Last month, I had the pleasure of spending the 2018 D.C. Pen Show working behind the Vanness Pens table. One of the surprising things that I learned from helping people try (and buy!) pens is the appeal of Taiwanese brand Opus 88 - I think we sold more Opus 88 pens than any other brand during the show, and the Picnic and Fantasia models were probably the two most popular.
I've previously reviewed the Opus 88 Koloro and larger transparent demonstrator. While those are excellent pens, some people are turned off by the half-ebonite/half-acrylic body on the Koloro, and the larger demonstrator is, well, friggin' huge. The Picnic offers a more traditional cigar shape and is made entirely of acrylic, while the Fantasia sticks to the acrylic and ebonite combination but presents a smaller package. In terms of "technical specs," the Picnic and Fantasia are more or less identical to the rest of the Opus 88 lineup. Both pens feature stainless steel JoWo nibs paired with Opus 88's excellent Japanese-style eyedropper system, which I discussed at length in my prior review. The short version is that you fill the pen as you would a regular eyedropper, but the Japanese-style system incorporates a stopper that closes off the ink reservoir from the nib and feed, which prevents ink "burping" and excessive flow due to temperature and air pressure fluctuations. To open the stopper to write, you turn the blind cap as you would with a piston filler, allowing the ink to flow and saturate the feed. You can then either close it up again - I can get 2 pages or so of writing with a fine nib with the stopper closed - or leave it open for longer writing sessions.
Some additional thoughts and observations on the Opus 88 Picnic:
- The pen comes in bright colors, including green, turquoise, and purple, in addition to the more staid brown. The acrylic is thick and high-quality, and I've been pleased with the durability and scratch-resistance.
- The Picnic is a good size, and the cigar-shaped body is comfortable in the hand either posted or unposted. While I'd prefer to see a No. 6 nib on a pen of this size, the No. 5 JoWo steel nib writes very well.
- Colorverse manufactures a line of ink in partnership with Opus 88, with the ink colors tailored to match various pens in the Opus 88 lineup. For example, Colorverse Supernatural matches the green Picnic, and Colorverse Horizon matches the blue Picnic.
Thoughts and Observations on the Opus 88 Fantasia:
- Some have described the Fantasia as a pocket pen, but I consider it a bit too large for that designation. While it's shorter than the other Opus 88 models, once you post the cap the Fantasia becomes a full-size pen, and even unposted the barrel has enough girth to be comfortable for short periods of time.
- The ebonite blind cap on the Fantasia has a lower profile, and the pen is designed so that you can use the cap to turn it to open and close the eyedropper valve. (It's difficult to explain, see the photos below.) I've never used this trick, and have found that it's easy enough to screw/unscrew the blind cap with my fingers.
- The cap and blind cap on the Fantasia are both ebonite, and the body is acrylic. I founded the multicolor banded cap design to be much more understated in person than it can appear in photos online.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Opus 88 pens offer a great combination of unique design, value, and overall quality that has started to differentiate the company from its competitors in the $90-$125 price bracket. While eyedropper fountain pens certainly aren't for everyone, Opus 88's twin o-ring system and included glass eyedropper makes the filling process as clean and easy as it can be.
You can purchase both pens featured here from our sponsor Vanness Pens. The Opus 88 Picnic is priced at $99, while the Fantasia runs slightly higher at $125. As noted above, both pens come packaged with a quality glass eyedropper and instructions.
Disclaimer: Site sponsor Vanness Pens loaned me these pens for review purposes, free of charge.