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.

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Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Grant Mk.I – MiniArt #35217 In-Box Review

Intro

Grant Mk.I was a tank that was not very popular during the Second World War. Reasons for that are many, but from the Allied point of view probably the most significant one was the fact that Sherman appeared and send the Lee/Grant into obscurity. From general perspective, the tank was obsolete design from the get go and in addition to that there were plenty of German and Soviet tanks that gather a lot more interest, even to this very day.

Nevertheless, the Lee/Grant was used in more than one legendary battles and as a participant in those it deserves attention modeling-wise. MiniArt delivers a 35th scale kit line as of recently, which incorporates modern tooling, full interior and abundance of options, which are sub-divided into several packages. Here, we’re going to look at the Grant variant, which in my opinion is the most interesting one, especially due to its Africa campaign participation.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Boxing

Grant Mk.I from MiniArt /#35217/ is an InteriorKit, which is both exciting and scary. For that a little bit later. The box is thick and colorful, with a nice boxart, depicting a camouflaged Grant Mk.1, with its hatches open. Stowage is visible and both those fact are hints of what one should expect to get with this release from the Ukrainian company.

On the side of the box there is a profile depiction of the painting options included in the box. They are plenty and since there weren’t enough space to show them all, they were scaled down significantly. There are few with single-tone camouflage schemes as well as few with interesting dual- and three-tone camo patterns.

Inside, everything is packed within one big transparent envelope, which holds the sprues, the tracks /another envelope/, the photo-etch in a separate paper packing and clears and decals /again – another transparent envelope/.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Instructions

Grant Mk.I instruction sheet is the typical MiniArt booklet, with color depictions on the outside and black and white build-guide on the internal pages. The color part takes your attention to what is in the kit as features: positionable hatches, R975 engine, workable WE210 tracks, British stowage, etc. Alongside with those there are the sprue description and the color painting options for nothing less than eight different tanks.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

The instructions are clearly depicted and very easy to follow, but don’t let that fool you: this isn’t an easy kit to build and it is far from the capabilities of the regular novice modeler. Even though it looks pretty simple, there are myriad of parts to be installed inside and out and many of them are intricate and very delicate.

Each step features few, but clearly marked pieces to be assembled and when it comes down to larger and already built sub-assemblies, they are in shaded black and white depiction. That spares the confusion and eases up the process. However, don’t forget that there are a lot of interior painting to be done and some weathering too, which is the tricky part here. Again – not an easy build, despite the friendly instruction sheet.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Plastic

The plastic material of this Grant Mk.I is beautiful in general. MiniArt are from Ukraine, but they get their plastic from Western Europe and that is only because they are striving for quality above all. The engineering of the kit itself begs for that.

It is clearly visible, that with so many sub-assemblies, small parts and many molded details, there is no way around that. Being a producer of contemporary kits nowadays is very demanding both the on the production quality and the materials used. With that said, I must add that it is like that on the modeler’s abilities as well.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Grant Mk.I tank featured a radial engine, which is wonderful in my opinion. It is something different and on top of that radial engines always gives some additional room for super-detailing and interesting weathering. The elements of the engine are very nicely molded and with crisp detail all over. That of course goes for the whole model, but engine is the clearest example of the overall quality.

There are nice rivets, lines and texture all over selected elements, done with superb execution. Especially the texture, it has no competition what so ever in any other model maker. It is true that many companies provides similar features, but here it is spot on. The turret is a great example and it is clearly visible on the pictures.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

The stowage is another highlight of the kit. It is very close to resin material, although not that good. However, it comes with the kit OOTB, which saves money and is always warmly welcomed by modelers. In this particular kit, this is one of the greatest additions and shows how good and intuitive MiniArt are when it comes down to please their customers.  

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Tracks

Are the other thing right next to the stowage that can be praised highly. The lack of decent tracks for Lee/Grant as well as Sherman tanks was and is an issue for many and for quite some time. This kit comes with plastic tracks which are workable and even though tedious to assemble – should be appreciated.

Grant Mk.I tracks are simple, yet they need some assembly and are engineered with sub-parts, which will both prolong the building process and the weathering options. For some, long building process is not enjoying, but in general, armor modelers are fans of such experience. Maybe that comes from the fact that many repetitive parts comes with tanks that usually does not when it comes down to airplane modeling for example. Or maybe weathering similar parts differently is the key. Whatever the case, the builders will be very pleased here.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

PE, Decals, Clears

Photo-etch sheet is packed in MiniArt branded hard-paper envelope, which is both for protection and marketing. It looks great and with works perfectly. The PE sheet is long and very thin. In general, MiniArt’s PE parts are very delicate and you should be careful if you like to sand those pre-glueing.

The decal sheet is almost twice the size of the photo-etch sheet, which is not typical when it comes down to armor modeling. However, it is self-explanatory here, having eight different variants included. The producers is not MiniArt, but a sub-company which is again from Ukraine. And as we all know, some of the best decals come from Italy and Ukraine usually.

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

The clear parts were never of great interest to me when it comes down to armor modeling, but they are with the proven MiniArt quality and are relatively small sprue in this case. Nothing overly-interesting, and probably many will not use them at all. However, good job on that sprue too.

