The Canary Flex is a versatile camera that can be used indoors or out. As it runs off of batteries you don't have to worry about cables when mounting it outside. The battery life depends greatly on how much activity is detected, but ours lasted more than two weeks when mounted outside in the cold. Its video quality is great, but just slightly inferior to the best models we tested. Its only weak point is in real time viewing, where it was at the bottom of the field in our testing. It is a good choice for outdoor monitoring if you don't want to pay for a subscription and don't need much video history. However, if you don't mind spending $10 a month, the Nest Cam Outdoor is much better in that capacity.
Canary Flex Review
Pros: Good video quality, useful non-subscription services, weatherproof, wireless
Cons: Real time viewing can be choppy, must be taken down and recharged periodically
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Below we further expound upon how the Canary Flex performed in each of our testing metrics.
The Canary Flex shared the score of 7 out of 10 in this metric with a number of models, putting it just behind the top score of 8.
Monitoring Services With/Without a Subscription
Without a subscription, Canary provides a 24-hour history of 10-second long clips that are triggered when the camera detects motion. This means you could miss something if there is motion for more than 10-seconds, but you'll at least get an idea of what is happening. You also get activity zone masking, so you can tell the camera to ignore motion in certain places (like out the window).
With a $10/month subscription, Canary extends that video history to 30 days of motion activated clips, and extends the maximum length of those clips to 10-minutes. Canary will also reimburse subscribers up to $1000 of insurance deductible for theft-related incidents that the camera failed to prevent. This is the only such offer we've come across. However, if you're going to pay for a subscription we feel the Nest Cam Outdoor is a better monitoring option.
Don't Forget About Recharging
The Flex runs off of a rechargeable battery, but cannot be plugged in while in use. This means that periodically you'll have to take the Flex down to recharge it (battery life varies greatly depending on use conditions, but ours easily lasted two weeks when outside in the winter cold). We felt this was a small sacrifice considering the flexibility (hey, that's where the name came from) allows, but it does mean you'll be without a camera every once in a while.
Footage captured on the Canary Flex has excellent audio. Even in echoey rooms or outside with ambient noise conversations were clear and easy to understand. The Flex does not have 2-way audio, but you can remotely sound an alarm. That alarm may make someone think the police are being contacted, but it is not particularly loud. It can barely be heard through a door, and probably wouldn't attract much attention unless people happened to be quite close by.
The Canary Flex was one of the few 1080p models we tested that did not earn a top score in our video quality testing. To be fair, its score of 7 out of 10 was just below the top score of 8 and still significantly better than the low score of 3. Both daytime and nighttime videos from this device looks clear in our testing. Where it lost points was in its field of view. The lens provides only a 116˚ field of view, which is 14˚ smaller than most of the other 1080p models. This may not seem like much, but the image covers noticeably less area when used inside, and that discrepancy only gets worse when it moves outside to broader views.
App Ease of Use
The Flex scored an 8 out of 10 in our app ease of use testing. This was just below the top score of 9, and well better than the low score of 5. The app was very easy to navigate, and things like scheduling and activity alerts were easy to adjust. It missed out on the top score because it didn't feel quite as streamlined as the Nest app, and swiping to switch between menus and camera didn't feel super intuitive.
Real Time Viewing
This is where the Flex falls off the leaderboard. It shared the worst score of 5 in this metric, well off the top score of 8. This was largely due to the 30 seconds of latency it produced in our testing. While we didn't expect any camera to be truly real time, a 30-second lag felt quite significant. In fact, only one model was worse. The video produced during real-time viewing was often choppy, with the video often freezing for a second or two before starting up again.
The Canary Flex has a rechargeable battery and can thus be placed anywhere. It sends an alert to your phone when the battery must be charged. It can be placed on any horizontal surface and has a magnetic base that will adhere to any magnetic surface. You can also install a mounting plate to mount it onto non-magnetic surfaces. The mounting plate requires two screws to install. The camera itself mounts onto the base via a magnet, and is thus quite easy to swivel in any direction.
At $200 the Flex's list price is comparable to that of other 1080p models. Due to its versatility and decent non-subscription features, this is a good value for those that want to be able to move the camera around and not pay for a subscription.
The Canary Flex is a great alternative to the Nest Cam Outdoor if you don't want to pay for a subscription, but it is slightly hampered by its poor real-time viewing performance.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata