The sub-$50 range of fountain pens can be a really interesting group. There are solid choices that have been around for quite awhile (ahem, Lamy Safari), and there are also newcomers trying to break into this low price point. Not everyone succeeds when trying to offer a good fountain pen at this price point. With the Diplomat Magnum SoftTouch fountain pen, I think they've created a great pen for the price.
Like the name implies, the exterior material used with this pen has a soft texture that feels great in the hand. It makes the pen feel warm and comfortable, regardless of the surrounding environment. I'm not sure what the actual material is, but it has a slight rubbery feel without being tacky. It also doesn't pick up lint and other particulates very often, and does a decent job of resisting fingerprints as well.
Like the beloved Lamy Safari and AL-Star, the Magnum also features a contoured grip section, which might make or break the pen for you. I happen to enjoy contoured grips, and this one is pretty comfortable. Even though the size of the grip is somewhat small to match the small size of the pen, it's still comfortable and secure when writing. If you tend to write with a grip that doesn't conform to the "standard" three-finger grip, you might not like the contours. If you've used a Lamy Safari, AL-Star, or Vista, you can let that inform your decision with this pen since they are very similar grips.
There are several other nice visual features that compliment this pen, including a large ink window, a minimally decorated nib, a translucent finial that shows off the Diplomat logo, and a strong, branded clip that just doesn't give up. The nib size is a bit small, but it's comparable to the rest of the pen.
In use, the cap can be posted, but it doesn't feel 100% secure. I don't think the cap is in any danger of falling off with normal use, but it doesn't have any sort of reassuring sound or tactile feedback when posting to let you know it's secured. Capping the pen, however, has a satisfying click (both audible and tactile) that leaves no doubt that the cap is secure.
For the price point, the pen feels well made and is a pleasure to use. So, how does it write?
The model I have includes a stainless steel nib with a fine point, but they also offer a medium and broad point. The point matches up with the typical German sizing that you're accustomed to, and it's a great nib in use.
One of the most notable things I've come away with after writing with this pen for a while is how springy the nib is. When using a steel nib, that's not something I expect. In this case, it's a welcome surprise. The nib certainly doesn't qualify as a flex nib, but it has a noticeable spring when writing that makes it more comfortable to use while also providing feedback from the page. Think of it like the suspension on your car. This nib is soft on the page, and I have really enjoyed it. Of course, like all things, this will come down to personal preference. Either way, I think it's impressive when a steel nib feels similar to a gold nib.
Due to the springy nature of the nib, you can achieve some good line variation in normal writing. Nothing dramatic, but similar to a small stub in terms of line width variation.
In use, the pen has been incredibly reliable and consistent. I haven't had any trouble with hard starts, skipping, or ink burps. If the pen goes unused in an upright position for more than a couple weeks, it does need a minute or two on a horizontal service to re-establish ink flow, but that's better than a lot of my pens can do.
The pen takes either standard (or short) international cartridges or a standard international converter. In all, I've been really impressed with this pen given the price. Diplomat is one of those brands that you always see at pen shows. They have interesting and pleasing aesthetics, but their premium prices can put off a lot of buyers who haven't had any experience with the brand. In the case of the Magnum, I think they have a great representation of the brand as a whole that sets a precedent for their more expensive lines.
You can normally find the Magnum at Vanness for around $25.
(Vanness Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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