The Canary Flex is a smart home security camera which can be used indoors or out, and thanks to a generous rechargeable battery can be installed without wiring. The hardware beat several big names to market in terms of these features, but is it the best option in 2021?
Canary was founded in New York, following a 2013 crowdfunding campaign, yet has not released a new piece of hardware since 2018. At that point they were some distance ahead of the pack in those terms, and since then the software and firmware have been the focus of development.
If you’re buying the Canary Flex now, you’re buying an established device Canary call ‘the world’s most versatile,’ but is it possible that the device was far enough ahead when released – and has the software kept pace – to make the Canary the right choice against competition from Nest and Arlo and others?
Canary Flex: Specifications(opens in new tab)
Field of View: 116˚ (diagonal)
Night Vision: Yes (Black & White)
Frame Rate: up to 30fps
Subscription Storage: Yes
Battery: 6700 mAh rechargeable
Ingress Protection: IP65
Operating Temperature: -20˚C – 45˚ C (-4˚ to 113˚F)
Dimensions: 110 x 48 x 48 mm
Key features(opens in new tab)
The Canary Flex is a 1080P smart camera which can be used indoors or out thanks to weatherproofing. Power can be provided via an internal battery or directly via the magnetic power connection (similar to Apple's MagSafe).
As a stand-alone device, the camera has activity zones, geofenced arming and disarming, live view, and a day’s worth of storage of clips (30 seconds for each motion activation), which is better than some.
Partnered with the ‘Canary Premium’ service, which is charged at a monthly or discounted annual rate, the Flex is bolstered with person detection, two-way talk, up to 30-day storage of clips, desktop streaming and custom modes. Additionally, clips are not limited to 30-sec but recorded as long as motion is detected.
The Flex can also share its live stream with Alexa Echo Show.
Build & handling(opens in new tab)
The Canary Flex’s quality is apparent from the sumptuous unboxing experience, heightened by the reassuring heft of the battery and gorgeous matt texture as you pick up the camera.
The supplied base is magnetic, and the camera can be re-positioned easily in a broad range of angles, which is great if you’re regularly moving the device. (Interestingly, you can also pop the Flex into the broadly similar magnetic mount from the competing Arlo range which we tested recently).
There is also a tripod thread in the base of the main unit, useful if you’re replacing existing cameras and necessary to connect to some alternative bases on offer.
Setup is a painless matter of following on-screen instructions, the circle of LEDs at the front providing feedback. There is also a small IR light beneath the lens on the glossy front panel; the pairing button and battery connection are behind and a vent hides the mic and speaker at the top.
Sample video shot with Canary Flex in daylight
Sample video shot with Canary Flex at night
The Canary Flex captures a good quality picture with good color. The barrel distortion from the relatively wide angle doesn’t make the picture difficult to view, and while chromatic aberration is visible in the image it’s broadly in line with other cameras
We liked that, in the settings pages, clear plain English was used to describe choices like the trade-off between battery life and sensor distance. In our testing we seemed to be getting a little over a month, and liked that we were able to top up via a power bank.
Using the Premium service, the alerts were not only quick but included an image. With our Apple Watch we just had to turn a wrist to see if an alert was serious. Reviewing things on the phone presents a timeline in a social-media style with options to refine the list.
On the downside, the app simply wasn’t fast or reliable when connecting to the camera to view the live feed. Though quicker when plugged in, in battery mode the wake-up process could frequently take over 15 seconds, long enough to give the impression the app (or browser) had crashed.
Canary Flex: Verdict
Canary offers a physically compelling product with a consumer experience which is, more than any other, easy to follow for Instagrammers rather than security experts. The design language and literal language in the software mean this is a device which can help non-geeks feel secure at home.
In terms of the tech wish-list, some cameras are starting to come out with 4K, but more importantly it’d be good to see a faster wake-up speed for live view. Pre-roll, as seen in some Ring doorbells, would be an advantage too, or even 24/7 recording.
The monthly rate of US$9.99 for the cloud-based storage, browser streaming and two-way talk just don’t seem reasonable if you’re opting for a single camera. Arlo, Nest, Blink all offer cheaper per-camera options, making the Canary’s cost of ownership only competitive for multi-camera households. Check our Canary Pro review (opens in new tab) to assess the potential value.
This is still a good quality camera, supported by good software. The initial price is in line with competitors, but the subscription rates seem difficult to justify.
Useful buying guides:
Best outdoor security cameras (opens in new tab) in 2021
Best indoor security cameras (opens in new tab)
Best PTZ camera (opens in new tab)
Best PoE cameras (opens in new tab)
Best pet cameras (opens in new tab)
The best doorbell cameras (opens in new tab)
The best body cameras (opens in new tab) for personal security