Tag Archives: italeri

kit prices china future of production scale modeling dn models masks for scale models

Kit Prices and the Future of Production


Prices of the kits that come from China to US are probably going to go up. That might be very soon the case for Europe as well, but that is not the point in the article. Just this morning /December 6th, 2019/, a well respected company for scale modeling re-selling announced that they will raise the prices due to the tariffs that are to be imposed on China. Nothing unexpected, nor nothing overly scary for the regular consumer. You buy kits only every once in a while, its not like one cannot live without them. Its not food or gas.

It deserves respect that the re-sellers are mentioning that in their news stream. That means they care for their clients and they care for what people think about their pricing policies. The issue comes with the fact that kits nowadays are coming mostly from China. Back in a day, kits were Revell, Heller, Airfix, Hasegawa, Tamiya and Italeri. They never offered way too much in terms of variety, but some of them produced decent kits that are still nice up to this day. Those who produced lower quality kits inspired scratch building, home-made alterations and all kinds of art-oriented improvements that showed the true colors of every modeler.

Nowadays we have tons of kits covering every subject and even some that are doubling or tripling on a specific model, just to make more money. They are almost perfect, however with that comes the slow but steady death of the artistic part in the building process, leaving more on the painting and weathering side. Good for some, very bad for others.

The main problem is, that China is not a market that can sustain that production by itself. Those Shermans, Tomcats or whatever are not made for Chinese modelers. Undoubtedly, there are many of them, but it is hard for one to imagine that they stimulate that production.
The case is that Western World is the main consumer. To them are all those kits oriented and that is why their subjects are such and such.

Then why the kits are still being produced in China? Why not see high-quality kits from Italeri, Revell or whatever company being designed as well produced on their homeland? Price is the answer.

In that terms, news that re-sellers are about to raise their prices are not bad. Maybe raising prices for the Chinese production kit will stimulate production and improvement of the stuff old players on the market make. If you have similar quality, similar abundance and easy access to a kit, what’s the point of paying the same price when you can get it from somewhere else? Because the main reason the production of new and modern kits is coming from China is that China offers the lowest prices for that. 

It is not the best thing to see Zoukei-Mura or Wingnut Wings being made in China. We don’t go and buy ZM or WnW because we want to get Chinese quality. There is Trumpeter for that. We buy them because we want something better in all aspects. And it is true that those companies too depend on the market to survive, but the struggle for quality must never step aside just to give way to quantity. Never.

Especially in a hobby where people are all about accuracy, clean and clear production, and precision. A hobby that you need your brain more than anything else so to be successful. 

Before China we had scale modeling. And a good one too. After China we will have it still. But now we are all dependent on their production. We are trapped in an endless struggle between paying less and getting more, which at some point becomes impossible.

Maybe its time for a change. Maybe its time for old companies to take some notes from producers like MiniArt who are produced in ex-communist country, but somehow manage to be competitive even to China. Better in many respects too. Maybe its time to bring all the production where it belongs. Bring it home. Even if we have to pay more for that. And wherever home might be.


hobby boss hb81769 osprey mv-22 2019 new tool dn models

MV-22 Osprey from Hobby Boss in 2019

Hobby Boss #81769. This is what we know so far about the upcoming release of the new tooling MV-22 from the Chinese model kit maker. No pictures of the sprues, no paint options, nothing. At least not yet.

Just the kit number and the fact that in 2019, we should receive the long-awaited new tooling of that extravagant and exotic aircraft.

The Ospreys are flying all around the globe and are heavily used by the US forces. Why then, for so long, there wasn’t a decent kit of that aircraft in 48th scale? Who knows. Good news is, one is hopefully upcoming and soon. Unlike the other modeling companies, Hobby Boss and Trumpeter are usually beating their own release schedules. Maybe that will happen with their MV-22 too.

hobby boss hb81769 osprey mv-22 2019 new tool dn models

In 48th scale this kit should be big enough to be priced in the higher end of the scale range, but that doesn’t mean it won’t worth the price. If Hobby Boss make the effort to add some movable parts, especially around the engines’ complex design, this kit might be a true gem.

It is not a plane, nor helicopter, it is a strange unicorn-like animal, that everybody loves. And that is the reason why many will spend the 2019 waiting impatiently for that HB81769 to hit the hobby store shelves. Hopefully, this will happen rather soon, because this kit has a great potential for aftermarket mask sets. And DN Models are seriously considering the idea of releasing masks for that scale model.

academy ah-1z new tool 2019 dn models mv-22 osprey hobby boss 1/48 masks for scale models

With the pending release of Kitty Hawk’s three versions of the Hawk helicopter, Academy’s soon-to-be-out AH-1Z and probably other versions too, this rotor-craft will add a lot to the rotor-line in scale. Even though in 48th, and not in 35th, which is the standard preferred by the rotor-builders, there is no doubt that it will be warmly welcomed. But considering the size it is self-explanatory. And probably 48th will be just the right size for an Osprey. It is a huge machine by any means.

Meanwhile, DN Models will do its best to provide canopy and insignia mask sets for all of those. As soon as they are released of course. Which, sometimes doesn’t happen as promised. But we can only hope and once they’re out – be quick about it. Because we love rotor-craft scale models. And we know that many of you love them too!


f-35c top gun: maverick dn models

F-35C in TOP GUN: Maverick? How about decent kits…

As a continuation of the article about the upcoming movie, here we’re going to point out few updates about TOP GUN sequel. “Maverick” as they say it will be called. I mention this because there is some changes in the production schedule of the movie. Interestingly, those changes are somehow connected with the article that I already wrote about TOP GUN: Maverick.

For whatever reason, they pushed back the release date. Not by a couple of weeks, nor few months, but a whole year. What the official information states is, that the producers wanted the perfect in-flight scenes and that will take time. On the other hand, I have a different theory.


