Sunday, October 10, 2021

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

After too long of an unplanned hiatus (sorry!), we're back with a pen review you probably didn't see coming in a million years! Indeed my first encounter with the Venvstas Magna wasn't a flawless one, considering I had quite a few qualms with the original design. For me, those issues distracted from the impressive and unique looks of the Magna and ultimately made it a less enjoyable pen to use.

But Venvstas didn't leave it at that! Instead, they showed a very strong comeback with their latest version of the Magna: the Venvstas Magna CC. Here's the TL;DR, Venvstas improved on all the pet peeves I had with the original Magna fountain pen, and I really like the end result this time!

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

The original Venvstas Magna -a piston-filled pen- managed to impress me with its brutalist, minimal design made entirely from matte brushed linear carbon fiber, with matte stainless steel accents. I did, however, have some issues with the construction: an open barrel allowing the piston plunger to be depressed accidentally, and a barrel closure that didn't actually hold the barrel closed very well.

The new CC version takes over the design of the original down to the absolute smallest detail, with no visual cues to distinguish between the two versions. At least not on the outside...

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
The barrel closure is now much more robust

Remove the barrel, and you'll find that Venvstas exchanged the closure mechanism on the barrel for a clutch similar to the one used in the cap (which is much more robust), making the overall construction more secure and rattle-free. Especially when opening and closing the cap, the barrel is held on tight so it stays nicely in place. The updated closure also keeps the barrel and section aligned perfectly, which was another pet peeve I had with the piston-filled version. 

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

But the main difference, as indicated in the name, is the switch from piston-filler to a simpler cartridge/converter system. Where the exposed piston plunger left opportunity for an inky mess with an accidental press (Ha! That rhymes!), the converter in the new version is now fully enclosed by a fixed black cylindrical finial that protrudes from the barrel. The cap can still post just like before, as the overall shape of the barrel did not change at all. The Magna CC uses a standard international converter, and so you can also switch between regular ink cartridges if you like. 

Yeah sure, on paper the switch to a standard cartridge-converter system may sound like a step backward, but believe me when I say that for this pen it makes perfect sense. The only thing you lose is ink capacity, going from the generous 2mL to whatever a standard cartridge or converter can hold (which is roughly 0.8 mL), but that's a trade-off I'll gladly make in return for peace of mind. And let's be honest, c/c pens are actually quite convenient to use unless you really write a lot!


L to R: Pelikan M805, Ensso Piuma, Leonardo Furore, Venvstas Magna CC, Lamy Dialog 3, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari

The Magna CC takes on all dimensions from the piston-filled version: 15.5 cm (6.1") long capped, 14.6 cm (5.74") uncapped, and a comfortable diameter of 12 mm (0.47") across the entire length of the pen. One thing that did change: the Magna CC put on some weight (from 24g to 30g). 

The increase in weight makes for a pen that feels a bit more substantial and solid in the hand, more in line with what you'd expect to feel from a pen this size. The weight of the Magna is nicely balanced around the core of the pen, as most of the internals inside the section are stainless steel. The added heft, combined with the more robust barrel-section joint and lack of rattling, add to the solid feeling of the Magna CC. I also found that the overall fit and finish has become a bit more precise.

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
I like how the very minimal logo engraving is slightly hidden underneath the 'semi-hooded' part of the nib!

The Venvstas Magna comes equipped with a titanium nib as standard (a gold nib upgrade is also available). While the medium nib from before was a splendid writer, I wanted to try something finer this time. The fine nib came properly set up out of the box and runs true to size, if not slightly on the wider side. Ink flow is generous though not excessive. The F has a noticeable amount of pencil-like feedback, something the medium didn't have -though of course, that makes sense on a finer nib. 

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
Some ink on the hooded part of the nib is not uncommon due to the design of the cap mechanism. 

This particular nib feels quite firm for a titanium one, although that's not uncommon. There always seems to be a rather wide variation in springiness among titanium nibs. 

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
Made-in-house nib? Well this is certainly not a standard-issue Bock feed!

