For many years now, Iwata has been providing to world with some of the highest quality airbrushes, compressors and airbrushing supplies. Recently, Iwata has launched a new marketing campaign to help individuals understand not only what Iwata has to offer for airbrushes, but a simple guide called “5 Ways to Spay” to help the consumer identify the correct airbrush for their skill and needs.
In this review, I will be taking a close look at one of Iwata’s new kids on the block, the Eclipse HP-SBS. The Eclipse line of airbrushes falls squarely in the middle of Iwata’s “5 Ways to Spray”.guide. When looking at this guide, the HP-SBS should provide the user with capabilities from fine detailed spray lines to wide coverage. In this review, I will be taking the HP-SBS for a little test drive to see how it preforms, but first, let’s take a look at the airbrush itself.
Eclipse HP-SBS Model No. ECL3500
The Eclipse HP-SBS comes packaged inside a sturdy, slip-top box which has and outer sleeve showing box art of the airbrush and descriptions as well as a contents listing on the back and a small graphic defining where this airbrush sits on the “5 Way to Spray” guide. Inside the box, under some included paperwork, we find the airbrush nestled inside a sturdy foam insert to keep all of the parts included with this airbrush secure. The included paperwork, there is a quick start guide, and Iwata sticker and a small piece of paper which is apparently a test card for this airbrush proving the airbrush was tested prior to packing. It is hard not to give a smile upon opening the box once the shiny chrome finish of this airbrush comes into sight.
The Eclipse HP-SBS is a duel action with side feed cup capabilities. For those of you that my not know what a duel action airbrush is, this is an airbrush that requires two separate actions to allow the paint to flow through the brush. The first action would be by depressing the Main Lever, often referred to as the trigger, which allows airflow from your air supply. The second, or duel action, is when you pull back on the trigger which allows paint to flow combining with the air giving you your spray capabilities. Both actions work together to give a proportioned mix of air and paint.
As I briefly mentioned earlier in this review, the Eclipse HP-SBS has a polished chrome finish. Also mentioned earlier, this is a side feed airbrush which this means that the paint cup is located off to the side front of the brush. With the HP-SBS, there is actually two options for positioning the cup; on the left or right side of the airbrush. The cup itself is 1/8oz (3.5ml). Iwata has provided a friction fit plug with a knurled tip that fits into both of the corresponding orifices just after the tip of the airbrush. The cup itself has the same friction fit to its feed tube to allow not only a secure fit to keep the cup in place, this also allows you the ability to swivel the cup depending on the orientation of the airbrush while using it. The needle provided with this airbrush is .35mm and designed for both heavy paint and thinned, fine, application.
Included in this kit, Iwata provides a small wrench (spanner) and a small tube of Iwata Lube. The wrench is for removing Cap which holds the nozzle in place. The nozzle itself is a self-centering brass nozzle which is a fine feature allowing the user to escape from the threaded versions which have the potential of snapping off inside the body of the airbrush. The Lube provided is used to lubricate the needle and air valve assembly.
Fighting the urge to slap on an air hose and give this airbrush a run for its money, I want to get familiar with the airbrush first as well as add some lubrication; as it is always the best course when starting out. While you do not need to completely field strip the airbrush before using, I have found it best to break down the airbrush to get acquainted with the brush and its parts along with making sure all the parts are secured firmly together. The Iwata Eclipse is extremely easy to breakdown and maintain. The cup and corresponding side feed plug, simply pull right out and are interchangeable. The single cut handle to the brush unscrews from the body revealing the back end of the needle and needle chuck. Unscrew the needle chuck, and the needle is free to slide out. Once the needle is removed, you can unscrew the spring guide which houses the spring and hold the needle chucking guide. Once the needle chucking guide has been removed, the trigger is free to be removed. The only thing left to disassemble is the head of the brush. There are four main parts to the head of the airbrush; Needle Cap, Nozzle Cap, Cap and Nozzle…in that order. There are some O-rings on this airbrush, and these will need to be periodically cleaned and/or inspected for general wear and tear. In addition, and one step further in the breakdown process, the side feed paint cup can also be disassembled. The bottom of the cup has a knurled cap that can be removed. Under the cap there is a Teflon gasket that is removable. In a nutshell, that is basically it to the field stripping of this airbrush.
Before reassembling the airbrush, I is always a good idea to lubricate some parts before using. Fortunately, Iwata has provided their own Lube for this job, if you have your own lubrication, feel free to use it. Iwata documentation suggests lubricating the needle and air valve. One small drop on the needle is all that is needed for this part. Once applied, simply use your finger(s) to move the Lube over the needle including the tip. Please be careful at this point, as airbrush needles are not only extremely delicate, they can be extremely dangerous due to the sharp tip. One drop of oil can be placed inside the air valve from the outside prior to connecting the air hose. This will help keep condensation from working against the internal parts of the air valve as well as keeping them all in working order. Personally, I like to add lubrication to any threaded connections in the brush as well as areas where there are exposed O-rings while the brush is disassembled. A clean, well-oiled brush…is a happy brush!
The first thing I noticed as I was getting ready to test the Eclipse HP-SBS is its balance. The HP-SBS feels light in the hand and the overall balance is evenly distributed across the airbrush. I did not notice to much shift in weight when switching the cup from the left to the right side. This is excellent, leaving only the “line of sight” being the deciding factor (for me) when using this airbrush. Personally, I do use my airbrushes with both my left and right hands, typically, the latter is my dominant choice.
