The Aurora Optima has been a flagship model for Aurora for years. Offered in several colors and finishes, from solid acrylic to solid 18K gold, this pen has served as the "classic" Aurora.
Well, it's time for something new in the Optima! How about the same great pen, same classic lines, even the same piston gill system... But ina much tinier package? The Mini-Optima (or Optima Mini, I've seen it both ways) is everything that you would expect from the Optima, just in a much smaller package. Smaller packages are hot right now, from cars to pens.
It's pretty much in line with other "miniature versions" of popular classic pen models that have hit the market recently, although I think that the Mini Optima differs significantly from the others. And in a good way, too! We'll get to that in a moment, but first the details.
The Mini Optima is being offered in a deep burgundy marble, with bright silver colored trim. The material is great, I love the color. I think I'd prefer gold plate trim to the silver, however. I realize that in that, I am bucking the current trend towards silver metal, but what can I say? I'm a traditionalist at heart! I just think the gold color might have gone better with the warmth of the burgundy cap and barrel.
But that's really a minor detail, subjective opinion. What is not subjective, however, it the quality of this pen. They are every bit as well made as their larger counterparts, and that's good news. The piston mechanism moves smoothly, the cap threads on and off securely, and the fit of the metal to plastic is perfect. In other words, this is a pen that manages to actually look and feel more expensive than it actually is.
Good news in a world where things generally tend in the other direction! One of those major differences that I mentioned earlier, a detail that sets the Mini Optima apart from other miniature versions of popular pens, is that it retains the piston filling mechanism of it's larger sibling. It is much easier to make the smaller version of a pen a cartridge converter filler, especially ina case such as this, where the new pen is going to be so much smaller.
The fact that Aurora retained the piston filling system, despite the fact that it made the manufacturing of the pen much more complicated is a credit to the company. It also makes the Mini Optima a pleasure to use for those of us who are die hard traditionalists when it comes to our pens.
The Mini Optima is being offered in all four common writing modes. Ball point and rollerball, of course, but also a neat mechanical pencil version. While the ballpoint and rollerball follow the traditional Aurora Optima design, the pencil is something different. In shape, it's reminiscent of the "golf pencils" from years ago, but with a much larger size. It's a great size and shape for actual use, I don't know if you would cal it a "sketch pencil" or what, but I just plain like it. Of course, the design is also very striking from a visual standpoint as well.
I'll go out on a limb and predict that, as nicely designed as the miniature fountain pen is, and as well made, it's going to be the mechanical pencil version that steals the show from the others in this series. As a friend said upon seeing the pictures, "it's so cute!" Given that mechanical pencils seem to be making a bit of a comeback recently, it should be perfect timing for this new offering from Aurora.
Of course, there are the other versions available, and I don't mean to overlook them. The ballpoint is the standard Aurora twist style design. It's a bit too small for me personally, but if you need a compact pen, perhaps to fit inside a daytimer or wallet, the diminutive size is actually an advantage.
The rollerball version, like the larger Optimas, is a capped model, similar in size and shape to the fountain pen version. In fact, when closed, you really cannot tell the two apart. If I needed a "nibless" pen from among this collection, this is probably the one I would select. It's a bit wider than the ballpoint, which makes it more comfortable to use for me. As a plus, the supplied refill is very smooth, and makes writing a pleasure.
Not quite as much a pleasure as writing with the fountain pen, though! The fountain pen version (the "real pen" for most of us!) is a great little pen. Emphasis on the little, remember this is not a pen for those with huge hands. But the size aside, it's everything you would expect from an Aurora Optima. A nice, smooth, rigid 18K nib. In this case, plated to match the silver plate trim.
As you might imagine, the ink capacity in the Mini Optima is a bit less than that of the full sized pen. Still, the fact that it's a piston filler, with the barrel serving as the ink reservoir, makes for an adequate supply of ink for normal use. The nibs are available in extra fine, fine, medium, broad, and Aurora's excellent italic. The italic nib, while possessed of some sharp edges that require attention to the angle at which the pen is held, does put down a wonderful line on paper.
If you're looking for a great pen in a small package, you can seek no further, go out and get yourself a Mini Optima. I don't know that I have any need for a "small pen", but after playing with these for a while, I am beginning to wonder if I couldn't maybe find a need for one. They are that addictive. Maybe it's just seeing what you expect to be a full sized Optima, but reproduced in a tiny version?
In any case, these are great pens. The list price on the fountain pen is $350, which puts these squarely in the "nice pens" category. Not surprising after you get your hands on one, it's pretty clear that Aurora had no interest in making a "cheap pen" with this model. Small in size, but not in terms of quality. Which I think is good news for pen lovers everywhere!