Knowing where the sun will be is very handy for outdoor location photographers. Landscape photographers might want to find the best spot for a dramatic sunset shot (or not, if you’re going for something more subtle), or perhaps for lining up the sun with a landmark. Architectural photographers might want to know where the shadows are going to be. Even an outdoor model shoot will want to know where the best natural light is going to be, when. Or maybe you’re trying to map out the movement of the sun during a timelapse or shooting the moon or Milky Way at night. For all of these, there are smartphone apps that can help immensely.
Predicting where and when the sun will be when isn’t new, of course. But it used to involve tables of data and complicated calculations using almanacs, and inevitably, a bit of guesswork. These days it’s infinitely easier thanks to those powerful little computers that so many of us carry in our pockets.
There are now smartphone apps that can calculate the elevation and angle of the sun and moon (and some, of the Milky Way and other constellations) for any location on earth for any date and time.
They go far beyond just telling you what time the sun will rise, what time it will set, and what the phase of the moon is. They can use your phone’s GPS to pull data for your precise location. They can show you map views with data overlays in tandem with your phone’s compass so you can line things up. And some can even use your phone’s camera to provide an augmented reality, heads-up display in real-time.
There are a bunch of apps in this category, and some are better than others. Here’s a roundup of some of the best. The ones I’m focusing on here are all designed with photographers and videographers in mind, rather than budding astronomers (which is a whole different universe of apps), and their features reflect that.
The Photographer’s Ephemeris
The Photographer’s Ephemeris, or TPE, is the granddaddy of sun and moon tracking apps, and its desktop version was one of my favorites long before smartphone apps existed. It was one of the first to make use of the endlessly useful tools that build on what was then the newly launched Google Maps and Google Earth. Over the years it hasn’t changed all that much, but then it hasn’t really needed to because it got so much right from the get-go.
The core functionality lies in augmented maps that show information about the sun and moon–and now constellations as well–overlaid on maps. It doesn’t have the newer live view features that make use of the camera, but it does have some intriguing new and unique features. They’ve partnered with Skyfire for a plugin for TPE that helps predict where the when the best sunrise and sunset color will happen based on a bunch of different weather data points (it’s a paid plugin with a 30-day free trial). And there’s a companion app, The Photographer’s Transit, designed to help landscape photographers plan for the field of view of a specific lens.
This is my current favorite. PhotoPills takes the kitchen sink approach by adding a bunch of other features useful to photographers like timelapse interval tables, depth of field calculator, and star trails simulator. That’s in addition to sun and moon calculators and live view/augmented reality. Despite this everything goes approach, the package is slickly executed and logically organized, and it’s well worth a look. It was originally available on iOS, but they’ve since made an Android version. It is my current favorite.
Sun Surveyor pitches itself as “your personal guide to the sun and moon,” and of the apps with augmented reality overlays, this is my favorite. Its interface puts emphasis on visualization rather than raw data, which I find very useful.
One unique feature of Sun Surveyor’s live view is that not only does it offer the option to make use of your phone’s camera, but you can also see the overlays over Google’s Street View for other locations. So you’re not limited only to using it from where you’re currently standing but can also plan ahead to where you plan to be.
There’s also a feature-limited, free lite version
Sun Seeker puts heavy emphasis on its 3D augmented reality view–otherwise known as live view–that overlaps sun, moon, and other celestial body paths over the view through your phone’s camera so you can see exactly what will be where, when. It also provides all manner of other related data tables. My only quibble with this app–and it’s a minor one–is that it’s interface isn’t as clean and clear as it could be. Otherwise, it’s a good alternative to Sun Seeker of you want live view but prefer your apps to have a more focused purpose.
Helios was one of the best of the early sun and moon tracking apps, with a level of detailed data that wasn’t readily available initially among many of its competitors. It’s still a slick and eminently capable app, but it’s starting to show its age a bit in lacking newer features like live view. Despite that, its price has remained stubbornly high in comparison to its competitors–it’s three times the price of the next most expensive app in this list.
It’s available for IOS at the comparatively steep price of $29.99.
Compared to some of the other apps here, LightTrac is a little more sparing with its data. Its core feature is a satellite view overlay showing the sun rise and sunset angles as well as the angle at certain times of the day. One of the useful functions I like is that it can calculate the length of shadows for an object like a tree or building of a specified height (The Photographer’s Ephemeris and Sun & Moon also have this function).
It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of some of the more sophisticated apps here, and the interface isn’t to my personal taste, but the functionality of Focalware is solid and it’s more than capable in telling you where the sun and moon will be at any given time and location.
It’s available for IOS for $4.99.
Sun & Moon
With live view, clearly laid out data visualizations, dynamic compass view, weather forecasts, and a shadow calculator, among other features, this app is packed with useful features without going overboard and introducing clutter.
Its basic version is free, but there’s an in-app purchase for $4.99 if you want to upgrade to the pro version to unlock more features and remove the ads at the bottom of the screen. It’s available for IOS.
Sun Locator has many of the same kinds of features as other apps in this list, but something that stands out with this one is its sundial view that helps with predicting the length of shadows. You can see an example of it in the shot above.
There’s a free Lite version and a paid Pro version. It’s only available for Android.
The SunCalc Org app is really a stripped-down companion to a much more feature-laden website, suncalc.org. It doesn’t have the polish of some of the other apps and lacks some newer features like live view, but if you’re after something basic and are happy with a more manual approach, it works effectively.
