How to Cash in Southwest Airlines’ Credit Card Points to Book an Arizona National Park Trip


Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. We don’t review or include all companies, or all available products. Moreover, the editorial content on this page was not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of Condé Nast Traveler’s editorial team.

Since resuming travel nearly two years ago after a COVID-19-induced hiatus, my trips have mainly revolved around spending time with loved ones across the country and making up for time together that was lost during pandemic lockdowns. 

But over that stretch of time, another one of my loves has fallen by the wayside: landscape photography. Prior to 2020, I visited the southwestern US frequently, traveling to national parks whenever I could with my camera in hand. But for the last few years, with little occasion to use it, my gear has sat in a cabinet untouched.

So when the opportunity arose to take a trip with Southwest Airlines focused solely on pursuing my passion, I jumped at it, heading out on an adventure through Arizona that reminded me how special traveling purely for your hobbies and interests can be. Over four days, I stared down my biggest goal (learning astrophotography) and came face-to-face with my greatest fear (a tarantula named Honey), stopping to take in every awe-inspiring sunrise and sunset in between.

Here’s how you can replicate the trip—or plan a trip around your own passion—using benefits that come with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit cards from Chase.

Planning the trip and maximizing points

The first thing I did when trip-planning (after convincing my sister, a fellow photography and national parks enthusiast, to join me) was look for non-stop flights between my home of Portland, Oregon, and Phoenix. I used cash to buy round-trip flights, and if you also go that route, using a Southwest credit card can help you rack up extra bonus points on the purchase: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card each earn three Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card earns two points per dollar.

But if you’re looking to save money for dining out and activities, there’s plenty of availability to use Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points to book flights, as the airline has no blackout dates when redeeming them. And the best part: Right now, it’s possible to cover this trip for two people with a single sign-up bonus on any of the personal credit cards in Chase’s Southwest lineup.

Between now and March 13, you can earn 30,000 points—plus a Companion Pass valid through the end of February 2024—after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening, whether you’re eyeing the Priority, the Premier, or the Plus. The 30,000 points are more than enough to cover a round-trip flight for one person to Phoenix on many dates—including prime dates in March, one of the nicest months in Arizona weather-wise—and the Companion Pass allows you to bring another designated person along on every trip for just the price of the taxes and fees on your ticket, from $5.60 one way.

On the day of travel, I opted for an Uber to the airport, which is another purchase that earns bonus points with all three cards: Each nets two points per dollar on local transit and commuting, a category that includes rideshares.

The in-flight experience

Once at the airport, I checked my rolling suitcase since my camera bag and purse ate up my carry-on allowance. Southwest allows each passenger to check up to two bags for free, pending weight and size limits—but skis, golf bags, and in some cases, even surfboards fly free, making it a great airline option for a hobby-based trip with a gear consideration.

I then headed to my gate, and for the first time ever, I had priority boarding, which is another perk you can access through the Southwest credit cards. Because I was within the first few people to board the flight, I was able to snag the bulkhead aisle seat, meaning I was also among the first people to exit the aircraft when we landed. 

While anyone can purchase Upgraded Boarding where available for $30 per segment, the Priority credit card comes with four Upgraded Boardings per year—a benefit worth $120, nearly the card’s entire $149 annual fee, if put to good use. While the Premier and Plus cards don’t carry that same perk, they do come with two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year, allowing you to secure an earlier boarding position than most fellow fliers.

While en route from Portland to Phoenix, I purchased Wi-Fi onboard to make a few restaurant reservations (The Mission in Old Town Scottsdale was a hit) and put the finishing touches on our itinerary. Holders of any of the three Southwest personal cards receive 25 percent back on in-flight purchases, making it easy to do the same.

Where I stayed

After deplaning, I headed straight to the rental car center to pick up a vehicle, which was critical for getting to the locale we planned the trip around: Saguaro National Park. 

All three cards in the Southwest personal card trio earn two points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and luckily for cardholders, the partner lists are extensive. I chose Hertz for my rental and after a smooth pickup process was on my way.

To maximize photography opportunities and minimize drive time, I planned to spend the first and fourth days of the trip in Scottsdale and the middle two days in the Tucson area, booking one night at The Phoenician, a member of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, and two at The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, also part of Marriott’s portfolio. 

Marriott is another one of Southwest’s partners, meaning if you book these hotels using the Priority, Premier, or Plus card, you’ll earn two Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points per dollar, on top of any Marriott points you’ll earn on your stay if you’re part of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.

An unforgettable four days

Aside from meeting that tarantula—whom a tour guide introduced us to before our screams convinced him to put her away—the trip couldn’t have gone better. Both the Phoenix and Tucson areas are chock full of stunning landscapes and incredible photo opportunities, not to mention additional chances for Southwest cardholders to rack up points. The three cards earn one point per dollar spent on everyday purchases, an umbrella that covered most of our remaining trip expenses.

In the Phoenix area, those included entrance to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West estate and studio and Desert Botanical Garden. Around Tucson, we rode horses through the desert, saw succulents up close on a Jeep tour, and watched the sun peek over the mountains from a hot air balloon.

The highlight of the trip? A private astrophotography workshop with Sean Parker Photography near Saguaro National Park. While the clouds scuttled the chance to shoot the stars, they also provided the perfect backdrop to the cacti for some epic nighttime landscape shots—and gave me a reason to start immediately planning my next trip back to this corner of the country.

After a packed four days, it was time once again to check my bag for free, board my Southwest flight early, and grab an Uber back to my apartment, capping off an unbelievable trip I won’t soon forget.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 


The Galaxy S23 Ultra Is Great, but Would Be Better if It Folded


I struggle to look at any other Samsung smartphone now that I’ve been living with its foldables. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 has effectively changed how I use Android. Most of the time, I’ll only bother with my Google Pixel 7 if someone is calling the number linked to that phone. Otherwise, you’ll see me primarily on the foldable. It’s just so much more versatile for the life I lead.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, but I missed the Fold while reviewing this one. Samsung’s ultimate new flagship device is everything you could want in a smartphone, but there is also a lot here that feels like overkill now that we’re in the second iteration of the Ultra and its stylus-wielding ways. In fact, I forgot to use the stylus until about two days ago (I don’t draw). And while four cameras are a great back-of-the-box brag, I still don’t understand how to push them to the extent they’ve been marketed as being capable of, and I realize I probably never will. And I like high spec phones!

Regardless, the Ultra still has plenty going for it, including a better design than the last generation. Those rear-facing cameras may not be enough to justify the price to casual users, but their post processing algorithms are just as good as Google’s—better in some cases. The Ultra even has a few features I think foldables are still missing—like that stowable stylus.

But when it comes to targeting genuine innovation as opposed to niche specialty features, the Ultra might miss the mark compared to both the competition and Samsung’s other phones.

The best Ultra yet

If you like big phones, you’ll love the Galaxy S23 Ultra (I don’t—it’s not foldable). It has a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, categorized as such because it’s based on tech that allows the display to dynamically change refresh rates without killing the battery. The jury is still out on how much battery that display tech saves, and I’ll get more into that when we talk about the battery rundown results later. Still, the display that Samsung has going here is like carrying a tiny version of its TVs in your pocket.

You might have gotten into the Galaxy line because you love Samsung’s displays. I can’t blame you. Like on the S22 Ultra, the screen on the S23 Ultra is a 1440p resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate. I love watching TV on this thing, even the 720p classics like Taxi and One Day at a Time. What I especially appreciate about Samsung is how low the brightness can go so that I can fall asleep to those shows at the end of the night without lighting up the room. Samsung enables the use of Android 12’s extra dim mode, and with that turned on, the phone doesn’t go any higher than about 350 nits—the standard rate is around 430 nits, or a whopping 1,750 nits if you’re out in direct sunlight and using the adaptive brightness feature.

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Galaxy S23 Ultra houses an S Pen inside its chassis.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The best part about the new Galaxy S23 Ultra is that Samsung fixed some of what I didn’t like with the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s design. Mainly, it squared off the edges instead of rounding them, so it’s easy to cradle the phone one-handed. I finally felt confident that I wasn’t going to drop it. I’m glad Samsung stopped with the overtly rounded edges, which are also annoying to use when you’re tapping on the edge of the screen.

This is still a gigantic smartphone. I hope you have big hands if you plan to play games on this thing. My small hands and long claws had difficulty cradling the Ultra to play with on-screen controls in games like Dreamlight Valley through Xbox Game Pass, and my wrists got weary holding the phone to control my character in Riptide GP: Renegade. The first-gen Razer Kishi controller that I use for Android gaming also feels as if it’s stretched to capacity on this phone, as if the Galaxy S23 Ultra will pop out at any minute. Unless it’s a point-and-tap game, I use a Bluetooth controller to play games on the S23 Ultra. The OnePlus 11’s similarly sizeable 6.7-inch display, comparatively, feels less ginormous because it doesn’t have the Ultra’s squared-off corners and the chassis is narrower.

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is a big phone, make no mistake.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Galaxy S23 Ultra utilizes an in-display fingerprint sensor and face unlock for added lock screen security. It’s best that Samsung didn’t carry over the power button fingerprint sensor like on the Z Fold 4, because I am constantly accidentally pressing that one and locking myself out of it. Scanning in a fingerprint or smiling at the Ultra felt fast and responsive unless I wore a mask or sunglasses.

