Lamy Safari Review

The Lamy Safari is a fairly cheap fountain pen – perhaps the cheapest you can get that’s actually good.

Lamy Safari - Close up of Nib

(Click any pictures to see them on Flickr, with notes, comments, and bigger sizes available.)

  • Plain ABS plastic casing.
  • Simple design.
  • Takes cartriges or a converter, but the converter is not supplied. Budget a little extra if you want to use bottled ink.

Looks

Personally, I like the way this pen looks, but it’s not for everyone. It’s quite different in styling to most fountain pens, and the case is plastic rather than laquer. The oversized ‘paperclip style’ pocket clip is effective, but not very decorative.

As I said, I like it, but it’s not going to fool anybody into thinking it cost you a lot of money.

The unusual look even continues to the nib. There’s none of the usual flared shape, polished two-tone metal, or swirly engravings. It’s just plain black-coated metal, with “LAMY” and a letter for the nib width marked on it.

It’s all very understated and minimalist, and that appeals to me.

Lamy Safari on Moleskine

Feel

For a plastic pen, this actually feels really good. The ABS plastic used for the body feels strong and firm. The screw thread on the barrel feels very precise, and it all has a sensation of quality about it that cheap plastic pens never normally manage.

In Use

This is where this pen shines. The ink flow starts instantly, and doesn’t require any pressure on the paper to keep going. It can keep up even with scribbling and sketching, and although the nib is fairly firm, you can still get a bit of variation to the line width.

Push down firmly, and the nib will give you a thicker line. Turn it upside down for another trick – the top edge of the nib will still write, and writes with a narrower line. The shape of the pen makes it uncomfortable to use that way for long, but if you need a few quick thin lines, it can be a handy trick.

Compared with some other pens (the Parker 45, for example), the Safari is slightly scratchy in feel, but it’s not at all unpleasant, and the flow is still perfectly smooth.

Lamy Safari Sample Scribbles

If you like a fairly heavy pen, this isn’t it. The safari is very light, with very little resistance to moving it quickly. For some reason, though, it doesn’t seem to be prone to the sort of shaky lines I sometimes end up with when using very light pens. The balance point is almost exactly in the centre. Pop the cap on the top for writing or drawing, though, and this pen becomes a bit heavier, and very top-heavy. I find it quite uncomfortable to use this way, so I never post the cap.

Oh, and that all-important question for many of you – any good on Moleskine paper? Well, that will depend on the ink, but the Lamy black ink that comes in their cartriges works really quite well. It’s a bit slow drying, so I tend to smudge it quite badly, but doesn’t feather too much, and doesn’t show through to the next page much at all.

Conclusion

I love this pen. It’s the first fountain pen I’ve used that really performs how I expect a good fountain pen to perform. Before this, almost every one I’ve tried has been disappointing. After this, others have a lot to live up to.

Certainly if you’re looking for a good fountain pen to use, this is about the best you’ll find for the money. Alternatives? You could look at some of the Parker pens. Their really cheap fountain pens really aren’t too bad, and a bit more money can get you some nice ones. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, Pelikan make some of the best pens around, and Lamy make some great pens further upmarket too.

For the money, though, the Safari really does perform.

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99 thoughts on “Lamy Safari Review

  1. I e-mailed Lamy a while back to ask about their blue-black ink. The person who replied didn’t have perfect English (I can’t speak German) but as far as we understood each other, said there was no problem using Lamy blue-black iron gall ink in any Lamy pen, which would include Safari.

    I haven’t tried a Safari, but experience with Faber-Castell and Paper Mate ballpoints leads me to think it’s too thin for my hands. When a pen has a triangular barrel, I seem to need it fatter than usual, as the Paper Mate PhD Ultra is. The Faber-Castells are too thin to be comfortable. Strangely, I seem to get on better with round or hexagonal barrels if the pen/pencil is thin.

  2. Thanks for the quick reply, I just thought it may be worth asking because the end looks quite similar.

    Now I just need to decide whether I go for the black Safari or silver-blue Al-Star!

  3. It’s just about possible it will fit (I haven’t tried), but you’d be much better off with the real Lamy converter. The Lamy converter has a pair of lugs on the converter that slot into the pen, and locks it in place, so it can’t twist around as you fill it. Lamy’s converter is £2.50, but it’s worth getting rather than pushing a Parker one in there and hoping it doesn’t leak. The Writing Desk have them, along with the Safari itself, and even spare nibs.

