Lamy Vista Fountain Pen Review

I picked up a Lamy Vista while attending a conference in Japan. For those who aren't familiar, the Lamy Vista is basically a sexier demonstrator (see through) version of the Lamy Safari. The Safari is one of the most popular starter fountain pens, along with the Pilot Metropolitan. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I purchased a German pen in a country that produces the Metropolitan; however, I just couldn't turn down this sleek looking demonstrator's cat calls from the pen rack. Lamy pens just look more interesting to me, even if the Pilot Metropolitan is universally considered to be an excellent starter fountain pen. I had a rough start with Lamy, but I just couldn't pass up the Vista.

The Lamy Vista is a stunner, with a clear plastic body that shows off all of the pen's inner workings. Although the body is completely plastic, the pen is made well and feels sturdy in hand. The clip is a monster and is so strong that it leaves indentations when clipped to my daily carry Field Notes notebook. The Vista is built to be used and abused. The pen takes on the personality of the ink inside, so it's a great pen to use with colorful inks. The pen takes the standard Lamy cartridge or an ink converter, but the red on the Lamy Z24 converter would ruin the look of the pen. I recommend the Z26 version which uses black plastic instead of red. Goulet Pens has a great writeup about the usage of converters with the Vista. I'm a fountain pen novice, so I appreciate the ability to see how the pen works, and I'm surprised that the Vista isn't mentioned more often in the "best pens for beginners" lists floating around the internet.

Blue is beautiful with the Lamy Vista

Blue is beautiful with the Lamy Vista

The Vista's body does show fingerprints, which is to be expected from clear plastic. It may not be the best choice for the OCD fountain pen fans out there, but it shouldn't be a problem for most. I've also noticed several scratches and scuffs, which are easily visible to the naked eye. The Lamy barrel logo is shiny and metallic, although I was disappointed by how easily the logo cracked and scratched. Small blemishes aside, the Vista feels great in the hand. I can use the pen comfortably all day, either posted or unposted. The cap clicks into place when capping, but there's no click when posting, so be careful not to jam the cap onto the end of the pen.

Lamy Safari and Vista pens are known for their unique molded triangular grip. This grip may be a challenge for those who use a non-traditional grip when writing, but I absolutely love it! My fingers slide easily into place, thanks to the flat sides of the grip, and I find that this grip makes the pen feel much smaller than it actually is. I love small pens, so this is exactly the feel that I am looking for. My terrible handwriting is partially due to poor grip, and the molded grip forces me to hold the pen correctly. This has been helpful in my efforts to improve handwriting skills.

I was hesitant to give Lamy another go after my terrible experience with the Safari, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Vista. The pen is a workhorse and works well for hours at a time without skips, clogs, or leaks. This pairs well with the grip to help produce painfully long pen reviews with zero fatigue or annoyance to the writer! I purchased a fine nibbed version, which is buttery smooth on everything from Rhodia pads to Field Notes. The Lamy fine nibs aren't exactly "fine", so I recommend picking up the extra fine version, if you're looking for a really slim line. The fine nib works well for me, although I think that I may have been better off with an EF nib.

I have to admit that this is my first pen review, but I'm in love with the Lamy Vista. It was difficult to choose between a Lamy and the Pilot Metropolitan, but the unique look and excellent grip pushed me over the edge. I would love to try a Metropolitan to compare, but there's no doubt that the Lamy Vista is a well-performing affordable pen that's deserving of becoming your first fountain pen.

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Handwritten Part 1

"Write each vocabulary word three times". The instructions were simple, but these six words were responsible for hours of unspeakable horror. Of course, all of the words were to be written in cursive, in pencil, and on the cheapest newspaper print that a public school could afford. I hated cursive.

I hated cursive because I had terrible handwriting. My loops were overly large and my letters were inconsistent in every sense of the word. I started using print as soon as my teachers allowed, and my shameful signature is all that remains from the days of scribbling vocabulary words over and over.

This is the best signature that I can muster.

This is the best signature that I can muster.

My terrible handwriting has always been a sore spot, but I've been able to avoid it, largely due to the digital world in which we live. I've taken all of my work notes in Evernote for the first three years of my job and hardly ever put pen the paper. Even when I wrote for the, now defunct, AppStorm blog network, all of my work lived and died in the digital world.

