So I've been here for over a year and a half now and it's occurred to me that I haven't written a single pen review yet. Well, today I'm going to knock that off my (rapidly inflating) 'to-do' list before uni starts up again and I get inundated with assignments and what have you. I thought I'd write a review of Visconti's Opera Master Demo because: 1) it's one of those pens that I've wanted from the moment I laid eyes on it, and 2) there isn't a review on it yet. So without further ado...
As with all Visconti pens, the presentation is fantastic. I know some people aren't fans of the faux croc leather Visconti use for their regular editions but I think they're quite nice and certainly different to your run of the mill pen box. Anyway, moot point. The box that the Opera Master comes in is drool inspiring. Large wooden box (I think it's burr wood) with a lovely white leather tray inside holding the pen. This is a very nice and very heavy box. I tend to pack the boxes away when I get a pen but this is the kind of box I'd quite happily have on display on my desk or shelf.
Some images of the box: (feel free to ignore the pile of stuff in the background. My desk is its usual messy self)
First thing's first: this is a very large pen. Having said that, it's not so large as to appear cumbersome. I absolutely adore the Opera series of pens and the Opera Master is no exception. Visconti's 'squaring the circle' design works well with this pen and gives it a clean modern look, as do the well-polished chrome/rhodium trims. The arc-shaped clip, another of Visconti's trademarks, adds to the nice streamlined profile of the pen. Small touches like the word 'Opera' engraved on the capband and the limited edition numbering on the plunger knob are also quite nice. Though I would have liked the capband engraving to read 'Opera Master' rather than just 'Opera'. It's not as if the cap band wasn't big enough!
A size comparison on 7mm lined paper, from left to right: Pelikan M400, Visconti Opera Master, Visconti Opera Club:
Cap band engraving and plunger knob engraving:
The barrel and cap are made of what Visconti calls acryloid. Quite frankly, it just sounds like the PR term for "high grade plastic". Whatever it is, it has amazing glass-like transparency and the swirls of blue and green are gorgeous and have very nice depth.
Close-up of the swirls:
Function and Quality 8/10
Everything fits together perfectly and there is absolutely no rattling at all. The pen just oozes quality and quite frankly, this is what you'd expect for a pen of this price. So quality wise, the pen is just about perfect.
Functionally, there could be a problem, especially for smaller hands. As I mentioned previously, this is a very large pen. Add that to the double-reservoir power filler (yet another Visconti trademark) and you've got yourself a very heavy pen. I don't have a pair of scales but suffice to say, this ain't no featherweight. Despite the heft, the metal section adds a bit of weight to the bottom of the pen and gives it a nice bit of balance in the hand. It is possible to post the cap when writing but it adds unnecessary weight and length to an already heavy and large pen and throws everything completely out of balance (not a problem for me since I rarely, if ever, post). The pen's squared barrel sits nicely in my hand, making extended writing sessions a pleasure but I know that the squared barrel isn't the most ergonomic design for some people so I guess this is really a matter of try before you buy.
Nib Design and Performance 9.5/10
Mine came with an 18k gold nib but I believe that any purchased from authorised dealers now will come with Visconti's new 23k palladium 'Dreamtouch' nibs. Anyway, the nib on mine is a two-tone medium in 18k gold. The nib sports a very fetching design that I'd describe as being the love child of a star and a fleur de lis. This nib design was one of the things that first drew me to Visconti. The breather hole is a nice crescent shape rather than the usual circle and it's yet another nice little touch. My only complaint regarding the appearance of the nib is that it is the same size as those found on regular edition Operas and could stand to be a bit bigger. That said, the nib isn't so small that it looks out of place on the pen.
Now onto the most important part of the nib: how it writes. I've come to expect nothing short of buttery smooth juiciness from Visconti nibs and I was not disappointed. The nib just glides across the paper with next to no pressure. It's also quite a soft nib with a hint of spring to it which adds a nice tactile joy of writing with this pen. The line width is what I'd describe as a true medium and is little bit finer than the medium nib on my Opera Club.
Writing comparison between Visconti 18k medium (Visconti blue), 14k medium (Pilot Iroshizuku Edo-Murasaki) and 14k broad (Sheaffer Skrip red):
Filling System 10/10
The pen uses Visconti's double reservoir power filler system. It holds an amazing amount of ink and thanks to the ability to seal ink off from the feed, makes for mess-free air travel (though I'm yet to verify this). Very easy to use: unscrew the piston knob, draw the plunger back, dip nib and part of section into ink, press plunger down, count to ten, screw plunger knob back in. It took me a while to figure it out, but there is a way to get a complete fill without having to use Visconti's travelling inkwell described in another thread:
Try the method I described on page 17 of Bryant's 'Homo Sapiens comparisons...'. If you don't have an ink-window, just expel the air from the pen until the ink 'brims' at the base of the nib. Then put the nib back in the ink well, press the plunger the rest of the way in, and wait a few seconds. The pen will be _completely_ full. The same procedure (fill, invert, expel remaining air, fill again) also works with pistons and converters.
Can't say much in regards to just how hard it is to flush out and clean between refills but I'll be sure to post once I get around to it. For the time being, I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and not deduct any marks.
Conclusion 47/50 (pending results of cleaning)
I probably wouldn't buy this pen at it's MSRP of $895 but if you can pick one up for $400 to $500 (which is about how much it goes for in the FPN marketplace and through FPN's resident pen-pusher, Bryant), I'd say it's certainly worth it. It's an absolutely beautiful oversized pen and stands out without being gaudy or excessively flashy. It is an oversized pen and quite heavy, but if that happens to be your cup of tea, then I highly recommend the Opera Master.
Edited by Yuki Onitsura, 03 July 2010 - 04:45.