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Clash Of The Titans: M800, Homo Sapiens, 146, Justus95



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Following the discussion if someone's best pens are also their favourite pens I decided to compare my highest-pricepoint* pens:

-Montblanc 146 EF ('90s pen and feed with a much earlier 14C EF nib); retails for appr. 550 euros

-Pelikan M800 F ('80s pen with 18C nib); retails for appr. 500 euros

-Visconti Homo Sapiens Lava Steel Midi F (23k Pd dreamtouch nib); retails for appr. 450 euros

-Pilot Justus 95 M (14k nib); retails for appr. 300 euros

I bought the MB146 from a local collector at a very attractive price. The M800 was a gracious gift from a friend who bought it new in the '80s and who stopped using the pen some years ago. The Homo Sapiens and the Justus were bought new in local brick and mortar stores, but with appreciable discounts.

 

As a "challenger pen" that retails for 1/3rd to 1/2 of these pens, I added the Sailor Pro Gear Slim 'Ocean' 14k H-MF to the comparison.

 

fpn_1566637843__img_20190824_091127_resi

^--From large to small: Justus, 146, M800, Homo Sapiens, Pro Gear Slim. Totally different design philosophies.

 

The 146, the M800 and the Homo Sapiens are staples of pen design, the 146 and the M800 being established classics, each with its own legacy, and the Homo Sapiens already being a modern classic. The Justus and the Pro Gear Slim are more utilitarian pens where the focus is on the nib, feed and quality of writing and not so much on eye-catching design or high-end materials.

 

fpn_1566638339__img_20190824_091400_resi

^--Uncapped size comparison.

 

fpn_1566638388__img_20190824_091447_resi

^--Posted size comparison.

 

The different philosophies behind these pens are also reflected in their business ends: the nibs and feeds.

 

fpn_1566638478__img_20190824_091306_resi

 

fpn_1566638526__img_20190824_091544_resi

 

The 146 and the Pro Gear Slim are relatively rigid (but certainly not nails), the Homo Sapiens and the Justus are soft (but certainly not flex) and the M800 is somewhere in between.

 

fpn_1566642143__img_20190824_091734_resi

^--Writing sample (apologies for darkness of image). A 1cm scale is included for reference. The 146 downstrokes are 0.25mm wide.

 

Distinguishing factors

As writing instruments, obviously these five pens are objectively of very high quality. All five are top-notch pens and I'd be lucky to own just one of them. Each pen does have certain positive aspects that make it unique compared to the others:

-the Justus has a soft nib with variable softness control which also controls its wetness; the Justus is the largest pen in this group and it houses the much-liked CON70 converter.

-the 146 EF is an architect, which was common for MB 146 EF nibs during a certain period of time.

-like most Pelikan pens, the M800 has a removable nib/feed unit making it super easy to change nibs or to clean the pen.

-the Homo Sapiens is made of the unique basaltic lava material from Mount Etna, which feels fantastic, and the soft 23k Palladium nib is also a distinctive element of this pen. I deliberately chose the Midi version which is still a fair-sized pen which can be used posted or unposted and fits in shirt pockets.

-the Pro Gear Slim offers the unique Sailor feedback and outstanding nib/feed quality.

 

If I were to look for objective negatives, then the following comes to mind:

-my Justus had a nib that needed serious after-care, but to be fair I knew that beforehand, it explains the discount and it allowed me to tune the nib exactly to my liking;

-the architect nib of the 146 isn't for everyone, nor for every style of writing: with cursive italic, the result is far, far removed from an EF line and is actually on the B-side of M.

-my M800 suffers from slight baby's bottom which sometimes leads to skipping, especially on the lower half of the page (due to hand oils);

-my Homo Sapiens Midi is quite sensitive to which inks it likes (and it dislikes some very common and well-behaved inks); you cannot unscrew the nib unit, nor the piston unit (at least not easily) so cleaning the pen can be cumbersome. Last but not least the ridges of the cap lock mechanism rub against my fingers sometimes.