I discovered The Pen Addict podcast a little over a year ago, during the launch of Relay.FM, a podcast network. I love tech podcasts and was browsing the catalog for new shows when I discovered a podcast solely devoted to pens and stationary. Who in their right mind would create or, even worse, listen to an audio podcast about pens and paper? Nearly 170 episodes later I've listen to every single episode at least twice. Although I owned zero fountain pens and mostly took notes via an iPad, I was enamored with the passion with which Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley talked about their geeky hobby (perhaps lifestyle is a better word). As a teacher I've grown to appreciate the willingness to explore and the unapologetic obsession that comes along with discovering something that you love, and Myke and Brad are certainly in love with pens and paper. I began to think that there was something to this analog lifestyle.

There are many excellent blogs devoted to pens and stationary, many of which have at least one article touting the benefits of handwritten note taking. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed to boil down to the fact that handwritten note taking is a much more complex task for the brain. It forces the writer to analyze and summarize content, instead of just regurgitating it out through the fingers and into a keyboard.

Aside from the memory benefits, many blogs also mention that fountain pens can help with poor handwriting. Before you cringe at that last statement, I should underline the use of "can help with" not "will eliminate". It takes time to adjust to a fountain pen, especially when coming from a world of Bic sticks. This can result in slower, more intentional writing, instead of scribbling as fast as the words come to mind. Fountain pens also seem to require less pressure, and writing with a light touch produces a more fluid outcome.

The case was made and I was convinced that I should start taking handwritten notes. Rewarding myself with cool new toys always helps with forming habits, so I decided to purchase a fountain pen. It's not as easy as it sounds, considering the thousands of options available. My requirements were simple, and this helped to narrow the choices. I wanted something that was less than $30, easy to maintain, and on the skinny side. I turned to my beloved Pen Addict podcast to help me make the choice. The Pilot Metropolitan and Lamy Safari rose to the top as I listened to the podcast and browsed other pen blogs. I fell in love with the Safari's unique look, compared to the more traditional Metropolitan. I found this page and the list Top 5 Fountain Pens Under $50 and finally decided on a Safari. If little German school children could handle this pen, then so could I. I ordered a black fine-nib version. This was going to be my workhorse pen, so I didn't want something that was too flashy.

My bundle of joy arrived in a little slim box, and I was off to the races, or so I thought. I snapped in the ink cartridge and was prepared to begin writing my manifesto.


I waited a minute, scribbled, and still nothing. I turned to the internet for help. Tapping the pen didn't work, nor did letting it sit for an hour. I finally stumbled upon a video that showed how to squeeze a cartridge to get things flowing.


Notice the ink slick where the nib meets the barrel? 

Notice the ink slick where the nib meets the barrel? 

I scribbled around for a bit, capped the pen, then put it in my work bag. I was actually excited to go to work! The first meeting of the day brought major disappointment. I posted my pen and began writing. I noticed huge ink smudges on my fingers from ink that had welled up on the plastic at the base of the nib. Maybe I overfilled it?

I continued using the pen regularly for a week, making sure to keep my fingers up on the grip and away from the inky mess that waited below. The pen was out of ink by the end of the week, with less than a few hours worth of writing time. Something wasn't right. My new hobby was quickly converting into a giant messy bummer.

Notice the green discoloration from the T&T review? I noticed similar discoloration on my pen from dried ink.

Notice the green discoloration from the T&T review? I noticed similar discoloration on my pen from dried ink.

I refilled my pen after my bottle of Noodler's ink arrived but it continued to leak around the base of the nib. Perhaps this is what all fountain pens do? Maybe this is normal? Shawn Blanc's site Tools and Toys posted an excellent writeup about fountain pens, including my beloved Lamy Safari. I noticed that the reviewer had the same barrel discoloration but didn't mention leaking in his review. Apparently this was normal, or so I thought. I removed the Safari from my bag and put it on the shelf. So much for my new hobby. Fountain pens were just too messy.

Would this be the end of my fountain pen journey? The answer was somewhere on the other side of the world.

To Be Continued...

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