Pen Review: Jinhao 599

A special thank you to viewer Chris, who sent me this pen with a letter for me to review it.

Recently, someone left a comment on one of my YouTube videos asking why Chinese pens have such a bad reputation in the fountain pen community just because they’re cheap. It seems, they said, that by comparison, most other fountain pens are way overpriced. You can get some really good-quality pens for an incredibly inexpensive price when you order direct from China.

Earlier in my own fountain pen hobby, I spent a lot of time perusing and buying these inexpensive Chinese fountain pens. It fed my acquisition desire without bankrupting me. I got to learn more about what I liked and what I didn’t like in my fountain pens. Some of the pens I got were real dogs. Others were incredible pens that are still in my collection to this day. It was a little hit or miss, but it was a very fun time in my own journey. And those for whom $7 or $10 is really all they’re able (or willing) to spend on a pen are able to find some lovely writing instruments at a great price.

There are, I believe, a lot of reasons why many serious pen people don’t fall all over themselves when it comes to inexpensive pens from Chinese brands. Quality control isn’t terribly consistent, and so you never know how the nib will write, or how well the snap-on cap will stay closed, or how durable the finish will be. And to manufacture such intricate items at such a low price, someone ends up footing that bill. In the case of these inexpensive pens, the low prices could easily be a result of government subsidies and/or poor worker conditions. (For a great analysis, check out Dr. Jonathan Deans’ post on the matter, on his wonderful Pen Economics blog post, How Does China Make Such Cheap Fountain Pens. )

There is one additional reason which is not of major concern to many, but is a personal bugaboo of mine: Intellectual property theft. Many of these inexpensive pens from China, regardless of the quality, are knockoffs or near-knockoffs of designs of pens by other companies. For instance, the Kaigelu 316 I reviewed a while back is a near-knockoff of the Parker Duofold Centennial. The Hero P51 is a pen identical in design to the Parker 51. (Rumor has it that the Chinese government siezed the equipment in the Parker Pen factory, and that these P51s are being made on Parker’s original equipment, albeit with more flimsy materials.) The Baoer 051 is nearly identical to the Monteverde Impressa (although that may well be a case of Monteverde paying Baoer to manufacture the pen for them.) And the Jinhao 599 is a near-knockoff of the iconic Lamy Safari, Vista, and AL-Star pens.


Side by side, it’s clear that the Jinhao 599 isn’t an exact copy of the Lamy Safari. (True knockoffs can be found out there, though; Goldspot Pens did a great video on how to tell the real ones from the fakes.) It has “borrowed” enough design queues from the original, however, for me to classify it as a near-knockoff. Rather than iterating on a standard pen shape, like the standard cigar shape that is so common in the pen world, Jinhao has clearly tried to reproduce Lamy’s design–just with a few tweaks.


The 599 cap and body are made of brass, giving the pen a slightly heftier feel than the plastic pens that were the inspiration for their design. The pen that I received is painted neon green, very similar to the neon green pens that Lamy seems to put out every other year. The cap of the 599 has a black plastic inset which is polished to a nice shine, vs. the matte plastic inset with the “cross” that is indicative of a Lamy fountain pen. The cap snaps onto the pen securely. Perhaps the part of the pen that is the most different between the two is the clip. The 599 has a flat, blade-like clip with a cutout compared to the Lamy’s horseshoe-shaped bent wire clip. The barrel has a nearly identical shape, flattened on two sides, but the metal barrel on the 599 does not have the cutouts that appear on the Lamy pen and which allow you to to see the ink level in the converter. The 599 is also slightly smaller in overall size than the AL-Star against which I compared it.

Removing the cap, the pens’ similarities become even more apparent. Jinhao has co-opted Lamy’s very unique triangle grip. This grip is one of the reasons I don’t care for the original Lamy, and it does me no favors on the Jinhao either. The 599’s nib looks like it was made to slip on and off like the nibs on the Lamys, but I’ve never been able to remove the nib. Instead, if I pull on the nib, it removes the nib and the entire plastic feed together.


The nib on my Jinhao 599 was fine-ish (possibly extra-fine by Western standards; it’s hard to tell since Jinhao doesn’t stamp a designation into their nibs.) Although it pains me to say it, it’s a pretty good nib. It writes consistently enough that I feel comfortable using this pen for my ink reviews, but it’s not the kind of nib that I would ever choose to sit down and write out a long letter with. The tines were in alignment, though, and I had no issues with skipping, hard starts, or ink flow. For a pen that retails for $2.99, it’s a pretty darn good writer.


One of the areas in which I will give the point to the 599 is around its filling system. The Jinhao 599 wisely uses an included standard international converter, and can also accept long and short standard international cartridges. The Safari, on the other hand, uses Lamy’s proprietary converters and cartridges, and doesn’t come with an included converter, which itself costs more than the entire price of the Jinhao 599.

