Pen Review: Opus 88 Fantasia
I can’t deny it: ever since Opus 88 has gotten more attention in the US market, I’ve been quite impressed. After thoroughly enjoying the Koloro Demonstrator, I was excited to get the opportunity to give their newest pen, the Fantasia, a spin. So has it lived up to my lofty expectations of the brand?
Materials & Construction
The Fantasia is constructed from a combination of materials that are quite familiar to the fountain pen community. The barrel and section of the pen are made of resin, while the cap and eyedropper knob are made of ebonite. The materials are finished well and pair nicely with one another. One thing I particularly enjoy is the contrast in the way the materials feel: the resin is rather cool and sterile, while the ebonite has some warmth and character to it.
Like its larger cousin the Koloro Demonstrator, the Fantasia is a Japanese-style eyedropper. To fill the pen, you simply deposit ink directly into the barrel, ideally using a syringe or the pipette that’s provided in the box. The majority of the barrel’s interior volume acts as an ink reservoir, which allows for a generous ink capacity that falls just under 2ml. The Fantasia makes use of a dual-chamber design, which means that the ink in the barrel is walled off from the feed via a valve system that’s operated by the knob at the back end of the barrel. Using this knob, you can control the flow of the ink to the feed which gives you quasi-control over how wet the pen will write. The Fantasy uses o-rings to ensure tight seals all around, and I’ve not had any incidents with leakage.
Build quality is unassailable. All of the pen’s components fit tightly together and there are no unpleasant squeaks, rattles, or loose components. Moreover, the resin and ebonite components all feel rather sturdy and I suspect they’d stand up to ordinary wear and tear with aplomb.
The Fantasia’s design screams ‘retro-chic.’ With its campy style and pops of color, it reminds me of another era, perhaps the 1970s or somewhere around there. It only takes a single impression to see that the Fantasia doesn’t take itself too seriously. If I had to pick a single word to describe this pen it would be ‘funky,’ and I mean that in the best possible way. The pen is available in a variety of color combinations, each of which features a series of vibrant stripes on the cap. The colors of these stripes almost intentionally clash, yet somehow still come together to create a sense of cohesion. “Controlled chaos” is how I’d describe it.
The cap itself has a uniform cylindrical shape with a flat top. Well, mostly flat. You see, the cap on this pen actually serves a second purpose beyond simply protecting the nib. The top of the cap is scalloped out and has a metal bar sunk into it which effectively allows the cap to operate as a flathead screwdriver for twisting the eyedropper knob.
I have mixed feelings about this design decision. Certainly it’s a unique choice that I’ve personally not seen before on any other pen, but I do question its utility. Frankly, having to use another object to operate the eyedropper knob is a bit of a chore, and I much prefer using my fingers. In fact, the only time I really found myself using the cap to operate the knob was when I first received the pen, as the knob was shut so tight that I couldn’t actually untwist it with my fingers alone. Since that time, I’ve gotten into the habit of only screwing the knob finger-tight, which allows me to avoid using the cap. Doing so still gives a good enough seal that you won’t have to worry about leakage and makes the pen less of a hassle to use over time.
The clip on the cap is a simple, rounded design that gently tapers out toward the bottom. It does have some flex to it and holds strong when attached to fabric. In fact, the Fantasia is probably my favorite pen to carry in the breast pocket of a shirt. The combination of its smaller dimensions and well-placed clip allow it to be carried comfortably that way.
Moving on to the barrel, it also has a uniform cylindrical shape with two gentle step-downs: one where it meets the section, and another on the back end where the eyedropper knob resides. The latter step-down is threaded, which means the cap must be screwed on to post. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m generally not a big fan of this design decision but, like the Moonman Wancai Mini, the Fantasia fortunately only requires a short turn to post. Anything more than that would quickly become a hassle, so I’m glad Opus 88 took this into consideration when designing this pen. Another thoughtfully design consideration is that when the cap is posted the clip lines up neatly with the face of the nib. I’m not sure if that’s consistent among all Fantasias or just a fortunate coincidence with my pen, but if it is intentional then it’s something to be appreciated.
