Review: Canary Flex is a solid home security camera that lives up to its hype
But note: you'll need a subscription to unlock some of its best features
The Canary Flex bills itself as "The world's most versatile HD security camera." Hyperbole aside, the camera definitely provides users with some very flexible hardware configurations. Couple this with a surprisingly intuitive app, and the ability to set up the Flex both indoors and outdoors, and you've got a security camera that's definitely worth a deeper look.
Under The Hood
The camera itself is just over four inches in height and shaped like a pill; however, the most interesting bit is the magnetic base. Since the camera can be detached and used wirelessly, thanks to a rechargeable battery, the magnetic base allows you to pick the viewing angle you need wherever you set up the Flex. The base and wireless capabilities, combined with the camera's weatherproofing, also means the camera is completely portable, giving you the option to change its position on the fly.
The 116-degree field of view does capture video at 1080p, but you're limited to only 720p when in live view. While the 116-degree field of view isn't the widest, it's perfectly adequate for many household angles, and the motion detection can also identify human movement. The camera will also automatically enable night vision in low light situations. For audio, the Flex does have the capability for two-way "Canary Talk," if you're willing to pay for the feature.
Setting up the Flex is a breeze and provides users with an option to use the camera without a hub, for those who haven't invested in any smart home ecosystem. After plugging the Flex up, simply download the mobile app on your iOS or Android device and sync the camera. While many smart home devices are still tethered to the older and more cluttered 2.4 GHz band, the Flex is dual-band in case you want to use a 5.0 GHz connection.
Although the Flex doesn't have a hub, you can control multiple Canary cams through the Canary app. A web-based interface is also available. However, the web interface is only good for viewing your live stream; any management of video or settings must be done via the app.
The mark of a good security camera is the ability to set it up and let it do its thing without having to worry or fuss over it too much, and this is where the Flex mostly shines. While the Canary Flex detects you at home it doesn't record any video, and also provides you with a privacy feature that disables the camera if you're feeling a little paranoid. Also in the vein of privacy, the Flex chirps quite loudly when someone accesses the two-way talk feature.
Once the Flex detects that you're out of the house, recording mode and alerts are enabled. In this mode, any motion detected is recorded and you're alerted via the app. As you'd expect, the alerts allow you to review the video and contact the authorities if you suspect a break-in or other emergency.
While the Flex worked exactly as intended, and didn't give me any of the connection issues that I've experienced with other smart home devices and cameras, there are a couple caveats around its sensors.
First, although the Canary Flex does have human detection, I still got frequent alerts when my cat triggered the motion sensors. While not a deal breaker, the constant notifications were a mild annoyance. Given the ability of the camera to distinguish human motion, the absence of a pet-friendly notification setting seems like an oversight.
Canary Flex can tell when you're home, and automatically stop recording video, which may be comforting for those concerned about privacy.GearBrain
That said, the Flex does let you adjust the sensitivity of motion triggers, as well as set up masked areas. Masks allow you to select a portion of the monitored area to be exempt from movement triggers. However, if you're concerned about the potential of home invaders, lowering the sensitivity, or masking areas just to reduce motion detected notifications, isn't likely to appeal to you.
A second much less irksome, but still noticeable issue was the Flex's inconsistent detection of my returning home. While I never had any problem with the camera registering my leaving the house, it was a bit hit-or-miss as to whether it would notice I had returned home. Fortunately, toggling the setting manually isn't a hassle.
Is the Canary Flex For You?
Thanks to its portability and adjustable viewing angles, the Canary Flex largely lives up to its name. However, there are some notable concessions, particularly around the subscription service, that need to be taken into consideration.
While unsurprising, it is disappointing to see just how limited users will be without a subscription: you can't get full-length recordings, you're only able to retrieve one day of video history, you're not eligible for the two-way Canary Talk feature, there are limited video downloads, there aren't custom modes, and you can't stream from a desktop.
The most egregious of these limitations is the lack of full-length videos coupled with the mere 24-hour history. Furthermore, with no local storage, unsubscribed users will have to deal with a stiflingly small storage capacity.
Another potential roadblock for some people is going to be the lack of ecosystem integration. While the Flex does support Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as deeper integration via Wink, the lack of HomeKit support will, I would imagine, immediately turn some people off. While Canary has promised future hardware integration with HomeKit, the current generations of the Flex will have to do without.
You can select zones to exclude from motion — if you have a pet for example — to reduce the number of notifications you receive for certain areas of your home.GearBrain
These stumbling blocks aside, I found the Canary Flex to be an exceptional security camera. The video quality, ease of use, and fantastic portability makes it easy to recommend to those in the market for just such a device.
If you're looking for a flexible indoor/outdoor home security camera that doesn't need to be micromanaged, and having a highly integrated smart home ecosystem isn't a major concern for you, then the Canary Flex has a decent offering. On top of that, if you are willing to pick up a subscription, you're going to expand what the device will do, as well as getting the peace of mind that comes from an extended storage capacity.