Iwata airbrushes have built up an enviable reputation over the years for their reliability and superior build quality. They've long been a favourite with modellers, giving results that are second to none in skilled hands. But this quality has necessarily come at price, and with the cheapest model starting at around £75 and the dearest costing well over £400, it's not surprisingly out of reach of many modellers particularly newcomers to the hobby who are unsure about investing in costly equipment.
So how does an Iwata for just £47 grab you?! Well, of course, there is a slight catch this isn't strictly speaking quite a "true" Iwata, but the Neo is produced for
Iwata, using Taiwanese components assembled in China.
Low-cost airbrushes from the Far East have sometimes had a somewhat mixed reception and, in particular, the reliability of some Chinese models has been questioned. But the Neo for Iwata differs in two crucial ways. Firstly, the components originate in Taiwan home to some high quality airbrushes such as the Airbrush Company's own Premi-Air
model, and secondly, the Neo is backed by Iwata's full 5-year guarantee against faulty parts and workmanship. Such confidence on Iwata's part is a sure sign of the quality of the product.
The Neo arrives in a sturdy and striking cardboard box, with the airbrush and accessories well protected in a deeply recessed padded liner. The pack contains:
The Neo dual-action airbrush, fitted with a 1/3 oz. gravity feed paint cup and lid
An interchangeable 1/16 oz. paint cup
A small spanner for removing the paint tip
Documentation comprises the 5-year warranty and health and safety notice provided by The Airbrush Company, and tucked away at the bottom of the box under the padding there's a simple set of instructions.
An inspection shows the build quality of the Neo is excellent, with the main parts displaying a fine chrome finish. The machining is to a very high standard and all the screw fittings are smooth, while the 0.35mm needle is finely ground and polished. The interchangeable paint cups are fitted with flexible seals, and the lid for the large cup is a nice snug fit without being so tight as to be awkward. In fact the Neo can also be used for small touch-up jobs with no cup attached, as the body's paint chamber holds 1/32 oz.
The Neo is fitted with an Iwata-style air connection, so I clicked it straight onto my quick-disconnect plug and external MAC valve. Having used a trigger-grip Iwata TR-0 for over a year, it was a novelty to go back to a conventional airbrush again, but the Neo instantly felt comfortable in the hand, with a smooth, easily controlled dual-action trigger press down for air flow, and pull back to release the paint.
For the first experiments, I tried spraying test patterns onto glossy white card. I mixed up some LifeColor acrylic and Humbrol gloss enamel paint and had equally good results with both. The .35mm needle is well suited for fine work, but also allows larger areas to be blocked in quickly. There was no sign of clogging with either paint, and I was able to spray down to approximately 1mm line widths and lay out mottle patterns with no trouble. (For broader coverage, a .5mm nozzle and needle can be purchased separately.)
To try the Neo "for real", I've used it exclusively on my latest build Eduard's new MiG-21SMT. The Neo has performed faultlessly throughout. I've sprayed the base colours, metallics, pre-shaded, applied the reasonably complex camouflage pattern freehand and finished off with Future/Klear all with no trouble at all. Put simply, I'd be happy to use the Neo for any modelling project.
Basic clean-up is quick and easy, as the gravity-feed chamber gives plenty of access to the needle to remove any residue. For really thorough cleaning at the end of a long session, disassemble the needle and paint-tip with the spanner included and flush through with a cleaning solution or solvent.
As good as the Neo itself is, I have to admit the instructions are rather disappointing, consisting of nothing more than a 3-stage sequence of connecting, filling and spraying with the Neo, followed by a single sentence about basic cleaning. That's fine for experienced users (who probably don't need the instructions anyway), but I really don't think it's enough for beginners. There's no advice on how to thin paint to the correct consistency or control the airflow, tips for overcoming common airbrushing problems such as splatter or clogging, or explanation about how to disassemble the airbrush and the need to protect the needle. Beginners might not even know what the little spanner is for
The Neo is an excellent low-cost airbrush that's more than capable of holding its own again much higher priced competitors - and with that 5-year Iwata warranty against faulty parts and workmanship you can't go far wrong. It's suitable for pretty much all types of airbrush work required for modelling and I'd recommend it without hesitation. For anyone who already has a more expensive set-up, the Neo makes for a great back-up that doesn't sacrifice quality, while it's ideally priced as a first "serious" airbrush for anyone starting out in the hobby.
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