I should note that when the 599 arrived at my house, the nib unit had been installed incorrectly, and was rotated 90° to the grip, rendering the pen unusable. Fortunately, it was quite easy to grab the nib and feed with my fingers and twist it back into place.

So, is the Jinhao 599 a good pen? It’s a fine pen, I suppose. I never really liked the Lamy Safari or its kin, so it’s hard for me to get excited about a knockoff of a pen that I never really cared for to begin with. My experience has been that it’s one of the best $2.99 fountain pens I’ve used (which, admittedly, is a very small number.) But it’s not a pen that I would ever spend much time with it. I will continue to use the pen as the “fine” example in my ink reviews, because I have found it to be such a consistent performer. But this is one of those pens that gets cleaned out the instant the ink review is over. I have absolutely no desire to use it for anything else.

  • Ted

    I own one of these, and agree with your assessment. I don’t have the knock-off animus, however. You actually ended your vid with an imitation (which I loved!) Do more voices!

  • Mikey Mazur

    I have stayed away from Chinese pens mostly cause of many of the same reasons. I have not tried it yet, but I have made some of my own italic un tipped nibs so I have thought about getting couple x 450s just to make them a stub on my own.

  • pajhurley

    Great review Matt (of a somewhat ho hum pen – I have a feeling on how you would “like” the Hero 359. Hero did not even try to make anything distinctive with their version).
    Wonderful end – completely agree with your respect and admiration for Jim Henson).

  • Chuck La Chancé

    I received several of these pen as a gift and they are ok, not my favorite, but I still use them. People still try to steal them off my desk. The ones that I have do have the window in them, like the Lamy pens, but are not screen printed, they are plastic.

    Good job Matt, always interesting.

  • Excellent and very detailed review! I am actually in the process of reviewing a 599 myself, though it will take a while before I can post a review. Can’t wait to actually fill this pen and write with it. I bought it along with 2 other Chinese pens about 1 year ago but I’ve shelved them until now.

    I was surprised to hear yours was metal. I thought the matte ones were plastic. The one I bought is transparent plastic. Your review has piqued my interest and I’m considering buying one like yours, just for variety sake.

    • At this point, I’m wondering if I have a knockoff of the knockoff. It’s weird, because I’m not seeing a lot of metal-bodied versions of the 599.

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  • Frederico Seckler

    agree with you…intelectual property is important

  • mikey

    Matt, do you normally go for fine nibs in buying your pens?

  • You’d think that, with as many people online have screamed for a purple Safari, Lamy would get on that. (Instead of release yet another lime/neon/apple/tennis ball green color.)

  • sneedop bcorian

    Funnily enough, I discovered the extent to which some Jinhao models are knock-offs today. I just picked up a Jinhao 611 and I found out that it’s *exactly* the same size and shape as a Parker Vector (like, as in, you can screw the section/nib of one into the body of the other, and the caps are interchangeable). Amazing.

    I’m actually delighted about this, because I’ve cracked the bodies on a couple of Parker Vectors, and it’s cheaper to buy a couple of Jinhao 611s ($1.99 each on ebay) to replace the bodies, than to try and rummage around getting replacement Parker parts!

  • MKR

    I’ve bought a few specimens of this pen, and I had no idea that there was a variety with a metal body. All the ones that I have bought have plastic bodies (weight, 17 g) with an ink window à la Lamy and a nib of the usual sort that slides into the feed rather than one that imitates the arrowhead design of the Lamy nib. I find that almost all of the Jinhao 599’s listed on eBay are like this, though one can also find a few that are of metal like yours.

    Thanks for the link to the blog piece on how Chinese fountain pens can be so cheap. I have always surmised that there must be a hidden cost to be paid somewhere. But I’m still buying these things while the buying is good. I don’t expect it to continue that way indefinitely.

  • Andre Blum

    I, too, earlier in my collection, bought around 30 or so jinhao pens of different models and in different colors. Now that I have progressed to more expensive pens like the Visconti Van Gogh, the Pelikan M1000, the Lamy 2000, and others, my standards have raised substantially. Still, now and then, I turn back to this drawer of pens, and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by some, but also negatively surprised by others. I guess I own around 8 pieces of jinhao 599, some of which perform well, but none of these performs fabulous. I was surprised to see a completely different style of nib on the two black ones I ordered. Those are a kind of extra fine, semi-hooded nibs, that write pretty well, although I don’t like the looks.
    All of my Jinhao 599’s are fully plastic, not the metal version Matt seems to have, and mine have the ink ‘window’ (hole) as does the original Safari.
    The reason I don’t use my 599’s is that all of them have the issue that screwing the barrel on the section somehow does not end in a good fit. The chrome ring somehow doesn’t give enough (where the rubbery ring on a Safari does), to build up the necessary friction or resistance against the threads that would hold the barrel tight. It just unscrews easily.
    The Jinhao 159, the Montblanc 149 knock off, at $4 or so, is a much, much better pen, that I just love. There is hardly a negative point to these pens that I can think of. I have bought two extra of these to make sure I have enough for my lifetime 🙂