-the smallish Pro Gear Slim needs to be posted.

 

Personal (subjective) pros and cons

The M800 is my least-favourite pen in this group. There is no objective reason for this; I simply do not feel any emotion with this pen (apart that it was graciously given to me by a friend). The striped Pelikan design is not something that revs my engine, it's not my cup of tea. The nib is very smooth but devoid of character and the writing experience strikes me as somewhat clinical and sterile.

Next-up is the 146 EF, which is delightful under controlled circumstances (such as journaling or correspondence) but unsuited to circumstances where you might change the writing angle (such as quick notes at work). That's how it is with architects. I like the 146 much more than the M800, I admire it as a quality pen with a timeless design and I adore the old 14C nib. But I do not grab it all that often.

Next-up is the Pro Gear Slim. It was perfect out of the box and it is still perfect to this day. Spot-on, constant flow. Consistent, spot-on performance. No fuss, no maintenance. I don't care much for how it looks and the MF writes a very fine line by western standards, which makes it less suitable for quick jots at work - I need to concentrate a bit, slow down a bit, to prevent wavering and sloppiness. Fantastic pen that puts a smile on my face every time I use it.

The Visconti and the Justus are so close that it's hard to pick a favourite. If you put a gun to my head then I'd pick the Visconti because its design and materials are totally unique, it writes like a dream and offers almost the same softness and line variation as the Justus. If the house burned down, the Visconti is the one I'd save. Having said that, the Justus is much lighter and fits into the hand much better.

 

Best vs favourite

The M800 is top-tier pen that I just don't care for as a writing instrument (apart from how it came to me; I'll always cherish it for that). The Visconti has some drawbacks, as mentioned, but I'm extremely attached to it. And given its price point, it's hard not to declare the Sailor as the "winner".

 

*I have about 20 pens, the remaining 15 being in lower price brackets. Some of those I love as well, such as my Leonardos or trusty Kaweco AL Sport. I restricted myself to the five most high-end pens that I own, realizing full well that I do not own "real" high-end pens like Scribo, Nakaya, Namiki, etc.)

 

 

 

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Gloucesterman

Thanks for the comparison/review. My own pen experiences are with the Montblanc 146 (with a cursive italic fine nib) and a Pelikan M800 with an extra fine nib. Both write very well as received (146 used and M800 new).

 

Each has their own forte and I enjoy each one for its individual qualities. I have a vey wide range of new and vintage pens and find the 146 and M800 to be the regular take-with pens when I leave home.

 

Just my two cents worth.

“Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, because if you do it today and like it, you can do again tomorrow!”

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For me the M800s are near the top of the stack and I have 3 (Blue stripe, red stripe and ocean swirl). I agree that the green stripe does nothing for me. Each of mine were purchased new and each of them performed flawlessly from word 1. The blue stripe is nearly 20 years old and the only maintenance has been a little silicone grease on the piston a few years ago... (routine cleanings of course but nothing crazy). I have a Visconti Van Gogh that was a PIA when I bought it and needed substantial nib work to get it where is should have been out of the box. I've always avoided other similarly priced pens because i knew the M800s were so solid they would be hard to beat... but.... then I saw a Nakaya and thought if anything could top the 800s it would be one of those. I picked up a Dorsal Fin v2 Heki Tamenuri medium and it did not disappoint. It is a flawless instrument ... so yes... my most expensives are my best writers and are my favorites too.... although I maintain a forced daily rotation and use a different pen each day and as it turns out the 800s are on deck with the blue stripe (with Iroshizuku kon peki) tomorrow.

 

everyone is different ... this is my perspective tho

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Thanks for a great review! I only have three of the pens you review, but I find this comparative kind of evaluation most useful. You bring out nicely the characteristics of each pen.