There were rumors about F-35 being the star of the movie. There were speculations about VTOL B version, where Maverick struggles with his adaptation process, drone wars and what not. The latest info revealed F/A-18F Super Hornet as Maverick’s jet. “Captain Pete Mitchell” insignia is already documented on the sides of a specially painted Super Hornet. It has been seen on various locations, while production goes on. So obviously, the Super Hornet is in for good.

Now alongside with that, a bunch of young actors – some appropriate, others not so much – joined the cast. In addition, young female pilot will be featured. That rung my first bell. There were ideas for Goose’s son, probably Iceman’s son, but then the cast expanded. Why? Let me tell you down below what I think is really happening.


tries to limit their comments but the latest we got was tht F/A-18F will play huge part of the movie and F-35 will be involved. Version – not clarified.

So here’s my logic: since F-35C is about to become part of the active NAVY and be used in its full capacity, this should be it. Somehow I don’t see A or B versions involved. Young pilots, plus the female star will most likely fly it. Why? Well, because it is fancy nowadays, to have “Smartphone-Generation” kids being praised as the potential future. They are the new age. And they need a toy that fits accordingly. Plus, in the 80s, when the first Top Gun happened, female pilots were…not there. So many youngsters, a female and what? Put them all in Super Hornets? I doubt it.

Now since we are living in a modern, accepting-all innovations era, we should be seeing F-35 in the movie. What’s in for the US NAVY otherwise? How come they will promote their new Stealth fighter which has very dubious reputation? A lot of countries are somehow attempting to get away from the deals they made and what better option to brain-wash the new generation featuring it in the newest blockbuster movie? And by brain-wash I am not trying to be negative here. Well, at least not completely.


So why Super Hornet? Well, how else will get to see Maverick doing his tricky moves and being cocky pilot that he is? We have to have another crew member. No way around that. But what about the rest of the gang?

What I see is this:

Maverick will train Goose’s son in the Super Hornet, will see ghosts, hold something in his hand remembering his RIO. When things get serious, they will jump in a Growler and go into action. Alongside with the kids flying F-35C. There goes 2020s US NAVY into the spotlight.

A lot of potential candidates to join in the years to come, a lot of F-35 fame all around the world, perfect production, win-win situation for everybody.

So for me, the delay is pretty much self-explanatory. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so. What I trust is that we will see a lot of F-35C propaganda, featuring Super Hornet. Two of the most probable future jets in the US NAVY. Super Hornet is about to be upgraded by Boeing and serve for years to come. A decent movie will help shift public’s opinion for sure. On the other hand, F-35C…. well we all know about that two-decades-old story.

So that turns us back to the modeling side of things. As mentioned in the other article, we have a decent Super Hornets and Growlers available. What we have in terms of NAVY F-35 is limited though. As of September 2018, we have only

So if I am on the right path here, and TOP GUN: Maverick is being pushed to give a chance of F-35C to play a major role, then maybe model makers should monitor the production closely. There will be increased demand. Probably more than that. And it will be all about F-35C. True, the movie comes out in 2020. But planning and executing a model like F-35C with decent measurements and nice engineering won’t be an easy task. Maybe Kitty Hawk, MENG Model, Hasegawa even Tamiya should watch this closely.

F-14 is still being made because of Top Gun movie. Not only of course, it is a legendary jet, but still, the Hollywood fame helped.

One thing is certain: TOP GUN: Maverick will define the next decade in terms of modeling interest. Maybe even the decade after. But as I expect it to be a major success in terms of profits, we are about to see more of it. That’s why it is not called TOP GUN 2.

On the other hand the enemy is still undisclosed. Location- or weapons-wise. With what I see currently, it will be probably somewhere in Asia. Maybe fighting against carrier based Chinese jets? Shenyang J-15 maybe? Or else? Hopefully we’ll get more “bird showing” here and there. Just for the fun of it.

We’re about to see in little over a year from now.


Decent EF-2000 Typhoon. When?

After more than 600 aircraft produced, exported to various countries and very successfully used, Eurofighter 2000 Typhoon still doesn’t have a decent kit in any scale. It is true, that there are kits from Revell in both 32nd and 48th scale, also a Chinese options for 32nd too, but all the releases currently available are far from what they should be. They are lacking accuracy, details, engineering and plastic quality to be considered up to date. Especially with the constantly increasing standards in the modeling world.

One should just get a glimpse at the newest Zoukei-Mura F-4s to get an idea what a quarter scale kit should look like nowadays. Even Academy, with their latest Phantom are competitive to ZM kits, even though Academy are not famous for being overly good in making high-end plastic scale models. That should ring a bell. So why is the lack of the EF-2000 so neglected?

It is highly doubtful that there is a lack of fans for the Typhoon. Revell might cover for the German market, no doubt about that, but still there are many demanding modelers all-around the world asking for a decent tooling of the modern jet. And not all of them are ready to sacrifice time and efforts to turn a mediocre kit into a fine piece of art, when it is about time some company to release one.

I can understand why Zoukei-Mura does not release it. But Tamiya, Hasegawa, Academy and many other makers are waiting for something and what is it, is a mystery to me. EF-2000 is not that new to be inaccurate in 48th scale and 32nd is even less of a challenge in many aspects. The plane is not that big, nor that complex in shape, but still there is no new tooling to be seen in the foreseeable future.

One can only hope that Eduard, AMK, TAN model or a company similar in their perception about scale modeling will come to the light and show up with at least a plan to make the Typhoon soon. What we need is a new tooling, with a beautiful plastic, good engineering and gaps left for the aftermarket companies to develop their improvements sets. And those gaps should be clever and not ruining the OOTB kit, but still be there so the aftermarket maniacs can justify their purchases.