As far as I know, Venvstas claimed their nibs are made in-house (in any case, the feed is not a standard Bock type). If so, they sure do know how to make a good nib, my writing experience with the Magna has been excellent in both instances.

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

If you recall the bottom line on my original review of the Venvstas Magna, I was hopeful. The Magna fell prey to what can best be described as a bit too much 'over-designing', choosing form over function. But there were clear opportunities for improvement to bring the Magna up to the standard I'd expect from a pen in this price range. I also promised that I'd change my opinion if they came through on an improved design... and they did! Needless to say, I'm beyond impressed that they carried out the improvements and changes I had in mind (and executed them flawlessly!), making the Venvstas Magna CC a pen I can 100% fully stand behind. 

The Venvstas Magna CC comes in at  239€/ 230$ without VAT (from our site sponsor Appelboom), conveniently also 10€ cheaper than the piston version. Between the two models, my choice for the Magna CC is clear. But if you're really willing to make some sacrifices in terms of usability and function to get the most 'purist' design object out of the Magna (the way the designer intended it), I suppose the piston-filled version would be the option for you.

Note: This product was sent by Venvstas, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN

A long, long time ago, years before I started this website, I remember visiting a local pen store in Antwerp, where I spotted a tiny little yellow fountain pen somewhere in the corner of a display cabinet. I knew nothing about it back then, other than that the price tag unfortunately didn't read 15 but 150 euros (Oops, my mistake!), thus putting it far out of reach for my student budget! The image of that little yellow pen though... that stuck with me throughout the years. And it wasn't until much later that I realized which pen it was: a Sailor Pro Gear Slim Mini, a rather elusive (outside Japan at least) model that I didn't come across again ever since that day.

However, Sailor recently decided to push the mini version of their popular Pro Gear model onto the worldwide market once again. So, obviously this time I just had to get my own... Thanks go out to our sponsor Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery, for providing this pen for review!
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
Where to start? Well, I think it's fair to say that in terms of design you shouldn't expect any major surprises. For all intents and purposes, the PG Slim Mini is a Slim ('Sapporo') model, squished down to roughly the length of a Kaweco Sport. Despite the noticeably distorted proportions, the design remains otherwise identical, retaining the classic flat-top design of the Pro Gear including all ornamental details such as the decorative trim ring behind the section, the 'staircase' ridged clip, and anchor logo medallion insert in the cap finial. It's no less premium-looking than any other Sailor pen, but it does look kind of cute, don't you think?
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
Despite its short presence on the European and American market (only about a year or so since the re-introduction), the Pro Gear Slim Mini already went through a slight design overhaul. It went from having threads on the blind cap to post the cap, to just being friction-fit. I'd argue this change is for the better, as it's still plenty secure but much faster and easier to post the cap and start writing. It also makes the pen look a bit cleaner, aesthetically.
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
With the slight design change, Sailor also introduced some new colorways for the Mini. Even though I regret that the Mustard Yellow colorway was discontinued, I do appreciate the new, more muted pastel color palette inspired by Moroccan culture. The 'Puff Brown' (shown here) colorway is my favorite from the new selection, a nice dark muted brown, very understated and business-appropriate.
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Schon P6, Kaweco Brass Sport, Platinum 3776, Pelikan M400, Sailor Pro Gear, Sailor Pro Gear Slim Mini, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The PG Slim Mini is a true pocket-sized pen, measuring just 10.9 cm (4.3") capped. Side by side, you can see it's only a few mm longer than a Kaweco Sport, which is perfect for pocket carry. When posted, the Mini transforms into a not-so-mini pen, 13.6 cm (5.37") long. But remember that this is really one of those pens that you just HAVE to post for anything but a quick scribble, as it's a mere 9.6 cm (3.76") uncapped, even shorter than an uncapped Kaweco Sport! 

