So far I have rather been on the consumer side than on the supplier side on this forum. But now that I have been using the new LAMY Dialog 3 for about a month, I thought I could share my experiences.
The idea of combining the writing comfort of a fountain pen with the handiness of a ballpoint pen has intrigued me since I first came across the capless fountain pens produced by Pilot. But the biro chic of the Vanishing Point with its push button never really got me. The Fermo, on the other hand, looks much more elegant, but it suffers, in my feeling, from a balance issue: with the quite heavy turning knob mechanism located at the back end outside/behind the hand it somehow constantly drags the nib away from the paper, thus being quite a nuisance to the hand. Besides that, I have a leaning towards LAMY pens, as LAMY pens and I share the place of birth. So, when I noticed that LAMY had come up with their version of a capless pen, I had to get one.
The package: the pen comes with a dark brown-blackish wooden box, a converter and a blue cartridge. The pen itslf can be unscrewed into three parts, the two halves of the body and the nib section that, like the Pilot pens, houses the converter or a cartridge.
2. Appearance & Design:
The design of the Dialog 3 is in line with LAMY's other products: sober elegance, understated, reduced, almost unimpressive with its matte finish. Like another reviewer on this forum the shape of the pen reminded me of a cigar tubo, or in more martial terms, of a submarine with its torpedo tubes (especially when the spherical cap is opened and the nib appears). With regard to design there are four main differences to the capless models by Pilot:
- The nib movement mechanism is not spring-loaded. It is completely driven by manually turning the rear half of the body by about 180 degrees and the nib does not snap back into the body when the mechanism is reversed.
- The tube in which the nib is housed is sealed by what LAMY calls a "ball valve", a spherical piece of chromed metal that shuts the tube and is moved synchronously with the nib mechanism. Thus, there is no hole that is constantly open with a spring-loaded trap door inside the body. But like the trap door of the Pilot pens this ball valve does not seal the pen airtight. The valve itself is driven by a cogwheel mechanism.
- The whole mechanism is located in the front/nib half of the pen, and not at the front and the back end of the pen. Thus, the pen is very well balanced with the balance point being located inside your hand when writing and directing the nib towards the paper.
- The clip is partly retracted into the body when the nib is extracted. But unlike some of LAMY's rollerball pens, it does not completely disappear in the body and, honestly, the difference in height is rather minimal.
3. Construction & Quality:
The build and finish quality is flawless. Except for the nib feed and the black ring around the ball valve everything seems to be made of metal. You can clearly feel the point where the nib is fully extracted and the nib firmly stays in this position. It actually feels quite like opening a tool on a Swiss Army knife and overall the pen rather feels like a single purpose pocket tool than 'just' a pen. Also, the interplay of the clip's level change, the movement of the nib and the opening and closing of the front valve has worked flawlessly so far. The whole mechanism appears to be solid. The only drawback I can see at the moment is that the cogwheel mechanism of the valve is such that as soon as the back half is turned to extract the nib the valve begins to move and open as well and there is no real lock or block when the nib is in fully retracted position and the pen is closed. Thus, a tiny movement of the back end, which might happen when keeping the pen in one's hands or in a shirt pocket, also opens the valve a bit. And this might lead to the ink drying faster inside and to the pen skipping.
4. Weight & Dimensions:
Due to its full metal construction the Dialog 3 is not a lightweight pen. It is quite massive, the heaviest pen I have used so far. Because of the good balancing of the pen I do not find the weight to be a particularly stressful . After some time with the Dialog 3 lighter pens now appear 'too light' to me. When I opened the box in which the pen came, I was surprised by how huge the pen looked. But with regard to length the Dialog 3 is comparable to the Vanishing Point and the Fermo.
From top: LAMY Dialog 3, Pilot Vanishing Point, Pilot Fermo, LAMY Studio
I think that the large diameter of the pen is mainly responsible for the impression of hugeness. That the nib mechanism is built around the nib section in the front half might explain, at least partly, why it is so thick. As thin pens make my hand cramp, I quite like the large girth.
5. Nib & Performance:
I bought the pen with an extra-fine nib. At first, the nib gave me quite a headache. It was a very dry writer, it skipped often and was a very slow starter. But after a bath in warm water with washing-up liquid it is now a generous nib: very smooth with a wet and rich line. But, as the ball valve does not seal off the nib from the environment as tightly as a conventional cap does, my experience has been that this pen has to be used regularly and without too long intervals when inked. It will start okay after a day or so, but inactivity over longer periods are not ideal. I was aware that LAMY's definition of extra-fine does not match with what the Japanese would call "extra-fine". Compared with my Pilot pens the nib could probably be classified as fine to medium. But what I find astonishing is that nib widths among LAMY pens do not seem that consistent. The extra-fine nib of my Studio, although the latter comes with the same nib model, is clearly finer than and not as wet as the nib on my Dialog 3. Could it be that these nibs are ground manually and that it just depends on which grinder with his/her preferences happens to grind the nib on your pen?
6. Filling System & Maintenance:
There is not much to say about this. The Dialog 3 can be used with either the Z26 converter or LAMY's proprietary cartridges. When using the converter one has to unscrew the nib section from the body to refill it. This is not necessary when cartridges are used. On the other hand it is quite helpful that the nib section can be unscrewed, as this makes for easy cleaning of the nib section and provides for short pit stop times when changing ink.
7. Cost & Value:
I paid the full German recommended retail price which is 199 €. At this price the pen is not a bargain, nor is the price tag a shocker. A marketeer would probably state that the price was 'competitive'. The official German Pilot online shop charges 199 € for the Vanishing Point and wants the completely absurd sum of 349 € - that is around 500 US$ as of 19/01/2010 - for the Fermo. After all you get a full metal tool with an uncommon design. Time will tell whether the mechanism can cope with the wear and tear of everyday life.
Overall Rating: 8/10