I don’t think that this is a lot to ask. And I believe that I am not the only one asking for such a tooling to appear on the market soon. EF-2000 is the backbone of modern Europe, it is exported in the Middle East and on top of that it is a regular star in the RED FLAG and many other joint exercises around the World. It is definitely a plane that deserves its share on the plastic scale market. Let’s hope we will see one soon!


F-4S – the Newest Phantom II from Zoukei-Mura

F-4S is one of the most advanced versions of the Phantom II aircraft. Also, it is unfortunately the last modification too.

Little introduction:  The S variant first flew in 1977. It is an aircraft with improved stronger airframe and undercarriage elements, new electrical wiring, highly improved radar system, smokeless engines, slats and digital weapons control system. All this combined, gave very high percentage of improvement over the J variant, which is considered by many for the ultimate Phantom.

Smokeless engines, alongside with the slats and stiffer airframe were the most important features though. Even though already outdated by F-14 and F-15, in the late 70s and early 80s Phantom was still quite a menace in the skies. With those features included, the service life was extended and a decent dose of steroids was injected into the smokey Joe. Well, with it – not being so smokey anymore.

The boxart:

Zoukei-Mura announced their plans to do the F-4S model in the beginning of 2017, just weeks after their J Phantom hit the shelves. The boxart of the SWS No.5 is a bit different from the F-4J – more aggressive and more modern looking. We have a afterburning monster taking-off of a carrier deck, with nose gear strut extended for high angle of attack.

The aircraft wears the high-visibility insignia of the US NAVY’s VF-161, number 100 from USS Midway. On the boxart we have little logo from Boeing company stating that this is an Official Licensed Product. This is something that I am used to see on Italeri boxes, but it is wonderful, that Zoukei-Mura got an acknowledgement from Boeing Company and made their /formerly Mcdonell Douglas/ F-4 an official product even though with a new brand name.

There is also the dark blue around the box as well as the U.S. Flag  accompanying the pictures of the build plane. Unfortunately, we have everything written in Japanese only, but the pictures tells the story pretty well.

Storming through the clouds of steam with the afterburners on is also pretty self-explanatory.

The Sprues:

This is a re-tooling of Zoukei Mura’s SWS No.4 F-4J Phantom II. It is not a completely new kit, and there is a reason why – differences mentioned above, (although substantial) were made on the existing J frames and it is practically the same thing that the real company and Zoukei-Mura did. The latter one did it in 48th scale though.

We have the same plastic material – dark grey plastic, with very good flexibility, wonderful sanding qualities and more than superb detailing. Everything is sharp, accurate and phantastic!

New ones:

The new sprues that Zoukei-Mura added for the F-4S are very similar to the old one and feature little differences. The sprue with the two halves of the fuselage features new parts, but if you are not careful, you won’t be able to tell the difference at first glance. Same goes for the sprue with the upper part of the wings and the lower part, being the belly of the phantom, incorporating the fuselage and the lower wings.

Missile sprue features improved and finer details. Usually the missiles of 48th scale planes are criticized due to the thickness of the tiny stabilizers. Also, the way that things are assembled or are being engineered displeases modelers. Zoukei-Mura improved some details, in order to avoid that and give better experience overall.

The good old ones:

The sprues well known from the J kit are the rest in the box actually. They are surprisingly well done, beating Academy on almost every level. And Academy Phantom was considered the best until recently. With the appearance of the Zoukei-Mura’s J, that was the end of the reign. The only let down are still the nozzles, which I think is not a coincidence. There are Eduard Brassin Nozzles for the J variant, so we might be pretty sure that soon we will get the S-type too! There are also Eduard nozzles for Academy, for those who intend to complain!

The clear parts are superb. The transparency is not 100%, which IMHO makes them better than the usual. Absolutely clear sprues cause an effect of exaggeration which teases the eye and can easily be spotted on shows. With Zoukei-Mura’s style, everything looks quite realistic, even in 48th scale.

We have moulded just enough rivets, beautiful panel lines and every bit of detail needed for the perfect phantom. Zoukei-Mura did their job pretty well, but that is not news. We know that since the J-type release which we witnessed 4 months ago.

You cannot expect any troubles with this kit, nor unusual complications. Everything is done wonderfully!

Differences that Zoukei-Mura described in their newsletter are:

●Main wings

1. Front slat (4 points)

2. Slender fence added to the folding part of the main wings

3. Different shape of the external wing tip


4. Half-moon part over the back seat of the central canopy

5. Back mirror added on the upper surface of the rear canopy

6. Cockpit optical sight and cockpit panels (front and rear)

7. Control stick


8. EL light panels (formation lights) of nose, fuselage, wing edges, vertical tail

9. Fuselage top antenna changed from 3 places to 1

10. Side antenna added upon the air intake

11. Different shape of the ram air intake on the left side of the nose

●Fuselage underside

12. No antenna behind the front gear storage box (installed on the J-type)

13. Different shape of the antenna under the right air intake

14. Reinforcing panels and underside of the central fuselage reproduced

15. Different shape and position of the louver under the nose

16. Different shape of the antenna beside the airbrake, below the main wings


Unfortunately, there is only one option included in this kit, just like we had it with the F-4J. Here, the Phantom represented is number 100 from VF-161, based on USS Midway. It features high-vis insignia and markings, black tail with red lightning crossing through it.

Quite typical for the era and pretty attractive for modeling. Zoukei-Mura offers aftermarket decals for their J variant, and quite soon I am betting on S-type decals too. As you can guess, F-4S, even being the last mod is abundant in color variations and probably, you will be able to find something interesting and different than the one inside the box.