Variants

Total of eight variants are included in this set. This is unusually high number of different tanks, especially when we’re talking about a tank that wasn’t very famous. There are camo schemes that are single-tone and are very weathering-friendly. Alongside with those there are two- and three-tone camouflages. Repair and training unit tanks are included alongside warrior vehicles, but nicest impression makes the fact that Australian variant can be found as well. Pictures below should give you plenty of info that words won’t be able to, so enjoy:

Grant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale ModelsGrant Mk.I MiniArt #35217 Review DN Models Masks for Scale Models

Conclusion

All the written above does not mention the downs of this kit. There are there, you can be sure of it. For example, there is some flash on some unpleasant places that will require your attention and some work. Alongside with that, despite the vertical appearance of the tank, the interior space will cause a lot of grief for those who love to work with space. The tank is crowded and in order to exploit all that MiniArt embedded in this tooling, some suffering from the modeler is required.

That is part of the 21st century modeling though. In conclusion, the kit is superb and the best thing about it is that it is a small part of a long line, just like the T-54/55 that MiniArt delivered. It will be the best Lee/Grant tooling for years to come and it will be definitely the one with the most features OOTB of all the offerings in 35th scale.

It is not recommended for novice modelers, except maybe if you don’t go into the interior part of the assembly. With that said, for everybody else – it is highly recommended and with the price/quality combo here, it is a must for Lee and Grant fans.

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LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

LAP-7 Rocket launcher – Soviet’s interpretation of a Combat Ford

Historical note:

LAP-7 is built over a license-built Ford AA truck platform. Almost a million of those were built and used in various roles in the USSR. There is simply no surprises when it comes down to that truck, because you can find it in practically every role imaginable. LAP-7 was combat oriented vehicle. Resembling the famous Katiuysha, it bears some legendary signs typical for WWII era seen from the Soviet perspective.

Ford AA needs no introduction on the other hand. Neither this kit by itself. It is a continuation of a long line produced by MiniArt and for some time now. A line, with which modelers are very happy and that they embrace happily with each new release. The weirder - the better.

This is the latest release, #35277 and it seems that people are even happier with it. Especially if you count the reactions in the social networks. But there is no surprise in that fact. Because the tooling is really good and it comes as a great set. So let's take a closer look at it here.

LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

Boxing, Boxart and Instructions:

As with other GAZ-AA releases, the box isn't very big here either. It is part of WWII Military Miniature series and comes with grey sides and beautiful boxart. There is a LAP-7 firing, from what it seems to be a winter scene and a forest road. Exactly what the vehicle was made for. The first rocket seems to be missing, already fired probably, while the second is in the midst of its launch.

Very attractive and nicely done artwork.

Same goes for the instructions. Clearly depicted, without overcrowding with information, clarifications and what not. Despite the nature of the kit - being super-detailed and full with many small parts - the instruction sheet is perfectly understandable, even from novice modeler. However, the rest is not suitable for that part of the community. Some experience is needed for successful completion here. LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

Sprues:

Sprues are made from Grey plastic and are mostly the same ones that you get with the flat bed release from MiniArt. The kit features fantastic suspension, engine, gearbox and whatever you can think of, everything made from thin and flexible material. MiniArt are using nice plastic, supplied by Western European company nowadays, so small and intricate parts are not an issue, like it was before. I am mentioning that simply because this truck is full with small parts, especially on its suspension. Such detailing comes at a cost. There is no way around that.

LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

The sprue with the wheels is something that many love with GAZ-AA series from MiniArt. The wheels are separated into discs and if you glue them carefully, there is no need for aftermarket wheels, nor they will be anything that will come as a significant improvement either. The design of the wheels is very clever and I wonder for some time now, how come no other company haven't took that road yet.

The new sprues introduced in the kit are holding the rockets and the frame of the launcher, which sits on the top of the flat bed. The frame parts will require some proper alignment and patience while in the works. Not only that, but the texture allows for interesting weathering and one can truly apply himself working on the final look of the vehicle. All that thanks to the precise moulding and delicate work made from the Ukrainian model maker.

LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

There is a sprue with clear parts, which are very forgiving in my experience. Having built MiniArt's ambulance truck which is based on that very same vehicle, I must say that I dropped the ball with the clear parts more than once. However, never managed to damage the parts beyond repair. They can sustain harsh glues and not-so-subtle weathering too.

LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

Photo-Etch:

The PE sheet is not as big as the one you get with MiniArt's tanks, but it is with the same thickness. It is here mostly to add to the kit overall quality and contents OOTB, but frankly, with the precision that MiniArt demonstrate, even made solely from plastic, this kit would've showed similar detailing. For the photo-etch lovers though, MiniArt added a piece of metal. And as you can see from the pictures, it looks nice, even though it is not overly crowded and abundant in details. I trust that MiniArt added this not because they felt the need to, but because OOTB the kit have more complete and satisfactory look compared to a kit that will lack PE parts at all. Better have little than nothing. And that completes the contemporary look of the set too.

LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

Decals:

The decals are pretty much the same as the PE parts. In all my honesty, I believe that more people will choose to avoid the decals than to use them with this kit. Not due to the decal quality or anything, but because of the fact that this vehicle will look better with odd camouflage, winter scheme or a lot of weathering, than to show specific markings and information that most likely was lost at some point during its service career. With nearly one million built of the Model AA, it is highly unlikely that they were all accounted for and marked properly.

LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

Color Schemes:

There are two options included. Both are from 1942, one is from the Autumn period, other is from the Winter. Both are Red Army of course. Autumn vehicle is in camouflage colors, while winter one features partially winter camo, where one of the camouflage colors used during the summer is substituted with White. It is needless to say that the winter camo provides with a lot more options here.

However, whichever of the two you choose to build, have in mind that those trucks were so widely used /maybe not as LAP-7 specifically though/, that whatever camo scheme you choose to make, even captured vehiles - you will still be on the right direction. This is actually one of the highlights of this kit: you can go wild with camo schemes, weathering, battle damages or abandoned pieces. The only limit is your imagination. LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35LAP-7 Soviet Rocket Launcher MiniArt 35277 Review DN Models masks for scale models 1/35

Conclusion:

So in conclusion, this is another great release from MiniArt. One can make quite a nice collection with various tracks used in interesting roles and from the same manufacturer. Most definitely, this LAP-7 with its combat oriented purpose, will be one of the favorite options for WWII modelers.

The kit is absolutely sufficient out of the box and does not beg for any aftermarket, like most of the current releases from many of the competitive companies. Surprisingly, MiniArt managed to hit the soft spot again and present us with both interesting and obscure kit, which will be more than enough straight out of the box. And this is brilliant, simply because many modelers like to have all of those trucks with their versions, but they do not like to invest a lot in conversion sets or resin parts that are too expensive. So, MiniArt delivers. Again.

Highly Recommended for GAZ-AA lovers and Soviet WWII vehicles fans.

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IDF Armor top three kits today dn models masks for scale models

IDF Armor – The Best Three

IDF armor and aircraft are one of the most popular modeling objects nowadays. It has been a while since that became a fact too and the reasons are many. Mostly, because IDF are always at some point where tensions are high and quite often we see that in the news. Then, IDF vehicles are heavily modified and differ from the originals, making them distinctive and attractive. Many are into IDF modeling simply because they support Israel and that is their way to express their feelings and beliefs. Others – just want to deviate from the usual and take a road that is less traveled.

IDF armor

kits are many, but what I want to focus on is the top three that I came around in my modeling experience. I like IDF armor and airplanes for many reasons, although they are not my absolute favorites and by far. However, to be perfectly honest, the best armor kits that I’ve seen are IDF ones and I want to focus on those here.

From this article I will exclude the Doobi D9R, which I love and have built several from, simply because as a kit it is not that good. The fit has issues which are not many but at important stages, and the kit survived because of its specific charm, not because of its specific quality. It is a good kit but it won’t make my top 3.

All the kits in my top three I’ve tested and built, some in different variants, some exactly as described. What I found to be important is, that those kits comes as a very satisfactory sets and even though one of them requires a lot to be perfectly competitive with the other two, at the end it represents very fine replica in scale of the original thing. So, let’s start:

Number 3 – AFV Club Rochev / Doher:

My experience with this kit is by using the standard M109 and adding resin parts and aftermarket tracks in order to get the IDF version. Nowadays, both Rochev and Doher are available as standalone kits depicting the specific IDF Armor vehicles. Both of the options are great, but most likely both will require aftermarket tracks /at least/, so to be called “perfect”. AFV Club 35272 is the first one that became available and it is 1982 Rochev. Then, one year later, to the light came AFV Club 35293 – Doher version of the M109. Both of them are demanding and both can become real jewels in every collection.They feature nice goodies especially in the gun barrel section and with a minor additions they can be brilliant in any aspect. What I like about those is the fact that they are unusually looking, complex and aggressive vehicles, which,compared to any Zelda, Nagmachon or Doobi will grab your attention immediately. Besides as kits from modeling stand point solely they are very well engineered.

idf armor rochev doher afv club m109

Number 2 – MiniArt Tiran 4 Series:

This kit is my number 2 for several reasons, none of them that important. However for me, its complexity is a bit too much. I wouldn’t call it over-engineered, although many consider it being such. But the kit comes with and without interior and it is hard to resist the temptation. Then,you realize that you bought yourself a real challenge and not a joyride.

idf armor tiran 4 miniart tiran 4 sh 37029

MiniArt offer several versions and probably will continue releasing many more. I love their late options with the heaviest modifications, however any of the kits the Ukrainians offer are all - really beautiful. They have everything that you might want straight out of the box and they are not expensive either. Compared to the Doher / Rochev, Tirans are better in so many ways that I cannot begin to describe. Most importantly, they do not require tracks and in fact, their tracks out of the box are the best tracks I have ever seen molded on any kit out there. Abundance of options, 21st century kits and with upcoming versions which will satisfy many.