Finally, the section on the Fantasia is a bit shorter than I’d prefer but still has a large enough diameter that it’s comfortable to write with. The step-down from the barrel to the section isn’t particularly egregious, but the barrel does have a bit of a sharp ridge near the threads that some may find unpleasant.
In the Hand
As I’ve alluded to above, the Fantasia is a short pen. At around 117mm capped, it’s definitely in pocket pen territory. I find the pen difficult to use unposted; its diminutive proportions require me to contort my grip in such a way that results in strain on my lower palm and wrist. Unless I’m only jotting down a quick note, I tend to avoid using the Fantasia this way.
Like most pocket pens, though, posting the cap reveals an entirely different story. At approximately 144mm posted, the pen feels more like a traditional full-size pen and offers a comfortable writing experience. When the pen is posted I can easily write with it for extended periods, and the cramping I feel when using it unposted is nonexistent.
One thing I do want to mention, though, is that the pen doesn’t have the best balance when it’s posted. Because the cap weighs as much as the rest of the pen (11g each), posting the cap makes the pen feel noticeably back-heavy. For shorter writing sessions it’s not something I think about too much, but it does become more apparent during prolonged writing sessions.
Material & Design
Opus 88 generally makes use of steel Jowo nibs in its pens, and the same is true here. You’ll find a silver-colored #5 size nib in the Fantasia, and Opus 88 offers it in fine, medium, and broad sizes. Apart from the “Opus 88” logo that’s stamped onto the face of the nib and Jowo’s usual scrollwork pattern, there’s no additional design flourish.
Those of you who may have read my review of the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator probably remember how fond I am of its nib. The medium steel nib on that pen is truly a joy to use and, while the nib on the Fantasia falls ever so slightly short of that benchmark, it still performs quite well. The nib on this Fantasia isn’t as buttery smooth as what the Koloro Demonstrator offers, but it’s not at all scratchy either. If anything, I think the Fantasia just writes a bit drier out of the box, even when the eyedropper knob is opened all the way up.
The nib itself is as rigid as you’d expect from a #5 steel Jowo nib, but you can eke out some very minor line variation if you exert a tiny bit of pressure. For normal handwriting, though, I wouldn’t describe this nib as having any spring to it (nor is it advertised as such).
My writing experience with this pen has been positively predictable without any noticeable issues. I’ve not encountered a single hard start, and the pen doesn’t skip at all. Similarly, while ink starvation hasn’t been an issue, I have sometimes gone too long without opening the eyedropper valve to allow ink to flow from the barrel reservoir to the feed. When that happens, the pen will eventually start to write quite dry, but that’s easily remedied by simply unscrewing the eyedropper knob and holding the pen nib-down for a few seconds.
All in all, the Fantasia offers a great writing experience and is a good candidate if you’re looking for a ‘workhorse’ pen. Its large ink capacity and extremely portable dimensions result in a pen that’s great for taking on the go, and the nib’s performance doesn’t disappoint.
As of the time of this writing, most of the popular online fountain pen retailers offer the Opus 88 Fantasia for $125. While I don’t think that’s an entirely unreasonable price, it does feel a bit on the high side. Part of what leads to that impression is that many other pocket pens, such as the Moonman Wancai Mini or Kaweco’s offerings, can be had for far cheaper. With that said, I do believe the Fantasia offers larger ink capacity and a more enjoyable writing experience than those pens.
If I’m being candid, I was a bit shocked to find that the Fantasia has a higher price point than the Koloro Demonstrator ($120). Certainly, they are entirely different pens, but it’s hard for me to avoid thinking that you just get a lot more bang for your buck with the KD. If you’re looking for a more compact design, then you’ll invariably arrive at the Fantasia, but if size and portability aren’t your primary concern, I think the Koloro Demonstrator is the better buy.
Final Thoughts & Score
funky ‘retro-chic’ design that’s unlike most other pens on the market
eyedropper design offers ample ink capacity and semi-adjustable wetness
nib offers the pleasing writing experience I’ve now come to expect from Opus 88
diminutive dimensions may not appeal to some
‘screwdriver’ cap is kind of a gimmick
cap screws on to post (but at least it only takes 1 revolution)