Lamy Al-Star vs. Lamy Safari: Comprehensive Comparison [2024]

When someone is getting interested in fountain pens, there is one pen brand that is almost always suggested to them: Lamy. Founded in 1966, Lamy has been in the business of making high-quality writing instruments for quite a long time. Their Safari and AL-Star pens make excellent first pens, excellent gifts, and can become collectable as well as useful objects. They are affordable and durable pens that can last a lifetime when considering the lamy safari vs al star.

The Safari was originally envisioned as a school pen for users between 10 and 15 years old. Manufactured from sturdy plastics and fitted with easily swappable steel nibs, they can stand up to the needs of school-aged people as well as those of us who are well beyond that age.

In this piece, we’ll take a look at the Safari and the AL-Star versions of this pen as well as a couple of different versions of those pens in the Vista and LX.

What the Safari and AL-Star Have In Common

These two pens are very similar. Looked at from the outside, their designs are nearly identical. There are some differences between the two that we’ll go into below, but you do need to look carefully (and maybe pull out a caliper) to find the differences. Heck, I didn’t even notice some of these differences until I started getting into the weeds with these pens in preparation for this piece on the lamy safari vs al star. Both the Safari and AL-Star models share the same outward appearance. They are both round pens with opposing flat sides that can act as roll stops when you set them down. Each has an instantly recognizable bent wire clip. Both also have an ink window in the barrel through which you can see the level of ink in your cartridge or converter, and both can be filled via either Lamy cartridge or Lamy converter.

On the grip section, you’ll notice two flat sides. Those flats are meant to help school-aged folk use a “tripod” grip, and they do give you a nice grip on the otherwise smooth section. This is great for those of us who have that traditional tripod grip, but it can be annoying to those who hold their pen in some other fashion. The flat sides won’t fit your non-traditional grip, and the edge of those triangles, while not sharp, could cause the pen to rotate out of position or feel uncomfortable.

The cap finial of the AL-Star and Safari fountain pens will also have an inset disk featuring an “X” shape. This helps differentiate between the fountain pens and the rollerball models which have a round disk with a hole in the center. There are some limited edition fountain pens that have the round disk, but not too many. This can help you to find the right pen if you’ve got them all in your pen cup together.

The Lamy Safari Fountain Pen


Features of the Safari

The Lamy Safari was introduced in 1980 to capture the market of 10-15 year olds. The resin barrel of the Safari is ergonomic and sturdy. It’s also very light, and it feels nimble in your hand. At a mere 7g uncapped, the Safari is a pen that you can use for really long writing sessions without any hand fatigue.

Benefits of the Safari

There are a couple of benefits that the Safari has over the AL-Star. First, it’s a little bit lighter than the AL-Star. The plastic of the barrel and section are rigid and they don’t feel cheap, but they still weigh less and that could be important to you if you have any sort of hand-issues that could make heavier pens problematic or tiring for you to write with.

The second benefit is that the plastic barrel of the Safari will hold up better to rough use. I don’t recommend being rough with any fountain pens, but the Safari is absolutely a pen that you can keep in a pocket or a bookbag without a sleeve or any other protection. It won’t dent or scratch easily, and that is especially important since the pen was originally aimed at the 10-15 year old market. There’s no need to baby this pen. That’s especially true of the models with a matte finish instead of the smooth finish.

There is also a variant of the Safari called the Vista. The Vista is a full demonstrator pen in transparent plastic. It has a bit more metal in the cap than the regular Safari, and so the cap is a little heavier, but it is otherwise identical.

One final benefit is that you can change the clips, finials, and trim rings on the Safari, but that isn’t possible with the AL-Star. Due to the way that the clip and the trim ring are attached to the Safari, you can swap these parts between different Safari models to make a custom color combination with the different painted clips and such. I’ve swapped the parts from the Mango and the Savannah Safari models to give an extra pop of contrasting color. Fun!

Drawbacks to the Safari

I think the main drawbacks of the Safari are related to the benefits. The light weight can cause some people to feel less sure about their grip on the pen, and that will make them grip it tightly so that it doesn’t get away from them. I’ve also noticed that a lightweight pen like this can affect my handwriting a bit. Some users will also equate the light-weight with low quality. These pens aren’t low quality at all, but that perception is out there and especially among new fountain pen users.

The materials of the pen can also look a bit “cheap” to some folks. The plastic finish will not appeal to folks who want the shine of a metal barrel. It can look like a “kid’s pen” to some, and that impression isn’t false. It was introduced to appeal to younger people. It just also happens to appeal to a wider range of people, too.

The Lamy AL-Star Fountain Pen



The AL-Star pen was developed after the Safari took off, and there are a couple of small design tweaks that you’ll see if you look closely. The barrel and cap are a slightly larger diameter than the Safari, but it’s only 1mm and not an obvious difference. This is due to there being a plastic barrel underneath the aluminum sheath.

The AL-Star and Safari are also different in length by about 1 mm. Some of this is due to the cap configuration, making the Safari’s cap just a bit longer. When they’re uncapped, though, the AL-Star is just a hair longer. These differences in girth and length are minor, and probably not something you’ll notice in your hand.

The sections of the two pens share the same dimensions, but they can’t be interchanged. If you compare them side-by-side, you’ll see that the trim ring of the Safari is part of the grip section, but the trim ring of the AL-Star is actually a part of the inner plastic barrel. Another subtle difference, but certainly worth noting for those who might want to swap the translucent AL-Star section onto their Safari or give their AL-Star the solid color plastic section of their Safari. That’s a no-go.