Number 1 – MENG Model Merkava III.D LIC:

This is it. The kit that nobody complained about, that nobody felt the need to buy aftermarket or alter. The set that represents very aggressive vehicle, which is contemporary and feature brilliant engineering, perfect boxing and it can be built by all kinds of modelers, no matter the experience.

idf armor meng model merkava III.D LIC 1/35

The packing is better than the other two by the fact that it is complex, but not as much as Tiran or Rochev / Doher, and in the same time does not feature intricate parts, which makes it good even for newcomers. While with MiniArt any newbie will be out of the game after a week of building, and with Rochev the interest might be lost due to some unusual complications in some specific areas, here such thing won’t happen.

From whatever angle you look at it, Merkava III.D is an IDF armor that is more attractive because it is a “mainstream” object. You can never gather that much attention on a Soviet Tank /even though modified/, nor howitzer, or at least not as much as you can get on a modern, specific and futuristic looking tank such as the Merkava III.D.

idf armor merkava IV.M meng model merkava 4

Why I chose that over Merkava IV from the same company? Well, because I like the III.D better. I haven’t tried the IV.M, but I am pretty sure that it is as good as this one I mention here. Want to add that I am not a devoted MENG fan either. I have built several of their kits and they have their flaws. Not like many that say that MENG are the best and this and that. They are not. And by far. But they are really good. And Merkava III.D is their highest achievement so far. Again, I trust that IV.M is as good as the III.D.

Why else? Well, I think of all those, Merkava feature the best packing, the best plastic and the cleverest engineering. Not by much, but still slightly better. Price-wise is good and what you need to do in order to achieve perfectly good results is just to follow the instructions. With MiniArt you can get that same result, but you need the experience. With AFV Club you can do it, but you need aftermarket.

With any of the three, you will have and IDF armor kit that is better than the rest on the market. Compared to some they are close, to others – they are miles ahead. But if you are IDF armor fan, you must have at least one of those in your stash or on your bench. They are all great and very highly recommended!

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miniart 37014 t-54-1 no interior dn models review unboxing

MiniArt 37014 – T-54-1 mod. 1947 – Plain and Simple

T-54-1 was the first production version of the T-54 and what was to become the one of the most recognizable and most produced tank ever - T-54/55. The dash 1 version was the first of the pre-production series. It was something like a prototype, but built in decent numbers. So pre-production or initial series is more appropriate to be said about that vehicle. Nowadays, turrets from T-54-1 can be found as a concrete bunkers /some at the Kuril Islands near Japan as well as some on Chinese border/ and probably some abandoned vehicles all around former Soviet Union. The bunkers, or so called "pillboxes" are the most popular, since many color photographs exists. The survivors can be found in the museums too. However, T-54-1 was rather unsuccessful attempt for creating a new medium tank, and it was quickly changed for the second prototype dash 2. Dash 1s were still in use though, although not much information is available. MiniArt already gave us the kit with the full interior of that tank and now they are giving us a more simplified and clean option - the one without. 37014 is for those, who wish to focus on the outside with weathering and exterior features, skipping the parts with the internals. The Sprues: They are made from the standard for MiniArt grey plastic material. It is flexible and pleasant to work with. This is the new plastic material that MiniArt are using for almost two years already. No troubles with the tiniest details and no cracks or defects. Interesting is the fact that even though the material is soft-ish, it is relatively sturdy and overall weight of the built kit is pretty decent. I have no clue what the consistency of the material is exactly, but it is enjoyable one.   The decals, clears and PE: Decals are not many and they look like Begemot. They are not the best out there but are with decent qualities and if you are careful working with them, no problem should be encountered. Photo-Etch sheet is very thin - as usual with MiniArt. If you are a fan of photo-etch, MiniArt is your game. They feature the thinnest PE parts on the market, which requires admiration. This sometimes is an issue for those who like to prep-sand the parts but I assure you no such thing is necessary, or at least not in most of the cases. So thin is good here. Very good! The Paint Options: We have one tri-tone camo, which was a demo version and two green ones. You cannot find many pictures of this tank of course, so three isn't bad at all. The summer camo scheme is great, although if you want to attach it to any actual vehicle, you fill find it hard to gather the proper proof of existence. On the other hand, the green ones are pretty much a standard for the Soviet forces from that era and this will float always. Winter option is also a possibility for those who like the techniques used. Tracks: As before, the tracks that MiniArt provides with their kits are purely awesome! They require some attention and devotion to make them look nice but its worth the effort. They are also workable. Not fully, but let's say adjustable - and this is for the skeptics. Even though they are not so workable as Friuls for example, they are way more nice in texture and I assume - accuracy. I like this part from the MiniArt T-series a lot. Conclusion: You've probably seen my reviews about T-series from MiniArt and you know my opinion. Recently, I gave you MiniArt 37012 - the other version without interior and I think for many this was the better option. Same goes for 37014. T-54-1 is great looking vehicle, but you can go more easy on the subject if you are not fan of the specific vehicle. Even if you decide to build the bunker station /pillbox/ with the turret of the vehicle only, you will still have enough from 37014 to do it and have a ton of spares from the kit. So in my opinion, for those subjects that are more obscure and not popular even among devoted fans - simple is better! Highly recommended!
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MiniArt T-54-2 DN Models Review 37004 tank

T-54-2 – MiniArt #37004 Full Interior, New Version.

