As an avid fountain pen user, I approached the Parker Ingenuity 5th Mode pen with great skepticism. Here was a writing instrument that was purported to take the desirable characteristics of a fountain pen and fuse the with the convenience of a rollerball pen system. It seems impossible to mimic the writing quality that only a metal fountain pen nib with a capillary action feed can provide. However, I'm open-minded and gave the Ingenuity a thorough go-round of writing to see what the buzz is all about.
The nib on the Ingenuity seems like a poseur - a metal hood that disguises what is, essentially, a felt tip cartridge refill with a flexible tip base. The Ingenuity is all about this refill, which they call the 5th Mode. It is a proprietary cartridge that is only available in 6 different colors. Based on color selection alone, the fountain pen holds the huge advantage of being able to write in a wide spectrum of bottled ink colors versus a paltry six hues.
Popping in the 5th mode cartridge is almost like installing a rollerball pen ink cartridge. The only difference being that the 5th mode refill needs to fit through the front section to align with the metal tines. No possibility of getting ink on one's hands unless you handle the tip directly. The 5th mode is more convenient and a no-mess refill method compared to a fountain pen. Now that we have it installed and ready-to-write, how does it perform against a traditional fountain pen?
Taking the 5th mode for a prolonged spin was an important exercise to effectively compare the Ingenuity to a fountain pen. Initial contact of pen tip to paper was pleasantly smooth. The tip glides along the paper, delivering an even ink flow. Below is an InkJournal entry of the teal Peacock color 5th mode cartridge.
The dry time was exceptional on most papers and the smoothness of the tip was unlike any felt-tip or fineliner pen that I've used in the past. There really wasn't much in the way of shading and the semi-flexible metal tines that conceal the 5th mode tip do not add any variation in line with added pressure.
The point maintained a freshness of ink for several weeks, finally waning around 3 1/2 weeks from installing the ink cartridge. Once it began to dry out, there was a noticeable lack of flow that signaled the end was near several days before I decided to change the cartridge. Unlike a demonstrator or cartridge/converter fountain pen, you would not be able to check the ink level in a 5th mode refill to see if there is still any gas left in the tank of your pen.
We compared the Parker 5th Mode writing instrument against the modern fountain pen since the obvious intention by Parker was to instill the finer qualities of a fountain pen into this "hybrid" writing instrument. While the convenience and mess free-filling is certainly a check-mark in the 5th mode column, it still comes chronically short to satisfy the fountain pen enthusiast on two major points - color choice and line variation.
Only six colors are available with the 5th mode cartridge versus hundreds of colors of fountain pen bottled ink. And, despite the designed flexibility of the 5th mode tip and the metal tines of the "nib," the 5th doesn't provide any line variation or any significant degree of shading which are traits highly desired by fountain pen enthusiasts.
Bottom line - The Ingenuity and the 5th mode writing instrument may be an exotic option for those who like writing with rollerball or felt-tip type pens. You will be hard pressed to convert any fountain pen enthusiast into a 5th Mode believer.