Sunday, January 26, 2020

REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
Ever heard of the Pilot Custom NS? No? Well, neither had I before the writing of this review!

The Custom NS sits at the lower end of the fairly extensive range of Custom-line fountain pens from Pilot. Having been out for a few months now, It's somewhat strange how little talk this pen has received online so far. The NS is a bit of a strange bird in the lineup of rather business-y pens that Pilot is generally known for, and to top it off the value proposition is sort of... interesting. I'll explain later.

UPDATE #1: NS stands for North-South of a compass because the founder of Pilot was a sailor (no, not THAT Sailor!).
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
We'll start with the good stuff though. The Custom NS is a slightly more cheerful design in an otherwise quite bland line of does-the-job-but-nothing-more pens that the 92, 74, 912, 823,... generally tend to be. It's still a fairly simple design overall, and it stays true to many aspects that tie together Pilot pen designs: such as the triangular, ball-end clip that can also be found on the 74, 743, etc.

The more tapered and curved cigar shape is a bit of a departure from the more subtle torpedo shape with rounded finials that you're used to seeing with many Pilot pens. At first look, the NS looks a bit distorted because it's 'different' from the rest - kind of weird how you get used to a certain design style over time.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The trim of the NS is quite different from the other Custom pens, too. The center band on Pilot pens usually gets wider, the more expensive the pen. On the Custom NS however, the center band is a very wide single (instead of double) ring and extends all the way to the cap edge. 
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The barrel lacks an ornamental ring, but both cap and barrel finial are finished with a small metal insert. The cap finial has a blue dot in it -leftover from the highly coveted Pilot M90 of yore, perhaps?- that I think looks a bit out of place on this red colorway.

UPDATE #2 (I really should've read the Pilot website before I wrote this review!): To quote Pilot: "The cap finial has blue parts that resemble the sea, and is designed with the hope that the heart that cares for someone will be connected without interruption as if the river were connected to the sea."

Speaking of colorways: the NS is available in a nice range of opaque colors (dark and light blue, beige, red or black) that are not often seen on Pilot pens.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
Platinum Procyon, Pilot Custom 74, Pilot Custom 743, Pilot Custom NS, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
The thing that attracted me most to the NS is its size. The Pilot Custom range goes pretty much from small to large when you go up in price... but the NS is again an odd one out. With its 14.4 cm (5,67") length, it's a hair longer than the more expensive Custom 74 and considerably longer than the Custom 91 and 92. Uncapped it's a respectable 12,6 cm (5,0") in length. I feel like the NS is a good-sized pen for everyday use, whereas I always found the Custom 92 a bit on the short side. The plastic construction keeps the overall weight down. The construction feels solid, mainly due to the metal trims.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The one thing you can always rely on with Pilot pens is their excellent writing comfort. The section design is pretty much always the same on all of their pens, yet of all Pilot pens I had on hand, the NS had a noticeably longer section. It's a comfortable pen to use, in part due to the very unobtrusive threads right behind the section. 
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The NS comes equipped with the Con-40 converter, which is so bad that I'd honestly rather stick to refilling cartridges with a syringe. Luckily it does fit the much better Con-70, but you'll have to buy it separately.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib is a steel size 5 (the same as on the Custom 92 and 74) and aesthetically shares the exact same design as the more expensive gold nibs. Sizewise, it feels a bit out of place on a pen this large. The performance is exactly where you'd expect it from a Pilot pen - consistency is definitely a key strength of Pilot's nibs. The ink flow is average but never feels dry, and the ink flow is as consistent as it gets. The medium nib is smooth and lays down a line that is pretty true to the average western medium. If anything, it's perhaps a bit bland and characterless. On the flip side, as far as reliability goes this is not a bad choice.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The Pilot Custom NS is an all-round good pen. The design is classic Pilot, but with a colorful twist. It performs the way you'd expect a Pilot pen to perform: a solid, workhorse pen. A lot of positives...

But why would you buy one? In Japan, it retails for around 80-90$, but here in Europe that price goes up to 100€ and in the US it's a ridiculous 140$. On the European market, the price sort of makes sense because it's still a good bit cheaper than the gold-nibbed Custom 74 and 92. If you're buying outside the EU though, the price jump towards a gold nib is too small to even consider the NS as a valid option. Also compared to pens from other brands, I'd say the NS feels a bit bland for the relatively high price you pay. You can't really go wrong with it, but unless you're really set on the Custom NS, I think there are better options out there.

So maybe that's the reason why you're not hearing more about the Pilot Custom NS?
This product was sent to me by Casa Della Stilografica 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: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN

6 comments:

  1. Wonder if the old Cross Solo nib and section fit the Custom NS barrel as they do the standard Custom 74? It's been an open secret for some time that Pilot made the Solo fp for Cross, with the result that the Solo's guts screw neatly into the barrel of the Custom 74.

    (And for real Fun with Frankenpens, this also means you can make a 1970s Parker Big Red fountain pen — which was never on the market — by mating a Solo nib and section to a Big Red ballpoint, rollerball, or fibertip barrel.)

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    1. I suppose that would work, only the section would be shorter than the section of the NS. That's an interesting hack though! I never knew Pilot also did work for Cross (as Sailor does nowadays for the Peerless).

      Thanks for reading!
      Dries

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  2. "...in the US it's a ridiculous 140$" It is well known that when it comes to Pilot's fine writing instruments, the GREED of Pilot's exclusive U.S. Distributor is boundless.

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  3. Fatma Basak AydemirMarch 16, 2020 at 7:29 PM

    I haven't heard of Pilot Custom NS before, thanks for the review. I quite like how it looks, I would buy eat if I come by a second hand or buy it directly from Japan.

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  4. I'm confused how this is not a good value? Great size, great build quality, consistent nib performance from a reliable brand. Pelikan, Franklin Christoph, Edison among others all have steel nib pens at this or higher price points and nobody bats an eye. To me, it looks like Pilot made a nice quality pen at a fair price comparable to their competition.

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    1. Well, let's say you want to buy a car from brand X. The car costs 10 000$ and compared to other brands it offers a very decent value and quality, but it's a bit boring. But brand x also makes a car that costs 10 001$, and it has an engine that's bit better than the engine of the 10 000$ car, making it a more exciting car overall. Which one would you buy? Both are excellent cars, but the cost difference makes the 30 000$ car oblivious because no one in their right mind would buy it, right? The Custom NS is the 10 000$ car in this story. In general you could indeed argue that it offers a decent value, but Pilot made this a hard sell because even within Pilot's own range there are pens that outperform it! A quick google search gets you a gold-nibbed Pilot custom 74 for around the same price or less than you'd pay for the NS in certain areas (in Japan it literally costs as much as a Custom 74!). And when comparing to other brands with steel nibs, I found the NS to be a bit too bland to really stand out.

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