Companies usually give us many painting variations, varying from 2-3 to 7-8, even more sometimes. The decision of being so specific is something that will raise some eyebrows but it is what it is.

Extra Parts and Add-ons:

Once the J-type went for sale, Zoukei-Mura announced several aftermarket sets on their website. Those featured weighted wheels, which are quite nice and I believe – a must  for a proper phantom. They are suitable for J and S, as well as for C and D. The other two upcoming F-4s from Zoukei.

Same goes for the struts. A metal substitute is available, also suitable for the four phantom modifications. Both of these are indispensable in terms of usefulness. The wheels are specialty for the juries at the shows and the struts, well, you should see the size of the F-4 in 48th scale and you will get my drift.

Then we have a PE set for J/S cockpit, which I am not a fan of, since the parts in the kit looks good enough for me and besides, PE sets for cockpits often gives 2D appearance with odd appearance in color. This is only me here, many will enjoy this set a lot. Besides it looks awfully lot like Eduard PE set, who are known to be the best in business so many will find that attractive.

Alongside with that there is a color set from Vallejo paints, with bonus airbrush cleaner. The paints are chosen for the J/S variants and this is good option here, if you know how to deal with Vallejo acrylics. The colors are something which a lot of modelers struggle when it comes down to F-4, especially for the belly area. So if you know your way around Vallejo/MIG/AK paints, I would say go for it.

The last thing I want to mention is not an add-on or accessory set. It is a book from Zoukei-Mura, featuring three builds of F-4s, built from three modelers chosen by Zoukei-Mura. There are reference images, building processes and many more, overall being a guide on how-to complete your Phantom in the best way possible.

It is called a Concept Note, for those who haven’t dealt with Zoukei-Mura kits. It is important especially for those who does not have contact with the real F-4 nearby them. It will give you great ideas and additional knowledge for the airplane, as well as tips and tricks from master modelers who already built Zoukei-Mura Phantastic F-4.

DN Model’s modest contribution:

f-4s zoukei mura dn models canopy wheels mask set 1/48 phantom II sws no.5

Canopy and wheels masking set is available at DN Model’s website, designed for this kit. It might not be much, at least not like the aftermarket Resin and PE parts we are about to witness in the near future, but masks are what we do at DN Models, and we decided to give our best to accompany this kit with one very useful product for the modelers Worldwide.

Zoukei-Mura kits in 32nd scale that I own and reviewed here featured masks but for whatever reason ZM left the phantom without them. This isn’t a coincidence in my opinion, and as with the nozzles there is an idea behind all that. Thankfully, that gave us the option to design a set of our own and be a part of the Zoukei-Mura’s Phantom Project.


I want to start with Cons of this kit. They are two. First one are the nozzles. They are far from what Zoukei-Mura showed as quality in this kit. As I mentioned before I believe this is on purpose. After all, aftermarket companies deserve little room for work, which eventually was the case with the masks /thank you for that, ZM!/. I believe that Zoukei-Mura could’ve added perfect ones but they left it out due to the reason stated above.

Second con in my opinion is the single painting option. I know that there will be many aftermarket decals and Zoukei-Mura will probably add something from their own into that. But still. Comparing the kit with Eduard’s super kits /repacked Academy/, where there are 5-6 or more options, it seems kinda sparse here. But since the overall look is good, I think I can live with it.

Now onto the Pros of the kit. There are so many, that I don’t even know where to begin with. I gotta admit – I am a fan of 1/32 planes. But this is a brilliant kit, far better than Tamiya’s 32nd scale Phantom. The detail is superb, every surface is thin and the edges are even sharp. There are no doubt about it, this is the Ultimate Phantom in every scale for the moment. Probably for quite some time in the future too.

It is basically the same quality as the J version, with refined missiles, which makes it slightly advanced. But overall, far better than Hasegawa and slamming the door for the recent Academy kit too.

There is no doubt – if you are a fan of the Phantom, this is the kit for you. Its not too big, nor too small in that scale. I believe Zoukei realized that when started contemplating their Phantom kit. There is competition on the market, but they made an attempt to beat it and succeeded on every level.

There is only one kit I’ve seen that is comparable with that and it is AMK’s MiG-31. On the 48th scale scene there isn’t anything else that is with such high level and such accuracy. Nor quality of the materials.

Phantastic Slatted beast!

Unboxing Zoukei-Mura F-4J – Phantom II in 48th scale.

F-4 Phantom II is more than a legend. In aviation area it is a major milestone in terms of aerodynamic concepts, operational experience /pilot-rio co-existence/, production standards, export goals and many more. It was designed in the 50s and it is still used today. In a matter of fact, USAF retired its last operational Phantoms just around New Year in December 2016. Greeks and Turks still use it very widely, with Turkish Air Force F-4 2020 version exercising combat missions in Syria against PKK and ISIS.

In modeling, F-4 Phantom is pretty much the same titan of existence. There are many of them, in every possible scale popular among the companies, with new toolings being issued every year or so. Latest one – Airfix British Air Force Phantom in 72nd scale was just announced at the Telford Scale Model World 2016. There are several tables dedicated only to F-4 Phantom Builders, with SIGs /Special Interest Groups/ in almost every club possible present at the big shows. Especially in US. There are couple hundred F-4 Phantoms at each show. And if you wonder why, well the jet is a pure legend. That is why.

Here, we are going to take a closer look at the most recent 48th scale tooling – Zoukei-Mura F-4J Phantom II. It came couple of years after the Academy Phantom, which is now considered the best in the business. It has better dimensions compared to Hasegawa, which is second-best and probably the most popular 48th scale Phantom on the market today. There are others, but mentioning those two above we pretty much kill instantaneously all the competition in 48th scale. Up until Zoukei-Mura entered the scene.

