Tuesday 12 January 2016

FansToys FT-11 Spotter Review (test shot)

fanstoys spotter review

Twas two nights before Christmas, that the lovely people at TFS Express dropped a test shot of FansToys FT-11 Spotter onto my door step.

Spotter is FansToys latest release and is an homage to Generation One Decepticon voyeur Reflector, a character who Takara and Hasbro have little love for.

Instead of just doing a stand alone review, as I had originally intended, this article will compare and contrast it with the Maketoys Visualizers who not long ago I was casting loving glances at, besotted with an integrated transformation of the camera lens that seemed like witchcraft.

Three weeks later there have been opinion changes with wallet shattering consequences.

Remember this is a test shot and may feature issues not found on the final figure. Please keep that in mind and hit the button below to see the full Fanstoys Spotter review.

fans toys ft-11 spotter in camera mode

There's something strange about taking photographs of a toy camera that looks better than my actual camera.

As an SLR camera from the 80's, Spotter in alt mode is very much on point to Generation One Reflector whom rocked this mode when on covert spy missions or the Decepticons needed to see further into the distance and a pair of binoculars wasn't to hand.

fanstoys spotter and maketoys visualizers camera modes

Neither Spotter nor Maketoys Visualizers are notably cartoon accurate, or even reflect ...errr.. Reflectors vintage toy, which meant both companies had scope to produce vastly different looking toys, achieving very different things as they did.

Colour selection for both contestants for the MP Reflector crown is the same but using non of the same shades. Spotter entices with it's demure escalating hues of Purple, and the Visualizers make my stomach rumble with the look of an Emo Oreo. 

Where Maketoys stuffed the Visualizers with all manner of features, there are no squishy buttons, tripod mounts, molded buttons or fake LCD displays on Spotter.It's a bland Blue brick with a mounted lens and loosely attached flash that it is damn proud of.

fans toys masterpiece reflector transformers

The robot mode heads peaking up mirror the original Reflector toy and can pass as buttons for display value if you are so inclined, but I am super in love with those little face shields. FACE SHIELDS!


The back of the camera mode is just flat packed robot parts there's no camera stuff here to speak about just a couple of chests and poor bent up robot anatomy. Personal taste will dictate which you like but neither stands over the other with Maketoys giving you features and FansToys offering you subtlety and cartoon accuracy.

As cliched as it sounds, and I feel a little queasy for even uttering it - but your mileage will vary.

fanstoys spotter maketoys visualizers camera comparison

Harry Spotter manages to compress more than the big Viz which leads to a  distinctly more trim form when stacked against Maketoys squatter, chunkier effort. Understandable given the individual component robots are slightly taller, and slimmer than their Maketoys cousins - the alt mode maintains this same visual look.

Funny that for all the features Maketoys threw in to the Visualizers, Fanstoys Spotter ends up looking more realistic simply due to it's more pleasing aesthetics and shape. Both are evidently toys but Spotter has that all important feel of being closer to a real camera.
It means a lot.

fanstoys spotter transformers masterpiece

Perusing many of the photos that have popped up online over the last couple of months I had long since reached the conclusion that Spotter as camera was bland and a little dull. Maketoys spoilt me with all that vibrant colour and the novelty features that did such a great job appealing to my inner child.

Once physically in my hands however, Spotter clicked with its shape, dimensions and feel which all achieve what it sets out to - impersonating a real camera. It was as Steve Austin would say a "come to Jesus moment" where something I'd seen so many times caught me by total surprise and made me reevaluate my prior held opinion..

It may not have the bells and whistles of the Visualizers but it doesn't need them to produce a strong alt mode with great aesthetics. Whoever designed this had only one aim and that was to make a clean and unassuming  alt mode which is exactly what a spy such as Reflector should do.

fanstoys ft-11 spotter group reflector

None of the bending panels or weeping caused by attempting to fold a lens back into the robots body that you found with the Visualizers rear their heads here. FansToys have fashioned something more streamlined, intuitive and focused purely on getting you from one mode to the other in the least difficult way possible. 

There's some cool tricks to be found in the transformation, don't let me miss-sell it and even  the shutter on the central bot slides upwards in a serendipitous bit of symmetry with the Visualizers

Perhaps the designer finished up, thought it was too easy so went back and threw in a grenade of a step to mess you up, since there is one exasperating piece of the transformation that has absolutely no need to be there. 
Flip the backpacks over and it will reveal a small rotating piece that is there to fill out the back pack. This piece has to be rotated in a very specific fashion or it will pop off and the clip will sink into the back pack and need to be fished out with something pointy.
It's hard to see what the reason for doing it this way is as there's dozens of easier ways to achieve the same thing.

