*Note that in some markets, the Sapporo possesses the appellation 'Professional Gear Slim')
In the short time I have been an 'enthusiast' I have accumulated about half a dozen or so nice little workhorses. I enjoy using every one (even the £7 Hero 329!). I admit shamefully to having spent quite a bit on this new enthusiasm, but... 'you don't smoke, you don't drink etc etc.'
I also plan to do a little follow-up post in a couple of weeks to let whoever is interested know if my opinion has altered at all.
Among these pens rank my three expensive (to me at least - probably more around 'medium expense' level to most of you). Lamy 2000 - currently away in Germany getting a nib swap. The short time I had it blew my mind, but I got it around half the British retail price but with a nib too wide (can't complain, 'twas a marvellous deal...) so it's currently getting an EF fitted and all for the price of postage, which is quite nice.
Now, my two other moderately expensive pens are the subjects of this review: the Pelikan M405 and Sailor Sapporo. The Sapporo I have had for few days and the Pelikan since yesterday morning - I realise this is not long enough perhaps to warrant a review of them, but I feel I have gotten to grips with both already and appreciate them for what they are.
NOTE: I'll be trying to get some photographs and writing samples of the two pens
The Sailor Sapporo: 9/10
I rate the Sapporo so highly in the 'First Impressions' category, number one because of the lovely box and number two, well, because the pen looks splendid!
The box, however, does make the pen look rather diminutive, and I can sympathise with AndyHayes who in his recent review made the same comment about the Mini Sapporo he bought - I cannot imagine a pen much smaller than this one! The box is of a nice dark blue and around 7" x 2.5" x 1.5" with the little anchor emblem and 'SAILOR' in a plain, bold type in gold upon the top. It opens with a stiff hinge, and inside the box is lined with a fine grey-white cloth with the same Sailor symbol and legend on the top underside on the cloth. The beautiful pen itself held in by a ribbon attached to the box lining and a small loop that holds the converter. It was really exciting to see this, never having experienced such exquisite packaging on any of my small selection of instruments!
The pen itself: I bought it with gold trim, which is rather out of character for me, as I do not like gold when it is avoidable, but the photographs I saw that made me decide gave me the opinion that the silver trim versions looks rather cold, while the gold seems warm and agreeable to the pen's small stature. I'll be saving up for the silver trim 1911, however, which in my opinion is quite strikingly apposite to the colour.
The Pelikan M405: 6/10
The Pelikan unfortunately is not quite so impressively packaged nor quite so beautiful in appearance. It arrived in a slim blue cardboard box, rather subdued in its appearance. However, I don't know whether all Pels come like this as I got it from Germany with the cheap Airmail shipping option - whether this was substituted for a more high calibre packaging so that it was cheaper to post, I'm not at all sure. However the little box is clearly labelled 'Pelikan M405' so I am guessing this is the standard packaging.
Appearance & Finish
The Sapporo: 9/10
Being but new to fountain pens I am constantly in danger of overrating everything, but I am trying to be fair by weighing up every score in relation to cost, nib, appearance etc. and how I think it would compare to others of a similar price range.
In my fairest estimate, the Sailor simply is beautiful for what it is and what it cost - 9 out of 10 is quite suitable in my eyes. I mentioned I chose the gold trim over my favourite silver, which I verily believe I regretted to begin with, but now am back to my opinion that for such a small pen subdued silver and black are not enough. One needs more contrast and for its appearance to be a little more salient. In my opinion the gold seems to make this diminutive instrument look a little larger than it is, and adds great sophistication. I shall try to illustrate this in photographs later.
The black plastic or resin or whatever one likes to call it, is plain but smooth and well-done, and is of quite a high gloss appearance. And when one holds it up to a light, one sees that it posses a very faint and slight hint of red translucency, like the Pelikan, which is quite nice to behold. The nib adds great balance to the pen's looks as it is quite wide, but not awfully long - it really suits the shape of the pen.
One would think that when it is capped, the cap may look a little hefty for it, but when posted it appears (and feels) well balanced. When it is uncapped, it has a stout and short sort of elegance - I find it hard to describe, it is short and looks a bit chunky but somehow perfectly apt and well proportioned. When posted it looks quite normal like any other pen. It has three distinct appearances when capped, uncapped and posted.
I proclaim it loudly, that there are absolutely no shortcomings with this pen, to me. It has been created and manufactured with utmost care and precision. Ship shape and Bristol fashion, if I may use the nautical allusion. All the trim and rings fit tightly as they should, and the little gold-trim anchor atop the cap is the sort of nice little touch one probably would not see until spending over £100.
The gold bands are embedded firmly in the plastic and are perfectly flush with the barrel, so it all feels nice and smooth to the touch.
