Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My New Hero 359 “Summer Color” Lamy Safari Look Alike
I have been neglecting this blog! Unpardonable absence of more than two years. I am offering no excuses for nothing I say would justify the neglect of a blog on a topic so close to my heart.
But the sudden return to it was prompted by one pen. Something which was so unique and interesting I had to write about it. Not a costly pen. Not even an original design. The pen in question is a Chinese replication, a veritable rip-off   of one of my all time favourite, EDC (Every Day Carry) pen: Lamy Safari. I am really, really fond of Lamy. I’ve lost count of the number of Lamy Safari fountain pens I have gifted to friends, friends’ children and students. Lamy has also helped me convert many people to lovers of Fountain pens.

I came across this pen while searching the EBay for some Japanese pen. A bright yellow Safari look alike just popped out of the pages and grabbed attention. Further investigations revealed the same to be  a product from another favourite fountain pen company, Hero from China. I have very fond memories of Youth and Hero pens made in China. Our School insisted students use ONLY fountain pens for class work. In the early Sixties some decent Indian fountain pens were available in the market. These included the ‘President’, Indian made Pilot and Durex . One could also find a few ‘Swan’ pens and a few Parker, but they were well above the reach of Middle School students. Then came the affordable and smooth writing range of fountain pens from China. Many of the fountain pens were eye-dropper fillers and most had the problem of ink leak from the section-barrel joint. Youth and Hero, the more popular Chinese pens had sac filling and no leakage issues. On top of that they were extremely smooth writers with just the right amount of ink flow.  Even today, I have a soft corner for pens by these two Chinese companies.
No time was wasted in pondering over the Hero 359 Summer Color, for that was the name of the Safari look alike. One pen in the delicious looking passion fruit yellow was ordered from EBay. I expected delivery to take at least 10 days, but was surprised when it was delivered on the third day! A quick examination of the package revealed that the seller was based in my own city, Faridabad! The pen cost me all of Rupees 575 with free shipping!
The pen was packaged in one of those plastic blister packaging like the one used to pack cheap electronic goods like Memory Cards. All markings and labeling were in Chinese, at least I think so, except for the word “Hero”.
Overall Impression

The pen is a looker, no doubt. Almost an exact replica of the original Lamy. The length, breadth and style are very nearly the same as Lamy Safari. While Lamy has two rather flat sides for the barrel, the Hero has only one flat side.

The clip is chrome plated in contrast with black anodized ones of the original. On top of the cap, in place of a metallic screw with a slot on top, the Hero has a plastic top with the Hero logo on it. The weight is very slightly less in the Chinese pen.

Built and design.

Even though efforts were made to replicate the Safari as much as possible and in spite of the minor difference pointed out above, the Hero version looks what it is; an imitation, and a poor one at that. For example, the name Hero imprinted on the side in the same font as the Lamy, has a shoddy and shallow finish.
The plastic is also of much inferior quality and liable to get scratches easily.

After all, what can you expect from a copy that is less than one third the price of the original? I like the firm ‘click’ of the cap as it is pressed close, better than that of the Lamy. In fact, one of my pet peeves about the Lamy is the poor quality of the cap and they way it goes bad easily. The section and grip are almost identical copy. The nib is also copied from Safari but in steel finish compared to the black of Lamy.  The converter looks flimsy, though functional.

There are many colours, all bright and cheerful, not exactly the same shades as Lamy, but close matches, nevertheless.
Weight and balance
I loved the balance and the proportions. The cap is easily posted and with the cap in position, the pen rests well in our hand. I have rather small hands, but I find the pen comfortable to hold and write for rather long periods.
Nib and write Quality
Having used Hero pens extensively for a long time in the past, I had high expectations of the quality of writing, even considering the low cost. I am happy to say the pen did not disappoint me. The marking on the nib says ‘F’ and the pen is certainly fine, though a bit thinner than the European F and broader than the Japanese F. Writing is wet enough for my liking.

As for smoothness, if I had not known it is a Hero, I could have easily mistaken it to be a Lamy! So good is the smoothness of the nib. I’ve read poor reviews on the net, but all I can say is, I’ve been lucky to get a good piece.

I intend to buy a few more colours and other types of nibs like ‘M’ just to see how consistent the quality is.
Now for a few samples of writing in my terrible handwriting.

I have used BILT note pads for the sample writing, but soon plan to switch to a better quality paper like BILT 80 GSM Bond or something similar.


  1. thats interesting... However, i would like to point out that the nib is noot always black in lamy safari. I have a chrome coloured nib in my blue safari.

    1. the old models used to have the black nib ; but now the black nib is housed only by the charcoal black lamy safari unless you buy a spare...
      Hope that helps !! ;)

  2. Dear Sir,

    Can you suggest an ink for me to buy for the LAMY safari?