From top to bottom:
Sapporo Mini (Professional Gear Slim Mini): 14kt H-F nib
Professional Gear Mini: 21kt H-M nib
Sapporo (Professional Gear Slim): 14kt H-B nib
Professional Gear: 21kt Zoom nib
Joining FPN about a month ago has been disastrous for my wallet, as someone wisely foretold. It is a measure of how far gone I am that I am actually delighted that I spent all that money on pens. In particular, my Sailor collection has risen from zero to six, four of them being the Professional Gear series (all in black with gold trim). There are other reviews here on individual models of this series, but I thought that it may still be of some value to have a comparative review of all four sizes (and the three most popular nib sizes, with one specialty nib). Be forewarned that some of my comments will necessarily be subjective, especially when it comes to matters of balance and value for money.
1. First Impressions (9/10) – Though I bought the first three of these pens used from FPN-ers, they all came identically packaged, in the box, with papers and a pair of cartridges. The non-Mini models also came with the converter already inserted. (The Mini models don't take converters.) All the boxes are identical, as are the instruction papers inside, with the exception of the Professional Gear Mini's instructions, which are in Japanese (this pen is not sold outside of Japan, I believe).
2. Appearance & Design (10/10) – I fell in love with the looks of the Professional Gear from the moment I bought the first one, the Sapporo Mini. I like the looks of all of these pens much more than the 1911 or 1911M (I also have a 1911M in a beautiful dark blue with gold trim). To me, there is something distinctively "Japanese" in the design of the Pro Gear collection, whereas the 1911/1911M seem like an attempt to imitate a famous German make. The tapering arc of the cap and barrel with the cut-off ends is a standout among the very similar "black-with-gold-trim" models made by the Japanese big 3: the Pilot Custom 742/743, Platinum 3776, or Sailor's own 1911. They also remind me vaguely of the samurai sword scabbards I have seen in the NY Met. The Sailor logo on the cap end is a further touch of class. Among "modern" pen series with "classic" looks, my top two, looks-wise, would be the Pelikan Souveran collection and the Sailor Professional Gear collection.
The non-Slim (i.e., non-Sapporo) models (both Mini and non-Mini) have 21kt two-tone nibs, while the Slim (i.e., Sapporo) models (both Mini and non-Mini) have 14kt single-tone nibs.
3. Weight & Dimensions – Here's a handy little chart of dimensions and weights I got from the Ujuku web site:
Professional Gear Slim Mini (Sapporo Mini): weight 15.8g, length 103mm capped, 132mm posted (0.56 oz / 4.06 in / 5.2 in)
Professional Gear Mini: weight 20.2g, length 108mm capped, 139mm posted (0.71 oz / 4.25 in / 5.47 in)
Professional Gear Slim (Sapporo): weight 16.8g, length 124mm capped, 142mm posted (0.59 oz / 4.88 in / 5.59 in)
Professional Gear: weight 21.6g, length 129mm capped, 148mm posted (0.76 oz / 5.08 in / 5.83 in)
Note that the Mini models have threads at the bottom of the barrel for posting the cap, the other two models do not. Note also the substantial difference in weight between the Slim and non-Slim for both the Mini and non-Mini categories. This is because the non-Slim models have a significantly bigger cross-section. Regardless of their relative weights, each model feels heavy enough that it won't ever be mistaken for "cheap."
Here's where I make the first of my subjective judgments: I think the best-proportioned two models are the first and the last in the above list, namely the smallest and lightest, the Sapporo Mini; and the largest and heaviest, the Professional Gear. The Professional Gear Mini is very slightly longer than the Sapporo Mini while being quite a bit fatter, and the proportions are not as pleasing as with the Sapporo Mini. Though I usually never post the cap on any of my pens, neither Mini model can be held comfortably for writing without posting. However, posting makes the Professional Gear Mini, with its additional weight compared to the Sapporo Mini, unbalanced in my small hands. On the other hand, the Sapporo (Professional Gear Slim) is also barely long enough to write with unposted, whereas posting the cap again causes it to be unbalanced. The full-size Professional Gear is long enough to be comfortably written with without posting. Unfortunately, my hands are small enough that the nib angle is always small relative to the paper, so the "Zoom" nib on this pen writes a very wet line, broader even than a western "broad" size.
