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Monday, March 26, 2018

Canary Flex Review

Canary Flex Review
In November 2016, we reviewed the Canary indoor camera and were impressed by its good looks, video quality, ease of set up and the great app.

Since then it launched an outdoor option: the Flex weatherproof camera. The Flex  records in 1080p through its 116-degree wide-angle lens, day and night.

Since writing both reviews, the company has taken the decision to remove a number of services in favour of asking owners to pay for these through Canary Membership. Current memberships are priced at £79 per year or £7.99 (£95.88 annually).


If you'd already bought a Canary before these changes were brought into force, you'd be rightly upset as there was no 'grandfathering' whereby existing owners weren't affected by the introduction of a paywall. For those considering a Canary now, here are the most significant changes:  

  • Non-paying customers can only see 10-second clips of footage, rather than the full video. This footage is available for 24 hours rather than full-length recordings that are available to members for 30 days.
  • Only subscrivers can download footage to their phones. 
  • Those who don’t subscribe will not be able to set night mode, which allows you to deactivate notifications while you are sleeping. 
Subscribers also get two-way Canary talk which allows you to use your phone to talk through your camera. They also get web browser streaming that provides access to live footage from your desktop as well as 30 days of recorded footage.

These changes means that - like Nest cameras - the Canary Flex (and indoor version) are basically of little use without a subscription. The subscription prices are par for the course these days, but there are plenty of home security cameras which don't force you to pay a monthly fee to access basic features. For this reason, we have reduced our original 4-star review to 2.5 stars.

HOW MUCH IS THE CANARY FLEX?
It costs £199 from John Lewis, Amazon, Curry’s, Maplin and Argos. It's $199 if you're in the US - you can also buy direct from Canary's website. It comes in both black and white versions.

This is £40 more than the indoor version, but it's well worth the premium as it can run off its lithium-ion battery as well as from the mains. (And it's waterproof of course.)

Also available are a range of accessories including:

  • A Secure Mount which enables you to screw the device into a wall mountable cradle (£29).
  • The Twist Mount which allows you to bend its tail to hook or wrap the Canary to fixing such as gates and curtain poles (£19).
  • The Stake Mount which allows you to conceal the Flex in a planter, flower bed or window box (£19.99).
FEATURES AND DESIGN
The unit itself is looks great but most importantly it is very well made and feels extremely durable. In addition to the camera, the Flex is packaged with a 360-degree magnetic swivel base that allows you to sit the camera on a flat surface indoors as well a wall mount it to an interior or external wall using the supplied hardware.

The Flex is also supplied with a mains power supply that can power the unit inside and out as well as charging it for wireless use. Canary claims that a full charge of the unit can last for up to two months of wireless use.

Although there's a speaker as well as a microphone, it's not yet enabled for two-way communication. Also, unlike the indoor camera, the Flex doesn't have air-quality sensors, nor does it record the temperature.

Installation
Like the original Canary, the Flex could not be easier to set up. Simply download the app (iOS or Android) and follow the on-screen instructions. If you already own the original Canary indoor camera you can setup the Flex your existing app and add it to your account where you can simply toggle between cameras.

My only complaint would be that although the magnetic mount works brilliantly indoors, I would have liked to have the option to secure the camera more firmly to an exterior wall without having to buy an additional accessory - the Secure Mount - and would be concerned that without this, the Flex itself could be removed or stolen by the very people you are attempting to deter.

In the end, I did install the camera using the Secure Mount. Fitting it requires just two holes to be drilled in an exterior wall before you can secure the camera in place using the supplied fittings. The mount not only firmly attaches the Flex to your wall but it also allows you to rotate the camera to find the perfect angle before locking it securely in place.

App
The app - available for iOS and Android - allows you to name each camera and it's easy to scroll between them if you have more than one. Once you have selected the Flex you're presented with a home screen where you can view the strength of your Wi-Fi connection and the remaining power in the rechargeable battery (unless you opt for a wired connection).
There are then two key functions available to you, camera mode and timeline.

The camera mode allows you to manually select one of three surveillance settings: “Away” that monitors the home in your absence, “Home” that tells the Flex you are home and disarms it and “Night” mode that allows you to schedule your Canary Flex to monitor your home when you home and sleeping. In this mode, you can set notifications so they wake you.

Home and Night modes are customisable, allowing you to set preferences for whether the camera records footage whilst you are home or enters privacy mode and whether you receive notifications during the night.

When you are away from home you can set the Flex to provide notifications for any activity it monitors, alerting you to any movement or noise and allowing you to play back footage of it. You can also opt to watch live footage from your cameras home screen, this takes a little while to load the live stream depending on Wi-Fi access but it is a useful feature.

The timeline presents you with a chronological view of activity including who’s home, any setting changes and most importantly activity history with downloadable footage which is available for the previous 24 hours (or 12 hours if you have two cameras).

You can upgrade this to store a 30 day history with a Canary Membership starting at £7.99 per month or £79 a year for a single device and increasing with each device that is added.

The motion detection uses a combination of the PIR sensor (the same type you'll find in a lot of outdoor security lights which turn on when they sense a person moving) and software algorithms. Canary says this approach increases battery life compared to just using software.

Sensitivity can be adjusted in the app from Low (1) to High (10). If you set the sensitivity to Low, your Flex will still record footage of any motion it detects but will not send you as many notifications, the opposite is true of high sensitivity mode.

In addition you can also use the app to set the recording range of the camera from short range, which preserves battery life (it just uses the PIR) to long range which uses more power.

CANARY FLEX: IMAGE AND SOUND QUALITY
The quality of footage is very good with crisp detail in daylight and it's still decent night using the camera's automatic night vision. As you can see in the image below, the angle means the image is exposed for the wall: you'll probably see more detail across the image if you point it away from the wall.

Audio quality is also extremely clear with sound recorded through its in-built microphone.

Here's a screen grab from the daytime:

Here's what it looks like at night:

This footage can be watched in both portrait and landscape modes using the Canary app and you are able to zoom into recordings using a simple tap or pinch gesture.

You can select the footage you want to download from the timeline, open the Options menu, tap 'download video' and it will be saved directly to your camera roll.

SPECS
  • HD Camera with 1080p sensor
  •   Field of View: 116°
  • Night Vision: Yes
  • Audio: Microphone + Built-in speaker
  • Power: Mains or 6700mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • Sensors: Ambient light, PIR
  • Size & Weight: 110.5 (height) x 48.3mm (diameter)
  • Weight: 240 g
  • Dedicated encryption chip: AES 256-bit data encryption
  • Encrypted cloud storage
  • Accessories: 8ft power cable, magnetic stand
  • wall-mounting hardware
  • Warranty: Two years

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