 

Erick

 

Using right now:

Penlux Masterpiece Grande "F" nib running Pelikan Olivine

PenBBS 480 "F" nib running Pelikan Brilliant Brown

Santini Italia Toscana Fifth Avenue "F" nib running PR Blue Suede

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Thank you so much for the review! This is a brilliant idea and extremely useful.

 

Personally, my one MB 146 is a delight. It has an OB nib that is perfect for me. I had a Pelikan but ended up selling it because it just "wow" me. I didn't find any difference in writing with it compared to my Lamy Studio. I haven't tried either the Sailor Pro Gear or the Pilot Justus, nor the Visconti Homo Sapiens. The Visconti HS has intrigued me for some time because of the basaltic body. If I could get one with the cursive italic Palladium nib, I might just have to purchase one.

"Today will be gone in less than 24 hours. When it is gone, it is gone. Be wise, but enjoy! - anonymous today

 

 

 

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Thank you so much for the review! This is a brilliant idea and extremely useful.

 

Personally, my one MB 146 is a delight. It has an OB nib that is perfect for me. I had a Pelikan but ended up selling it because it just "wow" me. I didn't find any difference in writing with it compared to my Lamy Studio. I haven't tried either the Sailor Pro Gear or the Pilot Justus, nor the Visconti Homo Sapiens. The Visconti HS has intrigued me for some time because of the basaltic body. If I could get one with the cursive italic Palladium nib, I might just have to purchase one.

 

Deborah,

You could buy the pen in a B and have Mark Bacas or Dan Smith do the grind. They both do excellent work.

I was thinking about getting the Visconti HS or Medici verses another MB.

Regards,

David

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I find this comparative kind of evaluation most useful. You bring out nicely the characteristics of each pen.

Thanks! That’s nice to hear.

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I enjoyed your review! It's personal and doesn't try to be "objective." Such a delight that the Sailor appears to be the winner? After years of collecting top tier pens, my favorite right now is a smallish Pelikan M205. Smallish? It's the size that Pelikans were for decades before the 80s demanded bigger, more ostentatious pens.

 

Other favorites: MB 24, Aurora 88.

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

– Lin Yu-T'ang

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I enjoyed your review!

Thank you!

 

Such a delight that the Sailor appears to be the winner?

It’s hard to argue with that kind of quality at that particular price point... I would not necessarily call it a winner because it’s a comparison much more than a contest, but no doubt the Pro Gear Slim is a strong product.
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Useful and interesting comparison. Not everyone has the same criteria, so it's nice to have someone else's viewpoint explained. Thanks.

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The M800 and Homo sapiens are some of the most well represented pens in my collection which explains how I feel about those models. I played with a Justus at a pen shop once but didn't really like the adjustable nib so it didn't join my collection. The MB 146 is a fine pen but I prefer the size and nib of the 149. Similarly, I prefer the Sailor KOP to other Sailor models.

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The M800 and Homo sapiens are some of the most well represented pens in my collection which explains how I feel about those models. I played with a Justus at a pen shop once but didn't really like the adjustable nib so it didn't join my collection. The MB 146 is a fine pen but I prefer the size and nib of the 149. Similarly, I prefer the Sailor KOP to other Sailor models.

 

I felt it was a bit gimmicky myself, but I got it for $150 used but like-new, and couldn't pass that up.

 

But the more I used it, the more it started to make sense for me. It's kind of the best science/math major college student pen ever. You can swap it to soft while you're writing notes, and then as soon as it's time for some chemical formulas or equations, knock it back to hard and get those tiny precise little exponents and subscripts.

 

My only wish is that there was an ebonite feed option for it from Joey at flexible nib factory. It can railroad if you're flexing it quite a bit.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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I felt it was a bit gimmicky myself, but I got it for $150 used but like-new, and couldn't pass that up.

 

But the more I used it, the more it started to make sense for me. It's kind of the best science/math major college student pen ever. You can swap it to soft while you're writing notes, and then as soon as it's time for some chemical formulas or equations, knock it back to hard and get those tiny precise little exponents and subscripts.

