The Lamy Safari is arguably the most significant fountain pen currently in production. Its popularity is immense, and if you go to any thread even remotely about beginner pens you’ll see its name, or at least the name of its twin the Vista or older brothers the Al-Star or LX. Although it now has its rivals, the Pilot Metropolitan and, to a lesser extent, the TWSBI Eco, the Safari will always hold a special place in the fountain pen world, and was the first fountain pen for countless new enthusiasts. However, this popularity doesn’t bring only good effects. Like any popular pen, or popular item for that matter, the Safari has countless knockoffs. The most prevalent, other than straight-up counterfeit Safaris, are the Hero 359 and the Jinhao 599. There is a new pen emerging, however, and it is a closer replica to the Safari than ever before. The Yiren 566 is a near clone of the Safari in size, mass, and even nib and feed size and shape. (The nib on the 566 cannot be removed though, so sadly no nib swapping can occur). It even takes Lamy (and Parker) cartridges. So, here is a brief comparison of the Safari with this new knockoff and one of the older and most famous ones, the Jinhao 599.
-It’s the original, the real thing. The pen comes with the reliability and ethos of an 80-some year-old German pen brand.
-(For this specific pen) DARK LILAC!!! The best Safari Color in history, in my opinion, looks even better with its black clip and nib.
-Everything feels a little bit smoother, and more refined, from the screwing in of the section to the polish on the nib.
-Easy nib swapping with other Lamy Pens.
-Money. The Safari costs $25 to the other pens’ $1-$2.
-No convertor without added cost.
Yiren 566 (The Newbie):
-Cheap. Only $2.
-Takes Lamy and Parker Cartridges.
-Comes with a converter.
-Clear Section looks great.
-Pen is relatively attractive. (It’s no Dark Lilac, but I kind of like the “When a Pilot Kakuno and a Lamy Safari love each other very very much” vibe it has going.
Every dimension is an exact copy of the Safari. It is as close to the definition of a “clone” in terms of pen knockoffs as is possible.
-No Nib Swapping.
-Price goes up if you want shipping to take less than a month and a half.
-Quality control/finish issues. The steel in the nib has some surface level scratches, the body has a tiny dent. The screwing out of the section feels friction-y and rough.
-Cheapest of the three, only costs a dollar.
-Takes a number five nib, meaning you can easily outfit the pen with a high-quality JOWO nib if you so desire.
-Takes international cartridges.
-Comes with a converter.
-Jinhao has a little bit more brand ethos than Yiren, they generally don’t have too many quality control issues.
-Enough has changed that it feels like its own pen. It is obviously a Safari clone, but the completely different nib style, cartridge format, and slightly different weight gives it its own distinct feel.
-The section screwing into the barrel is prone to cracking, and feels weaker than the other two.
-Feels like cheaper plastic.
-Very long shipping time.
-Short international cartridges only make it halfway down the window. They sacrificed functionality for looking more like the original Safari.
If you want my opinion on which one to buy, I'd honestly say all three. Why? The Safari, in my opinion, is a must-have pen. The knockoffs are great, great values for their price, but the Safari is just better. So, if you're looking to get a new Safari, get a Safari. The knockoffs together are cheaper than a Lamy convertor, so it wouldn't be the end of the world if you hated them. In conclusion, you should definitely try the knockoffs, but don't try to substitute them for the real thing.