  4. H Honeybee,

    I’ve had a Safari knocking about in a bag, in a pocket, and clipped to the neck of my t-shirt. Never had a problem. Most fountain pens aren’t as delicate as people tend to think.

    I have an old Parker Slimfold, from around the 1940s or 1950s, which tends to spill ink into its cap rather easily, and open-nibbed Sheaffer Snorkels can be a bit messy if shaken, but I have a 1940s Sheaffer Tucky clipped to my t-shirt neck today, which knocks about with no problems. The only time my Pelikan M600 has dripped into its cap is when it got knocked flying out of my t-shirt, and bounced across the supermarket car park – not something I’d recommend with a £140 pen, but it was fine.

    The Safari is probably about as tough as fountain pens get – drop it on the nib on a hard surface, and you’ll probably do some damage, but they’re ok other than that. And even then, a replacement nib is fairly cheap compared to most other pens.

  5. Is the nib flexible enough to give some line variation so i could use it to write some decent copperplate script?

  6. No, not even close. The Safari has a fairly stiff steel nib. You can get a little extra width with quite a bit of pressure, but nowhere near enough for copperplate script. Very few modern pens have the sort of flex you need. A dip pen may be your best option, or a custom-ground nib if you don’t mind the expense.

  7. The Lamy’s are quite interesting; I do agree that at that price there’s nothing better.

    That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, of course, but for someone like me who has a tendency to lose or break a nib, they’re at the right cost point. They’ve definitely been around in Europe and the United Kingdom (where fountain pens are far more common) a long time and in the States now the Lamy is the cheapest brand that a “fountain pen store” will carry.

    There are a few things I’ve found to be aware of. Firstly, I lean towards a narrower nib, but the Lamy medium’s fine enough for me; I’ve gone finer in the past but I think the feel of the pen suffers and becomes scratchy. Secondly, I’ve (sadly) noticed that Noodler’s Ink Bulletproof Black, which is otherwise fantastic, is not a good match — the Lamy nib errs towards sliding off (as opposed to scratching in) and the Noodler’s doesn’t help. (On the other extreme is Quink “Permanent Blue” — sadly not permanent at all, fades very quickly, but of course that’s not Lamy’s problem.)

    Finally, the quality variation from pen to pen varies — simply due to manufacturing tolerances being rather wide I suppose. Since I tend to lose these guys every few months, I’ve sampled a large number of different Safaris and they vary from the wonderful to the just OK.

  8. Yes, now that I’ve used a few, I’ve found quite a bit of variation between them. Most seem to tend towards being dry writers, and although they can flex a little with quite a bit of pressure, they dry out after a couple of centimetres when under pressure. Great solid pens, though, and the nibs are nice and cheap to replace if you damage one or just fancy a different width.

  9. I just read the 06 post below and want to ask about a Sheaffer Snorkel. I was given one in 1954-55 and lost it within a couple of months – what can I say, I was only 14. It cost a lot for a pen in those days but I really wanted it so my mother gave it to me for Christmas. I have always wanted another one and wonder if they are still available anywhere.

    pigpogm > October 22nd, 2006 at 13:37 > I don’t have a Vista, but they do look good. Same as the Safari, but clear. We’ve got an AL-star now, which is slightly different – a bit chunkier, which I like. > I don’t use the Safari or AL-star much any more – they don’t stack up quite so well to a 1950s Parker 51 or Sheaffer Snorkel – but I still keep the AL-star around, as it’s one of the most confortable and reliable pens you can buy.

  10. @nbt – there are still plenty around, through vintage dealers and eBay, but they may need servicing before they’ll work.

  11. I have a Lamy Safari and have had nothing but trouble with it. It skips. Cheap but good is not a reputation this pen gets.

  12. Hi Jenny,

    Skipping shouldn’t be a problem with a Safari. The Lamy nibs don’t take well to pressing on hard enough to bend them, and can skip then, but in normal use they shouldn’t ever skip.

    Assuming it’s decent fountain pen ink (or Lamy cartridges) you’re using, it sounds like a faulty pen. Probably best to take it up with the retailer you got it from.