The box:

Unlike most of the companies out there who put 14+ to the age deck for their models, Zoukei-Mura added 15+ to theirs. Maybe that was done for several reasons, like sharper parts compared to others for example. Besides the more serious appearance, we have a thick and very nicely executed box. The boxart represents a falling MiG-17, shot down by an F-4J Phantom, a nice SWS /Super Wing Series/ logo and clearly visible 1/48 scale marking. Maybe 1/32 is brewing. Who knows?

The box itself compares only to Meng Model boxes nowadays. Rest are left behind. On the sides we have clear pictures on how the Phantom looks built. But make no mistake: this is not Revell’s lame looking completed models which scream : “Plastic toy!” from every photo, seen on every Revell box. On Zoukei-Mura’s box everything is up to the latest standards. Maybe even setting new ones. There are fragments of the American flag, which completes the picture, giving you the feel of “Made in USA” which is what Phantom stands for.

The quality of the top is superb and for the bottom, one must add only it is sturdy and thick. Serious business. I am mentioning that, since Rockin’ Rhino from Eduard /a comparable kit for those who hasn’t seen it/ has somewhat flimsy bottom and thin top, which for such a set hidden inside is a bit of a let down. Here we have no such thing. Zoukei-Mura’s F-4 box is a gem!

The clear plastic parts:

First plastic that I checked out was the clear parts. Of course, DN Models mask set is a must for such a kit. The clear parts here are very good. We have two sets of canopies. One piece and separated one. The closed one is cool idea, since sometimes the alignment of the separate parts does not show perfect streamline. Zoukei-Mura thought of that obviously. The other one – with the separate parts – looks thinner than Eduard/Academy one, more glass-like looking, but for some reason I felt it to be not so clear. Maybe that was done on purpose and if I haven’t mentioned that probably nobody would’ve noted when checking out a build Zoukei F-4. But I think this should be mentioned. Other than that, everything with the clear material is up to the highest standards. Rivets, lines, thickness – great stuff here!

The gray plastic parts:

I am gonna go chaotic here and share what I saw in the order I first saw it. But before that I gotta say few words about the plastic. I have no idea where they got it but Zoukei-Mura gave us a wonderful material. It is Softer than Tamiya and Hasegawa, but it is thicker and more sturdy compared to MiniArt. It flexes just enough, keeping its shape right afterwords. Everything on it has deep /enough/ engravings, clearly visible and perfectly molded.

First impression that I got from the Zoukei-Mura’s new F-4J were the engines. Although they are to remain hidden inside, we have clear depictions on most of the cables, with little left for aftermarket or scratch add-ons. The parts are attached to the sprues in a way that prevents you from damaging them while removing and for very easy sanding.

On the same sprue we have clean and smooth air ducts, flexible /I checked since I have my doubts about fitting of course!/, gear struts and nozzles. The struts are also left with some margin for superdetailing but nothing major. Have in mind that Zoukei-Mura will offer metal substitute for that. Even with that, they made them with superb quality from plastic.

Nozzles are something that needs improvement. Sorry Zoukei, but I must add here that they are somewhat thick-ish on the feathers, which Eduard eliminated as a flaw with Academy kit, providing resin ones in Rockin’ Rhino set. Maybe Zoukei-Mura are about to make an aftermarket set for it but I am only speculating here. They are not bad per se, only thicker.

Next thing I checked was the nose. As far as I learned from some fellow rivet-counters /from which I try to stay aside!/ this is the best nose in the business. Nothing beats it in 48th scale. Again – cleverly attached to the sprue, it represents the nice shape and hopefully size of the F-4J distinctive feature.

Alongside with it we have slats that are quite nice, which were also checked for flexibility /and passed the test/. Intake plates, which are, in my opinion, one of the highest points of this kit. They have the smallest holes on them, molded with amazing precision. When I first set my eye on them, I thought that Academy and Hasegawa were wonderful, but the “WOW!” factor here blew me away. Delicate, executed with finesse and seems like they are pretty darn close to the original. Wow! Nothing more to say.

Then we have pylons with great riveting as well, clear panels lines and so on. Weapons, which probably are good enough OOB, but I am sure that resin companies are already out there, scanning for victims of their own. Although, if you want to go and compete in OOTB category, probably these here will do just fine.

The fuselage is two halves – as usual – and the top is a separate piece of plastic, covering the seam on the back of the Phantom. This is not a new engineering decision when it comes down to F-4 and I doubt that is Zoukei-Mura’s idea, but it is implemented well and I must give them that. There is superb lines and rivets of several kinds, which breaks the monotone look we know from many other kits. Different size rivets is a must nowadays.

The thing I consider a flaw here is the heavy duty plates just behind the nozzles. Zoukei-Mura made them from two parts – actually continuation of the fuselage halves. In Academy, we have the smartest decision possible – made from one piece of plastic, attached to the fuselage. If you wonder why, I’ll tell ya: painting those with metalizers, especially Alclad2 paints is a breeze, if we have one piece of plastic. If, on the other hand we have two, then we have seams eventually and they are hard to cover and hide. There are ways of course, but why? Why waste a day just filling the gap in between those with super glue, sand like a psychopath and then and only then spray the metallic paint? I found that useless complication.

The cockpit:

My oh My! What a cockpit tub we have here! Very close to a resin one, I must tell ya! I would never change that with an aftermarket set. It has everything one might want from a Phantom command center. The deck is very neat, with almost everything visible and almost no room for superdetailing. The gauges are 3D and as good as you can get in 48th scale. Very very impressed by that.

Seats are also superb. You can think of getting a resin ones, but with a few hours extra work on those and some scratch building skills, you can easily forget about whatever resin or photo-etch substitute. Honestly – there is no need what so ever.

