Pilot Prera Fountain Pen

Much of what I see online through blog posts, forums and social media forms my initial opinion on a pen, however sometimes I wonder why the reality differs to such a great degree upon having it in my hand. There are of course many times where my perception and the reality are entirely congruous, yet this was certainly not the case with the subject of this post — the Pilot Prera fountain pen.

prera_cap_nib

Maybe it was because I haven’t seen a lot of Prera reviews, or perhaps I simply wanted it to be a certain way. In the end, it was simply an erroneous assumption on my part.

What exactly am I talking about here? Well, although pen dimensions are readily available on just about any retail site you care to visit, I had not realised just how small the Prera line of fountain pens are.

The pen you see in this post was passed on to me by a kind reader downsizing his pen collection, after some email correspondence from myself which mentioned I was thinking of buying one. I was therefore lucky enough to add this pen to my collection at no cost. Had I proceeded down the path of purchasing one myself and gone through a more detailed research process, I would have likely ruled it out as a pen for me.

The reason? Well, as I have mentioned in other posts, I prefer to use the majority my fountain pens without the cap posted, and of course a smallish pen likely to render posting a necessity has some convincing to do if I’m going to buy it. To finish up this point and get on with some more details, suffice to say I love this pen, and use it often — posted. Go figure.

Look and Feel

As I’ve mentioned above, the Prera would be classed more so as a “pocket” pen, rather than a “mini” as such, and given its stature, I’d say this is an accurate description. As you’ll see from my post about the Pilot Custom Heritage 92, I do like a pen with blue, silver and transparency in it’s styling.

Given the size of the pen, it’s no surprise the cap and clip are proportionally short. The metal clip is only 40 mm long, which is equivalent in length to the white inner cap sealing the nib, visible through the transparent outer cap. Though not a major issue, it is a pity this prevents the nib being on show through the cap as well.

prera_under_nib

If you are someone who prefers clean simple lines on a pen, the overall appearance of the Prera may not suit entirely, and I think this is a combination both of design — and indirectly — its size. As you can see, the trim, accents and labelling create what is a fairly “busy” looking cap, and with its short stature, may seem a little cluttered for some. The body itself is somewhat less so, however with the cap posted of course you end up with the same look simply on the other end of the pen (a statement straight from the files of the bleeding obvious if ever there was one). I wouldn’t say this bothers me, however for some it might.

The overall aesthetics of the pen in relation to the distribution of accents at each end, metal bands along both cap and body, and transparent demonstrator barrel provide an interesting, yet not over the top look to the Prera. A great looking steel Pilot nib rounds out the pen, complementing the metal clip and banding nicely.

prera_v_sapporoI must admit I do find the sizing and proportions of the Prera to be a just little odd. I have it sitting next to a Sailor Pro Gear Slim (Sapporo) as I write this, and although the two are very similar in size, the truncated finial at the end of the Prera’s cap throws the proportions a little out of balance. With just a couple of mm more after the end of the clip ring similar the Sailor, the entire pen would look a little more — well…balanced.

That said, a good question to ask at this point is why should all pens look the same — a very valid one for of course they shouldn’t. If we all preferred the same style of pens what a boring world it would be.

Key Specifications

Courtesy Jet Pens

  • Manufacturer: Pilot
  • Model: Prera
  • Weight: 0.6 ounces (17 grams)
  • Body Material: Acrylic
  • Cap: Snap On
  • Clip: Metal
  • Diameter Grip: 10.6 mm
  • Diameter Max: 12.0 mm
  • Filling Mechanism: Converter, Cartridge – Proprietary Pilot
  • Grip: Plastic
  • Length Capped: 12.0 cm / 4.7 inches
  • Length Posted: 13.4 cm / 5.3 inches
  • Length Uncapped: 10.8 cm / 4.3 inches
  • Nib: Steel

Prices at time of writing:

  • JetPens $US38.00 ($AU52.00)
  • Cult Pens £33.29 ($AU70.00)
  • Engeika $US29.70 ($40.00)
  • similar prices to be found with eBay sellers

