When I think of Pelikan, the first thought that comes to mind is their long revered piston filling mechanism. To me, this is the epitome of the perfect filling system and it has long withstood the test of time. It is one of Pelikan’s core features and one that helped to forge me into such a die-hard enthusiast. Given that the piston mechanism is such a part of the company’s identity, you can imagine my surprise when, in 2014, they released a cartridge/converter model based off of the Classic series’ M200 and M205. Pelikan contends that there has long been demand for such a filling system in a pen of classic design, particularly for those who travel and prefer the convenience of a quick cartridge swap. This demand has given rise to the black P200 and P205. I have never held much love for such pens myself. My first ever fountain pen was a cartridge pen (not a Pelikan) and I had no idea what I was doing. I could scarcely get it to work and it’s this bad experience which put me off to fountain pens all together. It would be three years before I’d return and become the devotee that I am today. Perhaps that bad experience has tainted me or maybe I am wiser today and can see past my early fumbling. Pelikan provided me a P200 on loan for the purpose of this review. The pen was freely leant and there has been no censorship of any kind to the content of this article. I’d like to think that I’ve been able to remain objective but will allow you to draw your own conclusions. I’m not sure that the P200 has taken anything away from my love of piston fillers but it may have helped alleviate some of my prior disdain for the cartridge pen in general.
Appearance & Design (7/10) – An aesthetic that feels a little unbalanced
With many of Pelikan’s pens, the model number denotes whether the design is based on a piston or a cartridge. Any model preceded by an ‘M’ is a mechanik-füller or piston driven pen whereas a ‘P’ indicates a patronen-füller or cartridge pen. Based off of the M200 first introduced in 1985 and later redesigned as the version we know today in 1997, the P200 is far from a straight copy. The cap is identical between the two models and is actually interchangeable. It has a single cap band, the pelican beak clip, and a single chick logo painted upon a crown cap top. The barrel obviously lacks a piston knob and the trim ring is now found where the barrel screws into the section. To me, the trim ring seems oddly placed and throws the look of the pen off when uncapped, almost giving it an unbalanced aesthetic. The nib is the standard gold-plated stainless steel that has long been a standard on the Classic series. M200 and P200 nibs aren’t interchangeable though owing to the P200’s nib and feed being specifically engineered to fit a cartridge. This model is only available in a black finish at this time but it is not unreasonable to expect Pelikan to expand the selection of colors depending on the strength of its sales. Finally, another odd design choice is Pelikan’s entire implementation of the cartridge system. Rather than the nipple at the section holding the cartridge or converter steadfast, Pelikan opts for a loose fit at the interface, utilizing the back of the barrel to apply pressure and secure the cartridge firmly in place. This is certainly a viable system but has created confusion over the years and overall just seems unnecessary when viewed beside this filling systems’ implementation by other manufacturers. You can read more about Pelikan’s cartridge/converter execution here. Packaging is accomplished via Pelikan’s standard G5 gift box.
Construction & Quality (8/10) – A little too insubstantial feeling
The plastic on the P200 has a thin feel to it and while I had no concerns about damage with regular use, I would not feel very confident that it would survive any meaningful, accidental falls/impact. The P200 is a pen that I would want to have in a shirt pocket or in a case at all times for its safety. Not that I condone carrying pens in pants pockets but if that is your preferred method of carry, I’d think twice before doing it with the P200. Otherwise, the fit and finish of the pen was solid and left no concerns. The nib was aligned and wrote smoothly out of the box. Overall, it’s just a little too insubstantial feeling to give a strong sense of quality construction.
Weight & Dimensions (8/10) – You will be amazed at how light the P200 is
Many people find the M2xx/M4xx range of pens to either be too light, too small, or both. That is why Pelikan makes a range of pens in similar styles but of varying dimensions. While this pen’s physical dimensions used to equate to a standard size, it is small by today’s standards. If you find the M200 too light, you would be amazed at just how light the P200 is. It feels as if there is no substantial weight to it at all. Even with a full cartridge, it remains one of the lightest fountain pens that I have ever used. Officially quoted at 12 grams, it is only 2 grams lighter than its piston filling cousin but that missing weight is noticeable. That said, I did not find the lack of weight overly bothersome with use and was never fatigued after long writing sessions. To round out the dimensions, the pen is 5.63 inches posted and has a diameter of 0.48 inches. A long standard international cartridge should provide an ink capacity of about 1.4mLs.
