Tech for travellers at home

Jonathan Margolis test-drives the latest holiday-ready devices

Leica SL2, body, £5,300, Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 lens, £3,900
Leica SL2, body, £5,300, Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 lens, £3,900

A DSLR camera with 20:20 vision

It’s possibly a bold statement, but this new full-frame, mirrorless Leica is as good as any camera, given current technology, can be. The 47-megapixel sensor is technically breathtaking. And in combination with the lens with which my sample came (the Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 lens, considered by some to produce the sharpest and most detailed shots ever possible), it is unbelievably good, even if the photos I have been able to take of late have been undistinguished because they are mostly of the view from my study window.

The SL2 is not, however, a camera you are likely to have casually slung about you when you need it. It’s big and heavy, although less so than a serious Nikon or Canon DSLR, which makes it one to bring out only on a photo-taking mission. And while it can work as a point-and-shoot, you really need time to study its prodigious capabilities to justify the price. But it’s worth swotting up.

Leica SL2, body, £5,300, Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 lens, £3,900, leica-camera.com

Plane Finder, free on Apple App Store and Google Play
Plane Finder, free on Apple App Store and Google Play

Wish you were there?

I’ve been having hours of fascinating fun without leaving home, thanks to a free phone app. It’s a British-designed augmented-reality app called Plane Finder. When you see an aircraft, you sight it up with your camera phone and immediately get a detailed report from the plane’s transponder of the airline, the type of plane, where it’s going to and from, its height, speed and registration.

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I live almost under the flight path into Heathrow and, as an aviation and travel geek, I enjoy checking out where planes are landing from. But with one every 30 seconds at traffic peaks, the fun palled quite quickly. I used to be blasé about seeing, say, a BA 787 that I’ve actually boarded in New York (I said I was a plane geek). However, now, with so few planes in the air, it’s a thing of wonder – a connection to a temporarily lost world. And to a currently rather mysterious world too, of 3am cargo flights, private jets and military aircraft flying hither and yon.

Plane Finder, free on Apple App Store and Google Play

Pocketalk S Gold, £399
Pocketalk S Gold, £399

Brush up your Japanese, French, German…

Give your languages a polish in preparation for a future in which foreign travel is allowed. Translation devices have developed steadily, rather than exponentially, since around 2005. As I’ve reported here, whether for tourist or business travel, there’s always a caveat – they need to be connected to WiFi, or tethered to a tenuous 4G connection on your phone. This little Japanese-designed machine irons out pretty much every bump. It translates between any combination of 74 languages, comes with a built-in unlimited-data eSIM that works in over 130 countries and regions, and can interpret bursts of conversation of up to 30 seconds – longer than is natural in any normal interchange – spoken at normal speed. I tested this in both directions with a Japanese speaker and, while I can’t say if the translation was perfect, we understood each other perfectly.

Pocketalk S Gold, £399, smartech.buzz

@thefuturecritic

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