The default sorage space on the S23 Ultra has thankfully been bumped up to 256GB. It starts there and goes all the way up to 1TB, if you can stomach paying for it (doing so will add $420 on top of the base storage’s cost). The Ultra is also IP68 rated for water and dust resistance.

Qualcomm with Samsung flavoring

Something to note about this year’s Galaxy S23 lineup is that it runs a unique flavor of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Rather than use the one that came right out of the box, Samsung infused some of its AI smarts to tune camera and performance algorithms to its liking. The company already does this to some effect with its Exynos chips overseas, and it’s bringing that expertise to the phones sold in the states to one-up Google’s homemade Tensor processor. Sometimes it works.

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

If you like to game, the S23 Ultra can serve. But its big size may not be easy for everyone to cradle.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is available with 8GB and 12GB of RAM, which seems absurd. The Ultra should have 12GB of memory as the standard, since it’s technically the ultimate Samsung phone. Even with the 12GB of RAM, you can’t tell that the chip inside the Galaxy S23 Ultra is any beefier than what’s inside the similarly-specced OnePlus 11. On paper, and in Geekbench 5 (which will be Geekbench 6 in our reviews going forward), the Galaxy S23 Ultra performed better than OnePlus 11 by only about 300 points on the single-core score and 400 points on the multi-core one. But that proves little about whether Samsung’s infused chip is faster or more able than OnePlus’s vanilla one in actual use. Considering the Google Pixel 7 Pro is a laughing stock on the benchmark charts but not in real-world use—it ranks with 400 points less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra—it’s hard to use these benchmarks as the sole test for what’s possible. Anyway, neither of these Android devices can hold a candle to the numbers that Apple’s A16 Bionic spits out.

The upside to having such a powerful smartphone is that it can do everything: play games locally and from the cloud, create and edit documents, quickly export edited videos, process RAW photos, and chat with whoever. The Ultra can handle each of these cases with absolute ease, but that’s expected from a phone that I’ve been running for about three weeks. The real test for these devices is how they do after a year in the hand.

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

Riptide GP: Renegade runs smoothly on the S23 Ultra, but it’s too big to comfortably play for my hands.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I echo the sentiments of a few other reviews: the Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn’t get as hot as previous versions of the device or even other Android phones. I fell asleep next to it a few nights in a row while it was charging and playing Pluto TV, and I didn’t feel the usual heat emanating as the battery fueled up for the next day. It did get toasty once while I was mindlessly scrolling through TikTok (as I often do), and it was significant enough that I remember saying, “I should probably mention this in the review.”

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max lasts longer

I’m sorry to include Apple in the subhead of a Samsung Galaxy review. But I remain impressed by the battery test on Apple’s latest flagship, and it’s now the benchmark for every other flagship phone review.

Samsung’s 5,000 mAh battery is enormous while remaining the same size as in last year’s Ultra. Whatever Samsung did on the backend to extend battery life has worked thus far—the S23 Ultra beat out the S22 Ultra by about two hours, lasting 18 hours and 33 minutes. But that’s nothing to Apple’s nearly 24-hour battery life on its large iPhone 14 Pro Max. I want some of whatever magic Apple has going on with its software to come to Android land.

These results translated to using the phone daily, too. As I mentioned, I’m a TikTok freak, and I was surprised to see that the Ultra chewed through only 23% of its battery life in five hours after mixed-use, which included tuning into my Disney streamer.

Move over, Pixel camera

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

The back of the Galaxy S23 Ultra houses four camera sensors.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Because the Galaxy S23 Ultra is being dubbed as “ultimate,” its cameras are appropriately extreme. They’re also the key upgrade point here, and took up the majority of Samsung’s announcement event for this phone. The primary camera is a 200-MP standard wide-angle lens with optical image stabilization (OIS) and an f/1.7 aperture. The ultra-wide camera is a 12-MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. And the two telephoto lenses on the back also have OIS, though one has an f/2.4 aperture with a maximum 3x optical zoom, and the other is f/4.9 with a 10x optical zoom. The maximum digital zoom for this camera is 100x, just like the S22 Ultra.

A photo taken with the Galaxy S23 Ultra

An unedited photo shot at dusk with the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Whenever someone outside of the Android bubble realizes the Galaxy S23 Ultra has four cameras on the back, they often ask me, “why?” The answer is so it has camera lenses for every foreseeable situation. For instance, if you’re chasing your kid around the park, you want that quick 3x optical zoom to capture them in the frame and up close. The result is a background bokeh effect that helps make the image instantly shareable on Instagram without using Portrait mode. Or if you happen to be lying down at the park, only to hear the roar of a jet engine approaching overhead, you can use the 10x optical zoom to get a closer look and maybe even post it to TikTok. For epic sky days, when the clouds seem to be cruising through as if they’re fresh cotton candy spun right out of the bin, the ultra wide-angle camera helps increase the drama when shared in your secret Slack channel of friends obsessed with sunsets.

Photo samples from the Galaxy S23 Ultra

Even with two dedicated telephoto cameras, it’s not always the best at zooming in to see what’s yonder.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Nowadays, most smartphone cameras are capable of everything I just described, but Samsung purports a higher resolution and greater color and distance detail. These are the cameras we have on us every day, and Samsung argues that these are the digital memories we’ll be pulling from as we struggle to remember our lives someday in the future.

That’s not to say that every photo the Galaxy S23 Ultra produces is perfect. Zooming past the 10x optical limit requires praying that the image won’t be jaggy or over-sharpened. There were so many instances on the evening of my daughter’s third birthday that the pictures of her punching around a balloon came out looking blurry—a real bummer for me as I was trying to find a cute one to share within group chats. I also tried staying up one night to capture the Air Force flying their planes in the sky above, and I could not produce anything worth sharing.

A photo taken with the Galaxy S23 Ultra

Another unedited photo shot with the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

As it stands, the 200-MP sensor on the Galaxy S23 Ultra isn’t shooting in its full resolution at all times. Like most flagship smartphones, including the iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7, Samsung uses pixel-binning, so the phone shoots like a 12-MP camera with 16 pixels within each megapixel. The result is brighter photos throughout with better detail. I preferred the 12-MP images worked over by the algorithm over the full 200-MP raw ones, which usually require some post-editing, anyway. I want to avoid editing a photo while just trying to share it on social media.

You can see more clearly how the Galayx S23 Ultra’s post-processing stacks up compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Pixel 7 Pro in the slideshow I put together here. For the most part, I found Samsung’s algorithms to veer towards being saturated, though it was impressive at tempering the final product to maintain detail where it mattered. The most obvious example is a photo where I shot the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara; the S23 Ultra held on to the subtle detail of the sunset, lighting up the ridges without over-contrasting them.

I wrote more about Expert RAW in the other piece, including Samsung’s improved astrophotography feature. I wish that Samsung would have extracted this feature on its own rather than buried it inside another download that has to be enabled in the camera app before anyone knows it’s even there. Samsung includes all these unique camera features as if we’re supposed to know how to use them right out of the box. But as with the improved nighttime video recording capabilities teased during the Ultra’s debut at Galaxy Unpacked earlier this month, I had no idea where to start. Just because a smartphone can do all these fancy things doesn’t mean that the general population will aspire to that. And after ten years of reviewing smartphones, I might also give up.

That’s a big problem, as the camera system here is a major selling point and a major justification for the price tag. Compare that to Apple, which due to making both the iPhone and iOS, is able to bundle its phones with tons of everyday usability conveniences.

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Galaxy S23 Ultra offers so many different camera modes that I’m often too overwhelmed to play with any.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Before we move on from the cameras, there are a few other things to note: video recording on this smartphone is aces, even without a tripod. But for stability’s sake, I’ve been propping the Ultra up on a handheld tripod and following my kid around at 60 fps. The video is so smooth! The Ultra maxes out at 30 frames per second in 8K resolution for video recording, and there’s a Pro Video mode if you’re comfortable with tweaking camera settings. The front-facing camera is a 12-MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture; annoyingly, it doesn’t zoom in or out.

Does a smartphone need a stylus?

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

The S Pen has always been a nice-to-have, but it feels more fitting for a tablet-style device.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Samsung’s S Pen has been around for a long while. It’s as iconic as Paris Hilton’s chihuahuas in the 2000s (RIP to them all). Last year’s Ultra was the first time it appeared in the regular Galaxy lineup after the sunsetting of the Galaxy Note series of yore. But functionally, it’s similar to what the S Pen could do before it. You can pop it out for drawing and cropping when the situation on screen calls for it—accommodating for business people doing precise things, like needing to move a cursor within a document or having to sign off on a contract while in line somewhere. But I’m starting to realize this screen is too limited for anything art driven. Granted, I’m not an artist, but if I imagine myself as a college student (again), the S Pen would feel much more appropriate docked inside a gadget like the Z Fold 4, with can open up into a larger display that’s fit for highlighting and making digital notes. That’s a form factor that lends itself to a stylus rather than the cramped screen on the S23 Ultra.

