Last week I spent 2 days at Alton Towers with my Father, Sister, Brother-in-law and Nephew. This is becoming a yearly ritual as we did the same last year (only in May) but unlike last year we did get the first day without any rain. It started raining just before 12:00 on the second day; this started with light showers and ending with torrential rain whilst we were driving back.
Last year I took by Canon G10 along with me, but I had decided that it was time to upgrade to a newer compact camera. I will just state that for the record this is only a replacement of the compact camera and not any of the other cameras that I own. I have seen a few threads on DPReview about people replacing their NEX cameras stating that the RX100 is better – a view I don’t believe. Whilst the RX100 is smaller and has a few other features that I like (that I will explain later) it does not have interchangeable lenses and has no flash shoe or accessory sockets. If you purchased a NEX and now think that the RX100 is better I don’t think that you ever needed a NEX (or other interchangeable lens camera, compact or DSLR). As you may have guessed from my mini-rant I also have an NEX-7 and I love this camera (I will post about this at a later date).
This is not going to be a review of the NEX-7 camera, please goto DPReview for their current preview; I also recommend visting Stephen Huff’s blog or also chehcking out my friend’s Richard Brown’s website.
I will however go through why I purchased this camera (replacing the G10) and some of the likes and dislikes. I buy a lot (most?) of my photographic gear from the local London Camera Exchange; the staff are friendly and will let you try out almost anything. I don’t mind spending a bit more money to get it from the shop, this is always a good thing as more and more electronics are finding their way into the gear that I buy and taking it back to the shop is easier than dealing with a mail order/Internet store. I had tried out the RX100 twice before purchase and loved the quality feel of the camera, the mode dial and ring around the lens were excellent and the resistance on the lens ring was “just right”.
My initial thoughts were much like Richard’s. The fact that the camera had a traditional mode dial was one of the main reasons for purchase; the lens ring that could be customised for any setting was another. I liked the quality feel to the camera (something that reminded me of the Canon G10). Although it was smaller and lighter than the G10 I would have preferred some form of grip on the camera to make it easier to hold. However in the two days of shooting at Alton Towers and since then I have not dropped the camera but I always use the wrist strap (just in case). The menu was another revelation, instead of going for the “Mickey Mouse” interface of the NEX cameras, the interface was the one from the Sony Alpha SLT/DSLR range – a much better one. Since I have used this interface before I found it really easy to find my way around and there was a lot of customisation in there. Most of the “Sony” features from the NEX are in there too ; the pano-mode for one. The 3″ screen on the back is amazing and is very good in bright light (careful when looking at the screen with polarising sunglasses though :)) The only remaining feature is probably the biggest one (pun intended), the 1″ sensor (the same size as the ones in Nikon’s J1/J2 and V1 cameras). This is much bigger than the chip in the G10 and bigger chips mean better low light performance too. The pictures that I have seen fron the web (only JPEG at the moment) really don’t do this camera justice.
So on my third visit to LCE (the day before going to Alton Towers) I purchased the RX100 as well as a Lowepro Apex 30 AW case. They did me a good deal the RX100 was only £515 and the case cost only £18. That night I read the manual back to front twice, configured the camera to my needs and set the camera to take RAW and JPEGs for now until Adobe update Camera Raw. As stated earlier it wasn’t too much trouble to pick up how to use the camera and I had this sorted out before I went.
We (my father and I) got up at 05:00 on the day of the visit to Alton Towers and left just after 06:00, we wanted to get to the park (about a 2 hour drive) for about 08:00 so that we could check in early as possible and we were told this was from 08:30. We got there just after 8:00 and met up with my Brother in law (Simon); we were allowed to check in early and we picked up both 2-day tickets well before 08:30. We went back to Simon’s room and met up with my sister (Louise) and my 7 year old nephew (Jack) who was busy writing his journal. Simon, Louise and Jack had arrived the evening before so were already in their room.
After a brief catchup and sun-tan lotion application, we decided to go into the park. As guests in the hotel, you are allowed in from 09:00 whilst everyone else has to wait until 10:00. In the past we have used the Monorail but we opted for the walk which goes through the woods between the park and the hotel it was only 1KM and a nice walk at the start of the day.
