A week with the Zoom C1, L1 and L2

I have been using various members of the new Zoom series on and off but for this week I decided to put them all together and share some thoughts.

As these are priced at the 4-7000 yen level, they are definitely not casual purchases for most people. I had initially wanted just one of each design and each in a different color. It started with a C1 MP in sand silver, meant to be a ‘inverted match’ with a typically matte black fiber glass Lamy 2000 BP or multipen.

I enjoyed it enough to decide to get a C1 BP as well. That’s when my dilemma started. So many possible combinations… so little budget. In the end, I chose this as my ‘default New Zoom combo’:

C1 ballpoint in sand silver
L1 rollerball in graphite blue
L2 pencil in all matte black

In use, the new format refills performed quite well for me. The oil based ink for the C1 was very smooth despite its stated 0.5mm tip. But the surprise for me was how much I enjoyed using the liquid ink L1. Oh, and the new physical format allows you to switch refills between the C1 and L1, if you wish.

The L1 is on paper, the least interesting: a new riff on the 505 rollerball but slimmed down and sporting some new age materials. I thought for a long time before choosing the graphite blue L1, as I believed it had the best color contrast between the frosted ‘Durabio’ body and the anodized aluminum cap.

In use, the L1 is pleasantly front weighted when uncapped, more so than with the 505. With the cap posted, it is very balanced. And the blue-black ink lays down very nicely on my note paper.

The L2 as a sleek black pencil is probably the least interesting in actuality, despite the design cues that point back to the La Nave days. Somehow despite its relatively wider girth, I find the 707 series much more comfortable in my hands. The facets on the L2 work against it when you rotate the body and the clip hits your hand.

I also think it is because most of the L2 body is plastic or resin based, with metal only used in the cone, clutch and clip. I was disappointed to learn that the inverted cone button is plastic.

Beguiled by the L2, I made a new order for a C1 pencil in graphite blue… and this is what the pair looks like together:

Unpleasant surprise No. 2: the beautiful graphite blue color is applied unevenly on the C1. I think it is quite obvious the front section is not the same blue-grey as the upper.

As Tombow has not officially made these available for sale overseas, there is NO opportunity for me to inspect the pen or pencil before buying. The uniformity of the sand silver C1 had lulled me into a trap.

As it isn’t feasible to return the C1, I moved on and tried to enjoy what I can. One good outcome was finding that the older Zoom Ying SAMON in indigo blue was a very close match to graphite blue. I mean, even the clip was in matte black!

Here you can see how the two generations of Zoom designs harmonize side by side.

If there is one thing I wish Tombow would do, ASIDE from sorting out the color finishing on the C1 series, it is to think harder about the color combinations for the L1 rollerball.

The recent limited Sumire/Violet L1 was a non-starter for me. The cap was a semi matte pastel liliac that had no real interaction with the translucent frosted lilac below. The cap should have been in an anodized finish so that the gleam of metal could play off the internal reflections in the lower half.


C1: most interesting design and best enjoyed in all black or sand silver. Caveat emptor for graphite blue.

L1: The metallic finished cap versions beat the pastel ones. Graphite blue is king here.

L2: Not as interesting as the 707 in the long run and sadly, doesn’t feel as premium either. Can give it a miss.