Back to the other parts:

Stabilizers are the other think that hit me when I first saw it: they are riveted perfectly, thin and delicate. The slats that are on the real thing are replicated almost flawlessly here. So thin! Trust me when I say so: so darn thin! I still cannot tell about alignment but I trust in Japanese precision.

Then the wings which are engineered pretty much as we have them on Academy kit, with similar qualities, maybe a bit thinner and the curves a bit subtle. At first one must thing – they are the same. But most likely not. They have a certain level of finesse that we are lacking when we check out other brands. Truth is, that even with slightest ideas, these parts are better in general. Somewhere with a lot, somewhere with little, but they are superior to any F-4 issued so far. And not in that scale. In any scale.

That wraps my comments about the plastic. Now let’s move on to

The instructions:

We have thick-ish book. Black and white, with thorough description. The overall look is inferior compared to Meng Model and Eduard booklets, however it is better than Tamiya and depending on one’s opinion, lack of colors and complications might make it better even than those two mentioned above.

The overall look of the assembly steps is some mix between Tamiya and Revell. I love Tamiya instructions, but I don’t really like Revell. Good thing here is that probably the picture sizes and arrangements remind me of Revell. They do not look bad at all though. What I like here is the color advisory, the way that all things are shown and the lack of useless languages that we see on Meng and some others. English is perfectly fine to be the sole language, and what the heck – let’s have Japanese too. But that is all I think we should have. And there we have it here. Pretty simple and effective. In the effort to make their product better are more competitive, a lot of companies overcrowd their instructions and in the end we get a mess in which is easy to miss something. So, good job here too Zoukei-Mura!

The Color scheme:

Yep, you saw that right. One scheme. Single. With a large sheet A3 in size, color depictions from both sides of it. But only one Scheme. The one seen on the box. Why Zoukei, why? This is torture.

But hey, on the Eduard repacks we have many schemes and only one kit to apply on. Why Eduard, why??

You get my point.

The decals are Cartograf, same as on Rockin’ Rhino. A huge sheet, A4 in size. Pretty neat. Mostly black colors, so the colorful Phantoms which were usual for the era are not present. Otherwise everything is great.

But again. Only one option…eh.

In conclusion:

Super Wing Series are not the most famous amongst modelers but they are one of the best. SWS are for those who have overcome the urge of buying new kits constantly and exchanged the quantity for quality. And this kit is absolute king in the scale and absolute emperor in F-4 theme. So far, F-16 and P-47 in 48th scale were the best kits in 48th scale. I can tell you from first hand. Maybe new MiG-31 from AMK is also in Top 3. But not anymore. We have new leader in that scale. From what I’ve seen in my modeling life, this 48th scale kit is the best in business. There is nothing that compares to that in 48th scale. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

As for F-4 Phantom lovers, such as myself – hey guys, I’ve built F-4s in 72nd, 48th and 32nd scales and in different options. No better Phantom that this. Yes, not even in 32nd scale. If you go for size, yes. But size is not everything fellas! Quality provided by Zoukei-Mura is high end. One of a kind.

Of course, they left a margin for improvement. Providing additional sets. Like decals /only one option OOB??! Come one ZM!/,like metal landing gear struts or weighted tires /that is something useful for sure/, PE cockpit parts /not really an upgrade but a downgrade if you ask me/ and paint sets. The latter one is with Vallejo paints, so honestly – No, thank you! But still, Zoukei-Mura though about it.

We have let downs too. We don’t have perfect nozzles here. We don’t have one piece part of the Alclad2s behind the nozzles. We have decent but not perfect instructions, only one color scheme, no masks for the canopy. But OOTB this is still the best choice.

Even compared with Rockin’ Rhino /if you wonder why I compare it with that constantly, well it is pretty much the same jet with same decal manufacturer going for the same era/, this is still better. And we have two companies combining efforts: Eduard and Academy, with two types of add-ons: photo-etch and resin there, while on the other hand we have a single company with a pure OOTB kit.

So yeah, this beats the Eduard repack as well. Compared just to Academy without the resin nozzles, seats and wheels, no way – Zoukei is far far far better.

338 parts, one sale from Christmas 2016, available from Zoukei-Mura’s website. The newest F-4 Phantom tooling.

By far the best. And probably for years to come.

Hands down to Zoukei-Mura. Dethroned my favorite brand Tamiya with a single swing.

Thank you Zoukei-Mura, Thank you Japan!

Check out the DN Models mask set designed for this wonderful kit.

BTR-80A in 35th scale from Trumpeter

BTR-80A is a Soviet wheeled APC designed and developed during the late 70s and early 80s, and entered into service in 1986. It immediately entered the Soviet War in Afghanistan and little by little was accepted by the armies of many countries where it prove to be successful design. The new turret and diesel engine are the main differences compared to the previous models, but not only. All the small improvements like smoke grenade launchers, new intercom system, infra-red sight and many more, made the BTR-80 a lot different than BTR-70 on which it is mainly based.

Nowadays it is used all around the World in almost every possible weather condition and war scenario, including UN missions. Therefore, having a model of this vehicle is essential for Soviet/Russian model fans, and Trumpeter gave us a decent one. There is an options from Dragon/Italeri/Zvezda, but they lack the qualities of Trumpeter in almost any way. Trumpeter’s BTR series are so far unmatched in design and quality. They released standard BTR-80 in 2013 and an year later, BTR-80A – with a turret and different camo.

The kit features interior – although not complete one – with very decent qualities. There is no engine, but the seats for the soldiers are there, as the detailed drivers deck, turret firing system and ammo boxes. The doors and hatches of the vehicle are positionable, which obviously will give you the option to show off the insides once built. There is a lot of room for minor improvements, which are limited only by modeler’s fantasy and personal goals.