Writing performance

I made mention in a recent Wiser Web Wednesday post about the positive aspects of a nib that simply writes perfectly (in that case a review of the Pelikan P200 on the Pelikan’s Perch), and does so each and every time you pick it up. I’ve typically found Pilot nibs are generally part of this group.

prera_writingIt is for this very reason (and the snap on cap), I have found the Prera to be a fantastic day to day office pen1. In a daily writer, I need something reliable (no false starts, skips, ink blobs or leaks), which I can keep capped (to ensure it remains reliable), yet is quick to pick up and use — which pretty well ensures my go-to’s will be caps of the non-threaded variety. As you can imagine, the domain of the Prera, Pilot Metropolitan, and Lamy 2000 (a joyful every day pen if ever there was one). The rotation here also includes an ever-changing roster of gel pens, rollerballs and my trusty P8126 filled Retro 51.

prera_nibI don’t really have a great deal more to say specifically about the medium, steel Pilot nib on this Prera, apart from the fact it is a beautiful writer and performs straight out of the blocks every time. As you’d expect, the medium nib is somewhat finer than those on my European pens, and although quite resistant to flex, there is just enough “give” to make it extremely comfortable to use over longer periods.

There is a very small step down to the section from the barrel, however the absence of threads given the snap-on design of the cap ensures a very smooth grip. Personally I feel the surety of the grip is enhanced by this step, as well as providing a feedback point to align your fingers and thumb. I cannot see this being an issue regardless of your preference or grip style.

Whether or not a pen will work for me posted, is of course about balance rather than overall weight, though a very heavy pen will take its toll over a longer writing session. I’d say I have a fairly broad range of pen weights I find comfortable, with only very, very light or overly heavy pens a problem.

The Prera is well weighted at 0.6oz (17 grams), and reasonably well-balanced when posted — a necessity given its size. A point to note here is a good proportion of the weight is distributed fairly high on the pen with the cap posted, given its metal clip, final, and rings. As a result, the centre of gravity seems a little high, so depending on your particular style of grip and pen alignment, is something to keep in mind. In its favour here though is the short overall length, which places most of the pen down in the hand of the user rather than out the top — the main reason I found the Prera quite a useable pen when posted.

A final note on the size and posting brings us back to the Sailor Sapporo I mentioned earlier — a far better balance for me when posted, despite weighing in at 19.7 grams. Ok — time to move on.

L to R: Pilot Custom Heritage 92; Prera; Sailor Sapporo; Pilot Metropolitan
L to R: Pilot Custom Heritage 92; Prera; Sailor Sapporo; Pilot Metropolitan

A couple of days ago I returned to the Pilot Metropolitan (M Nib) after the cartridge in the Prera ran out, and the change was probably a little telling.

Hands down I find the Metropolitan is a far better pen for me, fitting my preference for use without posting the cap, having a nib essentially the equal of the Prera’s, and of course the price. The Metropolitan can be picked up for less than half the cost of the Prera, and for me, is a better overall pen. So if you are looking for value for money without needing to compromise, I think the Metropolitan is definitely the way to go.

Closing thoughts

My advice if you are thinking about picking up a Prera? Know you will be buying a high quality fountain pen — just know it will be on the small side when comparing to many others in your collection, and if you are a strict non-poster, this pen most likely won’t be for you.

As I’ve mentioned above, for me, and I’d argue for many potential buyers, the Pilot Metropolitan is an equally good pen and offers much better value for money. The two pens could not be more different in size and appearance however, and it is your own particular preferences here that the real choice will be made.

Again just remember (note to self) — the Prera is on the small side.


 

  1. The paper? At my desk unusually enough are the standard A4 bulk buy Staples legal pads. Miraculously they hold all but the wettest, broadest nibs — and certainly all of the pens listed here. ↩︎

Two of a Kind: Pilot Metropolitan and Tombow Object Fountain Pens

IMG_3427
Silver Zigzag Pilot Metropolitan (L), and red Tombow Object (R)

With a Pilot Metropolitan having been in my collection for almost 12 months now, upon recently receiving a Tombow Object, I was struck by how similar these two pens actually are.