So 95% great, 5% evil. It's the kind of thing that could drive A Lad Insane.

each of the included faces that come with spotter

In G1 terms, what we have here would be Viewfinder (washing machine chest) whilst his cohorts would be Spectro and Spyglass were we basing them off the original toy where each possessed their own distinct look and were afforded unique personalities. Sunbow did away with the individual characters for the cartoon and used Viewfinder as the basis for Reflectors animation model, giving him the ability to create clones of himself to bulk out the generics in the Decepticon ranks. 
FansToys took their inspiration from the cartoon leaving little doubt that this is just Reflector - I'm just going to go ahead and name mine Harry, Ron and Neville. 

No third party company appears to want to homage the original toy over the cartoon - would that be too niche a market within an already niche market?

Cheerily interchangeable faces offer a way to give each their own personality and the three this test shot came with make each appear quite cheeky, like the Silver faced Beastie Boys.
The final toy will apparently come with 9 faces, 3 for each of the individual robots whether that is 3 of the same faces for each figure I don't know but I hope not as it would be nice to be able to mix it up with other less charming expressions.

FansToys cop a lot of grief for their face sculpts  (Grenadier excepted) and the ones here are not bad, they do a good job of capturing Reflector but those trademark duck lips still put in an appearance. 

"Clearly fame isn't everything, is it Mr Spotter". 

(Anyone else read Spotter in Snapes disgusted voice?)

ft-11 spotter fans toys review

It is easy assume Fanstoys Spotter is more cartoon accurate than the Maketoys Visualizers owing to the more natural proportions, shape and muted colours all combining to produce an idealised version of Reflector. These guys are all about the aesthetics, it's their defining factor.
Compare them with the actual show models and you may be surprised to learn that the Visualizers are far more on point to the animation model. Shocked me that did.

Over 30 years, we have gradually become used to seeing the vintage characters repeatedly updated, with modern aesthetics revised. Often this is subtly done and we don't fully recognise the changes to the original design leaving our imaginations to fill in the blanks to make us think a character looked a certain way when they didn't. 

That is what FansToys have done here in modernising Reflector in low key fashion that you may not pick up on until you start Googling around and comparing. They just like right and it is hard to pin down exactly why that is but they do feel like this is Reflector should look.

fans toys spotter vs maketoys visualizers

The duller Purple and Grey used on Spotter is cartoon accurate compared to the more vibrant, higher contrast of the Visualizers. Even ignoring that, I still prefer the colours on Spotter as they remind  me less of a pack of Chewits (I like Chewits).

Wildly different is how I'd describe the Green on the chest with Maketoys giving us a gorgeous, vibrant clear Green plastic with all sorts of tech detailing beneath the surface. This is one thing I do prefer about the MT toys as it is just really pretty, forget all pretensions to match an old tv show - it's just a really beautiful looking feature.

Different shades of the same signature Reflector colours then, which create a big difference in what they say about the figures. The Visualizers scream toys while Spotter smugly proclaims he is above that sort of nonsense and wishes to be left alone to plot schemes.

battle between spotter and the visualizers

There's tons of articulation built into Spotter, a pretty easy job to achieve considering all three basically just transform into simple blocks. Long arms give him a better range of motion that opens up what you can do in terms of posing and is much needed when you consider the larger weapons they have to be able to wield.

Where the Visualizers score a big win is in the feet. Yes, Spotter has ankle tilts but as proficient as there are going outwards (you get a complete 90 degree tilt) there's zero backwards tilt and the forwards tilt is on a tight, square hinge that snaps with no mid range to the movement.
It's either flat, or comically far forwards - naff all in between.

For a test shot the quality control is mostly great and the plastic quality is excellent. Very tight joints are all able to move smoothly and only the flaps on the back of the two identical bots legs are loose. But those are reaaaaaally loose,  hanging from the back with no pegs or plugs to secure them in place and the joints are not tight enough for friction alone to keep them in place.

Conceivably that should just be an issue with this test shot, being as it is an easy thing to fix.

fanstoys spotter guns

Three small pistols are included and bear an uncanny resemblance to the Power Rangers guns. On this test shot they don't all slot in properly as the tabs are slightly too big (or the holes slightly too small) yet the hands are tight enough to ably grip them securely.