T-54-2 tank is the first improved variant of the vehicle /T-54 tank/, featuring new wider tracks, different turret, improved armor in the front parts and it lacks the fender’s machine gun. The production started in 1949 and the T-54-2 was produced until 1951, when T-54-3, further improvement of the concept, replaced it on the production line. More than 1200 were built and were used with the Soviet forces, with no records about combat use. There is some information about its usage in some Middle-Eastern conflicts, but nothing that is confirmed. Just rumors. The Box: MiniArt T-54-2 is the second kit that the Ukrainian Company releases in 35th scale from T-54 line. The first one was the initial version – T-54-1. Soon it will be followed by more, but in this article we will focus on kit #37004. It is a full interior kit, packed in a nice big box, with orange sides. This was the first difference that I noted – before with T-44 and the T-54-1, the boxes were red on the sides, and now we have a new color, which probably might be used from now on with MiniArt’s kits. Opening the box, the neat arrangement is the first thing that catches the eye of the modeler. It is a deep one, with barely enough space for everything. That is the reason why MiniArt chose to pre-pack the sprues in separate bags. We have two transparent packages – one for the track sprues, which also holds one engine sprue, and one bigger – holding the larger sprues, the clear parts, photo-etch and decals. The instruction sheet: Instruction sheet in the form of a nice booklet is on the bottom and it is quite thick too. The quality here Is very high and can be compared only to Eduard and Meng booklets. We have color inside, as well as quality tank profiles for the marking options. Also clear depiction of the sprues and the paints to be used. As with the other T- series, the booklet of MiniArt’s T-54-2 features the build of the tank with all of its interior. That includes driver’s compartment, fighting compartment, complete engine and nice goodies like all the ammo and small details, plus active suspension. Sprues in General: We have a nice detailing on the underside of the fenders, featuring photo-etch parts and many other things around the whole build, which makes that T-54-2 one of the best kits available on the market. The texture on the turret and hatches is realistically represented, with welding lines nicely replicated all over the vehicle. Everything is thin and delicate, and requires attention. Another example we have with the track links. On the underside of those we have molded the production markings, which are so small, that you will need a magnifier to see them clearly and up-close. They will remain hidden behind the weathering probably, but in case you want to make a museum piece or not-so-weathered tank, MiniArt kept an option open for you. Fuel lines are great, thin and flexible enough. Made from the new plastic material that MiniArt is using for year and a half now. All small details too. In general, everything looks very promising! The Engine Parts: T-54-2, as T-44, T-44M and other nice MiniArt kits comes with an engine. Very cool one, with little- to no-room for improvement with scratch build. The V-54 engine here is something that you can easily take out of the box /and the context of the kit/ and build it as a stand-alone separate kit by itself. Not surprisingly, MiniArt sells similar engines as a separate item numbers. It is well detailed, all-round plastic piece of art, with all details needed to make a perfect replica of the real V-54 in scale. As suggested, you might complete the engine and install it into the built T-54-2 here, but in my personal opinion, that is the secured way to lose some of the details that comes with the kit out of the box. For me, hiding this inside of the engine bay, with that little visible space left is just a waste of one perfectly looking engine. I would better leave that aside, and close the empty engine compartment, just to show off that V-54 outside.   The DShK sprue: Here aftermarket companies lost the battle. Or almost. A very nice try with the gun made by MiniArt with #37004. Hopefully, not only with it. The gun has some geometry in real life and everything is spread onto one sprue with fine details and little to clean. Properly explained in the instruction sheet and how it should look from the front. That is very nice touch and the only thing I would’ve added is metal gun barrel for the tank and for the DShK. Even though the tank barrel is one-piece part. The Photo-Etch parts: Two thin sheets with almost 100 details on them. Especially nice are the engine meshes. They are very thin and you have to be extra cautious when sanding them if you ever decide to take that risk. Some other small parts like brackets or under fender details are there too. Maybe there could’ve been more, but for me that is plenty! Not many love PE details but nowadays this is a must and MiniArt’s T-54-2 has just enough for the perfect job! Decals and Clear Parts: Clear parts are not the most important thing when it comes down to tanks. Especially older models like T-54-2. Here we have a sprue though, crisp and nice, with periscopes and small details all over it and it is clear enough to use its transparency to brag about. However, we all know that in the real life those parts quickly become dirty and hardly visible on the vehicle, so in case you want to go down the realistic road, you won’t pay much attention to that. The decals of the T-54-2 are another not-so-interesting part of the kit. We have small blue-ish sheet with some small writings like “Fuel” and “Oil” in Russian, as well as some numeric combinations. Decals that comes from MiniArt usually are nothing exceptional and this sheet is like that as well. It isn’t Cartograf, so you cannot expect much from it. It will work fine probably, but I bet that a tank without any markings will do pretty much the same job for you. Marking options: We have 6 in total. They are all from the 50s. All – Soviet/Russian Green painted T-54-2, all with three-number combos on the turret. Some feature additional small decals, but nothing special. The problem with the marking options is that there isn’t much information about this T-54-2 in general. It was quickly replaced by the latter versions of T-54 and T-55 and soon after, T-62. So with such small produced numbers /for a tank of course/, it is no wonder that the marking options are almost equal in appearance and kinda boring. This isn’t anything else but a poor history keeping. Soviets, with their secrecy mania often neglected technological advances of the era, throwing the period into oblivion, not allowing proper documentation to be made. Especially for military stuff. Tanks for example… No pictures, no videos, or if any – the less the better! Conclusion: So we have 1007 parts. 899 from grey plastic and 16 from clear. The rest 92 are photo-etch details. We have active suspension, V-54 engine, one piece gun-barrel, wonderful DShK gun, full stack of ammo /for more than one thank if you ask me!/, full interior and wonderful tracks. Very nice stowage bag, better compared to the previous kits, beneath fenders details, even a shell that is to be placed in the loading mechanism of the gun! Positionable hatches, fuel lines etc. Not so high points are the decals and the marking options, but hey, you don’t get almost perfect kits every day! So I must only recommend this kit. With 1200+ T-54-2 built, this is not so rare tank and has its place in the history. With this kit, which is definitely the best in line of T-54, this is a must for every Soviet armour fan. The price is right and it is suitable for mid- and up-level modelers. Beginners will struggle, but that does not mean that some of the interior cannot be left aside. My verdict – 9 out of  10. Great job! You can get this kit here: MiniArt #37004
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SPG 155mm M40 from Tamiya