Nib & Performance (8/10) – A smooth, wet though uninspired writer
The nib on the P200 is Pelikan’s standard gold-plated stainless steel. Interestingly, nibs are still being produced with the two chick logo despite the last logo change occurring 12 years ago. I suspect this is due to the dies used for the nibs not yet being upgraded. My example had a medium nib that was smooth right out of the box. The nib is wet and I found the line to be true to its designation as a medium. There was just a hint of spring and the writing experience was overall very enjoyable. The line lacked any variation but performed as expected. To swap nibs, it is my understanding that the entire section is exchanged but the P200 nib will unscrew just like any other Pelikan M series nib. With the M200, many people like to upgrade to a gold nib such as one from an M400. Since there are no gold nibbed cartridge pens that are compatible at present, this is not an option with the P200. Available nib sizes are the now standard EF, F, M, and B. There is not much to rave about here but also not much to knock. Sure I would love some more exotic nib options but I also appreciate a nib that just works when called upon. I also found that if the pen remained capped for a prolonged period, it would start up again immediately, just like its piston filling cousins. This was a welcome surprise.
Filling System & Maintenance (7/10) – A cartridge pen for those who like that sort of thing
The cartridge/converter has long been my kryptonite when it comes to fountain pens. It is the filling system that I like the least. With that in mind, I really tried to set aside my quibbles and give it a chance. I utilized Pelikan’s Edelstein Amethyst long international cartridge for this review. It had the loose fit at the section that is to be expected from Pelikan but seated nicely when the barrel was applied. There were no issues with leaking. One of the nice things about piston fillers is that the act of filling the pen primes the feed. I find with cartridge pens, giving the cartridge a few light squeezes helps accomplish a similar effect though I still find the pen not ready to write as immediately as I would like when starting from a dry feed. Once primed, however, the experience was indistinguishable from my piston fillers. I can appreciate the convenience of not having to carry bottles of ink around and the ease with which a cartridge can be exchanged. The filling system functions as it should and will be of no surprise to those already familiar with the cartridge/converter. Maintenance is easily accomplished as the section can be run under a faucet to remove ink from the feed and there is no piston to worry about lubricating. All in all, the pen certainly is lower maintenance owing to the lack of moving parts.
Cost & Value (7/10) – What it lacks in weight, it makes up for in price
The P200 can be found on the U.S. market for about $132. Prices overseas may vary. This is actually slightly more expensive than what the black M200 can be found for from several vendors these days. I suppose that we see such a price premium as this is a member of the Classic series but it just feels like the wrong price point. For a pen lacking a piston and of such light construction, it certainly feels like it should have sub-$100 pricing. Value is a subjective thing but I would certainly look for one on sale rather than committing to the current asking price if at all possible.
Conclusion – A classically styled pen with a definite target audience in mind
P200 Black: 45/60 or 75%
Then P200 and P205 are the first and only cartridge pens to grace Pelikan’s Classic series of pens. I appreciate the effort here to appeal to a specific market of fountain pen user. That said, the implementation falls short for me on a few fronts. The pen has a somewhat unbalanced styling with the placement of the trim ring, it is incredibly light with a build that feels very insubstantial, and it seems to be priced based on the name more so than its own merits. I’m not saying that it is a bad pen. If you like classic styling and cartridge pens, this may be the marriage you’ve been waiting for. The writing experience was solid and dependable which is arguably the most important aspect of any pen. I wouldn’t shy away from owning one of these if the opportunity came along but it would certainly have to be at a better price than we are seeing in the market today.
A Look At The Pelikan P200 Black
Pelikan P200 Black Writing Sample
*The pen utilized for this review was provided to me on loan from Pelikan for the purposes of this review. It was promptly returned once this article was published. I received no monetary compensation for this review and there was no corporate censorship of any kind. The opinions expressed in this article are my own.