Ink: Rohrer & Klingner 2012 LE Blue-Black
Paper: Clairfontaine "Papier Velouté" 90 g/sm
(I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. I'm just not set up for serious photography.)
My motive in doing this review was to be helpful to someone who found him/herself in the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago: very much wanting to pick up an Omas pen, yet not sure whether this was the pen I should buy. Here's the problem: Omas pens are beautiful and expensive, The retail price on a new Omas Paragon or Milord pen can start at close to $700 dollars and keep going up. If you're lucky, a sale price may bring it down to $500, maybe even $450. But I didn't have those kind of dollars to spend.
If you spend some time looking, however, you can find older Omas pens, discontinued models, used or NOS, at significantly lower prices. The Omas 355 I bought is one of the models you're most likely to run into. These are not beautiful, elegant pens like the ones whose photographs you can find in the thread "A Study in Scarlet" that Rick Propas started on the "Penne Stilografiche della Bella Italia" section of this site. Those pens will make you weep with longing. But, unlike those classics or modern Paragons and Milords, you will find the 555 for sale in the range of $125 to $250 from American and overseas sellers on eBay and sometimes directly. The question: if you jump at it as I did, will you be happy or disappointed with your purchase?
The 355 series of pens was brought out by Omas in the immediate post-WWII years, and continued in production, with changes and improvements, until perhaps as late as the 1980s. The pen sometimes appeared with rounded barrels and caps, other times with the more familiar and characteristic Omas 12-faceted barrel and cap. The standard color was a flat red, but special editions could come in smoke and translucent colors, The 555 was the smallest format of three otherwise related pens, the next two larger sizes being designated by numbers 556 and 557. In the most commonly available versions, the pen has a 14k nib and a piston-fill system.
Look and Feel
The single most important fact about this pen is one you can see from the first photo: this is a very very small pen. I have small hands, which is why I wasn't put off from buying this pen when I read it was the smallest in its family. But even I was surprised by how small it is. Unposted, the barrel of the Omas barely reaches the base of my thumb. If your hands are larger than mine, as they're very likely to be, you'll probably have trouble holding the pen. It is proportionately narrow, too. And proportionately light, too. That is, it weighs close to nothing.
The 555f is 121 mm long (capped; 110 mm uncapped) and
The xxx-f model pens are faceted (the distinctive Omas 12-faceted barrel and cap), a design chacteristic that is a convenience in terms of preventing pen roll as well as being attractive in itself. Color, however, is hardly inspiring. This is the standard Omas flat orangy-red, a far cry from the translucent and tortioise-shell stylings of the more expensive and elegant Omas models. For all this, I wouldn't say, as one might about other pens, that this wisp of a pen feels "cheap." There's something about it that still seems "convincing." This is a tiny, but serious pen.
Nib and Performance
The seriousness is clear in its dependability and performance. It has a 14k nib. Mine is an F nib, though it should be remembered it's a European F, and therefore writing not as fine a line as would be produced by a Japanese pen. (See its line, in the writing sample, compared to lines produced by my Pilot Vanishing Point and Sailor Pro Gear. The fine nib I have that writes a line most like the line produced by this Omas is on a Waterman pen.)
One of the nice characteristics of this older model--it is a NOS, so it has its original older style nib--is that this nib is rather springier than a modern nib is likely to be. And so, though I'm not very good at doing it, ou can produce strokes of different weights even from this F nib.
I've had no problems with the nib drying out or being hard to start. It is true that I've been giving it a lot of use, so it's scarcely had time to dry out.
This model of the 555 is a piston-fill, and the mechanism seems depencdable, though of course the capacity of the pen is limited by its size.
The conclusion--and answer to the practical question I posed at the outset: "Should you buy this pen?"--is going to depend on circumstances.
Pros: An Omas pen at a pretty much affordable price. A flexible nib with the opportunity to write lines of different weights. Dependable quality.
Cons: Its small size may be a problem for some writers. It is not a beautiful pen.
Recommendation: I was not disappointed with my purchase. Surprised, maybe, at how small this pen is, but I'm happy to have it. It writes quite a beautiful line, to my eyes, and it was for the line that I'd wanted an Omas. If you can find it at a price point you're happy with, you needn't hesitate to go for it.
But if you've got big hands, I think I'd have to advise you to pass on this model. Keep your eyes out for a 557f (the largest pen in this style) of even the 556f. If you find one of them at a price you like, snap it up.
[Edited to correct diameter to reflect Uncle Red's conclusion about my mistake. See next message.]
Edited by marcomillions, 10 December 2012 - 17:58.