<a class='bbc_url' href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/lamy2000/7644371518/'><img src='http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8285/7644371518_335fa42d85_z.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' /></a>The perspective doesn't show it, but these three pens are the same length capped.
The Safari and Lamy 2000, and to a lesser extent the Studio, are often recommended as starter fountain pens, and with good reason. Safari is a great value for an affordable and dependable pen. Studio takes the nib and feed mechanism of Safari and dresses it up in a refined body; the sleek curves of Studio contrast with the boxy lines of Safari. Lamy 2000 is, hands down, one of the best values in pendom. For less than $100 USD used, and a little more new, Lamy 2000 delivers a smooth piston-fill pen that has a generous ink capacity, smooth nib, and durable body. It is the embodiment of Lamy's design philosophy, "form follows function." Although Lamy has more pens in its line, I feel that these three are the "flagship" models.
Appearance and Aesthetics
Lamy pens are modern. No two ways about it. Lamy has a track record for inviting renowned designers to design their pens; Lamy 2000, Studio, and Safari are all award-winning designs. I get annoyed when elements of book or DVD spines in a series don't line up, so it makes me smile that these three pens are the same length capped (full measurements below). I know this isn't an important consideration for most people, but it is a detail that helps me appreciate Lamy and their emphasis on design.
Lamy 2000 and Al-Star spooning. Notice their caps are the same length.
<a class='bbc_url' href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/lamy2000/7644371608/'><img src='http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8288/7644371608_6615541c49_z.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' /></a>
Uncapped, Lamy 2000 and Studio strive for a conical or torpedo shape. I think Lamy 2000 is more balanced and elegant on account of its semi-hooded nib; Studio's body juts out slightly from the section, and the nib is more pronounced.
<img src='http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8429/7644372018_d479aa52a2_z.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />
Caps and Clips: The caps and clips are flourishes on the pens.
<img src='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7272/7644371678_23318f4f5e_z.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />
Al-Star/Safari/Vista clips are reminiscent of paper clips. In a year's use, the clip on my Al-Star has loosened considerably and has a lot of play. It still clips, just not as well. My biggest frustration is that the pen simply does not want to stay capped. It stays on (or should) by friction fitting to the trim ring between the section and body; mine must have been abused because it hardly stays capped in my pocket. To my mind, this is the least satisfying cap and clip of the trio.
Lamy 2000's clip, on the other hand, feels the most solid. It is the shortest of the three and has a hard time clipping securely in blue-jeans. It has no trouble clipping to thinner materials. Unlike Safari, Lamy 2000's clip is still quite tight. It is spring loaded and stays secure. The cap attaches by fastening to two small nibs that extended from a clutch ring between the body and section. There is an audible and satisfying click noise when the cap is set or removed.
My mind isn't made up yet on the Studio cap and clip. Continuing the torpedo motif, the clip is shaped like a propeller. From the top it looks like a Levenger triangular clip. From the side, it curves to resemble a prop blade or canoe paddle. It doesn't feel as robust as the Lamy 2000 clip. The cap attaches firmly to the body, but there is a slight amount of play. Still, it stays capped in my pocket and attaches to a shirt collar, so it has a leg up on Al-Star/Safari/Vista.
Grip sections: Arguably the worst part of these pen designs, unfortunately. Each have pros and cons.
My Studio has a slick metal section that is both heavy and hard to hold on to--not a good combination. I've read reports that the other option with a rubber grip wears out quickly. Still, I've been happily using Studio for meeting and project notes, grocery lists, and other brief writing tasks.
Safari/Al-Star/Vista have a triangular grip section. It isn't a problem for me, but many complain that it doesn't suit their writing style.
Lamy 2000 also has a slick metal section. Choke up on the nib and your fingers may slide; hold the pen too far up and the clutch ring nubs may be a bother. I tend to grip the area where the section meets the body and neither of these factors seem to affect me. Of the trio, I can most comfortably hold Lamy 2000 for long writing sessions.
Over the long haul, my Al-Star has not held up to my abuses. The clip has some play and the coating is coming off where it meets the cap (see above). There are dings and scratches and scrapes all over the cap and body. This has part to do with my abuse--throw it in a pocket, drop it in my bag, and so on--but partly to do with the soft aluminum. I had a Vista that ran off and it too showed scratches fairly easily. If I were to get another pen of this model, I'd choose the textured Safaris. On the other hand, less abusive pen owners have been quite happy with their Al-Stars over the years. Your mileage varies.
I've owned Studio the least amount of time, so I can't really speak to its robustness. I've been carrying it around for a week and it hasn't picked up a mark yet. Color me impressed. Usually the first thing I (accidently) do to a pristine pen is mar it. The blue coating has a rubbery feel to it. The metal section is slick and picks up fingerprints easily.