There are over 500 parts, with quality at a very high level in terms of detailing. I must say that this BTR-80 is one of the stars of the Trumpeter’s collection. Especially the rims and the upper hull – most of the small moldings there are superb! The vinyl tires are decent but there are already tons of aftermarket wheels for off- on- road options with slightly different shapes and sizes and most importantly – superior quality.

The photo-etch is separated in two sheets, not very big but enough to satisfy the basic need. Something that many other companies till omit to include in their new releases. Trumpeter’s PE parts are a bit thick-ish but this isn’t a problem especially when it comes down to APCs and tanks.

Clear parts and decals are very nice, and although limited painting options included /considering the widespread use of the model only, not as a stand-alone kit/ I believe most of the BTR-80 fans will be happy with what’s in the box. Here it is important to add the fact, that aftermarket decal companies have flooded the market with several different and unusual options lately, including some from the Syria and Ukraine wars with rather interesting camo schemes. There are also mask sets, including DN Models options /Check the store for Modern Russian Masks/, which are suitable for this vehicle and gives you a wider range of BTRs to recreate in scale.

Overall, for the price, this kit is a pretty nice investment. The Trumpeter engineers managed to highlight the most important parts of this kit, the ones that are mostly visible and very attractive. This not only allows for weathering but also for a stunning results in a relatively un-weathered model, just because all the detail needed is already there.

BTR-80A, with its turret is the one that I prefer because of the turret and it’s overall “combat vision” compared to BTR-80. However both kits are equally nice and it is a matter of preference or, a matter of particular subject. As mentioned above, this vehicle is used Worldwide and almost everywhere, so who knows what one can find once the research starts. With no doubts, I can only highly recommend this kit to any Soviet/Russian model fan. As with all the other BTR series from Trumpeter, this is a spot-on!

You can get this kit here: BTR-80A Trumpeter


Sukhoi Su-34 /Su-32FN/ Fullback – Kitty Hawk 1:48

Su-32FN as I remember it from my teens, or Su-34 as it is more popular nowadays, is one of the coolest looking multi-role jets of the Russians. Up until the Syrian war, and its short participation in it, Su-34 was somehow forgotten project, pushed to the second row by Su-30 and its derivatives. Probably for commercial reasons, Russians decided to use Su-34 alongside with the old Su-24 and bomb in Syria. Results so far are one Su-24 shot down, and total success for the Fullback. Maybe the reasons for that are various, but whatever the case is, Su-34 deserves a lot more attention that it is getting and not only – it deserves a nice scale model representation.

So far, Italeri and Zvezda had Su-32FN / Su-34 in 72nd scale but as you can expect, the quality and the accuracy of those were quite low. During 2016, Hobby Boss promised to release 48th scale tooling of it, which was promising /and still is/ but associated delays with it brought some disappointment. We are soon to enter in the third quarter of the year, and the kit is still nowhere close.

Kitty Hawk, obviously saw the gap here, and announced their own tooling of Su-34 Fullback. It is hard to say /from this point of view/ which one will be better. Trumpeter and HobbyBoss in 48th scale tend to be a bit simplified kits. Kitty Hawk with their 48th scale line proven to be very satisfactory, but their MiG-25 showed some engineering flaws and inaccuracies. Of course it is understandable for such a project – MiG-25 being very obscure subject – but same goes for the Su-34 Fullback. Anyhow, in 48th scale now we have two Su-34s upcoming, with most likely very different engineering approaches. The scale is big, and probably this will be the top scale for KittyHawk, however, if the subject becomes famous, HobbyBoss are very likely to expand it via Trumpeter into 32nd scale monster.

I will be surprised if this is the end of the 48th scale Su-34 Fullback battle. I assume that very soon Kinetic or AMK or whoever will try to score with the same subject. I am not sure how much Su-34s Russians managed to sell after their Syria campaign, but one thing is certain – they definitely will sell a lot from plastic!


Airfix Ju-87 B-1 – new tooling Stuka

Airfix recently announced a new tooling of the famous Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber. It is B-1 version and on the render picture it looks stunning. Airfix have recently changed their approach to model kits, and they seem to have started to work with China. All their new tooling resemble newest Chinese kits, plastic too, and it is not a secret that probably that was their only option for survival.

Their 1/24 Typhoon was a hit, but many modelers experienced some troubles while building that. However, we can hope that this is not the case with their Ju-87 B-1. On the other hand, this is very tricky subject, because of the many enthusiasts around and the fair amount of available kits which have been already evaluated in every possible way. They were compared with drawings, pictures, one to another and so on, which was with the sole purpose to give us the ultimate kit. This is almost impossible, because it is some sort of an unicorn, but some companies come really close these days.

So new tooling Stuka from Airfix is on the way. And the question is not how detailed it is, because it will be good. Not how crisp the parts will be, because this is guaranteed. The question is – how it compares to the Stukas that are already out there. They have been exploited in every possible way showing their highs and downs, and we know what are they correct in, or where they are not satisfactory. So, if Airfix managed to somehow fix their flaws, and keep up with their bright sides…well, then we will have it. We gotta wait and see!

Mask Sets – DN Models : the humble beginnings. Background story of…

This mask company has humble beginnings, dating back in the late 1990s. I thought you might like the story of how the idea came to live, and I will present it to you here.

Back in those days, I was building 1/72 aircraft. All kinds of them, all eras. Two main reasons for that. First was, these were the most popular scales in Eastern Europe back then. Second, these were the only one available on the tiny market share that scale modeling had in the 90s. There were mostly Italeri, Revell /late 90s/, Airfix and Heller. Czech companies I won’t mention, because their models were awful.

