Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tombow Zoom 505sh Mechanical Pencil Review

Tombow Zoom 505sh Mechanical Pencil Review

Most of my shopping for mechanical pencils is done online, so I don’t usually have any opportunity to try before I buy. Of course this inevitably leads to surprises, and sometimes you get what you expected and sometimes you don’t.
tombow zoom 505sh mechanical pencil

The Tombow Zoom is no spring chicken, it won the 1990 German International Design iF Award, but it’s never really grabbed my eye until recently when I was on a shopping spree, and suddenly, resistance was futile.

So after all those years of just saying ‘No’, I now own a Tombow Zoom 505sh mechanical pencil. Actually, just for the record, it is also known as the SH-2000CZ series.
tombow zoom505sh mechanical pencil capped

The Zoom is a capped pencil with chrome trims and black hard rubber inserts. My particular pencil is charcoal colour but there are a couple of other options. With the cap on, the Zoom makes a stylish but simple statement with its wide-bodied slightly tapering look, metallic trims, glossy body and matt black rubber centre ring. Now, I’m not a fan of rubber, but this centre ring definitely makes for an interesting aesthetic element.

With the cap off you can use the Zoom unposted, but personally I find that look a little short, stubby and incomplete.
tombow zoom 505sh mechanical pencil uncapped
With the cap posted I think things look more stylish and complete.
tombow zoom 505sh mechanical pencil cap posted

The cap has a definite push-fit click into position as it engages with that rounded button on the end of the barrel. Unposted, you can click on that button to advance the lead, but with the cap posted, the cap becomes the push top button.

tombow zoom 505sh push button

The pocket clip is a sturdy metal clip, unlikely to slip off anything you clip it to. The cap push fits on quite securely to either end of the main body so it’s unlikely you will end up with just your cap clipped to your ‘something’ and the main body nowhere to be found.
tombow zoom 505sh mechanical pencil cap

With its aluminium body, the Tombow Zoom is not a super-heavyweight mechanical pencil, but with the cap posted it is certainly heavier than most, weighing in at 37 grams. Of course posting the cap significantly alters the centre of balance, but even then the Zoom is not top heavy.

The grip zone is made from the same hard matt smooth rubber as the centre ring. The grip has a slight concave contour and the flange of the tip section produces a slightly bulbous end stop to the grip. The positioning of the grip doesn’t entirely suit me, it is about 10mm to too low down for my liking. Alternatively it is perhaps about 10mm too short in overall length. As mentioned the grip itself is made from hard black smooth surfaced rubber, and is just under 11mm diameter at its narrowest point. There is no give in the rubber under normal hand pressure, and the rubber certainly doesn’t add any extra grip factor. This then is the aspect of the Zoom 505sh that I don’t like. I can live with it, but it’s not my ideal.
tombow zoom 505sh tip

The lead sleeve of the Zoom is a fixed short thin pipe. The cap of course makes this pocket-safe. Ten clicks of the mechanism will get you 7mm of the 0.5mm lead. To refill the lead magazine you unscrew the top part of the body and…hey there’s an eraser!
tombow zoom 505sh mechanical pencil innards

Well it’s only a small emergency use one, but better than nothing. You then pull the eraser out (note the lead clearance rod) to refill the magazine.

Markings on the mechanical pencil are “ZOOM, 505 sh” on the front of the cap and “Tombow, Japan 0.5” on the back of the cap. The lead size “0.5” is moulded into the black rubber insert in the end of the cap.
tombow zoom 505sh markingstombow zoom 505sh markingstombow zoom 505sh lead size marking

As I said back at the beginning, sometimes your expectations are exceeded and sometimes they are not. For many years I never purchased a Zoom 505sh because the rubber grip put me off, and nothing about its appearance leapt out and grabbed me. So, when I bought one by mistake I wasn’t expecting much, but luckily for me my expectations were far exceeded. The Zoom 505sh is a very nice mechanical pencil, a class act and my only gripe involves the grip.

• Best Points – the cap system.
• Not So Good Points – The grip. I’m positive they could do better.
• Price Range – Mid.
• Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - Hmmmm, No.

Dimensions – Length 135mm with cap closed on tip and 146mm with cap posted on end, diameter 13mm at widest point. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip with cap posted.

(Sorry, the photos aren't so good in this article but with winter lighting and a dark pencil...well I did what I could)


Henrik said...

How could you resist such a classic beauty for so long? Now that I have seen this Lorelei pencil – I hear the call: “come closer and buy me, buy me…”
Thanks for the review, even in winter she looks good.