The other problem with the S Pen is that it requires its own space inside the chassis to dock. That’s the tradeoff for a phone slightly too big for your pocket or those straddling gaming controllers. As much as the S Pen is an iconic tool, I don’t know that it belongs on a smartphone anymore, even if you can use it as a Bluetooth controller.

Samsung’s version of Android

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung’s software is fine, but often it doubles up on Google’s offerings.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Galaxy S23 Ultra ships with One UI 5, based on the latest version of Android 13. The One UI 5.1 update is the one that everyone’s waiting for right now, since it includes features like Bixby Text Calling, which works similarly to the Pixel’s Screen Calling. This feature is now live in English (it was available only in Korea until now), but I couldn’t get it to work during my testing period. I hope to revisit this and some of Bixby’s other features later, as I’m curious to understand the benefits of sticking with it over the tried-and-true (even if sometimes frustrating) Google Assistant.

I don’t mind Samsung’s version of Android, especially not since adopting the foldable. I realized it comes with the benefit of Samsung tweaking what Google gave it to its devices, even if it doesn’t have any semblance of Android’s interface framework, called Material You. Samsung offers some neat integration with Microsoft’s Your Phone app on Windows PCs that’s beyond the default experience, including the ability to control your device from the desktop remotely. There’s also the ability to snap a photo in Expert RAW and have it immediately populate in Adobe Lightroom. These abilities are nice to have, but like the Galaxy S22 Ultra last year, I hardly ever considered using them after the review period was over. They’re not a reason to go out and buy a phone.

Still too much phone

A photo of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

I hope you enjoyed reading this entire review only to have me tell you to buy a foldable.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I know there are people out there salivating over the Galaxy S23 Ultra. They want the best that Samsung has to offer in its lineup, whether it’s for bragging rights or because they want all those lenses and this is the only camera they’ll own. I get all that, but I still think the Ultra is a bit of overkill in a market where we’re all screaming for a deal. There are still two other models of the Galaxy S23 that I have yet to review, and though they’re smaller devices with slightly different chassis, they more or less deliver the same Samsung experience across the board for less. They’re priced a little over the Pixel 7 lineup, starting at $800 and $1,000 for the S23 and S23+, respectively.

If you’re going to spend a starting price of $1,200 on any Android smartphone, I’m pleading with you to get a foldable instead. Yes, it’s a new kind of form factor with dubious longevity, but it’s not going away any time soon. For many, even those who want the best, camera fidelity will reach a point diminishing returns. But a foldable drastically changes every user’s experience. There is more competition cropping up overseas and the rumor mill is getting louder as more manfacturers are hopping on board this new smartphone fad. At the very least, if you’re spending a whopping amount of money on a smartphone, get something that’s a bonafide phone and a tablet for the price.

Better and better cameras are perhaps not what each new generation of a phone should be targeting, at least anymore.


3 Easy Astrophotography Targets for Beginners


Easy astrophotography projects for beginners

In this post, I will describe how you can capture three of the easiest and most rewarding deep-sky astrophotography targets in the night sky.

Unlike some of the more advanced projects I take on, you can capture these objects using a basic, affordable astrophotography kit in your backyard. 

I’ll walk you through the process of finding and capturing the objects, and the astrophotography equipment I recommend. 

In general, astrophotography can be difficult, but these targets are nearly foolproof, and I’ll explain why.

What Makes These ‘Easy’ Targets?

It might sound strange to hear to words ‘easy’ and ‘astrophotography’ in the same sentence. The process of successfully capturing a distant object in space is not something you can learn overnight, but these targets will make the experience a little more approachable. 

First off, all three of the targets I recommend are bright. The brighter deep-sky nebulae and galaxies are easier to find, and capture (on a basic level). This becomes especially important when you are taking photos from a backyard in the city where there is a high amount of light pollution. City lights make finding and framing dimmer objects more difficult, and this can create frustration and confusion outside.

The best part is, these objects don’t require any specialized filters or an astro-modified camera to capture. Some of the best examples of these targets were taken with a regular old DSLR camera like the one I’ll use in this post. This is good news if you’re a beginner and haven’t added any filters to your setup yet. 

3 Easy Astrophotography Targets

So what are the targets? 

These are the three beginner-level deep-sky targets I recommend, which can all be captured right now, and into the winter season. 

  • Pleiades Star Cluster: a cluster of super-bright stars with an amazing glow of wispy blue reflection nebulosity around it.
    It’s one of the overall easiest targets to get started on, but the bright stars can also be tricky to get right in the processing.
  • Orion Nebula: as one of the most popular deep-sky targets, I’m sure you have already heard of the Orion Nebula. It’s easy to find (thanks to its brightness) and there are plenty of nearby bright stars to help you find it and focus your camera. The intense luminosity of Orion makes it easier to capture, however, capturing the full dynamic range will keep you busy well into the intermediate and advanced stages of your astrophotography journey.
  • Rosette Nebula: this target isn’t located too far from Orion, but it’s a little harder to find. This object involves a beautiful cluster of stars, with a symmetrical ‘flower’ of nebulosity around it. It is a big fan favorite and for good reason.

Of course, each one has its own challenges, but all of them are bright, colorful, and rewarding to capture using entry-level astrophotography gear.

DSLR Camera


Even though these objects are bright, you’ll want to make use of tracking to capture these objects in all their glory. A portable star tracker or an equatorial telescope mount will allow you to record the long-exposure images needed for a detailed shot. 

Below is a detailed list of the gear you will need, including the gear I used, to capture these targets. 

  • Camera: The camera can be any DSLR or mirrorless camera. For the purposes of capturing these images, I used one of the cheapest DSLR cameras Canon makes, the Rebel T7. It’s a stock, crop-sensor DSLR, and you can pick one up with a lens for about 400 bucks. To make things easier on your neck, I recommend going for the T7i version with the flip-out screen if you can afford it. It can be a little awkward without this feature, especially when your target is straight up in the sky.
  • Lens: In terms of optics, a telephoto camera lens or a small telescope with a focal length of about 300-400mm is ideal. In my case, attached to the camera is an old Canon EF 300mm F/4 that I bought used for about 700 bucks many years ago. This prime lens isn’t perfect by any means, but it uses some quality glass and mimics the telescope experience in terms of focal length and aperture.
  • Tracker: I used one of the most affordable options available, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer. This tracker allows me to match the apparent rotation of the night sky and take longer exposures than I could on a stationary tripod.
  • Accessories: a remote shutter release cable to run a sequence of images and a simple lens warmer to avoid the build up of frost on the lens. Oh, and a piece of electrical tape, but I’ll explain what that’s for later.

Camera and lens Star-trackerRebel T7, Canon EF 300mm F/4, and Star Adventurer Star Tracker 

My Approach

Below I will walk you through the process from setting up your equipment to image processing. For the sake of showing you all the targets at once, I shot all three targets in one night. I would suggest focusing on one target at a time to allow for more overall integration time. 

Equipment Set Up

When setting up in my backyard, I always keep in mind the location of both the north star and my intended deep-sky objects. Use Polaris to polar align the tracker at dusk, when only the brightest stars and planets are visible. This gets much harder once dark, especially for a beginner.

Polar Alignment

Using the adjustment bolts on star tracker to polar align at dusk

Polar alignment involves looking through the polar axis of the tracker, and moving the up and down, left to right (or alt/az) adjustment bolts on the mount. You can use a free app on your phone to guide you in the right direction. Then, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the placement of Polaris to match the reference image on your screen.

Polar Utility Check App

Once the tracker is polar aligned, it’s very important that you don’t move it or knock it out of position by kicking a tripod leg. If this happens, you’ll need to polar align again because accurate polar alignment is absolutely critical.

Focusing Your Camera 

Thankfully, these objects are so bright and obvious, we can skip over some of the added time and frustration that comes with locating dimmer objects. But, if you need help locating any of these targets, a planetarium app is helpful. 

I’ll start by pointing the camera and lens toward the Orion Nebula. This object has the added benefit of helping you find your initial focus by using any of the several bright stars within the field of view.

Orion has several bright stars in the field of view and I can use those to focus the lens while on target but this is not always the case. This is another reason why the Orion Nebula is such an approachable deep-sky target for beginners.

The process of focusing the lens can be a little finicky. The best advice I have for focusing on a star is to use the live view mode on your camera and then zoom in 10X.

When you rack focus back and forth, you may notice a purple fringe that turns green (chromatic aberration) as you go in and out. Try to find the sweet spot where as much of that color goes away. Use a piece of electrical tape to tape your position down and keep your lens from slipping out of focus.

If you’re having trouble finding your initial camera focus, you can use an even brighter star like Sirius, a bright planet, or even a distant street lamp.

focus the camera lens

Using the planet Jupiter to help focus the camera lens

Camera Settings

The camera settings I used are nothing special. A variation of these settings can be applied to nearly any deep-sky imaging session. However, if low-light photography is new to you, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Be sure you are using manual or bulb mode to tap into those longer exposures. This includes a low f-stop to gather more light and a higher ISO setting than you’re probably used to. For example, tonight I’ll take 90-second exposures using ISO 800, at F/5.6.

  • File Type: RAW
  • Camera Mode: Bulb
  • White Balance: Daylight
  • Aperture: F/5.6
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter: 90-seconds

The type of lens you’re using might limit your f-stop setting. I could shoot at F/4 with this lens, but I know those stars will tighten up if I stop down, so I am willing to sacrifice a little light-gathering power. 

