Review of the Pilot VP Carbonesque after one and a half year of (ab)use
The VP has been around since the 1960’s and has, with small variations, had the same design ever since. It is a design which aims towards simplicity and function and it tends to divide people into either those who love the design or those who detests it. I really disliked the design when I first saw it and thought it looked like an overweight seal with a strange beak, but after a while it began to grow on me and I began to appreciate it – particularly the functionality of it combined with the no-nonsense, no-bling design and it now looks more like a chubby dolphin than a fat seal with a beak to me. Today’s version is chubbier than some of the earlier (see here for a comparison at the Whatever blog) versions and even if I have come to like my chubby dolphin I would be happy to try some of the sleeker vintage VPs. Since the design is both original and – just like the MYU701 & the M90 – is functional and minimalistic unlike many contemporary fountain pens, I think it is worth a pretty high grade for design.
This is a well built, sturdy pen that is very well suited for everyday (ab)use. I really appreciate the carbonesque finish that (even if it is fake carbonesque) is very resistant to scratches and dings. It fits well together and there is nothing flimsy to it. The retractable mechanism works smoothly as intended and it is truly portable and easy to use on the go. No caps that must be unscrewed and held while jotting down things – just click and write and click and retract. I really like that. The drawback is that the supplied converter – the con-50 – that is included takes a very small amount of ink and that it seems prone to leak occasionally, which is a rather big drawback with a pen that is designed to be carried around all the time. Even if it is a part of the filling system grade I’d say that it is a big part of the function and that it would have get a higher grade if it hasn’t had any problems with this.
Nib and Writing Properties 7/10
The VP has is a fine nib in 18 k gold. A few things surprised me with the nib: it is springy and it runs wider than both the Pilot Bamboo F and the M90 F. The springiness provides some line variation, but it also makes the pen a little less well suited for fast scribbling – at least for me, since it tends to skip once in a while when I write too fast for it. It is a nice nib though and I like writing with it, but it limits my use of it. It is not the smoothest of nibs – both the M90 and the Bamboo are smoother – and gives some feedback while writing. In all a pleasant nib, but more mainstream than top notch. It is good for occasional notes and shorter writing sessions, but it is not a pen I chose when I sit down to write a lot. The writing experience is more than the nib – it is a matter of the pen feeling comfortable in the hand and it does. It goes very well with my hand, but that is because the clip doesn’t interfere with my grip, so it can be worth trying this pen in real life before buying it if you want to make sure that this won’t be an issue for you. It is not the best writer I have, but it is not a bad one either. It is – if one keeps the speed down a little bit – a quite reliable writer and the nib goes well with basically all inks I’ve fed it with. Another good thing is that one can buy separate nibs to the VP for a reasonable price which makes it very easy to customize and use for different purposes.
Filling system 5/10
The M90 fills via cartridge/converters, but doesn’t accept international cartridges or any other cartridges/converters than Pilot’s own, which I see as a drawback. The supplied converter – Con-50 – works, but is not optimal for this pen. As others have noted it has some leak problems, but if you use a cartridge or the pressure filled converter con-20 it works very well. Since it is a bar fill converter it has rather good ink capacity since it doesn’t need any space for a piston. Another drawback is that I find it somewhat cumbersome to flush properly.
I bought this used for around $90. (incl converter) and I think this pen is worth the money I paid and and also the price you paid for a new – I think they can be had for around$125-150. Compared with other pens in this price range you get a lot for the money: a well built pen with a retractable gold nib that is ultraportable and very easy to use. The portability is alone one thing that contributes to making this pen worth the money.
This is a pen that has it’s own niche. The portability alone is one strong argument for buying this pen. I have pens that is a lot nicer for long writing sessions and letter writing, but they don’t match the VP as a carry on pen for quick notes. I carry it with me basically everywhere and even if it has some issues I don’t want to be without it. The overall grade is quite representative for my views on this pen’s overall properties. So, if you are not in need of a very practical carry-on pen I would recommend other pens that are better and more pleasant writers, but if you are (as I) in need of a sturdy companion that is easy to use on your adventures this is a great little pen.