Tamiya is pushing itself back to the market, slowly but steadily. After their wonderful line of 32nd scale aircraft, 48th scale new tooling Tomcat and new tooling Sherman Easy Eight, they did a slight turn and made an M40 howitzer. It is 155mm howitzer, based on the Sherman tank, and the tooling is new, based on their Easy 8 new tooling from 2016. The E8 kit is superb with the only let down of tracks being vinyl. Tamiya released a vehicle based on the same chassis, using their already wonderful base, to provide with another kit, used mainly in different era - Korean War. Being experienced in building their Shermans, from M51 to Easy Eight, I must say that there is no flaws with those kits. So, there is nothing to wonder, when people are expecting the M40 to be flawless as well. As mentioned above, the vinyl tracks might be a problem for some, but the quality of Tamiya's kit proven, that there are no big issues with those. The great news here are that Tamiya is already releasing an upgrade set. The basic kit - #35351 - features photo-etch set. Although small, Tamiya M40 is in the high-end line already. In order to elevate it even more, Tamiya went further, giving us a Gun barrel set.
Tamiya M40 35351 new tool SPG US dn models gun barrel setpicture is taken from Scalemates.com
The gun barrel set features a wonderful gun barrel and shells. The barrel looks heavy, and it will be eventually tricky to install it and keep the balance of the kit itself. However, Tamiya are made in Japan and I doubt that the Japanese haven't think of a solution to that. Actually, they promised two different set - 12671 and 12671. I cannot tell what is the difference yet, but probably one will be more completed than the other or there will be oriented towards the Japanese and the International markets. The decals that Tamiya uses are kinda thick and we are all aware of it. So DN Models comes to the rescue here. In the shop - www.dnmodels.com - you can find allied stencils, which are pretty much the same as the markings used in Korea. You will find those usefull when it comes down to painting and weathering the vehicle. After all, it is a single-tone camouflage, and there are many tips and tricks to be used to make it shine, none of which are comparable with applying decals over it. All in all - Tamiya suprises again! A straight out of the well-known-path vehicle, just like their Su-76M released this year. This Tamiya M40 a nice add-on to any collection. Especially for howitzer fans like myself, the SPG is great news! Let's see what the aftermarket manufacturers are about to offer us! It is only a matter of time. Few months probably!
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MiniArt’s Su-85 Mid Production with Interior