You come out near the Nemesis ride and of course we all decided to go onto the ride before it got too busy. First I went on with my father (whilst Simon and Louise looked after Jack) and then we switched over allowing Simon and Louise to go on whilst we looked after Jack. I chose this opportunity to try out the video feature of the RX100; a you-tube clip of this is below:
The quality of the video is good. Over the course of the day we also went on Nemesis again, Air a few times. HEX and Sonic Spinball, Runaway Mine Train (chough chough), this is Jack’s favourite ride.
About half-way through the first day I took some more pictures with the RX100 to try out some of the functions, such as the panoramic mode:
There was also some wildlife around and I cannot resist taking pictures of them such as this family of ducks:
As they were moving I quickly switched to the video mode:
Towards the end of the day Jack wanted to go on the Marauders Mayhem ride (just going around in a circle whilst spinning around on two other axes too), this is too vomit inducing for me. I tried out the focus tracking of the camera and whilst these won’t win any awards I was impressed with how well it kept up:
We also watched the Ice Age 4D experience; the wait was longer than the show and was just a collection of clips from the films in 3D with various effects to create the “4D” bit, such as snow and wind. Jack loved it though. we also used the skyride to go around. We finished the first day with a trip on thirteen and a brisk walk back to the hotel. The rooms were now ready and the luggage had been deposited into my room.
The second day was much cooler and we knew it was going to rain sooner or later, the reports form all the various weather sources could not agree on when this was going to happen though. We walked into the park again and as we came out at Nemesis, everyone except Louise and Jack went straight onto the ride. We all managed to have a go on the front seat, this was much better than before. After this Louise went on with me but the front row queue was much longer so we go on at the second row which although wasn’t quite as good not too bad.
Just like Disney and Universal, there are characters walking around the park. Jack loves Scrat from Ice Age so just had to have his picture taken with him:
Jack and Simon also had a go on inflatable balls on water (I don’t recall what this is called); this was shear comedy value to us the onlookers:
The RX100 kept up with the action and I also have a few videos of this that I will up-load to YouTube later.
Whilst queuing for Thirteen with my Dad and Simon it broke down and we had to wait about 20 minutes before it got going again. By the time we got to go on the ride it had started to rain. Going around on this ride whilst it is raining is a new and very wet experience! After this ride we put on our various water-proofs and ponchos at which point the rain stopped (typical!). We used this brief lull to go on Rita (first Louise and Simon and then my dad and I). The ride had broken down the day before and Simon and I had queued for nearly an hour before they gave up and told people to exit the queuing area. Simon and I knew that if we waited a little longer then they would hand out Premium passes – which they did. We used these to get straight onto Rita with very little queuing time – this is a very popular ride.
The final ride we went onto that day was HEX again, Jack enjoyed this much more the second time. When we exited we noticed that the Alton Towers building was open to the public, this was the first time we noticed this. We spent around 30 minutes exploring the building as there are now many staircases to all parts. Simon lost his footing and slipped a few steps – he didn’t break anything but now has a nasty bruise on his bottom :(. I took the following shot of the building and i think it looks better in black and white:
After a brief lunch (a very nice Tika Masala) and a final trip on the Marauders Mayhem ride for those who can stomach it, we all went back to the hotel on the monorail. Simon, Louise and Jack went to the water park at the hotel for a couple of hours and Dad and I left for home. After about 15 miniutes, the heavens opened and I had to drive all the way through torrential rain.
Highlights and Lowlights
If you can afford it, get a Merlin pass – this allows free entry to lots of parks and gets you 20% off almost everything sold in the park.
The Satnav on my Ford Kuga got us to the park and back with no wrong turns – my previous Kuga’s satnav did not.
Purchase one of the re-fillable bottles – this paid for itself on the first day and saved more on the second day.
The RX100 was the perfect camera for the trip, small, compact and excellent picture and video quality.
Don’t buy the really cheap ponchos (mine cost only £1), thy rip very easily.
Walking to the park was quicker than using the monorail, this include the queuing and waiting periods.
The hotel was too hot – have they heard of air conditioning?