You can try shooting wide-open with your lens, but you may find that it performs better 1 or 2 stops down. An ISO setting of 3200 is high, yes – but most of the noise we see in a single sub-exposure will cancel out after we stack the images.

My initial plan was to shoot at ISO 1600. I changed it to 800 due to the amount of light pollution in my backyard. It was too bright to capture 90-second sub-exposures without washing everything out. So you may have to see what works for your location.

Imaging Session

Once you’ve completed focusing your lens, take a test exposure to see how your target is framed. You’ll want to make sure your target is centered in the field of view. 

During my session, Orion and the Pleiades were quite easy to line up in the center of my DSLR screen using live view but the Rosette was not.

The cluster of stars in this nebula were visible but much fainter and less obvious than the other two targets. To manually center this target, I had to take a number of test exposures and star-hop over from recognizable patterns nearby.

This is something I’ve done before but if you’re new to this process, the Rosette may be too difficult to locate from a city sky.

Once you’re happy with the framing, you can set your remote shutter release cable to continuously take 90-second shots, with a 10-second break in between. 

To make the image processing easier later, consider moving the position of your camera ever so slightly after every 5 subs or so.

It only needs to be a few pixels so I am talking a tiny, careful movement in both axis. This is called dithering, and the more robust astro setups can automate this for you.

If you’re not comfortable with this yet, it’s not the end of the world but you may see some ‘walking noise’ in your final image.

Easy Astrophotography Projects


In my case, since I was shooting all three targets in one night, I repeated the same settings and refocus for the next two targets.

My initial plan was to capture at least an hour on each target, which is enough to create an acceptable image.

However, if you’re going for a great image, this is considered a short amount of time. I wouldn’t advise shooting three targets in a single night, get as much time on a single object as you can.

image stacking

I reviewed my sub-exposures in Adobe Bridge before stacking.

Image Stacking

Once you have finished imaging and have looked at the data, you may notice that some exposures are sharper than others.

Don’t worry about this. We will stack the best 80% of the image exposures to ensure we’re only using the ‘good’ frames.

To improve the image quality, you can use autoguiding to ensure every frame is perfect, but that adds complexity and cost to the setup.

I used DeepSkyStacker to score the best frames and stack all of the images together. This is a free windows-based stacking software that continues to deliver great results despite all of the great paid tools available.

I took 15 dark frames at the end of my session (with the lens cap on), which were the same length, ISO, and temperature as my light frames.

Image Processing

After you’re done stacking, you will have your master file(s) that are ready for adjustments in Photoshop (or whatever image processing software you use).

When it comes to deep-sky astrophotography, everyone has their own processing style. However, minimizing the star size, increasing saturation, and creating more separation between the object and the background sky, tend to be universally enjoyed.

I performed my image processing in Adobe Photoshop, and want to share a few key steps:

  • Gradient Removal: if you’re dealing with gradients in the background sky, I recommend the Gradient Xterminator add-on. It does a great job at evening out the sky so we can focus on bringing out the colors in the image, such as the blue reflection nebula in the Pleiades.
  • Reduce Star Size: you can easily reduce the size of the stars in your image which is a great way to make the deep-sky object stand out. The process involves making a careful selection of just the stars. In Photoshop, select color range, highlights, adjust the radius, and feather the mask. Then you can use the minimum filter select to ’roundness’ and apply it to all of the stars.
  • Increase Saturation: you can also use a mask to select your deep-sky object, and increase the saturation. This way you aren’t bringing out any color noise from the background sky as well. The same mask will help you make curve stretches to the data too. It’s all about creating separation between the object and the sky.

star minimizing in Photoshop

Minimizing star size in Adobe Photoshop (watch the video tutorial).

I know this sounds like a lot to take in. So feel free to watch some of my previous image processing videos on my YouTube channel, go through my tutorials online, or get my Premium Image Processing Guide created for beginners. 

The Results

Despite the limited integration, which was only about 30-40 minutes for each target, I think the data looks pretty darn good.

No filters, no camera modifications, not even a telescope – just a cheap DSLR camera and a decent lens with tracking.

Orion Nebula (26 x 90-seconds)

Orion Nebula

The Pleiades (30 x 90-seconds)

Pleiades Star Cluster

Rosette Nebula (25 x 90-seconds)

Rosette Nebula

Final Thoughts

My goal for this post was to prove to you that incredible deep-sky astrophotography results are possible using basic equipment, but it all comes down to your approach. 

I also wanted to give you a head start, by explaining why the 3 targets mentioned in this post offer your best chance at a successful image on your first night out. 

Capturing 3 objects in one night was a little overall ambitious on my part, but I think the key points I was trying to make were illustrated. I urge you to give one of these 3 ‘easy’ astrophotography targets a try, and please let me know how you made out in the comments.

Until next time, clear skies!

Related Content

Related Posts

  • Canon Rebel XSi

Share This

Related Tags


The Webb Telescope Fires Back Jaw-Dropping New Galaxy Images


The James Webb Space Telescope—a $10 billion observatory that sees beyond human vision and into the infrared—has sent back more images of galaxies in unprecedented resolution.

The images are the subject of a special issue of journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters this week that features a whopping 21 research papers that together tease-out new details about the beginnings of star formation and how that affects the evolution of huge galaxies.

The images were all taken using JWST’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), a camera and a spectrograph that sees light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum and takes better-than-Hubble wide-field astrophotography images.

JWST’s ability to see in infrared means it can look through dust clouds that block visible light reaching telescopes like Hubble. However, as this image (above) of the “Phantom Galaxy” shows, JWST is also proving a huge step forward when compared to its predecessor, the infrared-capable Spitzer Space Telescope, which was live between 2003 and 2020. The galaxy is about 32 million light-years distant in the constellation of Pisces.

“Since Spitzer was retired, we haven’t had much access to the mid-infrared spectrum, but JWST is incredible,” said Karin Sandstrom, Associate Professor of Physics at University of California San Diego and co-author of one of the new papers, on the interstellar medium (the gas and dust between galaxies). Spitzer had a mirror that was 0.8 meters whereas JWST’s mirror is 6.5 meters. “It’s a huge telescope and it has amazing instruments,” said Sandstrom. “I’ve been waiting a very long time for this.”

The new details displayed in these images are spectacular and scientifically important.

NGC 1433, pictured above, is a barred spiral galaxy with a bright core surrounded by two rings that are each producing stars. JWST’s infrared images—translated into visible color using filters—include bubbles of gas where stars have released energy into their surrounding environment in their birth-throes.

NGC 1433 is about 46 million light-years distant in the southern hemisphere constellation of Horologium and known as a Seyfert galaxy because of its active nuclei.

It’s hoped that images like this can help researchers map the structure of molecular clouds that stars form from as well as the gas surrounding baby stars to get to the bottom of how a galaxy forms new stars.

“Areas which are completely dark in Hubble imaging light up in exquisite detail in these new infrared images, allowing us to study how the dust in the interstellar medium has absorbed the light from forming stars and emitted it back out in the infrared, illuminating an intricate network of gas and dust,” said Sandstrom.

Another image published this week—though actually the first spiral galaxy JWST looked at when its science phase began in mid-2022—is of NGC 7496. A spiral galaxy about 24 million light-years away in the constellation of Grus, it’s stuffed with star clusters and dust lanes.

In this image, above, its spiral arms are flecked with huge bubbles that are the result of baby stars releasing energy.

In this image (below) of NGC 1365, a double-barred spiral galaxy about 56 million light-years away in the constellation Fornax, clumps of dust and gas in the interstellar medium have absorbed the light from forming stars and emitted it back out in the infrared. For the first time astronomers can see what’s going on inside the galaxy.

All of these stunning images are part of one of the early “Webb Treasury” studies. The long-running Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) survey has been building a dataset that investigates the links between stars and cold molecular gas in spiral galaxies, most recently using Hubble, but also the ALMA radio observatory and the Very Large Telescope, both in Chile.

The international research team is now using JWST to survey the stars, star clusters, and dust that lie within 19 nearby galaxies. Five have now taken place—four of which feature here—with 14 more to come.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.


Ghost bike memorial installed in SLO to honor slain cyclist: ‘Life is very fragile’


Feb. 16—Andreas Kooi had a knack for making people feel comfortable in their own skin.

“He was always a big goofball,” Kooi’s friend Jacob Montag said. “He just carried a big heart with him, and a big love for creativity, expression, and just showing kindness to other people.”

Kooi, an incoming Cal Poly graduate student, was fatally injured on Aug. 6, 2021, when a 17-year-old driver crashed into his bike near the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Broad Street in San Luis Obispo.

On Feb. 4, Kooi’s family and friends remembered his kindness, intelligence and authenticity as they installed a ghost bike memorial near the scene of the crash on Foothill Boulevard to honor the 24-year-old.

Kooi’s father, Jacob Kooi, thanked the group for their “enormous energy and love and community support.”

Friends, family install ghost bike memorial

About 40 people gathered at the ghost bike memorial site on Foothill Boulevard on Feb. 4, including Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, San Luis Obispo Police Department officers and members of Bike SLO County. The emergency room nurse who received Kooi at the hospital on the night of the crash was also in the crowd.

