Canary Flex Security Camera ReviewBy - 10/04/2017
The Canary camera was one of my favorite home security cameras, so when they announced Flex, I was one of the first to jump aboard. I expected to love Flex as much as the original Canary, if not more. It’s sexier, it has a battery, and you can use it outdoors, but I’m not certain that battery operated outdoor home security cameras are ready to protect my home or yours.
Canary Flex for Home Security
Before I delve into why Canary Flex might not be the best choice for home security, let me say this: You can use Flex plugged into a power source. The first week of testing Flex, I used it indoors, plugged-in. It caught events, it was easy to access, and it was on its game though I didn’t enjoy the picture coloration as much as my original Canary. This is probably because it streams at a lower resolution. The second week I pulled the plug and took Flex outside, triggering an entirely different experience.
Placing Flex in a tree using a Twist Mount (sold separately), the camera swapped from always on-guard to sleepy guard. Running on battery, you must wait for the camera to wake up to access live streaming. For me, this took about 10 seconds on average. Waiting for a live stream isn’t a huge deal, but the camera also needs to wake up to catch motion, and that is a big deal. Several times I ended up with footage of someone’s backside instead of their face. To preserve battery life the camera must sleep, which is not ideal for home security.
Using Modes For Home Security
Canary Flex only monitors for one type of event – motion. Its self-learning feature helps cut down on false alarms, but false alarms still happen. Through the mobile app, you can adjust motion sensitivity to help reduce false alarms. Getting it right takes some tweaking backed by perfect placement. After testing several settings, I decided to settle. It was either lots of false alarms or missing lots of relevant events. Placing the sensitivity level on the third bar, I received few false alarms (more on windy days), and only missed a few relevant events.
One crucial security feature that can help improve the overall experience is modes. Canary includes three modes: Home, Night, and Away, backed by auto-mode switching.
Auto-mode switching is what Canary calls their geolocation service. With this feature toggled on, Canary will automatically swap between home and away mode as you come and go. But what’s nifty about this feature is that it can work with multiple phones. This way, Canary will only arm itself when all members of your family have left the house and disarm as soon as one family member returns. Though this is one of my favorite Canary Indoor features, I had trouble getting it to work with Canary Flex. On one occasion, the camera had me leaving the house five times in one hour though I remained at my desk the entire time.
Home Mode is used when you’re home. You can have the camera set to private (cannot live stream) or you can set it so that you can live stream to check-in on things. Free users cannot record while the camera is in Home Mode, this is reserved for Canary Members. If you’re a Member and you choose to have Canary record while you’re home, you can decide if you would like to receive motion notifications or not.
Night Mode is used when you’re home, but you’re sleeping. With Night Mode, you have the same options as Home Mode: record video, send notifications, set to private. However, you also have the option to create a schedule. With a schedule, Canary will automatically swap to Night Mode during your normal sleeping hours and swap back to Home Mode when you wake up.
12/15/2017: Canary is launching Person Detection which will help to reduce false alarms by only sending events that include a person.
01/03/2018: They are also launching Package Detection for paid Members.
03/19/2018 Flex now supports masking a.k.a motion zones.
All events are recorded and stored in the cloud. Canary cameras include 24-hours of free cloud storage for up to five cameras. For free, you have access to 30-second Video Previews only. If you need more storage or if you want access to full-length videos, you will need to purchase a Canary Membership starting at $9.99 per month for five cameras.
|Free||$9.99/month or $99/year||$4.99/month|
|Device Coverage||Up to 4 Devices||Up to 5 Devices||Additional Devices|
|Video History||24-Hours per Device||30 Day Video History||30 Day Video History|
|App Access||Mobile||Mobile & Web||Mobile & Web|
|Sharing and Downloads||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Activity Zone Masking|
|Package Detection||Flex Only||Flex Only|
|Insurance Deductible Reimbursement up to $1000*|
|Device Warranty||1 Year||2 Year||2 Year|
The availability of accessories is another feature that enhances Flex’s ability to protect your home. All of the accessories are sold separately.