The eye is immediately attracted to the widest gold-band which is circumposed around the base of the cap, in bold, gold lettering the inscription 'SAILOR JAPAN FOUNDED 1911'. Beautiful...
The Pelikan M405: 8/10
The Pelikan pen itself scores far higher than the packaging ( I originally planned 7.5/10, but after looking at it again, I have decided to increase this to 8 ) and I am falling in love more and more with the black Souveran's looks.
The plastic/resin/whatever is the same high gloss material as the Sailor, and is of comparable quality and looks. Although, I do believe it seems a little harder to keep clean than the Sailor as the Sailor seems a little more dust/dirt repellent.
Here, the silver trim is in its element. I love the pen's near parallel lines and its slightly squarish shape. The gold trim is near-definitely more suited to the striated versions - black and silver are a winning combination on Pelikans at least (and larger Sailors ).
The rings and overall build-quality would seem to match the Sailor's.
Design, Weight and Size
The Sapporo: 8/10
The Sailor's score falls a little here. Because it is small, it really is meant to be posted, so for some the score would fall lower perhaps, but I can use it quite comfortably unposted but usually post for longer writing bouts. It is small, but certainly not too small for my comfort. Though if Pelikan M200/M400 size is your absolute minimum in size, it will be too little I believe.
The score is still kept relatively good, as it scores rather high for me with weight. It has weight to it, but is not heavy. The weight is just enough to make it feel substantial and of built of quality material. The design has mostly been spoken about through the Appearance & Finish section. The design is quite classic, so there is not much to talk about other than it is a beautiful classic design but looks modern at the same time. The two most interesting features of design are the clip, which pretty ordinary in appearance, feels amazingly tough and feels like I could suspend myself from a telephone wire with it; the other is the screw-cap which requires nearly two (say 1 and five sixths) turns to take off - it fits nice and firmly and won't unscrew in the pocket.
As I say, the size is of no issue to me, but for some it might be a deciding issue. See below for the dimensions of both pens.
The Pelikan: 7/10
The weight difference between the two does not feel much, although the Pel is actually 5g or so lighter. The difference is enough though for me to wish the M405 had a little more heft, while it feels a little too light though, it certainly does not feel 'cheap'.
The design is standard Pelikan, not much to talk about that has not already been said elsewhere. Most interesting design feature of course is the Pelikan piston-filler. And also, the green transparent ink window near the nib, it is quite simply excellent and allows one to admire the Pelikan's capacious ink-tank. I must admit I had baulked at the idea before receiving it, about a green ink window on a black pen and it having an appearance of cheapness, but really when full of ink one barely notices it, and as it empties one would have to know about it to look for it. All in all, very nice.
This review is already far too long, so I shall wind-up as succinctly as I can.
The Filling Systems
This part could be dispensed with really, except for the scores. Everyone here knows about the advantages of piston over c/c etc. The Pelikan's system of course holds more ink and is a delight to use - as such, along with my Lamy 2000's piston fill, it will probably share the brunt of most 'mobile' writing or college work while the Sailor remains exclusively a home pen.
I think it would also be wise to use the Sailor's cartridges and fill them up with other ink when done as they purportedly hold more than the converter does. I have yet to purchase an eyedropper or syringe to test this out.
Sailor: 7/10 Points drop because of the c/c filler, but it doesn't bother me as much as some.
Pelikan: 9.5/10 What can I say... it is not 10 because the more expensive of the Souverans hold slightly more ink, but the piston is a pleasure to use. Nigh-on perfect Pelikan piston!
Nib Design and Performance
Sailor Sapporo: 10/10
The Sailor is head and shoulders above everything else I have used. You really are paying mostly for the nib on this one. I got the legendary, wet, smooth, and beautiful Sailor extra-fine. It writes simply amazingly and with a very fine, probably a Western XXF, line. It is stiff, but certainly not rigid, which adds to the feeling that it will last forever. Enough said on that.
It is a standard exposed nib, and very similar in design to the Pelikan's Bock nib, but wider. It is also monotone gold as opposed to the elegant two-tone Bock on the Pelikan.
It is also worth saying here, that the Sailor black cartridges I am currently using, are perfect. Excellent flow and the ink is really quite a pleasant surprise - it is a very good strong black. Not like the greyish Quink black I am normally used to.
The Pelikan nib nearly rivals my P51 as regards smoothness and wetness (neither are quite so comparable to the Sailor, but close nonetheless), I got a pleasant surprise with the Bock nib. Very nice. The only reason the score is not 8 or higher is because the fine nib runs a little too wide. Although I suspect that this is because of the runny old Parker Quink I am using, and I further speculate that Pelikan ink would make it perform a lot better what with its supposed thickness. So I will have to get some at some point. It also has a little flex, with a little line variation.