Kooi’s friend Liam Somers and his brother, David Kooi, attached the ghost bike to a road sign near the scene of the crash. Friends and family left bouquets of orange, purple and white flowers on the bike, which was painted white.

“Damn, that’s beautiful,” Somers said during the installation.

The front wheel of the bike is decorated with spoons bent into music notes to show Kooi’s love for music, along with a cut-out of a video camera to show his passion for filmmaking.

The side of the bike facing the street features a plaque that says “SLO Down” to remind motorists to be careful around cyclists, Kooi’s brother David said.

The side of the bike facing the sidewalk features a plaque with Kooi’s photo and a QR code to his memorial website.

The plaque also displays the music symbol of a fermata over a long rest played at triple forte, which directs the musician to allow a silence that lasts as long as the conductor decides.

“That’s pretty symbolic of the hope that we have in seeing Andreas again,” Kooi’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Kooi, said. “It’s kind of up to God.”

The family also added a sticker to the bike from the Organ Donor Association. Kooi’s organs were donated to at least eight people, according to his father, Jacob Kooi.

“It’s comforting, in a way, and also encouraging that life is very fragile,” Jacob Kooi said, drawing parallels between Jesus Christ’s transition to spiritual life and his son’s. “I’d like to encourage everybody to sign up to be an organ donor.”

Kooi’s mother, Helen, shared a Bible verse, Philippians 1:21. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” she quoted.

The back wheel of the bike is adorned with stars, representative of Andreas Kooi’s love for astrophotography and stargazing trips with his friends. They also symbolize how Kooi was “a rising star,” his father said.

A Christian cross is placed above the back wheel, pointing toward the sky.

Traditionally, ghost bikes don’t include personalized decorations, “but we wanted to give it some more jazz,” David Kooi said.

The city approved the design and the placement of the bike, and issued a permit for the memorial that lasts until 2044, according to David Kooi.

Who was SLO student fatally injured in crash?

Andreas Kooi was born in Pasadena and attended middle and high school in San Marino.

He went to Cuesta College from 2016 to 2018, studying a variety of topics, from computer science to civil engineering.

In 2018, Kooi transferred to UC Santa Cruz, where he studied applied physics and statistics. He interned in a graduate lab, which is rare for an undergraduate student, his brother said. His senior year, he wrote his bachelor’s thesis on quantum computation.

“He was really smart,” David Kooi said of his brother. “On the other hand, he was really sensitive.”

When Andreas Kooi told his brother about his physics class, he shared that he “wanted to know and understand, but not at the cost of losing his embodied self,” David Kooi said.

“He told me, ‘David, these people feel like heads on a stick. I don’t want to be a head on a stick — all head and no heart,’ ” David Kooi said.

Kooi’s authenticity encouraged his friends to be themselves, they told The Tribune.

Dio Wilde remembers stargazing with Kooi at Perfumo Canyon. Someone had brought a strobe light, and Kooi leapt to his feet to dance with his friends, Wilde said.

“He didn’t worry about trying to look cool or hit the rhythm,” Wilde said. “He was just there to have a good time and to give everyone permission to feel like they’re having a good time.”

Wilde remembers coming home to find Kooi dressed as a devil in “tight leather leggings” and standing in front of a green screen. Kooi explained that he was making a video, and invited Wilde to play the devil’s bartender.

“He had a party side but he also could be very shy and soft spoken,” Wilde said. “I just feel like he wanted to feel the full spectrum of human emotions.”

Kooi often connected with others through music.

Friend Jacob Montag remembered how Kooi jerryrigged a bass tube, normally used to blast music from a car, to play on a speaker in Kooi’s room when the two were in high school.

They listened to Rage Against the Machine, “almost creating like an earthquake type effect,” Montag said. “He loved individual expression while embracing collective love for all people.”

In high school, Dennis Lin listened to screamo music, an aggressive subgenre of emo, Lin said, but he kept it a secret.

Then Kooi encouraged him to enjoy the music, and they drove around blasting it from his car.

“It was cathartic, and also helped me realize that I don’t have to strain my tastes or my personality to fit different molds,” Lin said. “Andreas is just always genuine, and made sure that other people felt comfortable being genuine.”

“With Andreas, you didn’t have to worry about being judged,” Lin said.

The day before the fatal Foothill Boulevard collision, Kooi released a music album titled “Feeling Emotion.”

“It’s about dealing with trauma, it’s about letting go. It’s about awareness and becoming aware of every emotion,” Kooi said in a YouTube video. “I want to live in a world where people are more themselves and more in touch with God, and more in touch with the Earth and each other.”

In the release statement for the album, Kooi wrote, “I want to see a world where we all seek to give instead of consume things in order to cover the universal pains we feel. Death is a black canopy, but everyone’s light can be lit by our Creator.”

Kooi and friends embarked on ‘misadventures’

Evan Duncan was eating breakfast outside of Stenner Glen Apartments in San Luis Obispo one morning when Kooi and Somers joined him on his bench.

“They excitedly slid in beside me on both sides. I felt ambushed,” Duncan recalled with a smile. “They were looking for somebody to go river rafting with. It was right after a huge downpour of rain, and the river (had) overflowed.”

Duncan talked Kooi and Somers out of rafting on the San Luis Obispo Creek, but the trio soon moved in together.

“Andreas was extremely studious, quiet and mischievous,” Duncan said. “Liam, on the other hand, kind of counterbalanced him because he was kind of aloof, a space cadet. … It was a great dynamic.”

Every year, Kooi and his friends would pile into Somers’ car and embark on adventures. They hiked in the Sierra Nevada mountains, climbed the tallest sand dune in California at Death Valley and crossed the salt flats in Soda Lake wearing homemade cardboard shoes.

They called their trips “misadventures” because something always went wrong.

At Laurel Lake, the group gathered around the bonfire under the stars while Kooi jammed on his bongos. They threw rocks and bottles on the frozen lake.

“The whole surface vibrates when you throw something hard on it,” Duncan said. “You just hear the echo whistling.”

Michael Silva remembered planning photos of the night sky with Kooi on their trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

“He one-upped me,” Silva said with a laugh. “He got special lenses and certain cameras. I never got that far. … He (was) literally an astronomer.”

The adventure in the Sierras involved “illegally crossing boundary lines to camp, almost freezing to death and maggot-infested waters,” Silva said.

Kooi filmed the trips and made them into videos that the group called Dre-dits in honor of Andreas’ nickname, Dre.

“He was a true pioneer,” Silva said. “He would just trek into whatever interesting thing that he came upon. Anything involving art or science, he just dove into it. He’s a mastermind.”

In 2021, Kooi’s friends hosted a bonfire at the beach to celebrate his memory, according to his friend Logan Hull.

As the sun sank into the ocean, the waves glowed with dinoflagellates — a type of algae that produces light.

“The entire ocean, the waves were crashing neon green,” Hull said. “We all ran out there and jumped in the ocean. It was like he was communicating with us.”

This story was originally published February 16, 2023, 2:22 PM.

(c)2023 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Solar Blast to Send Aurora Light Shows Toward Populated Areas: How to See It


A tumultuous week on the surface of the sun will provide a nice opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis (in the northern hemisphere) and Aurora Australis (the southern equivalent) late Friday and early Saturday.

Our local star has generated a fair amount of solar flares in recent days, along with a few coronal mass ejections, which are the blasts of charged plasma that can trigger bright auroras farther away from Earth’s poles than normal when they collide with our planet’s magnetic field. 

The US Space Weather Prediction Center expects this energetic collision will create a minor G1 class geomagnetic storm Friday night that will intensify to a moderate G2 storm early Saturday. These storms pose no danger to anything on the surface of the planet unless they last a particularly long time, which could damage some large electrical equipment at high latitudes. More at risk are satellites and other spacecraft. In the past, long-duration storms have taken a batch of Starlink satellites out of commission. 

What is most likely to be noticeable on the ground are the dancing lights in the sky produced by the storm. A G2 storm can generate bright auroras visible as far south as New York, Idaho and Scotland and as far north on the other side of the world as parts of New Zealand and Tasmania. 

No special equipment is needed to view the aurora, but clear skies are pretty essential. The SWPC offers a forecast service you can check in with to see when the lights might be visible and most intense in your location. 

If you have good astrophotography skills and happen to capture an enviable image of the lights in your sky, please share them with me on Twitter @EricCMack


DBusiness Daily Update: Foundations Commit $12M+ to 78 Metro Detroit Arts Groups, and More


Detroit Sound Conservancy in Detroit received Detroit Arts Support funding. // Courtesy of Detroit Arts Support
Detroit Sound Conservancy in Detroit received Detroit Arts Support funding. // Courtesy of Detroit Arts Support

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Kresge, Erb, Hudson-Webber Foundations Commit $12M+ to 78 Arts Groups

Detroit Arts Support (DAS), a collaboration between The Kresge Foundation, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, and Hudson-Webber Foundation., is granting metro Detroit 78 arts and cultural organizations in metro Detroit more than $12 million over the next three years.

DAS aims to strengthen the arts and cultural sector through consistent support for a diverse set of organizations, which will use the finds for their general operations.