  • Roberto Sans

    hello Matt
    As always, a very interesting review. I started also purchasing a lot of these chinese pens, which in their majority have turned up to be good. However, I am trying to give them away now as I have had the opportunity to compare them with their original counterparts and I have felt that they are just copies, not having any aim of their own other than being cheap versions of the real thing. Thank you for pointing out to this excellent entry about fountain pen economics, very thought provoking.

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  • this was 1 of the 3 beginner fountain pens i bought at Jetpens but i neglected to buy any ink so i have not used it yet. my goal is to buy a few more beginners, then narrow my next fountain pen to the TWSBI Eco or the Lamy Safari; and if I don’t like the 599a, i will definitely NOT be getting a Safari.

  • Jerred Kostashuk

    The only, and I mean *only* way the Parker 51 could have been produced in China is if Parker decided to install tooling in the middle of either World War II (where the vast majority of China’s manufacturing sector was occupied by Japanese troops), or during the Chinese Civil War. The Parker 51 was never produced in China and it would be nice if people would stop spreading that blatant lie.

  • Ron Obvious

    Jinhao 159, X750 FOREVER! LOL!

  • NJPurling

    The only Lamy knock off I have is a tribute to a Lamy Vista, even the feed is transparent. It is a Jinhao 599.
    As the whole thing is see-through you don’t really need the ink window in the barrel, but it is there on the Lamy Vista & so it is here too.
    I put a generic blue colour short International cartridge in the 599 to ink it for the first time. It is said that the Jinhao 599 takes International type cartridges, but do different brands fit the Jinhao 599 more snugly?
    I don’t usually use blue ink, but there was no way i’d waste a cartridge of Herbin Perle Noire before knowing if the pen was a lemon or not.
    This is not the first Jinhao pen I have used. I do have a rather substantial X450, which looks like I pinched a Mont Blanc from a City businessman’s jacket pocket. That writes excellently
    The design of the Jinhao 599 is far more exciting. I have also bought another in lime-green.
    I have realised that there are quite a few Lamy Safari clones around: Hero 359, Yiren 566 and Lanbitou 757.
    My transparent 599 has a barrel with two flats. It is not a blatant copy of a Safari or a Vista because the clip and nib are different. I also bought a lime green 599, but I am still waiting for that one. I think the solid colour pens are nicer, but that’s just personal taste.
    I am also waiting for a yellow Yiren 566. Now, that pen does look more like the Safari as it has the same clip.
    as the pen has not arrived I couldn’t say for sure whether the copying means it has to use Lamy cartridges.

    • asd

      You asked if different brands fit more snugly and that’s what I’d like to know too. NJPurling, I don’t know if you happen to read this at this point, but if you do, did the cartridge work out well?
      Let me share my experience:
      I got a 599 that is also a see-through one. The converter that came with it fits well, no problems. I decided to try it with a cheap chinese purple cartridge I got a while ago. I have earlier only tried a yellow one from the same package and it fit fine the pen I use it in. SO, … I put the cartridge in, no problem. Ink starts to flow through the transparent feed, looks good. “Is that bit on ink in the feed?” No. There’s a small spot of ink inside the barrel next to the cartridge opening. “Well maybe a small drop got out when I pushed the cartridge in.” I lay the pen on table.
      … few minutes go by …
      “There’s a bit more inside the barrel next to the cartridge” “Ohhhh, the cartridge is loose, it almost falls out when I turn the pen. Better not shake it”… I put a piece of transparent tape to keep the cartridge in place and to keep any ink from geting through the ink window. When the barrel is closed the tape works well enough, but deep in my mind I know this is careless, I know that FAIL is lurking somewhere. I lay the pen on the table.
      … the next day …
      “Some more ink got to the barrel, but luckily that tape kept it there, and there isn’t that much of ink there, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
      I take the the cap off.
      “Is there any ink in the cap?”
      Ink pours out.
      “ah, …”
      … Luckily the ink washes out well. I don’t know what the ink actually was, probably the cheapest coloured liquid they could find. It didn’t smell of anything, which leads me to think it might have been food colouring or something similar. For a while it looked like I had been in a bad fight. Large patches of purple ink on your skin tend to look bad.