    If that’s not possible for any reason, it could be worth trying a new nib – a nib problem is probably more likely than the feed, and Lamy nibs are reasonably cheap.

  13. thanks for the great review!my biggest question, ‘is it moleskine friendly?’ has been answered, so i’m quite excited to try it out.

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  16. Lamy have released a glossy white version of this pen. I love white and from what I’ve read from your review, this should be an absolute steal. Turquoise ink too, with the converter. Sold.

  17. Hello

    I have a LAMY Safari as well, as my first fountain pen apart from cheap Rivieres, I can say that its an amazing pen. Granted, it is not perfectly smooth but for the way I write it does it almost flawlessly.

    I think you forgot to mention that the nib of the Safari ccab be removed as well, just hold the metal nib and pull it. I currently use an extra fine nib and it’s been very wonderful with my small handwriting

    • Yes, the interchangeable nibs are an advantage – I probably didn’t know about them at the time of initially writing the review. A bit of sticky tape stuck to the top surface of the nib makes it easier, and just push the replacement on by the sides, not the tip. Occasionally the feed will pop out with the nib, but it just pushes back in.

  18. Its a different experiance using A LAMY safari , I just enjoy it.

  19. dude… im new to FP’s… i live in INDIA…. here a parker pen is priced at 450rs for which i get a good looking metal finish… and on the other hand a Lamy safari vista for 1500rs…. looks plastic n some times bit cheap…. now my question is…. how does the Lamy safari vista with a fine nib perform for writing regular collage notes etc etc…. thankxx in adv… eagerly waiting for your reply… and also help me weather the price difference between these 2 pens really worth….??

  20. This is the fountain pen amongst German students. Very cheap, durable and good in performance. Comes in many different colors & designs, also in fairly “expensive looking”.

  21. Hi Gang,

    I’m on the hunt for pens that have the flat end tips, similar to the nibs you see for calligraphy only much thinner. When I was on vacation, some time back near Germany, I saw a gentleman using what looked like a flat tip pen in a journal. The pen looked something like that of the Lamy, but thus far I’ve been unable to find a referaance to that type of nib from the company.

    Any ideas??

    Thanks in advance!!

    Ragnobash Bookbinder and Calligraphy enthusiast

  22. Hi Ragnobash,

    Sounds like an italic nib you’re looking for – tipped to produce a thicker stroke up and down, and a thinner stroke side to side – depending which way you hold the pen.

    The result is usually a bit more character to your writing, but at the expense of a little more care – the nib needs to be kept a bit more level than a more rounded tip.

    For easy experimenting, there’s also the italic version of the Fountain Pentel that we sell at Cult Pens – it’s cheap and disposable, but at 0.8mm, probably a little thicker than an oblique medium nib. Surprisingly fun to write with, though.

  23. Could you guys help me telling me where I coud get the Extra Fine pens for Lamy Safari (and Vista as well)fountain pen?

    Thanks.

  24. Hi Marcos,

    Do you mean replacement nibs? As far as I’m aware, Lamy don’t supply the nibs on their own, but they can be swapped between pens reasonably easily – you wrap some tape around the nib, sticking to the top surface of the nub, but looped loosely underneath. Then put your finger in the loop and pull forwards and down (taking care not to damage the feed) – the nib should just slide off. I’ve heard of dealers being willing to swap over nib units, but they might well only do it with uninked pens, not after they’ve been used. Probably varies a lot depending on where you are, and what your local dealers are like.

  25. I got a Safari the other day (as a gift, but changed my mind and retained it for me :-P :)!!!

    I love it, a bit bulky but very comfortable and it writes really nicely… F size, perfect for me, indeed… I’m happy now :-)

    PS- sorry for the shop, but it’s probably less hussle that way… Good luck and thanks!

    Episkopos Excalibor, Pontifex Maximus :. V. S. C. Max Disc Eccl

  26. Glad you like the Safari. People always seem to like the fine nib. As for the shop, don’t worry – eBay and Amazon are doing pretty well for us, and probably make better places to clear out anyway.

  27. I’ve fallen in love with the Pilot Varsity pens– they’re disposable fountain, the kind that you don’t feel bad about losing (perhaps $5 USD for a three pack? I don’t remember.) They write very smoothly with a medium line (as far as I know, you don’t get a line choice), but are very light– which is, I suppose, expected in a disposable pen. I use the blue (they come in several colors) and it’s deep but not too dark.