My original Metropolitan had a fine nib, which met its demise after about 11 months of use, when a very small part of the nib tip popped off while writing. Although I then had an instant stub nib, it was a little jagged for writing! The Metropolitan you see here came with a medium nib.

Both of these particular pens were received from the very kind gentleman I wrote about in a previous post.

Look and Feel

FullSizeRender 14The similarities in these pens were immediately apparent in relation to appearance; to some degree the design, and how both felt in the hand while writing — I see am not alone in thinking this.

When capped, both are of a very similar length and shape, tapering towards both ends. The Tombow remains a little larger in diameter at the end of the body and cap, whereas the Metropolitan continues to a slightly finer taper.

The Metropolitan is noticeably the heavier of the two, however both are quite well-balanced when putting pen to paper. Both have sturdy, well-functioning clips, with the Metropolitan sporting a feature band of decorative patterning around the centre of the barrel. This particular one being the Silver Zigzag model. A nice touch, however probably adds no more aesthetic value to my eye.

Both pens have a metallic, brushed aluminium looking finish on the entire exterior (with the exception of the zigzag addition to the Metropolitan) — a type of finish I do like, and particularly suits some of the more colourful options available in the Tombow Object series.

IMG_3433
Differences can be seen in overall nib length; step at the junction of section and barrel of the Metropolitan; and the Tombow’s matte finish on the section.

You could say the similarities end once the snap on/off caps are removed and the grip sections are exposed. The Metropolitan’s shiny gloss plastic (resin?) grip section is immediately apparent, whereas the Tombow sports a more subdued matte finish.

Both have visible and palpable lines running the length of the grip section from the manufacturing process, and although virtually unnoticeable, are not evident on more expensive pens. Certainly not an issue and I only mention it as I analyse the grip sections a little more closely for comparison. The taper, length and step of the grip section is the biggest difference I find in these pens, and I will elaborate further in Writing Performance below.

Overall, I like the look of both for sturdy, everyday use pens, and given the similarity, if I like one, it goes without saying I like the other. On appearance alone, I really couldn’t pick a favourite between the two.

Specifications

Specifications below courtesy Jet Pens:

Pilot Metropolitan

  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Weight: 3.7 ounces (105 grams)
  • Grip diameter: 9.8 mm (max diameter 13.3 mm)
  • Length Capped: 13.8 cm
  • Length Posted: 15.3 cm
  • Length Uncapped: 12.5 cm
  • Nib: steel
  • Fill: international standard cartridge/converter
  • Price: Approximately $AU18.00 (Jet Pens US + shipping)
  • My pen: Silver Zigzag model; M nib

Tombow Object

  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Weight: 3.0 ounces (85 grams)
  • Grip diameter: 9.3 mm (max diameter 13.0 mm)
  • Length Capped: 13.8 cm
  • Length Posted: 15.6 cm
  • Length Uncapped: 12.2 cm
  • Nib: steel
  • Fill: international standard cartridge/converter
  • Price: Approximately $AU48.00 (Cult Pens UK + shipping)
  • My pen: Red model; F nib

As you’ll note from the lists above, it is certainly not hard to see why these pens are very, very similar in look and feel — the most obvious difference being of course the weight.

For overall balance, I honestly could not pick one over the other despite this obvious difference, however if you were someone who posted their pens — for me at least — this would make things a little top-heavy with the Metropolitan.

You’ll also notice both are sold as cartridge/converter fillers. Not being overly adept with the included squeeze mechanism converter included with the Metropolitan, I swapped in the CON-50 converter which I’ve always found easy to use and very reliable. I have only used a standard international cartridge in the Tombow.

