Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lamy Vivo Mechanical Pencil Review

Lamy Vivo (Model 150/7) Mechanical Pencil Review

I don’t think you could ever accuse Lamy of being a staid and conventional company, afraid to try something different. From the display case to the lead advance activator, the Vivo is “different”.

So first off I opened up the FedEx parcel and there was a rectangular block of black foam and card with a little blob of orange embedded in it. Turns out this is the standard packaging of the Vivo - the foam is split lengthwise and you just pull your pencil out of it. The instructions for use of ballpoint pen and pencil are printed on one face of the card wrapper. As usual, the Lamy name is very understated, just lightly embossed into the card wrapper.

The Vivo consists of a plain stainless steel tube with a conical plastic front section and a plastic top cap and small pocket clip.
One of the unusual features of the Vivo is its lead advance. Actually its just an ordinary push ratchet mechanism, but instead of having a side button or push top, you slide down the pocket clip to activate the “side slide” ratchet lead mechanism. The lead sleeve is a fully retractable 2mm steel tube, so the pocket clip slider also allows you to retract the sleeve for pocket safety. The upper face of the pocket clip has deep grooves moulded into it to give excellent grip when activating the mechanism. As a pocket clip, the clip itself is surprisingly strong though a little difficult to use. It’s not spring loaded and rather short so it’s not really good on any thicker fabric, best just on a thin business shirt.

This whole “side slide” lead mechanism took a little getting used to, but I quite like it, its something a bit different, and that’s one of Lamy’s trademarks.

To refill the lead magazine you unscrew the front plastic section and the whole pencil mechanism comes out of the tubular body. The lead magazine has an end cap in it which you pull out and can then refill the lead magazine. It’s a fairly thin magazine so you can only get 1 or 2 spare sticks of lead in there. The end cap also has a needle wire attached to it to help clear any lead jams.
There is no eraser with the Vivo. I can’t help but feel there is some sort of lost opportunity here. There is a lot of empty space inside the steel body and I’m sure they could have got an eraser in there. I suppose you could possibly also store a few extra leads inside there too, just like on many vintage pencils. Actually the whole process of having to unscrew the front section to replace the lead is reminiscent of vintage pencils. I quite like that. Back to the Future.

The Vivo is available in 0.7mm lead only. The barrel is a smooth steel tube with no specific grip zone or grip enhancements. Not surprisingly the grip wasn’t the best after prolonged use on a hot summer day. At 10mm diameter this grip is a little bigger than average. I would have preferred something just a little narrower. I think I might be going through a “phase”. I guess that’s part of being a subjective reviewer, no matter how much I try to be objective, preferences change over time and its difficult to quantify the reasons for many likes or dislikes.
The plastic componentry on the Vivo comes in a choice of four colours - orange, green, blue (azure), and black. I am very pleased with my choice of orange. It is a very strong bright almost fluorescent orange and it looks great against the steel body. Trust me, my photos don’t really do it justice. The only markings on the pencil are a “7” moulded into the top cap, and “LAMY” is printed in small letters at the top of the steel body.

Overall, somewhat to my surprise, this is another winner from Lamy.
  • Best Points – Definitely something different.
  • Not So Good Points – Not much, but if I have to choose something then the grip isn’t the best, and some might feel they should have got an eraser in there on way or another.
  • Price Range – Low.

Dimensions – Length 140mm, diameter 10mm. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.

Footnote – The Lamy agent for my country has recently decided to stop importing their mechanical pencils. Apparently it's pens only from now on. Hopefully this is not a sign of Lamy’s future exit from the mechanical pencil market, and that worldwide their mechanical pencil sales remain strong.

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