Grant recipients range from small to large organizations spread throughout the region, including Detroit Opera, Huron Valley Council for the Arts, and Sphinx Organization.

The three participating foundations shared a single application and review process before making independent decisions. This partnership streamlined the application process for nonprofit arts organizations while offering shared learning opportunities and improving systems for data collection and analysis necessary for the participating foundations to make funding decisions.

“Metro Detroit’s array of arts and cultural organizations is one of our greatest strengths, one of the keys to our resilience,” says Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “We seek to support them for their unique roles in anchoring us to tradition and opening windows on our future possibilities.”

The funding process also included focus groups that informed participating arts advocates, community leaders, and artists about the breadth of creativity in the region’s cultural sector. The focus groups provided DAS applicants with feedback about perceptions of their organizations from current and prospective supporters, and they helped DAS funding partners discover arts groups beyond those they have existing relationships with. Taking place over four days, these focus groups represented an important learning component of DAS and emphasized the initiative’s core values of transparency and mutual benefit.

Detroit Arts Support grants provide unrestricted operating support to nonprofits in the performing, visual, and literary arts, as well as to arts service, education, media and broadcasting, and cultural organizations.

For more information, visit here.

Lawrence Tech to host MIOSHA Training Institute Construction Boot Camp

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), in collaboration with Lawrence Technological University’s Construction Safety Research Center in Southfield, is offering a two-week training program teaching MIOSHA’s construction safety standards, job site hazard recognition, and hazard abatement.

The MIOSHA Training Institute Construction Boot Camp will be conducted March 6-16 at Lawrence Tech.

The program is recommended for employers who want to understand employer responsibilities, know how to recognize workplace hazards, and how to protect workers from occupational hazards on construction sites. It’s also recommended for contractors, safety and health coordinators, project managers, job superintendents, and others interested in construction safety and health information.

This boot camp will allow participants to complete training in two weeks rather than in individual MTI classes for months.

Upon completion of this boot camp, class participants will receive:

  • A 30-hour OSHA Construction Course card.
  • A MIOSHA Level 1 Construction Safety and Health certificate.
  • Two electives toward a MIOSHA Level 2 Construction Safety and Health certificate.

This course is open to anyone interested in improving workplace safety and health, not just MTI graduates.

Classes will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, March 6-9 and March 13-16, in Room 406 of LTU’s A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center.

The course cost of $382.50 includes all course materials but does not include lunches on class days. This cost is half the price that MIOSHA and LTU plan to charge for future sessions. To register, visit here.

Seven Local Black Small Business Receive $5K CBBB Awards

The Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Back Black Business (CBBB) has awarded $5,000 grants to 324 Black small business owners in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Seven of the businesses are in Detroit.

Detroiters receiving CBBB awards are:

  • Janice Mitchell of local retail shop Boutique by Janice.
  • Yonika Porritt-Ledbetter of Sun Earth Gold.
  • James Chatman of Family Table Detroit.
  • Monique Bounds of Unique Monique Scented Candles.
  • Tonyal Reid of Muscle Truck Light Hauling and Moving.
  • Raymond Brock of Brock’s Plumbing Sewer.
  • Gwen Thomas of Fresh Perspectives Seminars, a public relations and marketing firm.

When asked how the $5,000 grant help their businesses, the new round of recipients shared that they used the funds to pay rent and invest in new marketing (56 percet), expanded or replaced inventory (45 percent), paid rent/utilities (40 percent), paid their employees (37 percent), repaid debts or loans (16 percent), and bought personal protective equipment (PPE) (9 percent).

The CBBB is a multi-year initiative founded in 2020 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation with a $10 million commitment from American Express to support Black small business owners and the communities they serve as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a path forward. The initiative is led in partnership with four national Black business organizations: the National Black Chamber of Commerce; the National Business League; the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.; and Walker’s Legacy.

For more information of the CBBB, visit here.

Jefferson East to Host Small Business Resource Fair Feb. 20

Jefferson East Inc.’s Business Services Team (JEI) is hosting a Small Business Resource Fair at its Neighborhood Resource Hub (14300 E. Jefferson Ave.) from 12-4 p.m. on Feb. 20.

The event is the first in a series that aims to support local entrepreneurs and small business owners with the funding and tools they need to grow and fuel the city’s entrepreneurial revolution.

Every month, JEI will host a Small Business Resource Fair or open hours for Detroit’s District 4 and District 5. District 4 events will take place on the fourth Monday of the month and District 5 events will be conducted every second Monday of the month.

Business Resource Fair dates for District 4 include Feb. 20 and March 20 and dates for District 5 include April 10 and May 8.

Partnering with JEI on the fairs is the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., Detroit Means Business, Motor City Match, and the University of Michigan Center on Law, Finance, and Policy.

While at the events, small businesses will receive technical support, help with filing grants, assistance in the area of business law and accounting, and tips to launch and grow businesses.

Corrections Officers Now Eligible to Attend Michigan’s Community Colleges Tuition-free

Corrections officers needing college credits now are eligible to attend one of the state’s 31 community colleges tuition-free under a new grant program, according to the Michigan Community College Association.

Current state law requires state corrections officers to complete 15 college credits as a requirement for employment. To help officers complete this requirement, MCCA established the Michigan Corrections Officer Grant Program to support tuition and fees at any of its colleges. Funding for the program was included in the Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget.

“Corrections officers are critical to the safety of our communities and Michigan community colleges are pleased to make it easier for them to obtain the credit they need,” says Brandy Johnson, president of MCCA. “Our colleges are located in every corner of the state, making them more accessible for learners that are working and attending classes at the same time.  This grant program removes barriers to success for our state’s corrections officers.”

To be eligible for the Michigan Corrections Officer Grant Program and free tuition, corrections officers must meet the following criteria:

  • Be employed by MDOC.
  • Earned fewer than 15 college credits.
  • Received approval from MDOC for the program.
  • Enroll at a community college in Michigan.

“This grant program is going to make a huge difference for corrections officers needing to complete their education requirements,” says Heidi Washington, director of MDOC. “The ability for our officers to complete their credits at any of the 31 community colleges tuition free is a great opportunity.”

To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit here. to Host Bocce Ball Event to Benefit Capuchin Ministries March 24, a family-owned provider of corporate and consumer shelving and storage solutions in Madison Heights, will sponsor the 11th annual Bocce with the Brothers fundraiser on from 6 p.m.-midnight March 24, at Villa Penna in Sterling Heights.

Doors and bocce courts open at 5:30 p.m. One hundred percent of the funds generated from the event will directly support the Capuchin Ministries and its valuable programs.

Bocce with the Brothers fundraiser is celebrating its 11th year with an evening that includes musical performances, buffet dinner, and live and silent auctions. There also will be a late-night afterglow party, featuring a live band performance and appetizers.

Louis Vanaria, Irish actor and singer, and Aaron Caruso, operatic and crossover singer, will be the guest hosts for the evening. Brothers of the Capuchin Ministries will be in attendance to play unlimited bocce ball and chat with guests.

“Our team at greatly values the partnership we have developed with Capuchin Ministries over the past 11 years, and it’s truly an honor to give back to this nonprofit that is so near and dear to our hearts,” says Michael Schodowski, president of “We deeply believe in the importance of a strong and connected community at, and the Bocce with the Brothers fundraiser gives everyone the opportunity to celebrate together while supporting a phenomenal local cause and learning more about the Capuchin brothers’ mission, programs and the individuals they assist.”

DJ Frank Krause from Uptown Sound will provide music during the event, and live entertainment will be performed by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Choir, Noelle Borgia from Piano by Noelle, accordionist Joe Recchia, and youth singers Isaac Murray and Dominic Arkensberg.

Speed painter Dave Santia will be in attendance to sell his original works of art during the live auction. This year, one of the live auction gifts is a one-week trip for two to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Florida, including a $600 airfare credit and a stay at a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condominium. A wide variety of desserts also will be provided by On the Rise Bakery Café, one of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen programs.

Tickets to the event are $75 per person and include dinner, beer, and wine. Tickets only are available for purchase in advance and include reserved seating. Sponsorship and program advertising opportunities for Bocce with the Brothers also are available. Sponsorships are $575 and up, and program advertisements are $75-$250.

For more information and to donate, visit here.

Hundreds of High School Students Expected to Explore STEM Careers at WCC Event

Washtenaw Community College (WCC) in Ann Arbor will showcase the world of STEM and STEAM careers and educational opportunities the week of Feb. 28-March 2.

The 2023 STEAM Week + Campus Explore events will draw hundreds of area high school students and community members interested in exploring science, technology, engineering, arts, and math careers. WCC also is partnering with the state of Michigan’s MiSTEM Network to honor high school STEM teachers.

The events, which will be conducted both virtually and on campus, will feature WCC’s university and industry partners along with college experts and faculty members, who will share inspiring stories and lead interactive workshops and career presentations.

All STEAM Week activities are free and open to the public.

Among the speakers will be WCC alumna Aisha Bowe, a former NASA rocket scientist, future commercial astronaut, and founder and CEO of STEMBoard, one of America’s fastest growing tech companies, according to Inc. 5000. Bowe raised nearly $2 million in venture capital last year to fund LINGO, self-paced kits that help more than 5,000 students in 10 countries learn coding at home.