B2-kun said...

Nice review. Personally, I am still able to resist the light lure of trying a cap-style mechanical pencil for I prefer the look of drafting models.

Anonymous said...

saw one of these in Kinokuya the other day in a pewter finish and it was a beauty.

Going back for it no doubt.....


Time Waster said...

It's ok I have a purple one but it's not nearly as smooth as a Kerry.

Anonymous said...

I'm a sucker for pencils with caps.

bengkia said...

Great review. I have one in Midnight Blue which i got from pencils.jp and then i liked it well enough to get a second in purple from jetpens. They are beauties, though i find that they are suited more for long, flowing lines when drawing than short, rapid hatching because of the weight.

This isn't necessarily a gripe, the pencil just seems to call for a different style of drawing when i use it, which makes for a nice change.

Carmen said...

agree with Henrik and Anonymous- how could one resist? gorgeous.

Lexx said...

Haha! I liked the 1st photo with the bandaged woman. Nice mechanical pencil btw!

Anonymous said...

I liked the review as well. I also liked the picture of the lady with her head bandaged. I also thought up a few possible captions for the picture... all of which would lower the high tone of this blog. Alas.


Anonymous said...

OK, I admit this is way off-point but would some reader explain to this young Yank why the Okoha airstrip shown on one of the map sections runs up and down the hill? The topographic intervals of the hill opposite (across the small lake)mean a very steep rise and the position of the strip must make approach and take-off a real panic attack.

Kiwi-d said...

Well my young friend that is a good question. It’s been ages since there was a James Cook Award on this blog but I think you have just earned one for outstanding map reading. Well, the scale of the map is such that the airfield is 250m long, elevation sea level at the RH end and 40m at the LH end as viewed in the image, so that’s a reasonable slope. It is a rural airstrip, i.e. it’s just a paddock on a farm, used for agricultural spray aircraft, etc. The down slope possibly helps heavily laden fertiliser spray planes build up speed and take off? Just a guess, I’m not a pilot. I have on a couple of occasions landed on such farm airstrips in a 4-seater plane. You first buzz the field a couple of times to get the sheep or cattle off the runway, then come in for a fun-filled landing. Take-off is even more fun as you have to herd the animals away on foot, and man, you have no idea just how much those wheel struts flex and bend as you build up speed for take-off.

You will find this exact airstrip on Google Maps. Search for Anokaha Bay 7284, New Zealand. Zoom in and switch to satellite view to see it in it’s full glory. I guess the faint lighter patch down the middle is the usual plane take-off pathway

Bryant said...

Great review on the Tombow Zoom! Just recently found these pencils and they have become my favorite already! I have 4 of these, 3 Sharp Kerry and 2 old Autopoint 148 "Executive" from the '60's. I like the Zoom design because I am a fan of fountain pens and like the cap feature. I use mine without the cap being posted - as I do all my fountain pens. Guess I got in the habit trying to protect my 1930 Dorics from new scratches after I had the barrels polished. The Jetpens site states that "Tombow does not produce its own eraser refill for the Zoom 505shA. The eraser is only meant to act as a lead stopper, you have to unscrew the entire back of the pencil body to access it." I wonder if there is any way to find out who makes this "stopper"? I would like to get some extra just in case. I have one of Tombow's Mono Knock erasers handy when I write and it is certainly more convenient than unscrewing the pencil body! The larger girth of the Tombow makes me favor it over my Kerrys for comfort and I like that the entire pencil is metal as opposed the metal - plastic design of the Kerry. For me, it is a winner!

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Bryant. Glad you like the Zoom. I gues you could cut some erasers out of your favourite block eraser?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave(?), I usually look at some pencils I am interested in, then check to see if you did a review on them. Two of my favorites happen to be in your top ten (Sharp Kerry and Graphgear 1000, both 0.5mm). I am interested in the Tombow Zoom 505sh, but I have no idea where I can purchase it. Would you be able to help me in that regard? Also, what is your opinion on the Pentel Tradio 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil? I am looking into the Wood Pattern.


Kiwi-d said...

Check the sidebar link "Online Retailers"

Steve said...

Jetpens still have the Tombow 505sh in stock here:


Anonymous said...

what movie is the first photo from?

Kiwi-d said...

Sorry, no idea.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, do you know what the dimension is from the tip of the lead sleeve to the beginning of the grip area? Do you also know how long the grip area is? I also heard that this pencil conserves quite a bit of lead, how much lead does it waste before having to reuse another piece of lead? Thanks.