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  1. Priced at well under $100, the steel-nibbed Prera is perhaps the epitome of an “entry level” fountain pen: it’s simple, reliable, durable, and economical. Three Preras. Writing sample on Rhodia paper. But don’t be misled by the “entry level” moniker. The Prera, like other models featuring Pilot’s “Super Quality” steel nib, is a serious writing instrument that compares well to pens priced many times as much. Pilot’s out-of-the-box quality (at any price) is second to none, and the Prera affirms their commitment to excellence. What makes the Prera an awesome fountain pen? Several things: 1. Design. Simple, classic aesthetics. While short when capped (about 4.75”), the Prera posts to a comfortable length (of about 5.38”). It is a nice “pocket pen” that can be carried conveniently in a shirt pocked but used like a regular pen. (See pictures.) 2. Nib. Though having virtually no give—the “Super Quality” nibs are quite rigid—the tipping is well ground. These SQ nibs, available in a number of Pilot models (Metropolitan, Plumix, 78G, etc.), are one of the best values out there. (See description of the various nibs below.) 3. Resin. The resin in both the opaque and the clear demonstrator models is warm and tactile. They actually remind me of piano keys. It’s really nice stuff. 4. Trim. Silver trim is simple but nice. (Again, classic.) The clip is quite sturdy and the chromed flat cap top is a great accent feature. The attention to detail highlights the overall quality of the pen. 5. Cartridge/converter. Though proprietary, the Pilot c/c options are quite good. The cartridges have a generous capacity. They also have a wide opening, making them easy to rinse and refill. Also, they seat securely against the inside of the section and so are not prone to cracking and/or leaking, which I've experienced with many other refilled carts (e.g., international, Waterman, Lamy, etc.). As far as I can tell, the Pilot carts can be reused indefinitely without risk of leaks inside the barrel. The new version of the CON-50 converter, while still having a small ink capacity, has an ingenious agitator mechanism that solves the problem of ink getting stuck due to surface tension. The new converter is quite usable, and I change my inks frequently enough that the limited capacity doesn’t bother me too much. I like the Prera so much that I have three different versions: · Configuration #1. Lime Green w/ F nib. This was my first Prera. I actually picked it up when the Lamy Safari in Lime sold out. The color is great (even brighter than the Safari) but the nib is really what makes this pen fantastic. Pilot’s “Super Quality” F nibs are really fine. Really, really fine. I’ve had a couple of these, and they write as fine (perhaps even finer?) than my Binder XXF—I’m guessing that it’s probably ground down to about 0.2 or 0.3, though I don’t have the official spec. This is the range of custom grinds or specialty nibs, and adds to the great value of this pen. (Incidentally, I eventually picked up a Safari but far prefer the Prera.) · Configuration #2. Demonstrator (Black Finials) w/ M nib. I received the M nib as a gift and thought about exchanging it, since I generally favor finer nibs. However, curiosity compelled me to try the M nib and I was amazed by how much I liked it. It is not perfectly round, but rather gives some noticeable line variation. The verticals are decidedly thicker than the horizontals; while definitely not a stubbed nib, I would qualify it as “stubbish.” Running a little dry out of the box, I increased the flow slightly and now count this nib among the best nibs I’ve ever used. · Configuration #3. Demonstrator (Red Finials) w/ italic nib. I actually bought this particular pen used at an excellent a price, then ordered a Plumix with an italic nib and swapped the original round nib myself--it's a fairly simple procedure. (Goulet Pen Co. now offers Preras for sale with the italic nib.) Unfortunately, this nib is somewhat inconsistent (and therefore vexing at times). I can say that when it works, it works well. The untipped nib is very smooth and the line has great variation. Sold as a 1.0 width, I would concur that is indeed a little finer than the Lamy Safari 1.1. However, I cannot give this nib an unqualified endorsement (much as I’d like to). It actually works best on mediocre (i.e., rough and absorbent) paper—it’s the only nib that I prefer to use on the likes of Moleskine, as its performance on that paper is nearly 100%. On smooth-finished Rhodia and Leuchtturm, my preferred papers, the performance is spottier. Though the nib generally works on these smoother papers most of the time, it will suddenly start “hydroplaning,” leaving a thin, anemic line that is a frustrating contrast to the otherwise beautiful italic line. Whether this is due to unevenness in the paper’s finish, smoothness of the nib, trace oils on the page, or some combination thereof, I cannot tell. But it is the downfall of an otherwise brilliant nib. That said, custom italics are occasionally subject to the same frustrating performance issues on smooth papers and I am glad to have this nib in my set of Preras. Three Preras. Comparison of writing samples on Fabriano paper. Overall, the Prera (like all pens from Pilot) is a top-quality writing instrument. As mentioned above, it shares the nib/feed with other “entry level” Pilot offerings, such as the discontinued ultralight 78G and the metal-barrel Metropolitan. (Note that these latter two pens actually cost less than the Prera and can be obtained new for under $20.) I have never tried the Metro (though I intend to), but I do have a 78G and consider that pen the single best value out there. That said, the Prera is a solid writer and the fit/finish are first rate—it feels and performs like a much more expensive pen. This pen would make a great introduction to fountain pens as well as a regular go-to for serious writers. The sturdy construction make it especially good for use “out in the field,” anything from trips to the grocery store to business meetings. (I’ve used mine for both!) Size comparison, posted: Lamy Safari, Pilot 78G, <b>Pilot Prera</b>, Sheaffer Sentinal. Nib comparison, Pilot "Super Quality": Gold-plated 78G and unplated Prera.

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