After placing the cup into the right side of the airbrush, I did need to add a male fitting for my quick disconnect air hose. Since the threads on the air valve is a standard 1/8 inch NPT, the fitting screwed directly on without leaks. With the air supply added, a few blasts lets me know the airbrush is ready to go and I can pop some paint into the cup and play!
Normally when trying out airbrushes for the first time, I like to use a number of different brands of paint to give me a well-rounded look at how the airbrush responds. However, for a number of years now, I have been using Vallejo’s water-based acrylic paints when painting my personal builds. Unlike solvent based paints (Tamiya, Alclad and Testors), water-based acrylics (Vallejo, AMMO by Mig, K4 & Life Color) can be more difficult to use for some modelers due to the quick drying effects of the paints. This results in a couple of issues that everyone has run into at one point or another; tip clogging resulting in drying or “spitting” is the bulk of complaints I have heard. The airbrushes that are being used can also play a factor in how the paint responds while painting. In the past, I have found that “some” of Iwata’s airbrushes tend to be the commonality when fielding troubleshooting questions online and at model shows about clogging. In my experience, where I would inform people to set their air pressure to 15 to 18psi, with Iwata airbrushes, I recommend that people use at least the manufacturer’s prescribed settings of 20 to 25psi. This typically solves the majority of all problems with acrylics.
For this review, I chose to use Vallejo’s Model Air for the bulk of this test drive. I did shoot a few solvent based paints through the brush, just to test them, and the result was as to be expected…smooth operation with no clogging. Switching over to the water-based acrylics, in short, I noticed exactly the same results! The Eclipse HP-SBS preformed magnificently. As I mentioned, I used Model Air from Vallejo. While Model Air from Vallejo is airbrush ready, personally I like to thin my paint allowing me a little more control over application rates. During this test drive though, I did use the paints straight out of the bottle as well as thinning.
To begin with, the Eclipse HP-SBS preformed like a dream. At first,I was able to lay down a multitude of applications on paper from fine 1/8 inch lines to a full coverage coat; the result was a smooth operations and a clean application. Next, I took the gloves off and popped a coat of black primer on a model I have on the bench. Again, the result was clean and smooth. There was no evidence of spitting and I did not experience any drying of the tip.
I wanted to see how this airbrush preforms with a lighter approach, as well as with a more detailed application, I thinned some Model Air (1 drop of thinner for about 4 drops of paint). As seen on the “test card” that Iwata provided with this airbrush (and presumably with all of their airbrushes), I was able to lay down a controled 1/8 inch line that was consistent, and without any clogging. This, is impressive. In fact, the HP-SBS preforms as well as its cousin, the HP Plus. The HP-SBS has the ability to fill the wide range of needs from fine detailing to wide coverage.
Clean up after using the HP-SBS is extremely easy. Earlier in this review, I discussed the field stripping of this airbrush. In a few simple steps, the airbrush breaks down allowing access to all the internal parts that require cleaning. The self-centering brass tip is large enough that it can be handled easily…even with my sausage fingers. I suggest using a combination of water, airbrush cleaner (whichever proprietary brand is for the paint you are using) and/or warm soapy water to clean the airbrush. Stay away from any harsh chemicals/solvents, such as acetone, ammonia, etc., as these may damage the small O-rings and/or the brass parts. In addition, I will suggest investing in Q-tips (buds) and soft bristled brushes to avoid scratching the inner parts while cleaning. These scratches can wreak havoc when trying to clean your brush in the future.
After having this opportunity to use the Iwata Eclipse HP-SBS, I can confidently say, this is one of the best airbrushes I have used in a while. I have a number of top-end airbrushes in my arsenal, and the HP-SBS preformed at the same level as my other airbrushes…if not better. The action is smooth and allows full control over the paint being introduced through its double action. I found the balance of this airbrush to be excellent. At first, I would have thought that the side-feed cup would set the weight of the airbrush off slightly, but I did not notice any difference in weight distribution. Personally, I did not notice to much in the improvement of "line of sight" with the cup position off to the side, as I normally do not sight my work down the length of the airbrush. I certainly can see how this is an advantage to anyone who does..
The friction fit to the cup allows the user to ability to position the cup in any configuration depending on how the user is holding the brush while using. One of the finer points, for me, is the ease at which the airbrush breaks down for cleaning/maintenance. The only item I found that this brush might need, is the preset handle allowing the user to use the built-in stop in the handle to control the maximum draw to the trigger while introducing paint. This is not a deal breaker by all means, since I rarely use this option…but if the option is so desired, they can be purchased for around $44 USD (£34.99 UK). The overall cost of the Eclipse HP-SBS is moderately priced around $184.00 US (£175.00 inc. VAT), Which appears to be a super deal when you factor in the quality and performance of this airbrush.
I finish up this review by adding my recommendation of the Iwata Eclipse HP-SBS airbrush. This airbrush sits squarely in the middle of Iwata’s “5 Ways to Spray” listing. This means that this airbrush is an excellent choice for just about anyone, as it adequately handles wide spray applications for priming and full coverage as well as finite detailing…and this is all done without braking the bank when it comes to cost. There are several options as well as accessories that can be added; such as bottle attachments, quick disconnects, larger cups, the preset handle and more. All of which can be purchased through Airbrushes.com. In closing, whether you're looking to take your airbrushing tools to the next level or you are simply looking for a reliable and high quality airbrush you can rely on, I would suggest checking out Iwata’s Eclipse HP-SBS. you won't be disappointed.