There are so many wireless security cameras available, it’s hard to pick which one is going to give you peace of mind and the biggest bang for your buck. A few manufacturers are setting themselves apart by offering more than just a quick peek at your property. The Canary is one of these standouts, thanks to the incorporation of a few additional perks.
In fact, the makers of the Canary are pushing the product as an “all-in-one home security device.” That may be stretching things a bit. This bird does pack in a few sensors, a 3-axis accelerometer, and a 90+dB siren, but it’s really a camera first and foremost. It’s a really good one, too.
Made specifically for indoor use, the Canary can deliver gorgeous 1080p HD video with a 147-degree wide-angle lens, night vision, and audio. These specs may not seem like anything too out of the ordinary, but the actual enclosure is certainly something special. This thing doesn’t look like your average security camera. It’s stylish, but has the type of design that would blend really well into a bookshelf. I placed it in my living room and no one in my family even noticed it. That’s great, but know that there’s no way to mount the unit, if that’s what you’re looking for in a security solution.
To get the Canary up and running is as easy as any other wireless security camera on the market. First, you’ll need the Canary app, which is free for iOS and Android devices. The app walks you through the entire setup, first asking for an email address, password, and a name. After plugging in the camera, the app will prompt you to add a device and a location so it can pull up your address. This is important because the Canary has location features that can put the camera into Armed, Disarmed, and even Privacy modes, all based on the location of your mobile devices.
The setup also requires you to list the location of the camera (mine was in the living room), as well as whether you’re going to network it using Ethernet or a Wi-Fi connection. The final step is the strangest one in the process. It involves attaching an included yellow audio cable to the back of the camera, with the other end going into your smartphone’s headphone jack. This allows the camera and your smartphone to “communicate,” in order to set up the Canary with a secure connection. After that, my Canary did a little software update, which only took a few minutes.
Once the device is connected to your network and in place, you’ll notice an LED light around the bottom. It’s subtle, but hums along with a little green when the device is Armed or yellow when it’s Disarmed. When you put the camera into Privacy mode, the light goes off completely, as do all recording functions.
That Privacy mode is a nice bonus. If you’re wondering about who might be accessing the camera, it’s nice to have the option to shut the whole thing down. However, if you’re worried that your forgetful mind will never remember to turn the device on and off, the Canary can do that automatically—when you have that feature enabled. The auto-mode switching feature senses when your smartphone is near, and will put the Canary into one of two modes. If you want it to go into the Disarmed mode, it will continue to record motion, but without alerts. The Privacy mode completely turns off recording and alerts. Then when you leave the house, the Canary will go back into the Armed mode automatically, recording motion and delivering alerts as needed. Auto-mode switching can also be completely disabled, but I really enjoyed this option. I liked checking in on my Events list to see when I was coming and going throughout the day. Just don’t leave your phone at home, because then the camera will never flip modes and you won’t be able to catch those intruders or the dog jumping on the couch.
When the camera is Armed, it will send alerts to select mobile devices, as motion happens. When you receive an alert, you can launch the app, which provides the option to view live or recorded video, sound the siren, or call emergency services. There’s also a tag option, which will allow you to tag the motion in the video. Users can tag the motion as people, pets, sunlight, shadows, and more. The idea is that when you start tagging videos, the Canary will be able to deliver smarter alerts. In other words, maybe you won’t get so many pet-enabled notifications.
I’ve tested a few cameras over the years, but the Canary seemed to deliver the most quality alerts. For instance, I think this was one of the only cameras that didn’t send me an alert when the sun went down. That said, I did get a lot of alerts from my family just moving around throughout the day.
It’s hard to be angry about that, though. That’s what the camera is supposed to do! It also records as long as there is motion, so if you have a toddler running around the room all day, be prepared for a lot of recordings. The clips max out at 10 minutes. However, if motion continues, so will the Canary, capturing a new clip. When you go to view those recordings, you can click on a specific clip or view that lengthy motion session as one long, continuous video.
If you’re annoyed about getting alerts when family members are hanging around, you can add other people to the Canary. Of course, you will have to pair their portables with the camera as well, which means they will also get alerts and be able to check in on the app.
You can also tweak the camera’s motion sensitivity. After a few dog-related alerts, I adjusted this setting and it seemed to cut down on the number of false alerts, but was still very active when people were present. Hey, it performs as advertised. At one point, I even put the device into my front window, where it captured my family coming and going, deliveries, and even cars passing by.
Out of the box, the Canary security camera comes with a Basic monitoring plan, which will keep the last 12 hours of video history. Users can also save five clips in Canary’s cloud space for free, as well as download up to three clips directly to any mobile. If you want a little more backup, there are three paid plans. A 2-day plan offers two days of video history, an unlimited amount of video downloads, and the option to save 25 video clips in the cloud, all for $4.99 per month (or $49 per year). The 7-day plan increases access to seven days of video history, with 100 video bookmarks, for $9.99 per month or $99 per year. There’s even a 30-day plan, which delivers 30 days of video history. This plan also includes unlimited video downloads and unlimited cloud storage, all for $29.99 per month—or $299 per year.
I was fine with the Basic plan, but you may need more. Overall, the Canary is really easy to operate. My favorite part about it is the image, and that’s a good thing to be the favorite. The Canary delivered a wide angle peek, with a lot of clarity. Colors were accurate and images were sharp. Even when zooming in, the image was still a lot better than expected. At night, you’ll lose that color, but the images were still surprisingly clear. There is a slight delay in activity when watching live, but it was maybe 2 seconds.
The sound was equally clear. However, it’s surprising that the Canary does not include options for two-way audio. It has a microphone for capturing sound around the room, but the speaker is mainly for delivering that ear-piercing alarm. That said, I never really understand the need for two-way audio in a security camera. I guess you can yell at burglars or family pets, but I can confirm that the alarm scared my dog right out of the room.
The app is incredibly simple. The home page features options to watch live video, a button for switching between Armed/Disarmed/Privacy modes, a button that will allow you to view your activity and recordings, and options for settings. It also provides a quick glimpse to the temperature, humidity, and air quality levels in your home.
As mentioned, the Canary has a series of sensors built in. I found the temperature and humidity readings to be on par with the weather station readings in my living room. The air quality was interesting. According to Canary, the camera will assess whatever contaminants are in the air, which could be cooking smells, cigarette smoke, methane, carbon monoxide, and more. It just won’t tell you which ones of those things are present when it gives you an abnormal reading. For the most part, we enjoyed normal air quality. However, one night we had an outdoor fire pit and the effects definitely lingered inside—and the Canary knew it. Just know that where you place the camera (such as right next to a cold window) may skew your readings.
Other than that, there’s not much to the app. You can add additional cameras (up to four per app), change your storage plan, tweak the motion sensitivity, change emergency numbers, and add members.
For $199, it can get pricey to outfit the entire house with Canary cameras, but that price is on par with most of the wireless models out there now. This one even offers a few extra perks, such as the temperature and air quality readings. Overall though, it’s a nice little security solution. I know there were complaints when the camera was initially released about false alerts, but I didn’t have this problem at all—and that says something, because I’ve used a lot of cameras and have gotten a lot of false alerts. The storage options are also nice, if you need them.
My one gripe about the Canary is the lack of smart home integration. Currently, the camera works with the Amazon Echo and Wink, with the latter allowing: IFTTT (“If This Then That”) through Wink Shortcuts. The company is looking into making other partners, although no announcements have been made yet. If: you’re just looking for a simple solution now though, the Canary offers a stellar image and enough interesting features to make it worth serious consideration.