Fi, we do want to mention that we did get the Pro to sync with our phone over Wi-Fi – a full day after the first series of attempts. We can’t definitively say why it finally let us in after so many failed attempts. Sometimes you don’t know why it works, but you’re just glad it does!
So, to answer our initial question: No, we don’t think Canary Pro is an apples-to-apples substitute for a total security system. But we didn’t expect it to be, because there’s no way one individual camera can do everything that a fully wired, professionally monitored system could do.
And finally, we want to emphasize that there was plenty to like about the Pro, too. For one, we loved being able to keep tabs on our home’s air quality5 through the camera’s climate monitoring feature. As parents of school-age children getting ready to enter flu season, it comforted us to know we were getting an extra layer of protection to help us keep our home’s air clean and safe from flu and other viruses.
That, combined with all of the control we got from Canary’s Modes, the easy smart home automation process, and the intuitiveness of the app, all came together in a neat little package to give us an enjoyable, reliable camera experience with our Canary Pro.
Canary’s Support Center has a search bar that helped us find answers to most questions on equipment, features, and connectivity, among other topics. They also responded within the hour to an email ticket we sent to Canary’s Help Center regarding the brand’s package detection feature. Live Chat is also available, but we found it to be almost verbatim to the answers we got from the search bar. All things considered, Canary makes the grade for customer service.
We found the audio on our Canary Pro to be squarely good. Not amazing, but we had no trouble engaging in clear, uninterrupted two-way conversations from wherever we were.
Canary cameras range from $99 to $199, which places them on the slightly higher end of the pricing spectrum for indoor security cameras.
We did this by tapping the video we wanted to download in our timeline, then tapping the share button under the video. The app sent us a notification that it was ready to download, and after a few minutes, our share options (email, text, etc.) popped up, and we were free to share our video however and wherever we wanted.
Both Canary cameras we reviewed gave us good-quality video during the day and excellent night vision, but we didn’t always get the 1080p HD quality we’d hoped for.
Kimathi, G. (2020, Sept. 10). Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi: Comparing Internet Connectivity Technologies. Dignited. https://www.dignited.com/64062/ethernet-vs-wifi/
Wikipedia. (2020) 4K Resolution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_resolution
AlwaysAI. (2020) How to Detect People Using Computer Vision. alwaysAI Inc. https://learn.alwaysai.co/object-detection
Parker, M. (2020) Difference Between Micro, Mini & Regular SD Cards. Chron.com. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/difference-between-micro-mini-regular-sd-cards-80298.html
Environmental Protection Agency. (2020, Aug. 14). Introduction to Indoor Air Quality. epa.gov. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/introduction-indoor-air-quality