For an example of what I mean, look at this page from my Levenger journal (admittedly, this paper feathers more than others and thereby exaggerates the effect of the Zoom nib at the default angle at which I write):
Perhaps the zoom nib on a smaller pen like the Sapporo would allow me to hold the nib at an angle closer to vertical, so I could try out more of the width variations this nib is capable of. Nevertheless, I shall rank the pens according to the nibs they currently possess in my collection. So my rankings for the four pens are as follows:
Professional Gear Slim Mini (Sapporo Mini): 9/10
Professional Gear Mini: 6/10
Professional Gear Slim (Sapporo): 7/10
Professional Gear: 8/10
4. Nib & Performance (10/10) – Did you expect any different from Sailor's flagship line of nibs? Everything I had read about these nibs turned out to be true -- stunningly smooth writers, every one of them, whether 14kt or 21kt, and regardless of nib width. However, there would seem to be some sample variation in nib widths -- the H-M 21kt nib on the Professional Gear Mini writes almost indistinguishably wider than the H-F 14kt nib on the Sapporo Mini, whereas the H-B 14kt nib on the Sapporo is only marginally wider, if at all, than the 14kt H-M nib on my 1911M (which itself is significantly wider than the 21kt H-M nib on the Professional Gear Mini).
5. Filling System (8-10/10) - All pens fill via cartridge, while the non-Mini models also come with converters (Sailor makes no converters that fit the Mini models). Thus, if the non-Mini models are ranked a 10, the Mini models only rate an 8 at best. [Piston-fill purists would no doubt rate them at 2 and 0 respectively ]
6. Cost & Value – I paid $80-85 for the two Sapporos on the FPN marketplace, and about twice that for the other two (one from the FPN marketplace, one bought new during a clearance sale from a well-known online store). I think the two Sapporos are a tremendous bargain, while the full-size Professional Gear, with its large size, weight, and lovely nib is still reasonably priced for what it offers. The Professional Gear Mini's short size and chubbiness do not flatter it, and the lovely 21kt two-tone nib notwithstanding, I feel that if I weren't jonesing to collect the whole series, I wouldn't have bought it. So my (very subjective) value-for-money rating is:
Professional Gear Slim Mini (Sapporo Mini): 9/10 -- probably the best bargain in this price range in all of pendom today!
Professional Gear Mini: 6/10 -- not a good value proposition (perhaps this explains why Sailor doesn't try to sell it outside Japan)
Professional Gear Slim (Sapporo): 9/10 -- usually the same price as the Sapporo Mini, to within $5
Professional Gear: 8/10 -- not as much bang for the buck as the Sapporo models, but consider the size, weight, and 21kt two-tone nib and you'll see that it is probably a better value than a Pelikan M600 (if you can overlook the lack of a piston-filling mechanism, that is).
7. Conclusion - Each of these pens has enriched my collection. Collectively, they have made me a fan of Sailor pens. Currently, all four are filled and ready to go. I expect, though, that I shall make most use of the Sapporo Mini and the Professional Gear Mini (even though the latter is not as well-balanced, simply because its 21kt two-tone nib is such a joy to look at while writing!). I anticipate less use of the Sapporo since I don't particularly care for the width of the H-B, and as I said above, the Professional Gear's Z nib writes only like a BB the way I hold it, and that is simply too wide for everyday use. I have held it upside down (i.e., so I see the feed instead of the nib) and it then writes what I'd call intermediate between the F and the M, but I don't know if I'm prepared to use the pen exclusively this way.
Totting up the scores of the pens and dividing by 6, the final scores are:
Professional Gear Slim Mini (Sapporo Mini): 9.17
Professional Gear Mini: 8.17
Professional Gear Slim (Sapporo): 9.17
Professional Gear: 9.17
Buying recommendation(s): [The prices noted in this paragraph are typical of what I've seen the pens going for new online in the absence of special clearance sales] If you have $100 to spend, buy either of the Sapporo models -- I'd go for the Sapporo Mini as I find it more cute. If you have about $220 in hand, the choices are much more plentiful, but you should still check out the Professional Gear full-size model. You can also get other specialty nibs than the Zoom with the Professional Gear -- Music and the Saibi Togi come to mind, but they cost more. If you have larger hands, you may prefer the balance of the Professional Gear Mini to the Sapporo Mini, but even with the larger, more beautiful 21kt nib on the Professional Gear Mini, it's hard to make a case for paying twice as much as for the Sapporo Mini (and you'd have to order it from Japan).
Edited to add weight and dimensions in Imperial units, and to add a comparative writing sample.
Edited by ParkerBeta, 24 November 2008 - 07:35.