No gun storage exists for them in any mode which is a little disappointing given how much effort has gone into making sure all the parts from the camera lens and flash do stuff. Maybe I could run a bit of string through them so they can wear them like medallions to complete the Beastie Boys homage.

ft-11 fanstoys spotter guns

FansToys chose interesting way to deal with the extra lens and flash pieces left over from the camera mode, completely divorcing itself from Maketoys cleaner technique of folding the lens in the body and having the flash just flip open to reveal a missile array.

Rather than just being shoved off to one side it's far more functional with every part breaking down into a weapon or something that hides a weapon. You have a lens breaking into three pieces with the largest piece forming a massive laser cannon complete with a screen/display/guard. We aren't talking about one of those tenuous "add a peg to it, call it a gun" deals, nah, these clever fellows have taken on the challenge and there's a barrel that pops out as well as a rotating panel to suggest it's a giant laser Tommy gun.

Capone would've loved that.

the guns which form from ft-11 fans toys spotters camera lens

The flash itself splits into 5 pieces with each part recycled to fulfil a function in both modes. Two parts containing the filament combine with the remaining pieces from the lens to form dual light cannons. Whatever a light cannon is. Have I made that up?

Handles slide comfortably into hands but it's the addition of a small,sliding peg on the back that corresponds with a slot on each of the bots forearms. Spotters individual hands don't have to bear all responsibility for the weight of the cannons and you gain a more secure fit with the weight distributed slightly better.

fanstoys spotter vs visualizers

Also coming out of the disassembled flash are two sheathes containing Rambo style bowie knives, which can bolt onto the legs of any of the three robots. One final, remaining, blocky sheath is the Transformers equivalent of a lunch box. You raid the good stuff out of it, then just leave it somewhere out of the way to go play Football in the park.

If Fans Toys had included a tiny Thermos accessory I would have popped loudly.

When the final product is shipped out to retail I am hopeful that the instructions tell you where that piece is meant to go because it feels like it can go somewhere, Each of the side robots backs have space for it and the pack itself has small peg holes that give the impression it can attach to someone.

fanstoys spotter vs maketoys visualizers

The knives themselves are sharp and pointy with clean silver paint coating the blade and giving it an extra menacing glint. I don't recall Reflector ever going Rambo and using bowie knives in the G1 cartoon but as a small group of Decepticon stealth commandos having access to melee weapons makes a lorra lorra sense, as Cilla would say.

Standard Masterpiece-a-like pegs are present on the handles but on the test shot they are too big for the matching slots on the hands. That is something that I would expect FansToys to expect as it's pretty significant and would spoil what is otherwise a high quality package.

mini reflector fanstoys spotter

The final accessory that is included in the package is a small non transforming Spotter - scaled satisfyingly for Masterpiece hands. Recently Takara and third parties have been stuffing all kinds of little extras from the show in with their figures and this is a great addition to that list.

At this size there are no features, but you can remove the flash and there's a tiny Reflector head underneath. When he transformed and shrunk down to camera size in the show Reflector did not have a flash attached so it's accurate if that is what you after.

I prefer to think of Tracks and co dazzling themselves in their eyes because they forgot to turn the flash off.

fans toys masterpiece reflector compared to seekers

Fanstoys Spotter carries itself with the air of a Masterpiece Transformer without the official badge. It has the finish, the paint, the supremely smooth but tight joints and a transformation that is intuitive with one glaring exception. It is a figure designed first and foremost with the intention of fitting seamlessly into your Masterpiece display but with no compromises on quality even if it can appear a little bland.

Reflector is not the most "sexy" character choice yet he holds a unique place as one of the original Transformers -but both Hasbro and Takara don't have appear to have any interest in tackling him again.
Fortunately third parties can't get enough of him (I think this is the 4th attempt, with another in the pipeline) and this is exactly the sort of character I wish they would focus on producing, this the ground third parties should occupy. Give me those characters, the  obscure, background and unloved who Takara is probably never going to find time or effort to release - where is my Masterpiece Triggerhappy?!?!

If you are looking for an answer as to which is the best Masterpiece Reflector of the two shown in this article - I can't choose. Both are such vastly different approaches to the same character that shoot for and achieve different things it's tough to pick one over the other.

I've pre-orderd Spotter, but you can't go wrong with either set.

Please do remember that this figure is a test shot so may not be reflective of the final product. 

You can order Fanstoys Spotter, and many other transforming robot toys from TFS Express thanks again to them for providing me with this figure to look at

Please check out and like the Toybox Soapbox page on Facebook where you will find extended photo galleries of all the toys on this blog

You can also follow us on Twitter @ToyboxSoapbox , or press the +1 button on this page to follow us on Google Plus

Songs I listened to whilst writing this article: Wu Tang Clan - Tearz

No comments:

Post a Comment