Who knows, perhaps I could get a good Pelikan EF (it ca happen sometimes!) for it from Martini, or maybe a Binder nib. If Pelikan ink works out better, with a finer line, then I'll probably just leave it as it is.
Cost & Value
The Sapporo: 9/10
I think I read somewhere that the Sapporo is one of the best value pens on the market mainly because of the nib. While the looks and feel of the pen are spectacular it really is the nib that is the focus-point of most people. The forums here always seem to proclaim that Sailor nibs (yes, even the standard rounded ones) are legendary, great value, and very easy and delightful to write with. Many even go so far as to say Sailor's are the best (non-customised) nibs on the market. I think this reputation is well deserved, and cannot wait for the day I get a 1911.
It is certainly of more value than the Professional gear, the Sapporo's 'bigger' sibling. In Britain, the Professional Gear costs around £150, and the Sapporo stands at £70 (well, I got it for £69 to be more precise). At a little under half the price, the Sapporo is best value - while it only has a 14 carat nib as opposed to the PG's two-tone 21 carat, I could not possible justify spending twice the amount on a pen that is not twice the pen. The difference in size is negligible (most would still need to post - it probably would be around equal in dimensions to the M400 if not a little smaller), and if the PG was the size of the 1911, then I would maybe say 'fair enough', but really, I can't see it being worth it. Unless the 21 carat nib is vastly better in a very substantial manner, I really would not shell-out the money for the PG. But the 1911, is a different story... *sigh*
So my advice, if you want Sailor goodness, get the Sapporo!
The Pelikan M405: 8/10
If I had paid the extortionate UK price (£110 at its cheapest!) I would maybe knock a couple points off. But as I got an excellent deal at nearly £40 below the cheapest British price (and half-price compared to the UK recommended retail) I got a jolly-good bargain, so this boosts it considerably. I start to believe that the cheaper-still and heftier M215 would have been every bit as good, but one must not think of such things: I am comforted by the fact that the quality is ever so much better on the Souveran line, and I have heard of quality control issues with the M215, plus the gold nib is quite a bit better, I am sure, and is possessive of a nice soft feel and slight flex. So I think I was wise to splash out.
Sailor Sapporo: 52/60 or an average of 8.7/10
Pelikan M405: 46/60 or an average of 7.7/10
Well, although averages tally up as above, subjectively I would award the Sapporo 9 or maybe a bit higher even. It is just perfect for me and the 1911 will hopefully be... um... super-perfection! (when the time comes) The Pelikan score is quite accurate.
While both are marvellous pens, the Sailor is the clear winner for me. Although it has not the capacity of the Pelikan, it outperforms in every other field and I am very happy with it. The nib of course is the most exceptional part.
The Pelikan is also very nice, but just does not compare with the pleasure of use of the Sailor. Although, the Pelikan because if its slightly longer barrel is comfier to use unposted, when both are posted they have quite similar comfort levels, although the Sapporo feels a little more substantial than the Pelikan. The most 'serious' (not-so-serious, really) complaint with the Pelikan is that the cap feels a little too dainty and light (I might venture to say it feels a little frangible), whereas on the Sapporo, the cap accounts for quite a bit of its weight and is a little more bulky in comparison to its body. This is only a very slight complaint.
If I was to recommend one the two pens to someone, I would say that it depends on what you want. If you want an absolutely brilliant nib, but don't mind the filling system the Sapporo is the one to go for. Indeed, I do speculate that with the extra-fine needlepoint Sailor nib, the filling system may not be so much of a problem as it uses far less ink. I have yet to run it dry or compare the two capacities. In Britain the price difference alone is enough to sway the decision towards the Sapporo - piston fill or not piston fill. With the Pelikan a full £40 dearer than the Sapporo, even at its cheapest, the Sailor is simply the best.
If you simply must have high ink capacity, don't mind the rather chunky lines it lays down, and can find as good a deal as I, then the Pelikan is the obvious choice. But still not with the value for money as the Sailor.
Oh dear, sorry for the length of the review... but I quite enjoyed doing it. I am prone to the most awful prolix when allowed (4 pages in NeoOffice)... As I say, I will try to get some photographs up later.
For now, til I can take my own, here are a couple of photos I borrowed from nibs.com. Any objections to their use, then I shall be happy to remove them.
The reason I choose nibs.com and not the official photos, are because (especially in the Pelikan's case) the official photos are rubbish.
Gold Sailor Sapporo size comparison with PG, and Mini:
Gold and the silver Sailor Sapporo:
Sailor nib and cap:
Edited by patrick1314, 17 August 2007 - 10:03.