 

My only wish is that there was an ebonite feed option for it from Joey at flexible nib factory. It can railroad if you're flexing it quite a bit.

 

Fortunately my formula writing days are long past and I only use pens for notes. I'm sure I would find some use for an adjustable nib and maybe if I ever find a great deal like yours I'll pick one up.

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It can railroad if you're flexing it quite a bit.

 

Mine has never railroaded. Not once. Having said that, I rarely use this pen to obtain line variation, and when I do it is just briefly, for fun and very very carefully. I consider the Justus to be a pen that can either write (relatively) hard and with a thin line, or soft and with a wider line and more flow. That it can deliver some line variation is a nice bonus, but I doubt that Pilot intended it for that (despite the fact that almost every review video demonstrates this as a feature of the pen). I was also warned in no uncertain terms by the owner of the B&M store where I bought mine that the Justus has nothing whatsoever to do with flex and he hinted at issues where buyers had brought their Justus back with sprung tines and various other such maladies.

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I'm still keenly awaiting delivery of the Pilot Justus 95 I ordered four weeks ago. In the best case scenario, I'll be receiving it in another four weeks (yeah, right).

 

Anyway, I really don't get people who invariably equate writing with "flair" or "expressiveness" with line variation, and in turn line variation with "flex" (as if, say, an Italic nib wouldn't deliver significant "line variation" writing in English in a cursive hand), and then try to flex everything they come across. Any proper calligrapher (whether their specialty is writing in English, Japanese and Chinese) can pick up a garden-variety Bic and still write with flair and expressiveness, and that's a capability money just can't buy in the absence of dedication and practice at acquiring the manual skills required.

 

I'm a big fan of things that "show" potential (which is not "promise") to be what they aren't designed to be, but when pushed by those who want more than the products' design intent, just get ruined without delivering satisfaction; they teach people to temper their expectations to what producers put on the market and say they can have. I hope the Justus 95 will demonstrate versatility while being just less than what "modern" users chasing "vintage flex" capability in a new pen supported by manufacturer's warranty today desire.

 

The Sailor Pro Gear Slim Ocean (at least the one I have) is a really fine writing instrument, its 14K gold F nib pin-sharp and unrelenting, far more so than the 21K gold F nib on the Sailor Pro Gear Ocean (or at least the one I have). I enjoy having it, although for everyday writing I'd prefer one of the Sailor 21K gold nibs for that slight hint of softness without compromising precise control.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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  • 3 months later...

Just wanted to say thanks for this thread. It's exactly what I've been looking for. If anyone cares, I'm pretty sure it's not the textbook "best" choice but I'm going to go with the justus!

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I saw the Sailor pen in the line-up and knew it would be my personal favorite. I've also tried out some of the other pens in the line-up. Fun read! It's curious how everyone's used to different widths. I love Sailor's EF nibs, and MF would definitely be on the broad side for me. In regards to quick notes, my Pilot Vanishing Point in Fine is so smooth, that when combined with a wet ink like Pilot Iroshizuku, it just glides with almost no friction. Very easy for quick notes. Of course it's also a heavy pen, so it might cause fatigue over time, but not because of the nib width.

(Incidentally, my favorite pencil size is 0.3mm, and I've all but abandoned using 0.5mm+ leads).

Edited by Intensity

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Now that I've finally received my Pilot Justus 95, and had a chance to do a round of superficial testing with it, I must say it beats my Sailor Professional Gear Slim Ocean in almost every significant consideration as the candidate for, "If the house was burning down and you could only save one pen, which one would you take?" Even the larger Sailor Professional Gear (Classic) Ocean isn't strong competition.

 

Now, if I can marry the Justus' capability as a writing instrument with the looks and the finish of the Pilot 'Hannya Shingyo', that'd be a "grail pen" for me, haha!

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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