If you ask most fountain pen users for recommendations for a first-time user, the Lamy Safari is sure to come up close to the top of the list. With their 60+ year history of making fine writing instruments, it’s no surprise that Lamy has a pretty good grasp on what makes a good pen.
Retailing around $30 US, the Safari features a plastic cap, grip, and barrel with a metal rounded clip. Much like the Al-Star I reviewed previously, the Safari has a semi-triangular grip section with two flat sides which curve up towards the nib to create a comfortable resting place for your fingers while writing. This shape supports what is generally considered to be the “Correct” writing grip, and counteracts any rotation of the pen in your hand in use. This, in turn, ensures that the nib is always in optimal contact with the page to maximize ink flow.
One of the defining characteristics of the Safari series is the wide array of colors offered for this pen. While Lamy consistently offers the standard colors of Black, Red, and Blue; they also release a limited edition color pen every year alongside a matching ink. My first Lamy Safari pick up, the 2017 Limited Edition “Petrol,” has a dark green/black body, cap, and grip section with a black nib, clip, and accents. The proprietary nib on the Safari is available in Extra Fine, Fine, and Medium widths out of the box, with Broad, 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9 stub nibs available. This nib is compatible with pretty much every Lamy model except for the 2000, so if you also have an AL-Star or LX, you can easily swap the nib between them.
If you already have an AL-Star, you’ll notice right away that the Safari is very slightly smaller. The Safari body measures 12.31mm in diameter, while the AL-Star comes in at 12.78. This difference, while tiny, is noticeable when you hold the pen. The cap is slightly smaller as well, meaning you cannot put a Safari cap on an AL-Star, or vice versa.
The Nib is really where the Lamy Safari stands out. Like the pen itself, the nib is made in Germany, and conforms to European width standards; meaning the Lamy Fine will run roughly in line with a Pilot Medium. The Fine and Medium nibs I’ve used both write incredibly smooth out of the box, and are very firm compared to stainless steel nibs from other manufacturers. Obviously, it is not supposed to be flexible by any stretch of the imagination, but there is zero movement in this nib under any reasonable amount of writing pressure. The Lamy always lays down a solid and consistent line and starts up right away, even if the pen has been sitting inked but unused for several days. All of this adds up to a great writing experience, but there is one last thing that really makes the Lamy shine. I have not yet figured out why or how this happens, but the Lamy nibs transform almost any ink I use from nice solid colors, to dual-tone shaded beauties. It might be something with the ink flow that causes the ink to pool at the end of the stroke, but the Lamy nib just adds that extra touch of character to your writing. This shading effect will vary from ink to ink, but it is much more pronounced with the Lamy in comparison to Twsbi, Kaweco, and Bock nibs I’ve used.
When I reviewed the AL-Star last year, I noted that the pen got a little boring to me after a few weeks of use. The smooth surface and blackout color scheme didn’t really stand out for me in the same way a Twsbi Eco or a Karas Kustoms fountain pen does. The surface of the pen was intentionally devoid of any features or outstanding design features. At one point, I even went so far as to call the AL-Star “bland” and I stand by that opinion. The Safari is a little different. The grip section shares the same slight surface texture as the barrel and cap, creating a nice uniform feel across the entire pen. The slightly narrower cap is less intrusive while holding or storing the pen. And while the style and design of the pen are identical to the AL-Star, the colorization and slight texture on the surface give it a bit of extra spice that the all black AL-Star didn’t have. Do I still love demonstrators? Absolutely. But the colors that Lamy puts out for their limited editions are definitely a welcome change of pace in the fountain pen market.
So, should you buy it?
The Lamy Safari absolutely carries its own weight for a pen in the $30 price range. With the variety of colors available, you’ll be able to find a pen that stands out from the crowd and suits your unique tastes. If you have the opportunity to pick up one of the limited edition colors, even better! If you’re looking for something with a bit of extra flare that will stand out in the crowd, the Safari is not that pen. But as I have discovered over the past year of Lamy ownership, what these pens lack in bold and flashy style, they more than make up for in near-flawless functionality. The Petrol Safari has earned a place in my Sinclair as a Daily Use pen. And I don’t see it leaving any time soon.
Disclaimer: This pen was purchased at full retail price. The reviewer was not compensated for any of the products mentioned.
One last thing before we go. I added a page called “Cool People” (working title) to the top menu. This is a brief list of pen people that have inspired me over the past year; either by creating content and distributing knowledge, or by making these fantastic tools available for the masses. Take a look when you have a minute. If you found my blog, you’ve probably heard of these folks already, but they are worth a look either way.