It’s available for Android.
It’s pretty remarkable the kind of information and tools we now have in our pockets, and apps like these can remove a lot of the trial and error from trying to get the shot we visualize. Now, if only they can start doing something about the weather…
Ricoh GR III Accessories & Replacement Parts
Here are the model numbers of some of the core accessories and replacement parts for the Ricoh GR III.
- Ring Cap: GN-1
The ring cap is the small plastic ring that attaches around the lens. Chances are, it's fallen off. While you do have to remove it to attach the lens adapter, it's a poor design that tends to fall off and get lost far too often. I've lost a couple of them now.
The camera will work just fine without it. But that will leave some contacts exposed around the lens barrel, which isn't ideal.
The official replacement part is overpriced. But you can also pick up much less expensive aftermarket versions. They're also available in different colors, so you can bling up your camera with a personal touch--or make it look like the Street Edition.
- 【Compatibility】: Designed for Ricoh GRIII (only).This decoration ring is made of high quality...
- 【Easy to use & Protector】:Easy installation and removal and Protects lens barrel exterior.
The GR III has a USB Type-C connector port. When you get a cable, you can get them with another USB Type-C connector on the other end or a more traditional USB Type-A connector. Which you choose depends entirely on what you're plugging into. For example, some newer laptops only have USB-C, while most other computers have USB-A.
- The Anker Advantage: Join the 50 million+ powered by our leading technology.
- Enhanced Durability: Improved construction techniques and materials make a cable that lasts 12× longer.
Battery & Charger
- Battery: DB-110
It's a rechargeable lithium-ion battery rated at 3.6V 1350mAh 4.9Wh.
There are some other cameras that also use the same battery--notably, some Olympus cameras (the Olympus model number for the same battery is LI-90B). So they're quite widely available. You can get the official Ricoh version. There are also aftermarket versions that can be much better value but work just as well.
- This Wasabi Power kit includes 2 batteries and 1 charger for the Ricoh DB-110
- Each Wasabi Power battery features Premium Grade A cells, 3.7V, 1300mAh
- Charger: BJ-11
You can charge the battery in the camera (using a USB-C cable). There are also external battery chargers available. They're especially useful if you're using spare batteries, so you can charge and shoot simultaneously.
- AC Adapter: K-AC166
This is used to power the camera for longer shoots, such as time-lapse, or if you happen to be using the camera for live streaming as a webcam. It connects via the camera's USB-C port.
Wide-Angle Conversion Lens
- Wide-Angle Lens: GW-4
- Lens Adapter: GA-1
- Wired Shutter Release: CA-3
- Easy to operate, Half-press to focus, Full-press to shoot
- Fits macro photography well, eliminates camera shake
- Standard External Viewfinder: GV-1
- Mini External Viewfinder: GB-2
- ✪LCD Screen Protector perfectly fit for Ricoh GR 3 DSLR Camera . Not for other model. Easy to install...
- ✪9H Hardness - Longer tempering time, which made the screen protector has a higher hardness. Prevents...
- Soft Case: GC-9
- Neck Strap: GS-3
- Hand Strap: GS-2
Ricoh has produced a wide-angle conversion lens that takes the standard 28mm view down to a 21mm (in 35mm equivalent). While it does add some extra bulk to an otherwise small camera, it works well and adds a more dramatic, wider view. I have an [in-depth review of it separately](https://havecamerawilltravel.com/photographer/ricoh-gw-4-wide-angle-conversion-lens/).
Something to be aware of, though, is that you will also need to pick up the lens adapter separately. For reasons I really don't understand, the wide-angle conversion lens doesn't come with the adapter, and both are required to make it work. So make sure you pick up one of those at the same time.
Remote Shutter Releases
This is the official Ricoh remote shutter. It connects to the camera via a USB cable, and it's a simple shutter release (i.e., there's no timer or intervalometer).
You can also find aftermarket shutter releases for the GR III.
The Ricoh GR III doesn't have a built-in viewfinder. But they make two versions of an external viewfinder that slides into the camera's hot shoe. It covers both the standard 28mm view as well as the 21mm view if you're using the wide-angle conversion lens. There's also a mini viewfinder; that model seems to be hard to find.
The back screen of the GR III is quite exposed, and if you lie the camera on its back, the screen comes in contact with the surface. Even if you're putting the camera in your pocket, there's a risk of keys or coins scratching the screen.
There's no official screen protector, but there are good aftermarket versions. The one I use is this one. It's essentially a consumable that protects the screen. If you scratch the protector, you can quickly and easily replace it with another from the pack.
You can, of course, use the GR III with just about any camera case or bag. But Ricoh does make a dedicated soft-case that fits snugly around the camera and offers some protection even if you're toting the camera around in your pocket. I've been using one for a couple of years, and it's held up very well, and it keeps my camera safer from bumps and scratches.
Again, there's no particular reason you have to use the official GR neck strap, but there is one. The main part is leather, and it even has a discreet, embossed "GR".
If you do use a different strap, be aware that the strap loops on the camera are very small and won't take thicker (i.e., stronger) attachment loops. So you might need to use some D-rings as well.
There's even an official "GR" leather hand strap! But, again, aside from the branding, there's no special reason to use the official strap. If you do use a different one, you might need D-rings if the thread doesn't go through the camera's small attachment loops.
The GR III doesn't have a built-in flash. It supports the Pentax P-TTL flash protocol.Pentax External Flashes: