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Aurora Optima


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#1 RyanL27

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 06:15

Aurora Optima

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I've always liked Aurora pens. The Aurora 88 was my first expensive fountain pen (after my m200), which I first purchased back in October of last year. It was a superb introduction to the pricier world of pens, and I've regretted selling it ever since boxing it up for shipping. Anyway, I waited patiently for another Aurora, and I finally found a smoking deal on a new black Optima. It arrived a couple of days ago, and here are my impressions.

Appearance/Finnish 5/5

My Optima arrived in the typical Aurora packaging: a large, black, velvety box with a cardboard slip over the box, reading: La Passione Italiana. It's been my experience that Aurora's fit and finish is absolutely top-notch. Both my 88 and this Optima are beautifully polished, and the parts fit together seamlessly. Aurora's piston filler operates incredibly smoothly, only second to that German company we all know and love. Lastly, I find the barrel engraving to be a very nice touch, giving the pen a vintage, old-world feel.
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Size/Weight/Comfort 5/5

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Danitrio Densho, Waterman Expert II, Parker "51", Aurora Optima

First of all, I was initially surprised by how small the pen is. I've always heard that the Optima is a short, stubby pen, but having it finally in my hand, I was still amazed by its compactness. Makes me wonder how small the Optima Minis actually are. Anyway, after my experience with the Pelikan m800 and Danitrio Densho, I find the Optima's size to be a perfect change of pace. It fits perfectly in even my shallowest shirt pocket, which is rare for any fountain pen these days and makes it a perfect candidate for my daily carry pen.

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Here's the cool part: even though the pen is rather diminutive while capped, it posts to what I consider the absolute perfect size for long-term writing. It's not excessively long like my m800 was when posted, so there's not much weight hanging off the back of the pen. Also, the pen is indeed "stubby", which leaves no doubt that it's a full-sized writing instrument when it's in action mode.

All in all, this pen is perfectly sized for daily use. In fact, I consider its size/weight to be its best quality (which is saying something because I like the other stuff too).


Nib and Writing Performance 5/5

Now the important part, the nib. It's my opinion that Aurora gets a bad rap because people refer to their nibs as "toothy." I agree that neither of my nibs have had the butter-smooth quality of Sailor or Namiki nibs, but I find them to be quite smooth and ultimately very satisfying to use. The feel of Aurora nibs seems to be completely unique to the brand. There is some tactile feedback from the page, but the nib is incredibly consistent feeling at almost any angle. There are no sharp edges and seemingly no sweetspot that my hand must accustom to. From the very beginning, I love writing with this pen.

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My 88 had a medium nib, which was nice. I decided to go with a broad in the Optima, and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. The nib is somewhat smoother than the 88's medium, but it really is not much broader - maybe only a touch wider line. The flow with Waterman Blue-black is wonderful as the nib lays down quite wet but controlled lines. I think the best thing to be said about Aurora nibs is that they are reliable. Mine always writes as soon as it touches paper, and it starts up first thing even after being uncapped for a bit. Good stuff.


Filling System 4.8/5

The Optima is a piston filler, and as I said earlier, it operates very smoothly and holds a lot of ink. The clear ink window allows for easy monitoring of ink level, but I do remember that the window on my 88 stained from using Private Reserve American Blue ink - maybe a darker window would have been better.

Aurora pistons have their unique "hidden reservoir" system, which holds just a bit of ink in the piston seal, allowing the pen to write an extra page or two after it has run out of its standard in supply. I think one needs to lower the piston to feed the ink into the nib. I don't find the "hidden reservoir" to be all that neat, but it's a reliable, good piston filler regardless.

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Conclusion

I'm very happy with this pen. It's the perfect alternative to the m800, in my opinion. It's lighter, shorter and has no silly trim ring to corrode over the years. The writing qualities are uniquely Aurora, and I really do love the broad nib. This has already become one of my favorite pens - a great daily tool.
"I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them."
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#2 HDoug

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 06:24

Thanks much for the review. Great photos, especially the "comparison" shot -- that gives us a good idea of the size of the pen.

Doug

#3 Phthalo

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 07:28

Sounds like a great pen Ryan - I'm glad you are enjoying an Aurora again. :)

The feel of Aurora nibs seems to be completely unique to the brand.

I think this is very true. I have written with their F and M nibs and both were splendid - the feedback feels very natural and shouldn't be viewed as something negative. Aurora has a very good nib design to begin with, and this is further enhanced by their overall careful attention to detail.

I have the new Aurora Sole Minima (same size as the Optima Mini), and its XF nib is fantastic. Few modern brands can offer a decent XF nib these days, but Aurora is one. My 14K Sailor XF writes only marginally smoother than my 18K Aurora XF, but the Sailor lays a wetter line - it's just more lubricated than the Aurora.

Aurora make good writers indeed. :)
Laura / Phthalo
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#4 Inkanthropist

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 07:45

Thanks for the review and excellent photos, Ryan.

Neil
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#5 RichardS

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:28

Thanks for the interesting review and pics. I've been considering buying an Aurora for some time, but find myself tending towards the 88. Having tried both now, which would you buy if you could start all over again?

#6 Karin

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 10:47

Great review Ryan!
I am the proud owner of an Optima forest green with an M nib and an Aurora Mare that I acquired in a trade. I'm still shaking my head over my good luck. The Mare has a B nib which writes exactly the way you describe yours.
I love both the nibs.
I was also surprised at how small these pens look and how large and comfortable they are in writing mode.

Great pics as well. :D


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#7 NG-Huy

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 10:49

Oh, very nice pen ! You are right about the nib, it's very smooth and has a very good ink flow control. The piston filling system is very positive too.

RichardS, I have both Aurora 88 and Optima (well it's Aurora Sole Minima in fact) and I'd go for Optima if I had to choose between those two.

I'm usually a japanese pen lover (especially maki-e and urushi), but Aurora is a brand I'm fond of and I'll buy another Aurora pen again (maybe Mare or Primavera next).

EDIT:

I am the proud owner of an Aurora Mare that I acquired in a trade.


Lucky you, I wish I may have a Mare in a trade too :)

Edited by NG-Huy, 18 August 2006 - 10:52.


#8 grasshopper

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 10:53

Excellent review, Ryan. B)

You've done more than enough to tempt me to go and try one. And we all know what that might mean. Thanks a lot. ;)


raf.

You can't always get what you want... but if you try sometimes... you just might find... you'll get what you need...


#9 Taki

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 11:08

Ryan, I enjoyed reading your review. Optima is one of my favorite pens. Now PR American Blue is my "Do not use in Optima" list :P I have been using Noodlers Marine Green and Zhivago about a year in my Optima and so far no staining problems.

Thanks for the great review and very nice photos :)

Edited by Taki, 18 August 2006 - 11:09.


#10 thewolfgang

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 13:30

Thanks Ryan for a very dynamic, compelling review. I've been thinking about an Optima myself and you have definitely made it even more tempting. And I'm impressed by how straight the lines it draws!

BTW, how do you rate the value equation for the Optima?

#11 PinarelloOnly

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 13:48

Enjoy your pen and don't sell it this time.

Thanks for the pics too.

I love my Talentum with an xf nib. It's my daily writer and it has
turned me into a big fan of Aurora nibs!

Scott.

#12 RyanL27

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 15:37

Thanks for all the nice words, everyone! I'll try to add a writing sample this afternoon when I get a few minutes.

I've been considering buying an Aurora for some time, but find myself tending towards the 88. Having tried both now, which would you buy if you could start all over again?


I prefer the Optima. But I just prefer flat-top pens–I opted for the flat-top Danitrio Mikado, and I prefer a vintage Pelikan 400 over a 400 NN. Beyond the aesthetic difference, the pens are exactly the same and of the same excellent quality. The Optima is a bit shorter when capped though, and that's a bonus in my opinion because I like my pens to ride low in my pocket. Also, the 88 doesn't have a barrel engraving like the Optima, which may be something to consider.

However, I find myself wanting another 88 more than ever now :D

Edited by RyanL27, 18 August 2006 - 15:38.

"I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them."
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#13 RyanL27

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 15:43

BTW, how do you rate the value equation for the Optima?

Well that's tough because I didn't pay anywhere close to retail. I got mine new/uninked for $160, which I consider an absolute steal for this pen. At $250–which is the lowest retail price I know of–I still think it's a good buy if you can afford it. In my opinion, you get all the writing quality of an m800 with better style and Italian style. Also, it's much lighter than an m800 or other similar pen, which I greatly prefer. I was considering the Optima from a retail seller, and I know that if I had gone that route, I wouldn't be a bit disappointed.
"I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them."
- Baruch Spinoza

#14 southpaw

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 02:35

Excellent review of a very solid pen.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8, NKJV)

#15 CarromNpens

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 16:54

Nice review !

I have also recently bought Optima in green with Stub nib. Its very well balanced with cap posted. The same thing cannot be said of pelikan M800, with cap posted its off balance.

#16 JRodriguez

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 16:07

I also have an 88 and an Optima. Both are fantastic M nibs, though I prefer the slightly longer 88 to the Optima. I think the reason is about my personal proclivities, as opposed to my actually thinking the 88 is in any way better. They're both the same width at the section, but the 88 length just fits my hand perfectly; from the moment I held the pen it felt like it had been custom designed for me. During the first month of owning my 88 I kept coming back to it, not wanting to rotate it out, and it became my favorite pen in my collection (the fave prior to that was a toss up b/w a Parker Vac and a Pel 800). That said, I wouldn't trade my Optima for anything (well ... maybe 2 Optimas). Anyway, super review!






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