Common step-up pen super review–Pilot Vanishing Point, Platinum 3776, Lamy 2000

There isn’t much I can add about these pens–they have been reviewed thousands of times. They are pens that are common for second pens, or first pens with gold nibs, or step-up pens, or whatever. They’re recommended often because they’re solid pens.

There are other pens that could be in this review–Pilot Custom 74 comes to mind, maybe Pelikan m200. Some Faber-Castell pens might be in here, too. Maybe the cheaper Sailors. Probably a bunch of others. But I don’t have those and outside of the Custom 74, these pens are more commonly recommended. I seriously think that the Aurora Ipsilon and Pilot e95 are solid step-up pens, too, but they aren’t as commonly recommended either and I want to cover those separately.

First up, the Vanishing Point. These are great workhorse pens and with the capless design they deploy quickly for notes on the go. The pen’s body itself is more of a carrier that holds the nib unit, which is shared by all of the capless pens by Pilot. They fill via Pilot’s cartridges or converters. I have the Pilot CON-50 converters in mine because they are a bit older, but Pilot’s new CON-40 is a dumpster fire–they hold a tiny amount of ink, rattle because of the stupid agitators, and are basically impossible to fill completely. I’d refill Pilot cartridges for a higher ink capacity and no annoying, rattly balls if that was my only option, but I like the CON-50.

One more thing I could comment on: the fountain pen community has long said “Japanese pens are finer! Consider ordering a size up!” This advice is perhaps somewhat true, but it sucks. Nib sizes are not standardized a differ between manufactures. We should be telling people, however, that German pens–Lamy, Pelikan, or pens equipped with JoWo nibs–are a size up and people should order down. I know this advice would have saved me a lot trouble. If you want a fine, dear reader, and you are ordering a Pilot or Platinum, just order a fine. If you are really on the fence, find a brick and mortar store or a vendor or company with a nib exchange policy. Ink and paper selection can impact this quite a bit, too.

These Japanese nibs aren’t atom-splitting skinny–they’re actually fairly comparable to nib grades from other companies. Lamy, on the other hand, is generally thicker. Ink selection can impact this, too, but I’ve still found this to be mostly true.

The Platinum 3776 is the most “fountain pen-like” pen of this bunch. Classic design, twist-off cap, lovely 14K open nib with a heart-shaped breather hole. They fill with Platinum’s cartridge/converters–which is my favorite system of the big three Japanese manufacturers. These pens, while small and light, are meant to write and are a fantastic bargain.

They are toothy writers, though. Feedback, or tooth, is the audio-tactile sensation of “feeling” the nib on paper–it’s not scratchy. A pen can be a smooth writer and still be toothy or have feedback. Some compare it to writing with a pencil. My rule of thumb is that if the sensation seems diminished while writing with headphones on, it’s feedback. Scratch is unpleasant and damages paper.

I love some tooth, so I love the way Platinum pens write. Some people hate it. Everyone has to try it in person to figure it out.

The 3776 is a solid choice.

The Lamy 2000 is my favorite of the three–hooded nibs, smooth writers, no bullshit filling system, and basically indestructible. They’ve been in production since the 1960’s. They are classic. The snap cap makes it quick to get it to paper, but not as quick as the Vanishing Point.

The nibs on these pens are fat and wet, though. One has to consider this when deciding what nib size to get. My broad Lamy 2000 is borderline ridiculous and not especially practical for use on the standard crappy paper that one encounters in the wild–it’s like writing with Sharpie and it will bleed through mediocre paper. It’s still an awesome nib, just not that practical. I’ve found my Lamy 2000 with a fine nib to be more practical.

Speaking of which, all three of these pens have a ton of nib options:

Vanishing Point:

  • Extra Fine
  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Broad
  • 1.0 mm Stub


  • Ultra Extra Fine
  • Extra Fine
  • Fine
  • Soft Fine
  • Medium
  • Soft Medium
  • Broad
  • Coarse (basically a double broad)
  • Music


  • Extra Fine
  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Oblique Medium
  • Broad
  • Oblique Broad
  • Double Broad
  • Oblique Double Broad

There’s something for everyone with these pens, which make them even more fun as step-up pens.


Lamy Safari, Charcoal Finish. My first pen.

What can I realistically say about the Lamy Safari that hasn’t already been said ten thousand times?

Not much, really.

Mine is in the Charcoal finish, even. It’s almost cliché at this point.


When I started my fountain pen journey, beginner-level fountain pens weren’t as widespread as they are now. The Pilot Metropolitan didn’t exist or wasn’t available in the United States. The Pilot Varsity, the Platinum Preppy, and the Lamy Safari were the pens I saw most frequently recommended, and I liked the Safari’s aesthetic, so I chose it. That’s not to say there weren’t other pens I could have chosen, but I was a newbie and I didn’t really know what I was looking for, so I picked it out based on looks and a handful of forum recommendations.

I didn’t buy it for myself, though. It was a Valentine’s gift from my then girlfriend, now wife, in 2012, which makes it extra special to me–there are many Safaris like it, but this one is mine. I also occasionally and ever so gently remind her that she facilitated my madness.

I don’t use it as much as I used to, but I’ve put it through its paces. Despite its light weight, it is robust and has held-up very well over the years. I’ve never had any problems with its performance–it writes every time I put it to page. Not much else to be said about that, really. If you are looking for one pen to use for a long, long time, consider this a candidate. The easily swappable nibs make it a versatile platform to try different nib grades or replace a damaged nib, too–an often over-looked quality in beginner’s pens.


The Safari posts well, but I think it feels weird and too long or unbalanced when posted, so I don’t do that. I’m not a huge fan of the triangular grip, honestly, but I make do. If you don’t think that the grip will bother you, it probably won’t, and the section is long enough that you can adjust your grip a bit up or down to figure out what works best.

As of today, Lamy still doesn’t include a converter with the Safari. C’mon, guys.

Surely the Lamy Safari has hooked countless people on fountain pens over its long career. Even with an ever-growing catalogue of newbie-friendly pens, I still think the Safari is worth a look. If you are considering it, please think about ordering it through a reputable seller as there are many convincing looking but crumby quality counterfeits out there.