MiniArt's Interior kits seems like the new hit on the market. They did the Su-122 and the T-44 and promised new line of T-54s. But what we are going to look at today is not a tank, but another self-propelled howitzer: Su-85. Again, Ukrainian company did their "Interior KIT" line here. That features a full interior, but not only that - it represents a completely different approach to the interior as it is. Other companies /mainly aftermarket/ did offer interior sets for different vehicles from time to time. Those are engines, gunner's compartments, ammo racks and ammo sets and so on. Sometimes they are made from plastic, but more often - from resin. Meng Model made a hit on the market with their Bradely Fighting Vehicle, and even though it seemed a bit overdone /or overcrowded/, people liked it and some very nice works emerged from that kit. Not many other companies tried it, however, interior is something nice and presents you with a fair challenge, especially when it comes down to AFV. But back to MiniArt and their Su-85: Su-85 is self-propelled vehicle, based on the chassis of the famous T-34 tank. It is a rather gun destroyer instead of a self-propelled gun actually. It is a development of SU-122, but equipped with D-5T 85mm gun, which made it more powerful unit, with capabilities to destroy Tiger I tank from around 1000m. Su-85 entered service in 1943 and saw some battles  throughout the war, proving the concept but also proving to be slightly under-armed. That led to Su-100, but that's another story. Su-85 went on with service history within Soviet Union /until 50s/ and it's allies, which used it for many years after the end of WWII. It saw other battlefields as well, and it gained a fair amount of respect. In total, around 2000 were built. All in all - SU-85 is a subject worth modeling! So, what MiniArt did is: The kit is in a crowded box. And I mean - crowded! Once you break the plastic bags and the order that's inside of them, it is very hard to put everything back and close the box. That was very typical for Dragon kits, but now you can see it all over the place. Sometimes caused by poor judgement of the box size, sometimes - as in Su-85 case - from the large number of sprues. MiniArt did a great effort separating all the details onto different sprues and even though this is a waste of plastic of some sort, creates an useful way for the modeler to arrange the whole build. The instructions are very clear, organized well and put in a nice and luxurious leaflet. The leaflet itself is very nice, better than Tamiya, comparable with Meng and ages ahead compared to Kinetic or Academy. MiniArt do improve a lot small things with their releases and slowly but steadily crawl to the head places in the industry. The camo schemes are not many, but I must add, that there are two factors that eventually led to that decision. First is the lack of picture material about this particular vehicle. It wasn't the star that T-34 was, so Soviets didn't payed much attention in creating a decent archive about it. Second one is the fact, that most of the vehicles differ solely by the numbering. Rest is up to the modeler. Hence, the decals feature all of the numbers so to create whatever number combo you'd might think of. Of course, DN Masking set for Soviet vehicles might come handy in this case, but also painted by hand letters and numbers would do. The plastic is flexible, there is enough detail /maybe even too much for my taste!/ and many many small sub-assemblies. The casings of the suspension are there, just like in their Su-122, the engine and the driver's compartment, as well as the extremely abundant ammo set placed on many racks inside of the vehicle. The engineering of the assembly is done in such a way that there is a chance for you to leave a side or two open, so to show off with what you've managed to enclose in that small space inside. Tracks are very interesting, because they are separate links, placed on two types of sprues. The detail is so fine, that even the moulding markings of the real thing are represented in scale. Not only that, but they are clear enough and it is a pleasure to watch them up close. All the bottom parts - tracks, wheels, active suspension and so on, is very detailed and it is a state-of-the-art thing. Engine is pretty much the same. MiniArt sell kits only with engines, so you might imagine how many small parts and goodies have we got here in the Su-85 kit. Of course, many of these can be left aside and the vehicle will look perfectly balanced and attractive with only the exterior built. But it is the nicest thing to have more and more options, especially enclosed in one box or as it is popular to say - super kit OOTB. This is definitely one! MiniArt did kept their price low and simultaneously provided perfect tracks, engine, ammo set /a huge one/ and all the rest of the interior. Many other companies tried and failed. Even Tamiya, who kept their prices low, started selling improved tracks or gun barrels as separate kits which led to the huge increase in the price. I find that MiniArts ratio for details-per-dollar is probably the best on the market. Hand to hand to that goes the fact, that their kits are not for newbies, but they can be modified to be - leaving the interior aside. But hey, this isn't only cost effective. There are no let-downs with this kit, except for the complexity which is a bit high. But this isn't a let down per se. So I can only say that this kit is one of the best on the market, although challenging. Highly recommended as all of the Interior Kit series from MiniArt! You can get this kit here: MiniArt 35187 Su-85 Soviet SPG with Interior  
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MiniArt T-44M – a step before T-54 and after T-44

MiniArt released T-44 just couple of months ago, and now they are putting out the T-44M. Not only that, but they have on the horizon T-54. Somehow, they followed the history steps in releasing those tanks, and we might be blessed to see them go all the way up to the Armata in the following years. Who knows... T-44M is a midpoint between T-44 and T-54. T-44M has elements from both of the others and sits in the history as a platform for innovation and implementation of the new features about to be used in the next generation tanks. T-54 is definitely a next generation medium Soviet tank, that's why T-44 remained somehow obscured in the history books, overshadowed by the propaganda concerning T-34 and the seemingly endless T-54/55 career and development. The main difference between T-44 and T-44M are the fenders, the fuel drums, the wheels /suspension in general/ and some invisible features like the gearbox for example. There are many more, but those are the ones concerning us in this thread here. MiniArt released T-44 with a number of different and beautiful camo schemes, including "What If"-s and presented us with a beautiful kit, featuring engine, interior, active suspension and more. What is important to be known is, that the -44M is visually different, and MiniArt were aware of the demand that will follow, after the release of T-44. So they did the M version as well. There are new sprues, most noticeable being the fuel drums, including fuels lines. Fuel lines were missing and important element of the T-series released from the other companies on the market so far. MiniArt corrected this, and also gave us all the bells and whistles of the -44M version. New fenders, new wheels and so on. The kit features less camo scheme options. This time there is no What-ifs, and only few 4B0 green vechicles, + one in winter camo scheme. This is more realistic representation of the T-44M. It was used mostly in training regiments and was away from public, so not much photo documentation is left from its service. That's what the camo schemes depict - training regiments, mostly towards the end of the service of the T-44M - around the 70s. Everything in done in a collaboration with AMMO/MIG, which guarantees proper color choice and hopefully historical accuracy. The thing that is not so nice about it, is that AMMO/MIG paints are not among the most popular within modelers, because they sometimes react not as expected and that causes some useless complications. On the other hand, they are good enough once you start using them regularly, so it is a problem which can be dealt with. Again, as in T-44 - the number of parts in the box is huge, and it is mostly because of the shells and tracks. Many parts are divided into sub -assemblies, helping showing off a partially damaged vehicle, and especially abandoned one. With all the interior and engine features, this is an easy task that MiniArt presented us with. A great gift from the Ukrainian company! The box is wonderfully done, luxurious, as well as the instruction sheet. Photo etch parts are abundant and the price is right, especially for a kit which is good enough OOTB even for the most pretentious out there. MiniArt did another great job. And even though they didn't put Interior Kit on the box, this is one of the new line kits starting to appear on the market, where armor is shown with the opportunity to build everything inside and outside as well. It is a hard job to make it, but once you do, the satisfaction is enormous! I truly hope that MiniArt will continue leading with such kits, and inspire companies as Rye Field Models and many other new comers with full-interior vehicles, letting you chose what to put in and what to leave out. The kit of the T-44M is very highly recommended, for its price, features and qualities. Looking forward for their T-54... You can get this kit here: T-44M MiniArt Full video review of T-44M can be found on my YouTube channel
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Su-122 Initial Production w/ full Interior from MiniArt