Secure Mount – $29.99
The way I have Flex “mounted”, someone could easily come by and snag it out of the tree. If you live in a high traffic/higher crime area, you will want to invest in the Secure Mount. The Secure Mount attaches to a wall or surface and locks Canary into place making it less susceptible to theft.
Twist Mount – $19.99
The Twist Mount is the mount I used. You can twist it around a tree branch, a railing, anywhere really. I had some problems getting it properly placed in a tree due to weight, and it seems to work a lot better hanging upside down than it does holding the camera in an upright position. Finally, placing the camera inside the twist mount is a bit of a pain, kind of like trying to put on an ill-fitting shoe, not easy, but not impossible.
Stake Mount – $19.99
The Stake Mount is made to drive into the ground. You can hide Canary in a garden, a potted plant, etc.
Canary vs. Canary Flex vs. Canary View
If you want to compare Canary Flex to other outdoor cameras, check this out. However, let’s take some time to compare Flex to the original Canary and Canary View. Flex isn’t a replacement for either camera, but rather a better-looking sibling. In fact, you can improve Flex’s ability to protect your home by supplementing it with an indoor camera. If you are trying to decide between the three, there are pros and cons to all.
|Canary||Canary View||Canary Flex|
|Resolution||1080p||1080p||Capable of 1080p, Streams in 720p|
|Field of View||147°||147°||116°|
|Picture Quality (My Opinion)||Coloration is Better||Coloration is Better||Still Produces a Quality Image|
|Two-Way Audio||Canary Members||Canary Members||Canary Members|
|Sensors||Motion, Temperature, Humidity, Air Quality||Motion||Motion|
|Masking (Motion Zones)|
|Weatherproof||IP65 Rated, -4 – 113° F (-20 – 40° C)|
|Mount||Shelf Placement Only||Shelf Placement Only||Flexible Plus Optional Accessories|
|Connectivity||Wireless or Ethernet||Wireless||Wireless|
|Works With||Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV, Wink and Google Home||Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV, Wink and Google Home||Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV, Wink and Google Home|
So what if you decide to opt for all Canaries? You can use multiple cameras under one login, but before you set them up, plan accordingly. You can setup your cameras under one location or separate locations, and there are again pros and cons to both methods.
One Location App Setup
When multiple cameras are setup under one location, toggling between them is super easy. You simply swipe the app to move from one camera to the other. Within the timeline, you can also swipe to move from one camera’s capture of an event to the other camera’s recorded footage.
However, the biggest issue with using one location is that settings will become one-size-fits-all. If you adjust motion sensitivity, it will affect all of your cameras. If you want to swap to away mode, it will swap all of your cameras.
Two Location App Setup
If you want the cameras to monitor separately, for example, one of them armed while the other is disarmed, the only way to make this happen is to set them up using two separate locations. The downside to doing this is that you won’t be able to swipe from one camera to the other, but the process is far from difficult. Instead, click on the settings menu from the app and toggle between your two locations.
All that said, a separate location doesn’t have to be a separate address. In fact, as both cameras use geo-location services, you will want to make sure the addresses match.
The final benefit of a two location setup is that you can add members and limit which camera feed they can access. Members are added per location so, for example, you can give your loved ones access to your outdoor camera, but not your indoor camera.
Be forewarned, Memberships are charged per location not per account.
Canary Flex vs. Arlo Pro
You can also compare Flex to other outdoor cameras including Arlo Pro 2 here.
