One of my favorite pens of all time, and one of the earliest gel pens I ever used, was the Pilot Hi-Tec C. Known for their needle-point tips and amazingly thin lines, the design and construction of the pens themselves are simple, utilitarian, yet redolent with classic style, and full of design touches that I recognize immediately every time I pick one up, things that combine to set it apart from other gel pens. The six-panel stick design, reminiscent of wooden pencils; the clear body; the understated ring-grooved grip; the instantly recognizable metal needlepoint tip; the squared yet tapered off cap that posts as well as caps with a satisfying 'click.' It's a wonderful pen series, and if you have never tried one, it's definitely worth a look.
I've used these pens for the past ten years and so I figure it's about time I reviewed one =) The pen under consideration today, is in a color I only recently have begun to use, 'Ultramarine.'
The 'UM' at the end of the model name signifies the color, and the little '200' in the box after that, is the price in Japan - 200 yen, or about 2 bucks. I believe ten years ago they used to be 100 yen.
Here is the famous needle tip; this is a .3mm (which differs in construction from the .4mm):
Note the precision engineering that must have gone into such a product. The stepped levels keep getting smaller and smaller, starting from the retaining cap, on down to the main body of the tip, then on to the needle-point and finally to the very tippy tip, which houses an actual tiny, stainless steel ball. Amazing stuff. Here is a quick pic of the pen posted. It's got very nice balance in this configuration:
Now, on to the writing performance. As you could imagine, writing with such a thin tip means if you're not careful - i.e., pressing too hard, using cheap paper - you could get some scratchiness, even paper rips. But for someone with a light touch (as most fountain pen users tend to be), or with some usage and attention to one's grip, this is really not a problem. One orentation that I've found helps, is to angle the body back toward oneself, almost like one would use a fountain pen. This lets the pen glide across the paper easier.
Here is a writing sample. You can write really, really small with this guy!:
And as I note in the sample above, these pens are also really nifty for sketching and doodling, especially on smaller pads like Post-it pads and Rhodias. This sample was written on a Clairefontaine 90g paper (small wire-bound pad).
As for the color itself, the ultramarine is a (to use utterly subjective terms) smooth, calming blue with a hint of green. Not as 'dark' (as in emotion) as turquoise, but not as rich as a royal or cerulean blue. It's really great.
JetPens sells these, as does TokyoPenShop (they were recently featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine for the Hi-Tec C's, actually). Both great retailers, who I've bought from and corresponded with, and excellent prices, support, and speed. The Hi-Tec C's come in other varieties than the .3mm - they also come in a .4mm as already mentioned, a .25, a multi-pen variant called the 'Coleto,' as metal-bodied upscale pens, and even a mini version in Pilot's 'Putimo' line. We'll review those in the future too. In the meanwhile, check out these classic pens and enjoy the microscopic writing pleasure =)