Su-122 is a Soviet self-propelled howitzer and assault gun, based on T-34 platform. 122 comes from the caliber of the gun, which is M-30S howitzer. That vehicle was requested by the Soviet government and Army command, based on the bitter taste that Sturmgeschutz III left with the Russians. They quickly understood, that such vehicle is a key factor in armored warfare, and started asking the designers to provide one. The official production started in late 1942, and continued until summer of 1944, by which time more than 1100 has been built. There were no official variants of the vehicle, but there were some differences in between the production periods, making three sub-versions of Su-122 – Early, Mid and Late production runs. So far, we had a 35th scale option for that SPH from Tamiya. However, the tooling of that kit is old, and obsolete according to the current stream of new and sophisticated kits. Although Tamiya have satisfactory results with their set, especially when It comes down to fit and accuracy, the market demanded a substitute for the Su-122. MiniArt announced their plans of doing one, and spared the public the complexity of the kit that they plan to issue. If you have modeled T-34, you would know, that this is a relatively small tank, and Su-122 is pretty much similar. Although lower in height. So it was a huge surprise when MiniArt announced that their first Su-122 kit will be initial production version with full interior. And by full, they meant “full”. The kit is surprisingly detailed, surprisingly crowded and probably will be a challenge for most of the mid-level modelers, not to mention the newbies to the hobby. It has everything: driving and gunner compartments, engine, armament, transmission and separate track links. Everything is done in a manner not seen before in a scale model kit in 35th, and probably only Meng Model’s kits come close to that. Some of the parts are small, but you shouldn’t have to worry, since MiniArt are using new plastic material for already about an year. It prevents unpleasant cracking of the small and tiny details, and it is flexible enough. Full interior kits are a challenge to be completed, and trust me on this one, this Su-122 will not be any different. It will require time and patience, but you will be very rewarded once you finish it. The tricky part is how you will be able to paint all the details, and this is what I personally find to be the biggest challenge of this kit. Speaking of this – somebody once said: if it’s easy, it isn’t worth it. So, yeah, MiniArt made it worth a lot! Instruction sheet is made from nice and luxurious material, especially the parts where the description of the camouflage schemes are. Everything is in color /where it need to be of course/ and the booklet is pretty thick. Inside there are 6 variants, one captured German and the rest – Soviet vehicles. They are made in collaboration with MIG/Ammo, which guarantees proper colors and knowing MIG, adequate accuracy. In total, the kit features 828 parts, of which 729 are plastic, 4 are clear, 95 are photo-etched. Overall assembly steps does not look intimidating, especially on the outside. MiniArt kept it design relatively simple, cleverly adding options for side panels or hatches to be left aside for showing off the insides of the SPH. This shouldn’t fool you, because the box is huge and crowded, but that is because of the way engineers thought it should be. In conclusion, I first have to add that the kit is first of a series, which will include Mid- and Late- versions of Su-122 and will sent Tamiya into oblivion, at least for the foreseeable future. Also, I have to ad that this kit is not for the faint hearted. You have to know your way around plastic, you have to have time and not rush anything, and some idea of engineering decisions while installing already painted parts /if that is the way you work/. After that being said, I must conclude, that this kit is a state-of-plastic-art piece. It has everything you need in a box, the price is right, the fit /knowing MiniArt/ should be more than decent. Soviet/Russian armor fans, gotta have this for sure, and in my personal opinion, every armor modeler who is interested in “what is the future” of scale modeling subject should have this one. This is poetry in scale, music within plastic. I highly recommend this, you should have it! You can get this kit here: MiniArt 35175 Su-122 Initial Prod. Scroll down for a full video review of that kit.
Thanx to MiniArt for presenting me with such a beautiful kit for review!
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