Writing Performance

When putting pen to paper, it is again quite amazing just how similar these pens are, even more so with the medium nib of the Metropolitan and fine of the Tombow.

IMG_3428
Despite the Metropolitan’s M nib and Tombow’s F – the line characteristics were very similar.

From what I recall, this would certainly not have been the case with the fine nib of my previous Metropolitan. At times I found the fine nib a little scratchy on certain paper types, and overall it was probably too fine for my writing style. The medium nib on this model is a far better fit for me.

The line widths, nib feel and smoothness are very, very close. Both lay down ink very well, with the only real difference in feel the marginally stiffer nib on the Tombow. Even with slightly more flex to the Metropolitan, both pens showed minimal (and pretty even) line variation with changes in pressure. There is no doubt these are really great nibs — both of them.

I keep harping about the similarities in these pens, so we should probably have a look at some of the differences as well.

My standard grip as shown with the Metropolitan.
My standard grip as shown with the Metropolitan.

That grip section. Here is where the suitability of each pen might vary widely depending upon your particular writing grip and style. I believe I would call mine a fairly standard pen hold, and with that, the Metropolitan suits my hand better than the Tombow.

With the Metropolitan, there is a significant step down from the barrel to the section, which in itself may be a problem for some, however suits my grip perfectly. As my middle finger hooks around the step, it provides a perfect platform to balance the pen, with my index finger and thumb able to rest lightly on the top and side. I’ve found this facilitates a lighter grip nicely — particularly in someone who is making a conscious effort to be a little less heavy handed (remember that broken Metropolitan F nib I was talking about?).

With the Tombow, at that same point in the grip section, although there was no step, the continuous taper towards the nib and smooth plastic finish left me wanting a little more control most times I wrote with it. This was most evident early in the mornings when both hand and pen barrel/section were cool, and I found my fingers sliding around a little on section. Not a deal breaker, however I certainly had less control, and was forced to grip a little more tightly, something I am consciously making an efforts not to do.

IMG_3437IMG_3436

Of course I then began thinking how the Tombow would make a perfect summer pen, when the Queensland humidity would ensure the grip section became nice and tacky — and just like that my pens started to become seasonal. What has become of me?

Overall, I’d say these pens are quite similar (again!) in writing performance, particularly from the perspective of the nib. My preference simply comes down to the shape of the section on the Metropolitan being more suited to my particular grip.

Use case

The most obvious answer here of course, is anywhere you would use a fountain pen, although there are a couple of other points I’d like to add. Although I have differing nib widths for both pens (a reminder: M on the Metropolitan; F on the Tombow), as you can see from the accompanying writing samples, both are on what you’d call the finer side of line widths.

IMG_3424
In a Baron Fig Confidant Journal.

This allows these pens to function very well on paper where a broader, wetter nib might bleed and feather its way out of favour. A case in point being the Baron Fig Confidant notebook. Otherwise, my usual Rhodia pads have seen the most of both these pens for both meeting and general notes I have made at my desk in the office, a task for which I have found both pens well suited, given their understated look.

That said, it has been nothing to carry either one in my pocket or shirt placket for use in a coffee shop note taking or planning session either. True, I notice the Metropolitan’s extra weight in doing so, however I wouldn’t say enough for me to avoid doing so. Both have again performed well, whether it be a few quick words written between sips, or a few pages written when ideas are flowing a little more freely.

Either of these pens can be anything you need them to be.

Conclusion

Put simply these are both great pens.

The Pilot Metropolitan is widely recognised as one of the best value for money pens out there. That very statement ”value for money” typically infers compromise, yet I certainly do not necessarily see that to be the case here — for either pen.

For the respective price points, the materials are of course not high-end, however I think for both cases here, that simply adds to the satisfaction when using these pens. You have a great pen in either case and have spent only a modest sum for the privilege.

If I had to pick, it would be the Metropolitan. Largely based on the better suitability of the grip for my particular style, and the lower price point really hammering home the value for money aspect.

That being said, I would (and will) be happy to continue using both on a regular basis.