For such a tiny pen, I was surprised to find that it still weighs in at 16 grams - still very light and nimble for sure, but more than I expected for such a tiny pen. It feels solid in the hand, though of course you're still dealing with a resin pen... and that immediately brings us to my only gripe with the Mini: it's not quite the kind of pen I look for when I think EDC or pocket carry. A pocket pen -for me- is a robust, bomb-proof metal pen with an equally sturdy clip - this is not that! Sure it's probably durable enough to stand the test of time with normal use, but this is not a pen I'll clip into my jeans pocket.
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
Comfort is sometimes lost on pocket pens, but not with this one. The section leans on the slimmer side, but with an average diameter over 9 mm (0.35"), and no harsh threads or steps in the way of your fingers, it's a very comfortable pen to hold in the hand. Combined with the excellent size when posted, and the lightweight construction, I don't at all mind picking up this pocket pen for longer writing sessions!
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
The Mini converter has 'mini' ink capacity... who'd have thunk!
Since regular converters obviously won't fit, Sailor went the extra mile to produce a shorter 'Mini' converter to fit in this pen... But really, they shouldn't have. You'll be paying a rather hefty 8-10€ (about 11$) for one, and the ink capacity is a measly 0.3 mL - less than a third of a Sailor Ink cartridge! 
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
One of, if not THE, selling points of the Sailor Pro Gear Mini is of course its 14k nib. Same as the one found on the Sapporo and 1911S, it's a small nib (though on this pen it's very much a proportionate size) with big performance! On the Western market, the Mini only comes in the M-F nib width. Somewhat odd that they'd restrict the nib options like that (of course you could, in theory, swap the friction fit nibs out with other Sailor models), but luckily the 'Hard' Medium-Fine continues to hit a sweet spot for my personal writing style. Like all Sailor nibs, it's a rather firm nib with noticeable pencil-like feedback when you write. The M-F lays down a line closest to a Western Fine with a balanced ink flow -as you'd expect from a Japanese pen- which makes it a rather versatile and well-balanced option for everyday writing IMHO. 

From day one, I've been enjoying the Sailor Pro Gear Slim Mini an awful lot. Maybe it's because the small form factor actually is 100% pocket-sized, as opposed to the small-but-not-quite form factor of the 'full-sized' Pro Gear and Pro Gear Slim models. Or perhaps it's because you get one of the best nibs in the game, inside that pocket-sized, EDC-able vessel? In any case, the PG Slim Mini is a great Japanese alternative to the many pocket fountain pens that exist on the market today. Even despite it probably not being my first choice when looking for a pen I can carelessly throw in my pants pocket every day.

Pricing is relatively decent too if you take into account the 14k gold nib! At a retail price of 167€/ 180$ (at our site sponsor, Sakura), it comfortably joins the Lamy 2000 and Platinum 3776 Century on the list of high-quality gold-nibbed pens for under 200$!
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN

Friday, May 21, 2021

REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
No matter how many Opus 88 pens go through my hands, time and time again I'm impressed with their fun designs and impeccable quality! I particularly enjoy seeing their demonstrator models whenever they come up with a new model, those always inevitably pop up, though sometimes only after a while. 

In the case of the Opus 88 Jazz, it took them a short while to move on from the translucent tortoiseshell acrylics they first released this model in, but they did make up for the lost time by immediately releasing two demonstrator versions instead of one: The Opus 88 Jazz 'Clear', and the frosted Jazz 'Holiday Clear'! My thanks go out to Opus 88 for sending me both pens to check out!
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The Design of the Jazz is possibly one of the most 'classic' approaches to a fountain pen that we've seen from Opus, yet. It takes after traditional cigar-shaped pens, with a slightly tapered bulbous shape and large rounded finials. In fact, it has some likeness to the Penlux Masterpiece Grande I reviewed not too long ago (HERE)

