quality: a general impression.
The level of quality, in terms of accuracy and fit of parts, varies hugely because of the sheer number of manufactures out there producing kits in this scale. Some are very obviously committed to quality, whereas others seem to take a more casual view of what they are doing. The level of quality can vary even within a given manufacturer's range: where a particular release might cement that co's reputation as a 'good' producer, the next release can severely disappoint. It is difficult to buy based on a co's reputation alone; it is far better to buy based on the merits of a particular kit.

There is probably only one injection molded plastic kit producer in the world that could be trusted purely on reputation alone, and that is Tamiya. Even though they don't produce too many 1/72 kits right now, what they do produce is generally regarded to be the very best in accuracy of any brand. Tamiya clearly has a dedication to authenticity, and this is reflected in their across-the-board, consistent standard shown throughout all their large-scale kits. Many of Tamiya's kits, particularly in 1/20, 1/35, and 1/32; are regarded as state-of-the-art and a benchmark by which all others are judged. Their 1/32 scale range of jet aircraft kits is awe-inspiring. Likewise, Eduard has produced a couple of injection molded WWI aircraft kits in 1/72, and these are the best of their kind in the world, equivalent to Tamiya.

The best vac-form producer seen so far would have to be Welsh Models in the UK, and again they don't do many 1/72 models at all, but they have promised an expanding range, and a close inspection of their 1/144 th scale kits proves their dedication to accuracy.

The best resin producer is difficult to gauge, but would probably be either Aires or Czechmaster/CMK. Their mouldings are very crisp, rivalling injection-molded plastic components for finesse. The degree of accuracy and consistency in quality is high.

Hasegawa would be next after Tamiya as having good consistent quality throughout its range of injection molded kits in all scales. There is the very occasional odd lemon, more so with their older generation toolings, and their decals leave alot to be desired, but they do have a comprehensive range of well-researched 1/72 kits. As everyone has seen, however, their prices are sky-rocketing, and they are fast developing a reputation as being one of the least value-for-money producers in the world. For some strange reason they continue to release older toolings that have been superceded by newer more accurate toolings in their own range, so it is important to become familiar with the kit you plan to purchase to avoid disapointment. This particularly applies to their F-4's, F-14's, and F-15's.

All the other manufacturers tend to fall pretty much into the 'ho-hum' basket, but there are the occasional bright stars. Italeri is unquestionably the best value-for-money producer in the world right now. They have a very up-to-date range of modern military aircraft types, and their decals are the most crisply printed you'll find anywhere. In fact, the 2 co's they use, Zanchetti and Cartograf in Italy, print the most crisp decals you'll ever see, even if the colours are a little incorrect in hue. Revell GMBH now uses these two producers as well, and occasionally their kits contain some of the finest decals ever seen in a commercial kit; I have bought several of their kits purely for the decals alone.

Revell GMBH stands out as having the fastest improvement in quality over time than any other major commercial manufacturer. Over the last 10 years their determined

dedication to improvement has seen their product line transform from being 'toy-like' kits for kids to offering some of the best; on a par with Japanese producers and in some cases surpassing them. There is no question that they now produce the finest 1/144th scale kits in the world, some of them having an equivalent level of detail to 1/72 kits. The decals released in some of their latest 1/72 kits are absolutely superb, as good as or better than aftermarket decals, with beautifully crisp legible printing in solid opaque and accurate colours. The box art is now probably the best in the world, surpassing that of the great Shigeo Koike due to the smooth gradations of colour shading, an aspect not found in his paintings for Hasegawa.

What is frustrating about Revell GMBH is that the quality of tooling is not consistent. Their Sea King kit is the finest you will see anywhere, but their long-awaited Fiat G91R left alot to be desired. Buying 5 straight off the cuff as soon as they hit the shelves, then seeing the shortcomings and rushed tooling in this kit when I opened one of the boxes left a bitter taste in the mouth to say the least. Revell GMBH seems to be using two sources of tooling, and one is not nearly as skilled as the other. An interesting development is that Revell GMBH has started reboxing Hasegawa tooling under their own brand. A combination of Hasegawa tooling, quality Italian decals, and the current fine Revell box art, will most likely represent the equinox of quality unlikely to be equalled in 1/72, and it is thus strongly recommended that collectors focus on these editions.

Aircraft in Miniature Transport Wings range of 1/72 kits deserves special mention because they are very courageously producing the only range of modern airliners available in this scale in the world, and they are very accurate kits, if a little crude.

Revell's range of modern AFV kits in 1/72 scale are currently the best of their kind.

High Planes Models in Australia are to be congratulated for giving us a unique and marvelous range of 'unlimited class' pylon racers; a fantastic and most welcome idea, although one or two Japanese firms are now making a tentative foray into this area as well.

The best 1/72 aftermarket decal producers in the world would have to be without a doubt Leading Edge in Canada; for quality, accuracy, documentation, and value for money. A relatively smaller range, but what they do is the best of its kind. An absolutely viceless product and wholeheartedly recommended. Albatros in Mexico are impressive, but their product is marred by high prices and mistakes in the instructions. Daco & Astra in Belgium are very impressive as well. There are many others that offer a sound product: Three Guys Replicas, Aeromaster, Eagle Strike, Aztec, Max, Sky, IsraDecal, Dutch Decals, Two Bobs, & Yellowhammer, to name a few.

The single greatest complaint that could be levelled at decal producers is inconsistency in the accuracy of colour reproduction: eg- the shade of blue used for French national insignia will vary on each brand of decal, even within the range of the same producer.

There is now a proliferation of aftermarket decals printed on ALPS or laser, and the modeller is advised to tread carefully with decals of these types, as they offer inferior colour reproduction in almost all cases compared to traditional screen printing. For more details on printing processes, click here.

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