Lamy 2000 is famously made of Makrolon fiberglass resin. The first day I had this pen I accidently dropped it out of a moving car's window (don't ask), and when I went back to retrieve it the only damage was a small ding taken out of the very end of the pen. Amazing! I've heard tell that I can probably sand this out, but I think it adds a little bit of character. I can confidently throw Lamy 2000 in my pocket without worry. The black body tends to warm up quickly and it gets downright hot when I use it out of doors in direct sunlight. This causes some inky issues.
I generally don't post my pens, but Studio has a pretty cool posting mechanism. The butt end of the body is metal and has a small lip at the edge. This docks in a hold in the inside of the cap. I like this a lot more than the standard friction fit. There is some play because the cap is wider than the pen body, as seen below.
3 2000 Studio uncapped by Lamy 2000, on Flickr
Weights and Dimensions
Take these measurements with a grain of salt--they're not scientific. Similarly, I don't have an accurate small scale. Studio feels heaviest and 2000 feels lightest.
Lamy 2000: Capped 5 7/16" or 139mm; Uncapped 4 7/8" or 124mm; Posted 6" or 152mm
Lamy Studio: Capped 5 1/2" or 140mm; Uncapped 5 1/16 or 130mm; Posted 6 1/8" or 156mm
Lamy Al-Star: Capped 5 1/2" or 140mm; Uncapped 5 1/8" or 131mm; Posted 6 11/16" or 170mm
Others have hashed and rehashed the Lamy nib pros and cons, so I'll skimp on this section. Safari/Al-Star/Vista take inexpensive stainless steel nibs in a range of EF-B and italics. They are easily swapped out; I can take mine off by pulling on them or slipping them off with a strip of tape. They are firm, but I like that in a nib. I've owned two EF nibs and both are scratchy. One I just need to break in a little further; the other was snakebit. I prefer fine, which have ranged from true fine to extra-fine.
Studio takes the same interchangeable nibs, but certain models come in gold. Mine does not, so I can't comment.
Lamy Safari Nibs by Lamy 2000, on Flickr
Lamy 2000 nibs are a source of frustration. Many people have trouble with variable nib width. The pen I bought was labeled as Fine on the package and the slip cover the pen shipped in. When I opened it up, however, the nib was marked M. It wrote just the same width as my wife's medium Safari. I wonder if some of the exaggerated line width debate is brought on by mislabeled nibs. In addition to the width issue, my Lamy 2000 came with a relatively small "sweet spot." For example, it had issues drawing circles and certain angles worked better than others. I shipped mine to Dillon Ang for a regrind and smoothing, and it performs fabulously.
Al-Star and Studio take proprietary Lamy T10 cartridges or slightly different converters. I've been using the "wrong" converter in my Al-Star for a year without any problems. I generally fill from a bottle with the converter. Doing so gets ink in the feed faster than carts. I've never had an issue with skipping or flow troubles.
Lamy 2000 is a piston filler, and what a piston it is! I was surprised that the blind cap screwed smoother than my prized Pelikan. Lamy must have addressed piston issues; mine is a recent purchase and the piston just GLIDES. There's a dance you have to go through to use the ink window properly, but it's no biggie since the piston holds SO MUCH INK. My biggest complaint about Lamy 2000 is that it warms up and occasionally burps ink out of the breather hole. This pools in the cap and gets all over the section. Some inks are better than others in this regard--PR seems to stay down better than Pelikan, for example.
Cost and Value
Safari and Lamy 2000 have a great cost:value ratio as far as c/c and piston pens go. You're paying for the looks, and in some cases nibs, on a Studio. The pens are widely available from online vendors and eBay. I bought my Al-Star MSRP from a brick and mortar store (which has since closed, sadface). I bought the Lamy 2000 for cheap on eBay, but the cost of regrinding the nib took it up to the street price for new pens. I purchased Studio from SwisherPens, taking advantage of their Memorial Day sale (happy customer, nothing more).
There's a reason that Lamy Safari/Al-Star/Vista are recommended to new fountain pen enthusiasts: they are fun, reliable, and fairly inexpensive as far as fountain pens go. I use mine primarily as a grading and correcting pen with Skrip Red ink; it makes the task bearable. Studio is a step up in terms of looks, and it is a solid, robust pen. I've been using it in meetings and to write short lists--tasks at which it excels. Lamy 2000 is one of the best values for piston fill pens. There's a reason so many people recommended it to me when I asked about reliable, quality, but fairly cheap pens. I wish I hadn't waited a year to get one. I've been happily using it to write during marathon drafting sessions, and it holds up like a champ. I think the length and weight are just about perfect; my other favorite pen is a Pelikan M605 which is nearly the same size.
L to R - Al-Star, Studio, Pelikan M605, Lamy 2000, Pilot G-2 Pro
Thanks for reading along, and thanks Iziem for the inspiration!
Edited by watch_art, 25 July 2012 - 17:02.