The Jazz features a bit more ornamental trims than you typically find on an Opus pen, with a decorative band on the cap, above the clip (separate from the ring that actually connects the clip to the cap) and above the blind cap. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The rounded center band is a new addition for Opus 88, and its minimal logo engraving perhaps looks a bit empty on the standard opaque colorways of the Jazz - but it does match to the clean look of the demonstrator versions, I find. The teardrop-shaped clip with knurled sides makes its return from one of the first pens that kicked things off for Opus, the Koloro. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
I firmly expected Opus to follow their current trend of releasing demonstrator pens with matte black trims, but the Jazz is the exception to that rule, with standard silver-colored trims. This once again adds to the more classic design of the Jazz, and it's not a bad choice IMHO, if not that it does make it the odd one out when put next to the Demonstrator and Omar Demonstrator.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The Jazz 'Holiday Clear', which is the frosted/matte version of the Jazz demonstrator (I don't quite understand the reasoning behind the name?) gets ruthenium-colored trims - though polished, so still not quite like the matte black trims of the other Demonstrator pens. All demonstrator pens from Opus already come with frosted innards, though the addition of a matte finish on the outside gives the Holiday an even more uniform and opaque look, contrasting strongly with the polished, dark trims. Of course, the biggest difference is how the Holiday Jazz FEELS in the hand, the soft matte surface texture sets it apart completely from the other versions. The matte finish is quite uniform across the entire pen, living up to the excellent construction standards of Opus, once more.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Pura, Penlux Masterpiece Grande, Opus 88 Omar, Demonstrator, Jazz, Montblanc 149, Pelikan M805, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
It's no secret that Opus 88 likes to create large -very large-, oversized pens, so it'll come to no surprise that the Jazz is also a very big pen. Though, even besides the already large Demonstrator and Omar, the Jazz is still a decent bit longer. Strangely though, because of the more streamlined design, it doesn't feel too big (though of course that boils down to personal preference!).

At 15.1 cm/ 5.95", it's unapologetically oversized, though, that's more or less a given with Opus. Without the cap, you're left with a pen that's 13.3 cm/ 5.24" long, which is more than comfortable for even a large hand. If you're feeling adventurous, you could still post the cap, though it doesn't post awfully deep so you'll end up with a ridiculously long pen! At 28 grams, the Jazz is surprisingly quite a bit lighter than the smaller Opus 88 Omar. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Opus 88 Demonstrator, Omar, Jazz
The section design of the Jazz is again (almost) identical to those on a lot of their other pens: a decently sized section with a nicely pinched taper that transitions smoothly into the threads. There's a bit of a step behind the threads and it can be quite sharp depending on how you hold the pen, a bit unfortunate on an otherwise very comfortable pen!
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The barrel size of the Jazz is visibly shorter than the Demonstrator and Omar
Interestingly, despite the Jazz being the largest of the three, it still loses to the Demonstrator and Omar when it comes to ink capacity. You can actually see that the barrel part of the Jazz is noticeably shorter, likely due to the proportions of the pen. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
Now admittedly, 3 mL is hardly anything to scoff at, but it is indeed less than the 3.5mL of the other two models. The Japanese eyedropper filling mechanism continues to be a fantastic trade-off between huge ink capacity, while still keeping a practical advantage over traditional eyedroppers.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
Compared to the last Opus 88 pen I reviewed -the Opus 88 Flow-, the Jazz returns to the camp of JoWo for the nib choice (in fact, all demonstrator models so far have exclusively used JoWo nibs). An excellent nib choice that also implies that this pen should be suited for conversion to a Pilot parallel nib (a fun feature I've discussed extensively in my review of the Omar). The broad nib I tested on the Jazz Clear worked flawlessly out of the box, and pairs great with the large ink capacity Japanese eyedropper.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The Opus 88 Jazz takes all the elements that I've liked before -and continue to like- about Opus' oversized, demonstrator, Japanese eyedropper-filled fountain pens, and crams it into a design that's actually remarkably traditional and 'normal' (for their doing). Their interpretation of a classic cigar-shaped fountain pen works well, even though it's not quite as eye-catching as the more unique styles of the Omar, Flow, or Bela. It's an inoffensive design and it works especially well in these two clear demonstrator finishes. As always, one of the main reasons of appeal for me continues to be the competitive pricing of Opus pens: for 108€/ 104$ (at site sponsor Appelboom, use discount code 'friend' for 10% off!), you really do get a whole lot of pen for your money!

Note: This product was sent by Opus 88, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN