When I published my Guide to Multifunction Pens back in January, my friend Leigh immediately reached out and asked why I hadn't yet tried one of Tombow's multi pens. Though I had purchased a LOT of multi pens in preparation for that piece, I had missed Tombow entirely, probably because they are not easy to find here in the U.S. Leigh was kind enough to send me (via Dan the pen mule) a Tombow Zoom L104 multipen, in metallic orange.
Tombow is a well-known Japanese stationery company that makes a wide range of excellent products, from high-end woodcase pencils like the Mono line to multifunction pens and mechanical pencils to fountain pens. The Zoom L104 is no exception. It's a sturdy, utilitarian writing instrument that still manages to look interesting. I especially like the combination of the metallic orange pen body with the matte black clip.
If I had to compare the Zoom L104 to another multi pen on the market, it would be Zebra's Sharbo X. The Zoom is ever-so-slightly longer, and a bit heavier, which gives it a nice balance. The Sharbo, while it makes a great "planner pen," can feel a bit light and short. I've used the Tombow to take pages of notes in meetings and found this a very comfortable pen in the hand.
Both the Zoom and the Sharbo have three refill slots - two pen refills and a mechanical pencil. While the Sharbo X requires that you purchase separately Zebra's excellent (but expensive) D1 gel refill, the Tombow Zoom L104 ships with two Tombow .7mm ballpoint refills that remind me of the Sailor refills in the Imperial Black multi pen. These Tombow ballpoint refills write smoothly and are all-around excellent D1 ballpoint refills, if you can find them. That said, my favorite D1 refill of all time remains the .5mm Uniball Jetstream refill, which gives you the smooth writing experience of a gel pen with the write-anywhere reliability of a ballpoint.
The L104 and the Sharbo X also use the same style of "shifter" to switch between refills. As you rotate the lower part of the barrel, a different refill unit clicks into place. If I had one critique of this design, it's that there's no secure way to retract the refill for "safe" carry (for example, when you're carrying the pen in a shirt pocket). To retract the tip, you rotate the barrel halfway between refills and basically leave the pen in "in-between" mode, which raises the risk of accidentally extending the refill and staining your shirt, or purse, or pen case, etc. This isn't so much an issue with a ballpoint refill, but if you swap in gel refills, consider yourself warned.
Where to Buy
The Tombow Zoom L104 typically runs around $30, and you may have to hunt for it. If you're in the U.S., Amazon is probably your best option, as there are multiple Japanese sellers who stock the pen. The Zoom L104 is a solid multi pen option, and this one has won a spot in my rotation as a reliable workhorse. Many thanks to Leigh for my first introduction to Tombow products - I wish they were more widely available over here!
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