The AL-Star is also marginally heavier than the Safari. Comparing the AL-Star’s 10 grams (uncapped) to the Safari’s 7 grams (uncapped) you might feel the difference. It is a minor one, but some particularly perceptive folks may notice.


Some consumers will certainly prefer the sleek look of the AL-Star or the very slight weight increase that the aluminum sheath gives the pen. The 3 grams of extra weight is not particularly noticeable to me, but some will note it for sure.


That same sleek look is also the drawback to the AL-Star. You’ll need to take better care of the shiny aluminum barrel than you would the more rugged plastic of the Safari. It is prone to picking up scratches, scuffs, and dings that the Safari would shrug off. On the other hand, perhaps you enjoy the marks that your use will add to the AL-Star over time. With a little care and a pen sleeve, though, your AL-Star will continue to look sleek and modern.

Some Final Details


Writing Experience

Whether you choose the Safari, Vista, or the AL-Star, you will get the same nib on the pens. Most of Lamy’s pens share the same stainless steel nib design, and this means that there are many different nibs that you can easily swap onto your pen. With point sizes ranging from EF to 1.9 mm as well as oblique styles and a left-handed nib, you can make the pen your own. Some styles also come with a black nib instead of the usual polished stainless steel. The Lamy LX series of the AL-Star model feature a black PVD coated nib that is particularly good looking, and the Aion and Ideos share a curvy version of the standard steel nib. The writing experience will be the same across these models.

The writing experience from these nibs is generally very good. The extra fine nibs are a little on the scratchy side, but that is typical of extra fine nibs, and nothing to be concerned about. The middle sizes of fine, medium, and broad, are all about what you would expect from a European nib of that size. Average and very controlled ink flow is typical, and they might feel a little too dry for some of the drier inks out there, but these pens are workhorses that will handle all sorts of papers and inks without issue.

The one thing I would advise is to skip shimmer inks with these Lamy models. The feed is really difficult to remove from the section, and I don’t advise it. That means it is difficult to give your pen a deep-clean to remove all of the shimmer particles, and that will annoy some users.

Feel in the Hand

Honestly, between the Safari and AL-Star, I don’t find the hand-feel to be very different at all. The very slight differences in weight, length, and girth aren’t very noticeable unless you’re comparing them directly and you’re really looking for the differences. Both are agile, light, and comfortable as long as you’re okay with the tripod grip that they demand.


Your big choice here is between metal finishes and plastic ones. I have never really picked a side in the Safari vs. AL-Star question because the look of the individual model is what will do it for me or not. One thing to definitely check out is the matte vs shiny plastic sections, though. Some of the Safari models will come in a matte finish, and I find that this gives a really good tactile feel to the section that the smooth plastic sections are missing. None of them are slippery in the hand (thanks to the triangular grip) but the matte finish does give some extra purchase that I appreciate.

Special Editions

Last but not least, there are SO MANY special editions of these pens. Each year will bring at least one special edition color of the Safari and the AL-Star. Sometimes there will be more than one of each. Whether this is a positive or negative for you will depend on how you feel about collecting. I love that there are so many different options for these pens when discussing the lamy safari vs al star. Each looks different from the next and I can fit the color to my ink, outfit, or mood as I like. If I were a collector of the gotta-catch-them-all variety, I would find it daunting. There are decades of special pens out there to hunt down, and some of them cost a pretty penny on the secondary market.

FAQ: Answering your questions

How do you say “AL-Star?”

This is contentious! Some folks (Like my friend the Penaddict) spell it out. “A-EL Star.” I go with saying it as one would normally say “All Star.” It’s fun to pick sides, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. As long as you call it the All Star, that is. (wink)

“Why is there blue ink in my new pen!?”

You just got your new Lamy and there’s ink in it already?! What gives? Did you get a used pen? Almost certainly not. Lamy dip-tests their nibs before they ship them, and they don’t clean them out. I don’t know that it’s every nib, but they’ve got a machine that tests at least a lot of them before they leave the factory. The fix for this is to either use the blue cartridge that came with the pen or give your nib a quick flush before you fill it the first time. Lamy’s blue ink is really nice and it washes off of the nib quickly.

Does the Lamy Safari / AL-Star fountain pen come with a converter?

Not usually. Some editions of the pen come with a converter, but most of them don’t. Some vendors will include a converter with the price, but most don’t. This question can only be answered by reading the product description, but it’s best to assume that the pen will come with a cartridge and no converter.

Will the Lamy LZ26/LZ27 converter fit the Safari / AL-Star fountain pen?

Yes. The only difference between the z26/z27 and z24/z28 is that the z24/z28 model has a pair of pegs (or ears) on the side of the converter that are meant to slot in to matching grooves on the section of the Safari/AL-Star pens. The z26/27 converter doesn’t have those ears, but the other dimensions are the same and it will work in those pens as well as other Lamy models.

How do the Lamy Safari nib sizes compare against other European and Japanese nib styles?

Lamy nib sizes are generally about the same as their European counterparts. They’ll generally be wider than the equivalent Japanese nib size by a half step or so. It’s important to note that this is a generalized rule of thumb and not a hard and fast standard.

How do you replace the nib on the Lamy Safari / AL-Star?

How do the various nib sizes of the Lamy Safari / AL-Star compare?

About the Author

Mike Matteson is an educator, gardener, and video game player when he isn’t creating stationery content on YouTube, Twitch, or his blog.

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