Pen Review: Pelikan M205 Olivine
“It’s too small.”
That’s the common refrain you’ll hear from those who aren’t fans of Pelikan's M200/M205 series pens. Having not experienced one myself, I was inclined to agree, until I remembered that sometimes the best things do come in small packages.
Materials & Construction
Each year Pelikan creates a special edition Edelstein ink and pairs it with a matching pen. "Olivine" was the special edition color for 2018, and the brand accompanied it with this eponymous version of the M205.
I'm not the biggest fan of the Olivine ink itself, but fortunately Pelikan has done a great job infusing the material used in this pen with a bit more personality. The resin has less depth and saturation compared to the ink, and comes off as a bit 'brighter' due to the translucent properties of the material. It has a dark hue but not overly so, and I like that it retains enough of its fundamental "greenness" to avoid being mistaken for black. Because the pen is a piston-filler, I particularly appreciate being able to see the ink level through the material.
The trim on the pen has a rhodium finish and it pairs nicely with the green material. Though I generally prefer gold colored trim on my dark green pens, the rhodium components work well and allow for an aesthetic that's equally attractive.
Despite being aimed at a lower price point, the M205 nevertheless exhibits Pelikan's hallmark build quality. The finishing of the material is uniform and devoid of any vestiges from manufacturing. Each component of the pen fits tightly together with one another, and there are no squeaks, rattles, or other troublesome indicators. The pen hasn't shown any noticeable wear during the time I've carried it, and I suspect it will continue to hold up well over time.
In short, I don't have any particular complaints about this material. If you prefer busier designs or more striking colors, then you may find the M205 Olivine to be a bit unadventurous, but personally I find it strikes a nice balance between being handsome and understated.
If you're familiar with Pelikan's higher end M-series pens, then the M205 will be familiar. Imagine an M600 or M800 shrunken down, and you've pretty much arrived at the M200/M205. All of the signature elements are there: the tiered finial on the cap, the tapered piston knob, etc.
There are a few areas where the M205 departs from its higher-end brethren, however. For example, whereas other pens in the M-series make use of dual trim bands on the cap and near the piston knob, the 205 uses only a single band in both locations. Similarly, the level of detail and quality of materials used on the finial are both less premium than what you'll find on higher end M-series pens.
In the Hand
When it comes to ergonomics, the M205 can effectively be considered a pocket pen. By that I mean that the experience of using the pen unposted—while tolerable—is not exactly enjoyable. At 126mm capped, the pen is simply too short for most to use comfortably, especially for an extended period. It's certainly possible, and you may not even bat an eye when using the pen to jot a quick note, but longer writing sessions will often give rise to a temptation to post the cap.
Posting the cap results in a far better writing experience in my opinion. Posted, the pen grows to 149mm, and the added length means I don't have to tuck my fingers in as tightly to get my normal 4-finger grip. Consequently, I can avoid the claw-like hand positioning that I usually have to resort to with smaller pens and can instead hold the pen more naturally. In this orientation, the M205 is nothing short of comfortable.
Finally, at 14g in overall weight, the M205 is relatively svelte. Admittedly, the cap does make up about a third of that weight, but because the overall weight is still so low, and because the cap posts relatively deeply, the pen's balance isn't thrown off dramatically when the pen is posted.
Material & Design
Though the M205 does much to assure you that it deserves its M-series designation, the nib's material and design may give rise to some suspicion. The question, though, is whether that suspicion proves to be warranted or not.
Let's start with the material. The M205 makes use of a stainless steel nib and, put simply, it's one of the better steel nibs I've used. What stood out to me immediately from the first word I wrote was the amount of bounce this nib exhibits. To call it "springy" would almost be an understatement, though calling it a "flex nib" would be going too far. Even without exerting any pressure while writing, I noticed the nib demonstrated a high level of elasticity. That pliability has translated into a healthy level of line variation in my writing, so if that's something you appreciate then you'll like this nib.
In terms of design, it's hard to avoid the obvious conclusion: the nib on the M205 simply isn't as attractive as those found on higher end M-series pens. Compare the nib on this pen to the one on the M800 and you'll instantly recognize the latter to be the looker. Having said that, this nib isn't without its own virtues: the inclusion of the Pelikan logo still provides a handsome look, and the relatively minimal accoutrement allows for a clean design. Still, it just doesn't scream "premium" the way the nibs on the higher end M-series pens do.
There’s no easy way to put it: I underestimated this nib from the outset. For some reason, something in the back of my mind kept telling me that the step down in size and price from Pelikan’s higher-end M600/M800 models would be accompanied by a commensurate step down in writing performance. Fortunately, I can report that isn’t the case, and the M205 does enough to earn its place in the line.
To start, I was immediately surprised at just how springy this nib is. It’s downright supple, bouncing and bending ever so slightly with just about every stroke. There’s a very natural feel to it, too; you don’t need to exert any conscious amount of effort to sense the springiness, and the tines snap back to their inert state predictably.
In terms of feedback, the nib does have a hint of scratchiness. Though the extra fine tip is likely partly responsible for that feedback, the softness of the nib also contributes, as the tines probably travel a small amount over time during ordinary usage. Don’t get me wrong; the writing experience was never unpleasant. But if you’re looking for that “smooth-as-glass” feel then you may not want to opt for an extra fine.
What’s really kept my opinion high on this pen, though, has been the ink flow. When paired with the right ink, this M205 puts down a nice, wet line of ink and does so without interruption. Over the course of the past three weeks or so, I’ve used the M205 for journal entries, letters, and other long writing sessions and the pen has been a serious workhorse. I’ve not experienced any skipping, drying out, or other problems, and the pen has quickly earned a reputation as a reliable writing companion. With that said, I've found that the quality of the writing experience can differ greatly depending on what ink you choose to use. I had the best experience when pairing the pen with wetter inks like Pilot's Iroshizuku line. Switching over to a drier ink such as Pelikan's own Edelstein Olivine ironically produced the worst results, so I would certainly recommend using inks with better flow properties if you can.
If you’re in the United States and want to avoid paying full MSRP on a Pelikan pen, I usually recommend taking a look at Cult Pens. Between not having to pay VAT and a favorable exchange rate, you’re looking at paying around $120 for the M205 Olivine. From time to time, you may be able to find a better rate (I’ve seen the M205 Demonstrator for under $100 on Massdrop a couple times).
At $120, I don’t think the price is unfair, but it does feel a tad high. For instance, you can buy a LAMY 2000 or Pilot Vanishing Point for not that much more, and those pens offer an equally compelling writing experience but with gold nibs and materials that feel more premium. I’d love to see the standard price point come down to closer to $100 as I believe that would be a great entry point for someone who may be new to Pelikan’s M-series.
Final Thoughts & Score
steel nib has a surprising amount of spring to it
smaller size makes for convenient carry
comfortable ergonomics when posted
shorter proportions may be a deal-breaker for some
materials are noticeably less premium than higher-end M-series models
less attractive nib design compared to higher-end Pelikans
Special thanks to friend of the blog Jason for lending me this pen to review!