  28. The Varsity (or V4 as it’s known here) is indeed a fantastic pen – excellent if you’re just experimenting with fountain pens, but equally good if you want the fun of fountain pens without the fuss of refills or the worry that it could be damaged or lost. And they come in a range of ink colours too.

    In my opinion, they compare very well against the likes of the Lamy Safari. But not as good as the Birdie.

    Sam Randall
    Devon knows how they make it so squeemy

  29. I have been (re)using a Vpen for quite some time now. I used a pair of nose pliers to gently twist the nib assembly out and then refilled it using a hypodermic needle/syringe thingy which I keep just for this purpose (I have cut out the sharp needle point and sanded the tip a bit and put the protective cover on immediately after I’m done).

    I did this as an experiment and expected the ink to leak out, but actually this has worked really well for me and I’ve been using my pen with bottled ink for almost a year.. (yeah it’s cheap but it is such a waste to just throw a perfectly good pen away)..

    Long story short, I love the V-Pen and refill it myself.. though I’m looking at getting a bright yellow Lamy Vista very soon.

  30. The Safari I bought on the basis of this review arrived today, and I’m disappointed. The bottom line is that the pen neither feels nor performs much better than the four-dollar Sheaffer fountain pens that I used to find in every drugstore school-supplies aisle (in the US). A more attractive nib, yes–and perhaps a more even line–but not enough to justify a twenty-dollar price difference. Additionally, the cutouts along the grip for the writer’s fingers don’t align very well with where my own fingers are habitually placed. I don’t doubt that this is a fine starter fountain pen for some, but I do wish I had had the opportunity to try one out before I purchased, as is not possible where I live.

    I have no quibbles with the review above; the pen just doesn’t work for me personally. I’m still looking for a pen that combines a smooth feel with a fine, solid line and an appropriate heft. I use a Uniball Signo 207 micro to write in my Moleskine–no heft, and not nearly as pleasurable to use as I imagine the perfect fountain pen would be, but the best solution I’ve found so far.

  31. The Signo 207 is about the same weight as a Pilot G-2, but the center of gravity seems slightly farther forward. (Oddly, the balance point isn’t different by more than a couple of millimeters, but I certainly feel the difference when I pick it up.) My preference–which I couldn’t have stated before thinking about it this morning–is not for a heavy pen, but for one whose balance can be clearly felt and appreciated. I’m afraid the Safari feels to me like it’s going to float out of my hand. :)

    What I appreciate most in my Signo is the perfectly reliable, jet-black, very thin, yet very even line. I prefer to write quite small, and next to the line the Signo makes, the line from the fine-point Safari looks bold.

    I’d still love to find a fountain pen that gives me pleasure every time I pick it up. What I’m most looking for is that frictionless feeling of ink flowing gracefully yet neatly out of the nib. So far I haven’t found one like that. I had a more expensive pen a few years ago — I’m afraid I no longer remember the model, but I believe it was a Parker (did they make a pen called the Signature?) — but it never lost that scratchy feel, although I tried nibs with three different weights. I’ll definitely try a Sheaffer the next time I’m in an urban center and can find a good pen shop. (Rotring may be a bit too Terminator for my taste!) Thanks for the tips.

  32. Hi John,

    Sorry you’ve been disappointed with it. I know what you mean about the cutouts – they’re in the right place for me, but sometimes my thumb slides down a bit too far, and they’re not so comfortable then.

    If you prefer a pen with a bit of weight to it, the Safari really is too light. Sam likes a heavy pen, and she’s never liked the Safari. It’s a Sheaffer that she’s ended up with – a Prelude. We’ve not reviewed it yet, but we will soon – it’s quite a lot more expensive than the Safari, though, so you’d definitely want to try one out before shelling out for that. For a smooth feel and a bit of heft, though, Sheaffers may be hard to beat.

    Rotring would be worth checking out, too, if you can get hold of a Newton or 600 for a good price. I’ve not actually tried one (got outbid on eBay for one yesterday), but they’re supposed to be the sort of solid brass construction that’s good if you like a heavy pen that can also be useful as a weapon ;)

    I don’t think we’ve got a Signo 207 yet, but we’ve loved most of the Uni-ball pens we’ve tried.