Claim vs. Performance
One of my favorite ways to assess technology is by playing a game I call “claim versus performance”, and it’s one I most often play with home security cameras. How’s it played? Simple. We’ll take a look at Canary’s claims about Flex and decide if it performs as promised or not. Spoiler Alert: Compared to most companies, Canary killed it. Almost everything they promised works as promised:
|Feature||Claim||Performance December 2016||Performance September 2017|
|Indoor/Outdoor Camera||The camera can be used inside or outside.||Works, the camera has survived 13 degree weather, rain, and my freezer.||Works|
|Battery Powered||The camera can be used wire-free or plugged in.||Works, though performance degrades.||Works, though performance degrades.|
|Battery Life||Months With Normal Usage||See FAQ Section Below||Improved, see FAQ Section Below|
|HD Camera with Night Vision||The camera records in HD and automatically swaps to night vision when needed.||Works||Works|
|Records Audio||Records audio with all videos.||Works, but lacks promised Two-Way Audio||Though Two-Way Audio was promised, it is now a premium feature.|
|Twist and Mount||Canary Flex comes with a cutting-edge 360° magnetic swivel base.||This works, but the wording is exaggerated. Not sure a magnet can be called “cutting-edge”.||No Update|
|Hub-less||The camera works alone, no extra equipment needed.||Works. Unlike Arlo, Canary Flex works without a hub.||Works|
|App||All Canary devices seamlessly integrate into the Canary app.||Works||Works|
|Wide Field of View||116° wide-angle lens||True||True|
|Security & Data Protection||AES 256-bit data encryption||Not Tested||Recent Reports Praise Canary for Security and Privacy|
|Motion Detection||Will send a notification when motion is detected.||Works, though may be slow to capture footage if running on battery.||No Improvement|
|Notifications||Will send a notification when the device goes offline for a few minutes, when it comes back online, when you change the power source, and when the battery is full.||Everything worked except for the offline notifications. While running on battery, Canary went offline at times, sometimes for more than several minutes. Though offline notifications did happen, they were rare.||No Improvement|
If I had to choose between Flex and the original Canary, I would choose the original. Flex is the best-looking security camera I’ve seen, it’s flexible, and it has a battery, but a crystal clear picture is one of my two favorite Canary features and the original device outshines Flex in this category. Also, Flex has some performance issues.
The best way to use Flex is plugged into a power source, but it doesn’t feel ready to protect a home unplugged, at least not outside. Unplugging the camera degrades the overall performance. From its ability to capture motion events on-time to its ability to stay connected and streaming, running it using batteries is not the best way to monitor outside your home.
If you would like to purchase your own Canary Flex, you can buy one for $199 or save money by buying multiple Canary devices.
Canary Flex FAQS
How long does the battery last?
I started running the camera using battery power on December 22nd, and by the 28th, the battery level was critically low. By December 30th, the camera would only briefly power on before turning off. We did have one 32 degree day, but temperatures jumped up to 75 on the 25th and held at around 50-60 for several days. I don’t believe the temperature was a factor; I do believe wind was a factor. High winds cause excessive false alarms which puts additional strain on the camera’s battery. We had two very windy days that dropped the battery level from 1/2 to 1/4 to critically low.
On January 1st I started running Canary in my freezer (less a few days outside where temperatures were between 13 and 25) to test how “cold weather” affects the battery life. The camera’s battery instantly went from full to critically low. After contacting Canary support, they pushed an update to my camera which improved the battery issue. This time around, the camera lasted for one month before dying.
I did a retest of Canary Flex starting July 25th, 2017 as they pushed several updates aimed at improving battery life. The weather is mild here during the summer which will also affect the camera’s battery life, but this time around, it did last a full 7 weeks on one charge.
How long does it take to charge the battery?
The first time I charged Flex, it took my battery 4 hours and 50 minutes to recharge. The second time, it took over 12 hours. And the third time I charged Flex, it took 10 hours and 20 minutes.
Can you turn the LED light off?
Unfortunately, there is no way to turn off the LED. In battery mode, the LED is naturally off to conserve battery. However, when plugged in, the light is always on.
Can I limit secondary users to viewing just one of my cameras?
Yes, you can. You will need to setup your cameras using separate locations. As mentioned above, separate locations can still use the same address. Once your multiple locations are setup, simply add members to the location that corresponds to the camera you want them to access. They will be limited to viewing the camera or cameras assigned to that location only.
Can it do anything besides send push notifications?
No. However, Canary provides the option of a custom Canary alert tone to help differentiate Canary alerts from other push notifications.