Bowe, who transferred from WCC to the University of Michigan where she earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in Space Systems Engineering, is preparing to become the first Black woman to fly commercially into space with Blue Origin and the sixth Black woman to cross the internationally recognized boundary of space.

WCC’s STEAM Week highlights:

Day 1 – Keynotes by Dr. Victor Vega, Interim VP of Instruction; Dr. Tracy Schwab, Interim Dean Math, Sciences & Engineering Technology; and Aisha Bowe, CEO STEMBoard.

Virtual sessions will include “Cool Careers: The Liberal Arts in STEAM,” Professional Faculty Hava Levitt-Phillips; “Detroit College of Creative Studies;” “Plane Waves Instruments: Demonstration/Telescopes and Astrophotography,” Plane Waves Team and Chris Miller; “Astrophotography,” Brian Ottum; “Imposter Syndrome Workshop,” Dr. Susan Montgomery.

Day 2 – Keynotes by Devon Keen, Director, Inclusion, Equity and Outreach and Graduate Student Research at the University of Michigan; Matt Nelson, Director of Communications at the University of Michigan; and Eric Aiken, Program Manager for Student Support and Development at the University of Michigan.

Other sessions will include a nursing simulation and tour, as well as in-person tracks on advanced manufacturing, welding, HVAC, auto service, body, transportation and motorcycle programs. An in-person session on campus will include a “Venom Research” presentation by WCC Professional Faculty member David Wooten.

Day 3 – Keynotes by Marly Earlywine (FAME USA), Shamar Herron (MichiganWorks! SE) and Mohan Thomas (MiSTEM).

Virtual sessions will include “Careers in Computer and Information Science,” Sandra Lopez of the University of Michigan School of Information; “STEM Career Exploration and Outlook,” WCC Professional Librarian Sandy McCarthy; and “Careers in Engineering,” Sarah Snay from the University of Michigan Engineering.

To register or view a detailed schedule of the week’s events, visit here.

WCC’s STEAM Week events will be capped off with an Educator of the Year banquet hosted on campus in conjunction with the State of Michigan’s MiSTEM Network. Area high school STEM teachers will be honored at this event.


One UI 5.1 doesn’t bring Galaxy S23’s Astro Hyperlapse to older models


Samsung Galaxy S23 Astro Hyperlapse video

© Provided by Android Headlines
Samsung Galaxy S23 Astro Hyperlapse video

Samsung is in the process of rolling out the One UI 5.1 update to its eligible Galaxy devices. The update brings new features introduced with the Galaxy S23 series to older models. Unfortunately, not every new feature makes it to older Galaxy devices due to hardware limitations and other factors. Most notably, Samsung is limiting Astro Hyperlapse to its latest flagships.

Samsung keeps Astro Hyperlapse exclusive to the Galaxy S23 series

The Galaxy S23 series arrived earlier this month with several new camera features and improvements. Samsung made 8K videos smoother by adding 30fps (frames per second) support, up from 24fps on the Galaxy S22. The new phones also capture 4K portrait videos and support QHD resolution when shooting in Super Steady mode. Astro Hyperlapse is another new camera feature that the Korean firm debuted with the Galaxy S23 series. As you might have guessed, it lets you capture hyperlapse videos of the night sky. The phones can record stunning visuals of star trails and other objects in the sky.

There were hopes that Samsung would bring this feature to older Galaxy models with the One UI 5.1 update, but not to be. The new One UI version has already reached several Galaxy devices, including the Galaxy S22, Galaxy S21, Galaxy Z Fold 4, Galaxy Z Flip 4, and more. But none of these devices received Astro Hyperlapse with the update (via). It’s worth noting Samsung’s Expert RAW app already lets Galaxy S22 users capture Astro Photos. However, they still aren’t getting Astro Hyperlapse videos. The company is keeping the new feature exclusive to the Galaxy S23 trio.

Apart from Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S23, no other Galaxy device supports any kind of astrophotography. So it isn’t surprising that they are missing out on Astro Hyperlapse too. But many expected the Galaxy S22 series to get the new feature, only for Samsung to disappoint them all. Maybe hardware limitations prevented the company from bringing it to the 2022 flagship lineup.

Galaxy S23’s Image Clipper may trickle down to other Galaxy models

Image Clipper is another interesting feature that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S23 series. It lets you crop out objects from photos in the Gallery app by simply tapping and holding on to them. You can save the cropped object as a new image or instantly copy and share it. This feature is missing from the One UI 5.1 update for older Galaxy models, but rumors are that most of those will get Image Clipper down the line. A future update for the Gallery app will likely bring it. You can click the button below to download the latest version of Samsung Gallery from the Galaxy Store.


The post One UI 5.1 doesn’t bring Galaxy S23’s Astro Hyperlapse to older models appeared first on Android Headlines.


Best DSLR cameras in South Africa


There are three major digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) brands in South Africa that offer excellent photographic capabilities — Canon, Nikon, and Pentax.

With smartphone cameras drastically improving in recent years, many people have questioned whether dedicated digital cameras will continue to exist.

Although a handful of flagship smartphones could beat entry-level DSLR image quality under very specific circumstances, the opposite is more often the case.

DSLR and other digital cameras have much larger sensors, allowing for better low-light performance.

Smartphone cameras have become impressively capable of shooting dark scenes, in part thanks to their use of advanced software.

But software can only get you so far; better sensors and lenses will always be preferable for higher-quality photos and videos.

DSLRs are also much more versatile and configurable, with a wide range of add-on accessories that can enhance their capabilities.

That includes interchangeable lenses, which provide DSLRs with another key advantage.

Optical or true zoom requires a large amount of space, which there is very little of in a smartphone camera bump.

DSLR and mirrorless camera lenses let you enlarge a scene without substantial quality losses.

Physically-adjustable lenses also allow for true and wider depth of field, enabling photographers to capture pictures with greater contrast between focus areas and backgrounds.

DSLRs can also shoot in a RAW uncompressed format, ideal for preserving quality during editing.

This is only available on a select few flagship smartphones. When enabled, they can also quickly eat up storage space.

Although smartphone camera software has improved to provide better control over settings like aperture, exposure and focus, they still fall well short of what’s possible on a DSLR.

DSLR down but not out

There are three typical types of digital cameras — DSLR, mirrorless, and bridge.

The first two options support interchangeable lenses and are used for professional photography, while the latter comes with a built-in zoom lens and is typically aimed at casual snappers.

While mirrorless cameras are gradually starting to supplant DSLRs as the top choice for professional photography, they are still costly, particularly for newcomers at the entry level.

DSLR cameras also generally offer better battery life and boast a larger back catalogue of supported lenses.

Two of the world and South Africa’s best-known brands — Canon and Nikon — are popular precisely because of their long history of supporting hardware.

Nikon has released its F-mount lenses since 1959, while Canon started producing its EF range in 1987.

Two other major brands — Fujifilm and Sony — have completely discontinued their DSLR offering and focus on mirrorless cameras.


  • Entry-level: Canon EOS D2000 — From R7,499 with 18-55mm lens (Foto Discount World)
  • Top-end: Canon EOS 1D X Mark III — From R113,999 for body only (Foto Discount World)
  • Best for video: Canon EOS 1D X Mark III — From R113,999 for body only (Foto Discount World)

Canon sells its DSLR range under the EOS brand, which currently consists of eight models.

One feature of Canon that makes it stand out from its main rival Nikon is that all of its EOS lenses have autofocus, whereas only Nikon’s AF-S lenses support autofocus.

Canon’s L-series lenses offer noticeably high quality and excellent autofocus performance.

Its cameras also support a wider range of third-party lenses, which can be attached using adapters.


  • Entry-level: Nikon D5300 — From R8,999 with 18-55mm lens (SA Camera Land)
  • Top-end: Nikon D6 — From R139,995 for body only (Outdoor Photo)
  • Best for video: Nikon D850 — From R39,995 for body only (Outdoor Photo)

Nikon’s lenses tend to be lighter and smaller than Canon’s, making them better suited for photographers that are often on the move.

One thing to keep in mind is that some of Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs no longer have an autofocus motor built-in. That means they cannot support older Nikon AF-S lenses.

However, the removal of the autofocus motor allows Nikon to cut costs, meaning its beginner cameras can be cheaper.

While Canon offers a wider range of entry-level cameras, Nikon’s options generally perform better in terms of ISO and battery life.


  • Entry-level:  Pentax K-70 All-Weather — From R13,799 (Camera Warehouse)
  • Top-end: Pentax K-1 Mark II — From R41,399 for body only (Camera Warehouse)
  • Best for video: Pentax K-1 Mark II — From R41,399 for body only (Camera Warehouse)

The third brand that still sells DSLR cameras in South Africa is Pentax. Although perhaps better known for its film cameras, Pentax has received high praise for its DSLRs’ image and build quality.

Most Pentax cameras feature dual controls for faster navigation through captured images and settings. With Canon and Nikon, these are only offered on higher-end models.

Astrophotography is another area where Pentax shines, thanks to its Astrotracer feature, which automatically moves the camera’s image sensor with the motion of the stars and planets.


