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Preview : 1/72 F-4 Phantom II kit comparison (Fine Molds, Fujimi and Hasegawa)

The fine folks at Fine Molds have a reputation of superbly done kits and the latest kit in their quiver is the F-4 Phantom II, the first versions (the Japanese EJ and EJ Kai) of which were released in December 2019. With this new kit in my hands, I now have F-4 kits from four manufacturers: Fine Molds, Fujimi, Hasegawa and Italeri (reboxed by Tamiya). The Italeri fares the worst here, with it being released all the way back in 1981. It has simplifed details and raised panel lines. So besides being cheap there’s nothing that really needs to be said about it. The other three though are more intriguing. Before Fine Molds came along to the party, you’d get equal praise for the Fujimi and Hasegawa for being the best in the 1/72 class.

But now that I have all three, it’s a good opportunity to compare them.

Fine Molds

Initial thoughts:

  • Being the most modern tooling, the details are the best. This can easily be seen on the ejection seats, splitter plate and exhaust details
  • Panel lines are very nicely done. They are fine but not too thin so as to disappear under layers of paint
  • Parts breakdown is not as complex as expected even though it’s designed to be modular
  • Designed to be modular with front and rear halves coming together. This means non gun-nosed F-4 variants are possible
  • Option of molded instrument panel details or decals on smooth panel parts
  • Detailed intake trunkings so you see the compressor fans when you peek into the intakes
  • Solid tabs on the horizontal stabs for more solid fitting
  • Separate single-molded nose so no seamline to worry about
  • Wheels down option only
  • Two types of canopy provided: opening pilot and copilot vs both closed and molded as 1 piece
  • FS color callouts throughout the instructions
  • The spine is a separate insert which preserves all the details
  • Weapons are sold separately
  • 4 drop tanks provided: 2 wing tanks and 2 centerline tank variants (original and F-15 type 600 gallon tanks)

Fujimi
Let me preface by saying that I’ve built two Fujimi F-4 kits before, an F-4G in the early 1990s and an RF-4C in 2019. I’ve had very different building experiences with them. I remember the F-4G to be a straightforward build while the RF-4C fought me all the way. So it seems like the build experience varies based on the variant you have.

Initial thoughts:

  • Simplest build breakdown so the fewest parts
  • Console details are decal only
  • Canopy molded as separate parts. Careful alignment required
  • General details are simple compared to the other two. Most rivet details are missing although the panel lines are nicely done.
  • Ejection seats are simplified into just two parts (chair and ejection handles)
  • Fuselage is made up of two full length halves
  • Spine is molded onto the halves so all the details there are gone once the seamline is inevitably addressed
  • Intake trunkings only go in an inch or so and are blanked off
  • General lack of details in the main wheel wells
  • Short exhausts with no internal details
  • Horizontal stabs fit via tabs for easier fit
  • Wheels down option only
  • Three drop tanks provided
  • Weapons include 4x AIM-9, 4x AIM-7 and a gunpod (I believe unique to this boxing)

Hasegawa
I’ve built at least two Hasegawa F-4 kits of the same tooling but have never been able to finish any of them. I remember them to have very finicky fit due to the modular nature of the kit. They look very good shape-wise though. Based on the design of the box, I believe what I have here is of the original release from 1990. According to Scalemates, Hasegawa have issued 413(!!) other boxings of the same mold.

Initial thoughts:

  • Some parts scratched or detached from the tree due to Hasegawa’s usual habit of stuffing all parts into 1 bag
  • Highly modular tooling with close to 45 parts listed as unused. For example, four types of tailfin tips are included.
  • Parts breakdown-wise, this entry comes in second of the three in number of parts
  • Panel lines are the finest of the three brands here though might disappear under coats of paint
  • Console details are decals only
  • Separate front and rear halves for different variants (all but British Spey-engine and German F variants have been done)
  • An insert is required on the back of the rear fuselage near the tail on both sides. I believe this is the location for the flare dispensers for RF variants only.
  • Horizontal stabs fit via pin and hole method. Not the best for strength
  • Intake trunkings only go in an inch or so and are blanked off
  • General lack of details in the main wheel wells
  • Spine is molded onto the rear halves so all the details there are gone once the seamline is inevitably addressed
  • Short exhausts with no internal details
  • Wheels down option only
  • Canopy molded as separate parts. Careful alignment required
  • Weapons sold separately
  • Four drop tanks provided: 2x wing tanks and 2x centerline tank variants (original and F-15 type 600 gallon tanks)

Conclusion
Even by just considering the details, it’s easy to see that the Fine Molds F-4 is quite an improvement over the other two. The proof in the pudding is of course how easy it will be to build but Fine Molds has a good reputation on that front. My only experience so far with them is the Star Wars Y-wing fighter and that kit was as shake and bake as they can come. As mentioned, the Hasegawa suffers from finicky fit due to the many inserts while the Fujimi seems to be variant dependent (the RF-4’s nose is horrendously bad) so YMMV there.

Both Fujimi and Hasegawa are not exactly easier to find than the Fine Molds as nowadays they have a tendency to only release ‘limited edition’ boxings at prices that match the Fine Molds one. On price alone, the Fine Molds F-4 is a no-brainer for me: a modern tooling for not much more in price. Fujimi does have an advantage though in that they have British spec-ed F-4s (though I think they have been superceded by Airfix’s newest UK F-4s). Hasegawa hasn’t released one since 1990 and I doubt they ever would. Both companies also seem to re-release USAF variants less often for some odd reason.

At the time of this writing (January 2020) Fine Molds only has three versions of the F-4 out: the F-4EJ, F-4EJ Kai and the just announced early gun nosed F-4E. Four versions if you consider that the F-4EJ is simply a bog standard long gun-nosed F-4E. Will they ever release the others? Looking at the breakdown of the parts, chances are very good.

So if you can wait, and you haven’t already hoarded a mountain of F-4 kits, I think you won’t go wrong with waiting for Fine Molds to release the F-4 variant that you want.

Preview courtesy of my wallet

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