1. First Impressions - 4/5
My trip to the pen shop to buy my very first "real" FP had been with the intention of buying a bottle of P.R. Blue Suede and a Lamy Safari. On the way to the register, I was drawn to the sale case where I picked out a Libelle Vortex instead (review coming soon under separate cover). I was at work carrying my pen from my office to that of a coworker nearby when I dropped the Libelle. Thankfully, it was not damaged, but I decided to go back and get a "knock-around" pen for the office. Here's where the Lamy comes in. It's light, unobtrusive, doesn't draw undue attention to itself, and by most accounts is a great pen. I planned to get either a Vista or yellow Safari, but those were only in-stock in Medium nibs, and I had my heart set on a fine nib, so I ended up with a Charcoal Safari. The pen came in a simple cardboard box with a small slip of paper giving the company's contact info, and a Lamy blue cartridge. I also the converter (not included with the pen, about $5) to go with it and a bottle of WM Havana.
2. Appearance & Finish - 5/5
I'll give the pen a 5/5 here. It does not look like a high-class lacquered metal pen, but it's not supposed to. Everything lines up evenly and the plastic exterior seems tough enough to handle most anything I would throw at it (intentionally or not). The pen is fairly slim all the way, so it handles my normal mode of carry (clipped to my 3-button golf/polo shirts, horizontal, just below the last button, pen barrel inside the shirt, clip outside). The double-pronged clip looks a bit "big" compared the the slim pen, but functionally I'm glad it's built the way it is (more on that below). It was well-finished, no obvious defects at first glance or after several weeks of playing with it.
3. Design/ Size/Weight- 4/5
The design of the pen is "different." I won't go into great detail as 98% of you are probably familiar with it's design from pictures, if nothing else. The pen is very light with the converter fully loaded. The clip is strong and heavy (-weight and -duty). On weekends, I normally clip my EDC pen to a cargo pocket on cargo shorts or to my jeans pocket. The clip handles all types of fabric well, and seems no worse for the wear after several weeks of removing/replacing the pen 10-25 times a day. The pen has a click-cap. I would have preferred a "twistie," but I have yet to have the pen fall from the clip inside my shirt leaving a large spot of Havana or anything. The cap clicks lightly and easily, but it is a crisp, responsive click. You know the cap is fully seated.
The nib-section has two flat-spots on the grip. Probably good for beginners/students, but my fingers are a bit large to fit comfortably on this section. If a round option were available, I would have gladly taken that in a heartbeat. I'm used to pens with larger diameters, and that combined with the shape of the grip left me with a crampy hand after one journal page (5x8") for the first few days. That seems to be subsiding, now, though it does creep back now and again. That's why I give the pen a 4/5 here.
4. Nib Design & Performance- 5/5
The charcoal Safari comes with a black steel nib. I chose the fine-nib version for my needs. I use a wide range of paper quality througout the day (high quality journal paper, cheap recycled note pads, post-its, medium quality legal pad, and copy paper of all grades). I used WM Havana for several days before trying PR Avacado, WM Florida Blue, and Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black. The nib is somewhat scratchy with Havana and Avacado, writes like a dream (quite literally) on Florida Blue, though that is no surprise, and somewhere between scratchy and dreamy with Pelikan Black (closer to dreamy than scratchy). Nib creep is present with all inks tried, though it seems worst with Florida Blue, less so with the others. In no case is it a problem.
Depending on the ink and paper combination, I get anything from about a .5mm line to about a .9mm line. With Avacado I seem to get widely varying widths depending on paper, and it seems to go wider than the others. Florida Blue and Pelikan Black seem more consistent (on the wider side, but not bad-.7-.8mm). I only used one converter full of Pelikan Black (because it was less saturated than I cared for, nothing to do with performance). The pen is always ready to write if it has been capped, regardless of orientation (nib-up, down, or sideways doesn't seem to matter, the feed seems to hold ink at the ready very well). If I set the pen down posted (or otherwise uncapped) for more than 2-3 minutes, it needs a bit of a line to get flow started with (in order of severity, worst to best) Avacado, Pelikan Black, Florida Blue, and Havana. The Havana seems to have this problem much less often than the others, and seems ready to write even after 5-10 minutes uncapped. The nib has started to smooth out nicely now, and the "scratchiness" seen out of the box with many of the inks is 85% gone now.
5. The Filling System- 5/5
This pen is a C/C. The cartridges are proprietary, so don't excpect to use your WM, Private Reserve, or other cartridges in this pen. I have strictly used the converter, so I can't testify about the cartridges. I can tell you the cartridges hold quite a lot of ink, and the converter holds about half as much. The converter still lasts me 2-5 days, on average. And I tend to fill at about 1/3 full, sometimes sooner. The converter is wonderful, easy to operate, smooth, problem free. There are two "notches" that snap into the pen ensuring positive, leak-free contact. Very thoughtful! It is a shame the converter doesn't come with the pen, especially when the cartridges are proprietary...though from Lamy's prospective that is probably exactly why they do that. If you don't want to buy their cartridges, you have to pay!
6. Cost/Value- 5/5
I paid full MSRP at the only local Lamy dealer ($27.50), but the clerk who knew my from my previous purchase did include the converter at no charge. That brought their price about in-line with purchasing from a cheaper, online retailer and paying for the converter. When you add in shipping, I actually may have came out a dollar or two ahead by buying locally! For <$30 out-the-door, it's a bargain. Even if I had been forced to pay for the converter, I would have felt I got my money's worth. A box of some of today's nicer disposable gel-pens can easily run you $27.50, and this Safari will surely outlive a dozen gel-pens!
7. Overall Opinion/Conclusion- 4.5/5
If a round-grip were available, this pen would easily be a 5/5. As it is, I STILL plan to buy another Safari and a Vista, if that tells you anything. The pen was purchased as a knock-around for work, out and about, etc, leaving the "good" pens for journalling and writing letters. Instead, it had taken over as my favorite pen. In fact, I'll be getting others so I won't have to flush and fill so often. And perhaps a nice Medium or Broad to load with Polar Blue and use as a signature pen! This pen is a workhorse. If you walk in and compare fit/finish to new high-end Pelikan you're going to rate the Safari lower, of course. But in all that this pen does, it does it exceedingly well for what it is. Now if only they would make a round grip for the darn thing....
(Pictures left out for now...you all know what these look like. I may try to get a writing sample up if I can, though.)
Edited by KingJoe, 09 October 2007 - 17:16.