  33. As soon as I posted my last comment, Sam passed me a Signo 207 – we did have one after all. Very nice, and I certainly see what you mean about the fine and reliable line. Doesn’t take much pressure at all to get going – feels like it’s a liquid ink rollerball, though I’ve not seen the packaging to check.

    I think most fountain pens get more scratchy as the nibs get thinner, so finding one with a really thin line that still feels smooth may be a problem. Also, if a very even line is important to you, fountain pens may not be the best thing at all. Modern nibs are generally pretty firm, and don’t give much variation, but a bit of line variation is quite normal.

    Whilst we were out today, I spotted one, I think it was a Uni-ball, that was a retractable pen, gel ink, but needle point. Unusual. Gels always take some pressure to get moving, though, so that might not be so good either.

  34. my one and only, my favourite fountain pen…the Lamy Safari Vista, the clear one. Got it for free, due to an error on the Munus site, when they listed it as £0.00. Snapped it up! Good to see I’m in good company in my choice of pen.

  35. I’m using an Al-star right now, and it’s an absolute joy to write with, smooth and flowing feel to it, I’m quite addicted … my only problem is that it seems to have problems with leaking – with all the Lamy cartrages I have tried in it, ink slowly leaks down through the structure of the nib, and then bleeds enough to stain my fingers fairly reliably at the point where the … internals? of the nib leave the plastic surround.

    I am currently on the lookout for something that feels like this, but is rather more reliable … so far, nothing that appeals, but I keep searching!

  36. I don’t have a Vista, but they do look good. Same as the Safari, but clear. We’ve got an AL-star now, which is slightly different – a bit chunkier, which I like.

    I don’t use the Safari or AL-star much any more – they don’t stack up quite so well to a 1950s Parker 51 or Sheaffer Snorkel – but I still keep the AL-star around, as it’s one of the most confortable and reliable pens you can buy.

  37. I first fell in love with the LAMY Safari while studying abroad in Germany. While I was there, however, I bought a few other items I haven’t been able to find anywhere else–they sell pens in Germany to accompany the blue Lamy ink cartridges–one end of these pens erases the blue Lamy ink, the other half will write where you erased. I haven’t been able to find any here in the states or online. Help!! The writing on the pens is German, and I don’t know where to look! Any information you can find to help me will be wonderful! THANKS!!

  38. They have them everywhere in the UK, but I havent seen them in the US site. Amazon.co.uk should have a couple. They are called ink eradicators or ink erasers.

  39. I bought my first Lamy Safari (burnt orange) in 1982 when I was a young industrial design student. I liked the simple design and effective function and still do. I’ve bought numerous Safaris as gifts as well as for myself and still use one today (black). I guess that makes this year my 25th anniversary as a Safari user. :)

  40. Hi, I’ve had my Lamy Safari for the last two years, it is the black one with a black medium nib. I have been very happy with my pen, and recently I decided to buy another Safari and Al-Star with medium nibs. When I opened the boxes and filled both pens with ink it turned out the nibs in both pens are very scratchy compared to my old one, which was always a very smooth writer. I noticed that the nibs, although black, have a silver coloured tip, unlike my old safari, which was all black, including the tip. It looks as if the top of the nib was cut and the steel underneath black paint is now visible. I got both pens brand new and boxed, so there was no chance that anyone could do anything to the nibs. Is it possible that Lamy changed the nibs they put in Safaris and Al-Stars? Did anyone notice that? Thanks for any help with solving my problem:)

  41. One smooth, fine to XF i have enjoyed is the Hero 329 often available on ebay for $10 american and from http://www.hisnibs.com in the U.S. for $15. These are a Chinese made Parker clone with hooded nib. May be perfect for a Moleskin.

  42. Hi Marcos, Try jetpens.com I think they are sold out right at this minute, but they should restock soon.

    I’m so happy I found this site on my search for spare nibs myself. My Lamy just started working again after I dropped it a month ago. I was so happy I cried. (spot the writer! Haha) Hope that helps Kell

  43. Hi Kelly,

    Yes, Lamy do make the nibs available on their own. We sell them at Cult Pens, where I now work. For anyone in the US, though, JetPens would be much cheaper and quicker, and they have a great reputation for service.

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