This past weekend, I took a trip to New York City, and among a bunch of minor pen-related ambitions, I had one shining goal: go to a fancy pen store, buy a fountain pen, do not go bankrupt in the process. And what do you know, I accomplished all three.
Perusal of the internet suggested that the Art Brown International Pen Shop would probably be the most rewarding place to frolic for a fountain pen, and though I have no other stores to compare it to, I’ll go ahead and agree. The front of the store contains two long rows of well-lit glass cases, much as a purveyor of fine jewelry might be seen to own, full of exceedingly fancy pens that were no doubt astronomically beyond my price range. I was so intimidated and overwhelmed by the fancy display that I immediately beat a retreat to the back of the store, to browse among the notebooks and more common writing utensils, and to pull together the courage to ask about a modestly fancy pen. Prior reconnaissance suggested that Lamy might offer just such a pen.
After trying a couple nibs, I settled on the extra fine–my love of a fine line always wins the day (unless we’re getting so fine that the pen is tearing up the paper and getting fibers all clogged up in itself. That will lose the day).
The first thing that caught my eye about the Vista was pure aesthetics–I love the clear-barrel look. It’s so much more interesting–has so much more going on–than the opaque, single color barrel. You can see the innards! Isn’t that thrilling? I think it’s fantastic.
Most of the pen is made of this thick, strong plastic (maybe one day I’ll learn the actual names of plastics and how to differentiate between them), which leads to two consequences: one, the pen checks in at about medium weight category (due almost entirely to every piece of metal on the cap); two: this pen shows fingerprints EVERYWHERE. Unless you write with gloves. It also works excellently to display dust and other unwanted detritus.
As I mentioned, much of this pen’s weight is in the cap. I was worried this would make the writing experience feel off-balance with the pen being so top-heavy when the cap was posted, but I found that the weight provided just the right amount of counterbalance against my fingers gripping the top of the pen. The weight of the pen was comfortable in my hand, and it added to the writing experience.
The clip design is quite ingenious– rather than a flat clip that is parallel to the barrel, this clip…how do I put this…dips down along the side of the barrel, so that the overall plane of the clip intersects with the shape of the barrel (of course they don’t literally intersect because the clip is a sturdy wire rather than a filled-in plane). The result is a clip with a lot more gripping power–I wasn’t worried about it falling off when clipped onto the cover and several pages of a staple-bound Clairefontaine notebook as I carried it around for a walk. Though perhaps it is too strong?–I could easily see this creasing and bending the pages of a weak notebook cover.
The grip on the barrel is entirely smooth–just two long concave indentations for your thumb and fingers. My main problem with this pen is right here, in the grip, though I’m not sure if the problem is with the construction of the pen or with the way I tend to hold pens. The hard edge on the side of the concave grip for the thumb digs in a little at the base of my thumb, and I feel like the joint where the barrel connects to the body bothers my hand between the index finger and the thumb. I can’t write for very long with my current hand posture without experiencing some discomfort. Given that I’ve only had this pen less than a week, I’m not going to say that this is a write-off; we’re just getting to know each other here. I’ll see if I can get into the habit of holding the pen in a different way, so that the grip works with me while writing instead of bothering me incessantly.
I went with the extra fine nib (though I can buy other nibs later, if I change my mind), and I think this is probably the best nib for daily use. The amount of ink coming out here, for me, is at the perfect Goldilocks ratio–not too much (too much means the ink takes too long to dry), not too little (too little, obviously, means you’re often not even writing). I’ve been able to use this pen on normal papers, post-it notes, around the office–and not had to deal with the typical feathering, bleeding, and pooling of ink that accompanies a pen that writes too wetly. Most of my fountain pens aren’t appropriate (-ly functional) for office use; I was surprised that this one would be. Once I switch to a converter with some new ink, we’ll see whether this ability to write and be useful on normal paper is due chiefly to the ink or the nib.
Unlike some extra fine nibs I’ve dealt with, the Lamy EF nib is never scratchy. Writing is smooth, with the soft and satisfying sound of the nib making contact with the paper as it glides along. Some paper does better than others; the Behance Dot Grid was probably the poorest performer among my papers, and even then it wasn’t too bad. On papers like Rhodia and Clairefontaine, the pen just sails along. It makes me want to write even when I have nothing to say.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with this pen. I got to have a fun experience buying it, going to an actual pen store to try the pen out, the pen itself seems to be well constructed and quite aesthetically pleasing, it performs well (and also makes me want to write in cursive), and my biggest beef with the pen is probably something that a better/different grip posture will fix. Welcome, Lamy Vista, into the ranks of my favorite fountain pens (the ranks being divided into two categories: my favorites, and not my favorites).