Déjà Vu With Slight Upgrades


On paper and to the eye, the Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn’t appear to be too much different than last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra. It has the same display, same overall appearance thanks to the floating design for the rear cameras, and in general a very similar spec sheet to last year.

However, to say Samsung didn’t do anything new this year would simply be untrue. We have the new HP2 camera sensor on the backside, Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, plus a subtle hardware change that has completely changed my opinion on big phones. While we can say that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is really just a refined Galaxy S22 Ultra, I wouldn’t try to angle that as a bad thing. I’ve been using the phone for over a week now and I’m ready to share my thoughts on my time with it.

This is our Galaxy S23 Ultra review!

What I Like

Display – This is last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra display, a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X (1440 x 3088) panel with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz and 1750 nits of peak brightness. It’s literally the same specifications as last year, but the one thing different is the glass protecting it. Samsung is using Corning’s all new Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the S23 Ultra, which should increase the phone’s protection against display scrapes and cracks. I’m not saying you should test it, but yeah, it’s there. And just because it’s the same panel, who cares? This display is amazing, with incredible levels of brightness, superior colors, while also being able to produce a very easy-on-the-eyes level of low light performance.

Since I didn’t review the S22 Ultra last year, this is the first time experiencing this display for me, and honestly, I think it’s the best display I’ve ever used. As always, Samsung spares no expense when it comes to tweaking settings for it either. We can toggle the variable refresh rate, set an adaptive brightness, adjust white balance and choose between screen mode presets, and adjust resolution. Comparing it to my Pixel 7 Pro’s display, I wouldn’t say it’s a night and day difference to my human eyes, but it certainly performs better in direct light conditions thanks to the higher peak brightness.

Hardware – Yes, this phone looks like last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra. If that’s an issue for you, sorry. For those who don’t mind, it’s a handsome device. Personally, I like the floating cameras on the backside, but maybe that’s just me. Most importantly, though, Samsung made a hardware adjustment that I’ve really fallen in love with. For many of the past Galaxy Note and Ultra devices, there was a severe curve for the phones’ sides, making for little area to actually hold the device. On the S23 Ultra, Samsung has lessened the curve while widening out the sides, making for a noticeably larger area to hold the phone. I don’t want to be that guy, but it’s a legit game changer for a phone of this size. It makes one-handed use much more comfortable, as it feels more secure while in hand. This, alongside the new and improved HP2 camera sensor, is my favorite thing about the phone. Besides that, yeah, this is pretty much a Galaxy S22 Ultra in the hardware department.

Battery – It shouldn’t be a shock, but this phone’s battery life, thanks to 5,000mAh of juice, is great. To test it, I have been going hard on my Marvel Snap game, climbing the ranks to push this phone to its limits thanks to the game’s performance toggles. I can force 60Hz gameplay, increase graphical settings, as well as enable the game’s gyroscope feature. No doubt, a lesser phone with a smaller battery may struggle with extended gameplay at these levels, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra holds up well.

I’m sure this is all thanks to much work Qualcomm and Samsung have into their respective products, but also the cooling system that Samsung uses on the internals of this device. I’ve used this phone a ton and I haven’t felt it get warm at all. Even with my gaming and lots of picture taking, as well as videos I’ve taken, this phone’s battery is holding up super strong. I’m easily pulling in 4+ hours of screen on time every day, while going to bed with 20%+ of battery remaining each night. I repeat, the battery is very good. When the need to charge arrises, 45W wired charging is available, as well as 15W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging for your accessories.

Performance – As I just got done saying in the section above, I’ve been putting this device through the paces with gaming, video recording, and all that jazz. It hasn’t skipped a beat yet. Areas where you might typically notice hiccups are the quick switching of apps and the processing of high resolution photos. From my experience, the phone has no problems jumping through apps and delivering quick processes on photos, with exception to the 200MP setting. That’s no surprise, as we’re typically talking about 50MB to 100MB shots. I think it’s safe to assume any phone would take a second or two to process that much information. Point being, with a base of 8GB RAM and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset being partnered with the Adreno 740 GPU, this phone hauls in the performance department.

Camera – There are a lot of cameras on the backside of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. In total, there are four — the new 200MP HP2 wide angle, 10MP periscope telephoto, 10mp telephoto, and a 12MP ultra wide angle. The crown jewel is obviously the HP2 sensor, with its massive 200MP sensor. The goal here is a camera that can not only capture incredible detail in optimal lighting conditions, but also bring an improved levels of low light photography. After testing it myself, I can confirm, the camera system on the S23 Ultra is the best and most versatile system currently available from Samsung. I’d also argue it’s the best in the entire smartphone market, but I haven’t tested every phone ever, so it’s hard to make that claim. It’s really, really good though.

The importance of being able to capture any shot, in any condition, is paramount to me. Not only that, but let’s say there’s considerable distance between you and the subject. This phone and its up to 100X zoom takes care of that, so long as you have either hands with surgeon steadiness levels or a tripod. With that said, anything up to 10x zoom is still captured without much additional image processing, so that watercoloring effect we sometimes see from zoom levels of 30x and 100x is not present.

For those interested, astrophotography is easily achievable on this device, thanks to the downloading of Samsung’s Expert RAW camera app. What’s more, the fact that taking breathtaking shots of stars and other celestial bodies is accessible by a single press of a button, with the user not needing to know absolutely anything about the process itself, is incredible. I praised Google for bringing astrophotography to the masses with Night Sight and Samsung builds upon this principle considerably well. With a single press of a button inside the camera app’s improved Hyperlapse mode, you can enable star trail shots that professionals usually have a lengthy setup and post processing software for. On the phone, I press the shutter button, walk away for an hour, and then return to amazing pictures and videos.

It took Samsung a couple of years to catch up, but I would now argue that they have surpassed Google in the astrophotography category. Last year, Google introduced its new Macro setting for Pixel phones, but yeah, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has that as well and it’s also very good. I’m racking my brain, but I don’t think there’s anything this phone’s camera array can’t capture well.

S Pen – For those who live that stylus life, yup, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has an S Pen hidden within it. There are no new features that I’m aware of, but that’s fine. The S Pen already does so much, like remote camera shutter functionality and other Air Actions, so I’m not exactly sure what more it could need. I think S Pen has reached its final stage of evolution, which for those who have to have it, I’m sure is great. Personally, I’m not a stylus user and I don’t intend on becoming one. The universe granted me with 5 stylus’ per hand, so I don’t need any extra. The remote shutter is certainly useful in some occasions, but the S Pen won’t ever be a dealbreaker feature for me. S Pen Pro is supported on the device, just in case you have one, too.

What Could Be Better

Software Redundancy, Bloat – Samsung is notorious for software settings redundancy. The company reminds me of Boeing or any other airplane manufacturer. Any setting on this phone can either be accessed from multiple locations or settings for the same area of the phone are sometimes split into separate menus. This has been an issue with Samsung phones for what feels like forever, the feeling of being absolutely lost within the settings menu. It’s not fun, and thank goodness for the search function. Without it, you’d never find anything. When One UI was first introduced, it felt polished and slim. As we venture now into One UI 5.1, built atop Android 13, it feels like we have regressed into what can sometimes feel like a bloated mess.

Speaking of bloat, a recent report drew our attention to the actual OS size on these new Samsung devices. In the storage settings for this device, it says that the OS takes up 87GB of space, though, there has been a bit of back and forth on how accurate these numbers are. Whatever the true number may be, the fact that most Android makers have removed expandable storage remains to be an issue for many potential buyers.

Where the software pleases me is the continued steps towards improved user customization, but technically that’s a Google and Android 13 thing. On this device, under the Wallpaper and Style menu, users can enable the color palette, which is stupidly disabled out of the box. If I was Samsung, it’s something I’d want to highlight. When enabled, users can choose which colors of their set wallpaper they’d like to highlight throughout the entire OS. It really is one of the best things introduced into Android in some time (first available in Android 12), with Android 13 building even further upon it.

Samsung has also adopted it nicely by having all of its apps support the masked icons feature, but unlike Pixel devices, the masked icons carry over to the app drawer, too. Does it look great when we consider what feels like 95% of developers aren’t adopting the masked icons feature yet? No, no it doesn’t. But one day, hopefully soon (wink, wink), it won’t matter that developers are either lazy or have stopped supporting their apps.



First 10 Things to Do

The Verdict

I can make this very simple. If you have a Galaxy S22 Ultra, you can skip the Galaxy S23 Ultra. If you have any other device, I recommend this phone. Even to my fellow Pixel fans, this is a really good phone that offers a ton of stuff. If you can’t live with One UI, I totally understand. However, if you’re on an aging Samsung device or finally getting ready to rid yourself of an old LG phone maybe, this is the super mega phone you want if you consider yourself a power user. For specs, there’s nothing better currently out in the Android world here in the US, so for now, Galaxy S23 Ultra is the undisputed King of Android. Haters gon’ hate, but this phone is fantastic in all of the main categories: Camera, Display, Hardware, Battery Life, and Software Updates.

If we’re looking at device purchases purely from a stance of how long something will be supported, Samsung is currently winning the race. As of now, new Samsung devices get 4 years of Android OS upgrades, plus 5 years of security patches. Even Google doesn’t match that. There’s no arguing that Samsung devices are good Android investments.