Same thing goes for the airbrushes. There were practically two options. First /available throughout the 90s/ was Russian crappy airbrush, which costed 10$ but was working as if it were sold for $2. Second was Revell single-action airbrush, which costed around 18$ back then, and was restricted by the lack of air supply. No compressors out there. None! Just home DIY stuff, made from old refrigerators. Other option – Revell gas cans which were everything but cost-effective.

So with all that at hand/which is pretty much jack $hit/ your options were – either become very good no-errors-in-the-process modeler, or be mediocre, paint with brushes and waste the kits /which were limited by all means/.

And a problem which is not to be skipped – enamel paints. Only. So except for using masks, leaving fingerprints is the other option.

So how do you make a mottling camo? How do you make a desert camo scheme on a Hs-129??? How?! The moment I got the Italeri kit in 72nd scale, I knew I was in trouble. And I like that bird a lot. So what do you do? Well, pretty much: explore, invent, risk it all. Mask it!

So I painted it all green, I made small balls of plasto, put it on the green and painted it yellow. And that was it with the desert camo of that 72nd scale nazi plane. But it worked actually. Hiding out with plasto the green spots. Masking them out in a way… Especially according to my humble standards back in a day that was the deal! Masking the canopy wasn’t still reached my mind, and I was painting the canopies with brush. Blah!

So next, I decided to try out more complex things. Splinter camo schemes on early Messerschmitts, F-16 two-tone gray separation and so on. Then a friend of mine asked me how he can make MiG-21MF 7701 /czech splinter camo/, and he was somehow having the idea that this is impossible to be done. Well, masks! So I masked it for him, and he painted it for less than 48 hours. And that was the way I did my Flanker too /check out previous articles. Flanker 32nd scale./

Meantime Eduard and Montex entered that business. They were having a lot of mask sets, mainly canopy and basic camo-schemes. They did a lot, but with different mediums. For me, Eduard was preferable. And then I got the idea of making specific masks for my own purposes. Special schemes windows and so on.

Yep, good idea, but with what material? So another friend of mine, who was in the business with marketing and commercials, told me that there are a lot of masking foil options and I just have to try out few before risk it on a model, and luckily for me, the 4th option was very suitable for masking and not peeling of paint out of the build model. And that was that!


Withing a matter of months, I did my first mask set, called a “window masking set” /very lame, I know/, which appeared to be very attractive and a lot of modelers wanted to buy it. Then, a friend of mine from US told me – “you should turn that into a business…”

And the rest is history. Now DN Models have more than 50 sets of masks, with another 20 in the works just for the first half of 2016. We made some custom sets, as well as “upon request” items, and we still accept such offers. In general, the idea is to help fellow modelers. Nobody wants to build a kit for 5 hours and mask it for 4. Not a soul.

But with those products, we try to make our lifes easier. And the biggest appreciation we had was being published and praised by the Maste Modeler Michael Rinaldi, who featured our products in his TankArt 4 book /German Armor/. He used ambush camo mask sets to build his Nashorn and some markings mask sets for some other vehicles. We are very proud about that fact, and very grateful to Mr. Rinaldi for spreading the word about our existence. Not only, but we know that he enjoys working with our products. Which is a great boost for our will to make even more and variable sets of masks for all the fellow modelers out there!


2016 – Looks like the year of the Abrams

This is part of the Dragon Boxart of their latest Abrams version

Even though with the wonderful Dragon Abrams kits that we have on the market, and cheaper Italeri and Tamiya substitutes for DML, the modelers still have demands for new additions to the line. The modelers…they always want more and better! So last months of 2015, Meng announced that they will release M1A2 version, in collaboration with T-Rex design studio and it will go with two options: TUSK I and TUSK II.

Knowing their usual delays in releasing the kits, it is expected that thing to go for sale sometime in 2016, but it is still not clear when exactly. Their marketing department released several pictures and a video, unveiling some of the engineering decisions that TRex applied on that kit, and I must admit, it looks great!

There aren’t many pictures of TUSK II side round-armor plates, and it might be difficult to say how accurate the kit is in that matter, but on the other hand same goes for Tamiya, and their kit is already on the market, so supposedly Meng learned from them if any mistakes were found.

And then in the first days of 2016, yet another company announced the same project. It is Rye Field Models. And they even got further, giving us 3 in 1 kit, with two versions of M1A2 – TUSK I and TUSK II and one for M1A1 – TUSK. The model will feature workable tracks, highly detailed sprockets, more than enough Photo-Etch, and great looking decal options. I really hope the decals will be easy to work with, because they are mandatory for an Abrams tank.

Both kits aim at the same customer target range, and even though Meng seem to have a slight advantage in terms of their established name in the business, Rye Field Models made their announcement with their second kit of Tiger I /with full inetrior/, showing that their aim is high in the sky. If their fit and quality of materials is similar to Trumpeter, Meng and other players, they definitely shoot to kill, and with such detail that they offer, RFM promise to ask for the King’s crown pretty soon.

The prices that they are showing are not high at all, and even though if the Meng and their kit are similar in quality, they are not equally available all around the World so I assume, that we will see many of those build and finished in very competitive manner, with a lot options exposed from the master modelers.

On the other side, Italeri kit features an engine in it, and I am pretty sure, that 2016 releases won’t leave that door open just like that, and very soon we will see versions with interior. Meng have done it with Achzarit and Bradley, showing two kits with and without Interior, and RFM offered Tiger I at first plain and simple, and then stunned the Tiger fans with Full Interior vehicle, which I might say brings only joy in the modeling world.

picture is taken from Armored Warfare site

I won’t be surprised to see another market key player to join Abrams race in 2016, because we already have seen this battle more than once. Not only, the tank is one of the best options in Armored Warfare online game, and I trust that gaming and modeling are now interconnected, so guess what will happen if the best tank in the game is opted as a scale model kit…

The top article image of the Abrams is from Tamiya website