The design of the Lamy Safari (and Al-star) is iconic. For many, a Safari was their first pen, and almost all fountain pen collectors have at least one.
However, this review is not about the Safari—it is about the Al-star, which does have quite a bit in common with it's brother. They have the same design, the same nib, they use the same Z24/Z28 converter, and they both come in the same box. However, they do differ on one point: The Safari is made entirely out of plastic, whereas the Al-star is fashioned of aluminum.
The Al-star, like its sibling, has an annual special-edition color. In 2014, the Al-star’s SE was a color called bluegreen. This color was immensely popular—so popular, in fact, that Lamy added it to the normal production line in May of 2016. Since then, I have desperately want to get my hands on the color, and suffice it to say, I was not disappointed.
The Al-star comes in the standard Safari/Al-Star frilled black cardboard box. While the box isn't all that intricate, the box gets the pen from point A to point B, and given the price point of the pen, that's all it has to do.
However, the real star of the show when it comes to the Al-star is the design and the color. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian in the 1980’s, the Al-star has an extremely distinct, yet tasteful design. Its barrel is a shape that is a hybrid between a cylinder and a cube. It also has an ink window halfway down the body (Which I am personally not a huge fan of as I believe it breaks the design and, in the case of the safari, stops the pen from being eyedropper-convertible. However, given that the Al-star is metal, and therefore not eyedropper-convertible, this doesn’t matter so much. However, you can swap out the barrel with the rollerball barrel if you are so inclined to remove the window.
Next up is the cap and the clip—both of which are design statements in and of themselves. The cap is long (roughly 6.5 cm out of the 14 cm of the pen). The pen is also not too heavy (only 22 grams empty, and it has a really nice length so that it fits comfortably in the hand—I have used it for long writing sessions, and I never have felt fatigue with it.) The clip, on the other hand, resembles the design of a gigantic paper clip. Although it is not spring-loaded, it has decent tension and it will stay in a coat pocket with ease.
Now, the grip. The section is by far the most controversial part of the Safari/Al-star/Lx line. This is due to trigonal shape—some people love it, others dislike it. For me, it’s not a problem—my thumb goes on one panel and my forefinger goes on the other panel. The rest of my fingers on the underside. However, for some good friends of mine—the grip is painful to use. My best advice here is to try it out, there is no way to know otherwise.
The section of the pen, like all Al-stars, is a dark, translucent grey, while the finial, an ‘x’, and the end of the barrel (a circle with ‘Germany’ inscribed in it), are both black ABS plastic. The clip is a high-gloss silver finish. However, be warned that over time, the color does nick and the shift—my graphite Al-star which has been my EDC for almost a year, shows a bit of wear.
The pen is also a cartridge/converter pen, which at this price, is to be expected. However, the Lamy Z24/28 converters are actually some of my favorite converters to use, they fill up almost all the way to the top, and I’ve never had a problem with it. However, they have to be purchased separately from the pen for around $4.75.
Although, I must say, my favorite thing about this pen is the color—it is, as best as I can describe it, almost a perfect blue-green blend—halfway between seafoam green and turquoise. (It’s hex color to the best of my knowledge is #68baa8). It’s also polished in a way so that the pen could either be shiny or matte depending on how the light catches it. It really is stunning in person, and, whether or not you can make out the colors in the photos, I highly recommend taking a look up close if you can. The color is brilliant.
However, the jewel of this pen is really the nib. Lamy’s nibs are probably the best out-of-the-box nibs I’ve ever tried. They are all butter-smooth (even the EF), and even though they are stainless steel, they give a fair bit of line variation without pressure. Not only this, but the nibs are also inexpensive (they’re available for around $13) and swappable (available in EF, F, M, B, and 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9 mm stub varieties). Lamy also makes gold nibs that can be had, and then swapped on to a Safari, for around $90.
My pen, which has a medium nib, is probably one of the smoothest steel nibs that I have ever used. It gives a nice medium/broad line, and is a decently-wet writer, so most inks (even some of the drier varieties), work without a problem. It also wrote really well right out of the box, which is a rare, but welcome occurrence.
This pen, especially as a first or second pen, is really quite fantastic. It has a great design, beautiful color, and it writes fantastically. It’s also relatively inexpensive (it is available for $34 on Amazon and for $37.50 on Goulet). It’s a solid upgrade from the Safari, and, in my opinion, feels even better. I highly recommend giving this pen a try.
I would also like to say thank you to Lamy USA for providing this pen for review. However, my opinions are still all my own. (I had purchased a pair of Al-stars already).
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