The second in Eduard's series of 1:32 Bf 109E's has arrived in the shape of the 'E-4. Armed with 20mm cannons in the wings and with the later square-type canopy, the 'E-4 represents the definitive Emil version in many people's eyes.
The kit arrives in an attractive and solid top-opening box (a good job too, because some kind soul had managed to punch right through the corrugated cardboard package containing it somewhere on the way to London!). Despite this rough treatment, all the very well-presented contents arrived intact. The new kit comprises:
152 x pale olive styrene parts (plus 10 unused)
8 x clear styrene parts
52 x etched metal parts, including pre-painted instruments and seat harness
A sheet of die-cut painting masks
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
As you'd expect, the bulk of the parts are identical to Eduard's original Bf 109E-1 reviewed HERE
. The moulding is generally nice and crisp, but with just a hint of light flash here and there. Once again, the only sink marks I could find are at the wing roots where the undercarriage attachments are moulded on the inner face, and these are very shallow, taking only a moment or two to take care of. The surface finish is very impressive, with lightly engraved panel lines and subtle embossed rivets, while fabric surfaces have ribs tapes (a little heavily represented).
The first obvious difference between this and the first release is an all-new wing sprue containing parts with the prominent underwing bulges for the 20mm MG FF cannons and revised access panels.
A test fit is pretty good. The main parts are quite thin with a tendency to flex, but actually line up very well. The underside half of the new wing has a slight downward droop towards the tips, which is largely countered by the top panels, but I think I'll still add a "spar" made from a toothpick or something similar to be on the safe side. Interestingly, the fit of the fuselage/wing joint seems to have been adjusted compared with the 'E-1; the roots are tighter, but this time the I did find a gap at the rear joint on the underside that will need filling.
The other big change for the 'E-4 is the inclusion of the "square"-style canopy, and Eduard offer a choice of opening sections, with and without head armour, a separate armoured windscreen, plus a second windscreen with the hole ready drilled for Galland's distinctive telescopic sight. The parts are thin and crystal clear with crisply defined frames. The sliding panels in the main canopy are neatly represented with handles on the inside, along with the clear view panel on the windscreen.
There's seldom been a case where a new kit has become the centre of such an uproar prior to being widely available. All this largely over the canopy, and accusations that it is too tall and thin, with members of the Hyperscale forum queuing up to lambaste the kit, and Eduard equally staunch in its defence.
Of course, reading any criticism inevitably colours how you view something; if you're looking for faults, you'll probably find them. While I certainly wouldn't count myself among the so-called '109 Experten, the kit canopy does look a tad off.
On the height issue, there seem to be two things going on which are probably responsible for the original impression that the canopy is "too tall:
1. Compared with photos, the horizontal frames on the opening section seem a bit narrow, making the vertical side panels seem tall and thin. Beefing up the horizontal frames isn't hard for anyone with a little experience and makes an instant visual improvement.
2. Perhaps it's something to do with tension from the moulding process, but the main section matches the windscreen and rear part at the top, but is marginally narrower at the base. Carefully slicing partway through the canopy inside the top corners (a tool like the recently reviewed RB-SAW
fitted with its ultra-fine blade is ideal) will allow the sides to be eased slightly. This is best left to experienced modellers, but of course it's a moot point if you pose the canopy open (as many modellers will) to display the interior detail.
So, is the canopy also slightly narrow at the top? After holding it against dozens of photos I think it probably is, but I won't really know for sure until I get a chance to measure the windscreen on the '109 at Hendon one day.
The acid test is how serious a problem it is. Although some of the harshest critics are declaring the model "fatally flawed" (if ever there was an over-used phrase in modelling...), 95% of people buying the kit would probably never have picked up on the canopy issue if there hadn't been such a fuss. Of course, I'm in a lucky position in receiving a sample gratis, but if ask myself whether it would put me off buying the model, the honest answer is no.
The etched frets are basically unchanged from the first kit, with excellent pre-painted parts for the main instrument panel, consoles and seat harness. A nice point to note is that Eduard have modified the nose radiator cores (the originals were too deep and required trimming to fit).
Instructions and decals
As we've found in the course of our 'E-1 On-Line Build
, Eduard's Emil isn't a kit that "builds itself". While I've hit no major problems, it does require a little extra care ensuring everything is lined up correctly and a little adjustment now and again. So, good instructions are important and Eduard's are very clearly drawn and laid out in a logical sequence, with colour matches for Gunze Sangyo paints.
The one real "trap" of the 'E-1 has been addressed; this time it's made very clear that if you build the model with the engine and nose guns installed, you won't be able to fit the cowlings over them. (Actually, while on that note, I would like to see Eduard add an engine "blank" for the closed cowling option to overcome the empty look through the air vents.)
A large stencilling guide is provided, along with full-colour profiles for the 5 featured colour schemes:
A. "<- -", W.Nr. 5344, flown by Maj. Helmut Wick, Geschwaderkommodore JG2, France, November 1940
B. "Yellow 10", W.Nr. 5587, flown by Ofw. Fritz Beeck, 6./JG 51, France, August 1940
C. "Yellow 13", Lt. Josef Eberle, 9./JG 54, The Netherlands, August 1940
D. "< -", W.Nr. 1480, flown by Oblt. Fritz von Werra,Gruppenadjutant II./JG3, France, September 1940
E. "<- -", W.Nr. 5819, flown by Obstlt. Adolf Galland, Geschwaderkommodore JG26, France, December 1940
The decals seem to be excellent quality. 2 sheets are provided; one for the national insignia and unit markings, and a second with a comprehensive set of stencils. The items are thin and glossy, and the carrier film is crystal clear. Swastikas are included in two forms; full and sliced in half.
The furore over the canopy and other perceived issues has to some extent overshadowed the release of this kit. Whether it's down to unrealistic expectations or a bad case of Schadenfreude, it almost seems to have become a "punchbag" that it's fashionable to take a swipe at in some quarters. That's unfair, because no kit is perfect and Eduard's Emil is a huge advance over previous attempts in this scale in almost every way. I'm left thinking that some modellers would be hard to please with anything; for them the only good kit is the one that's yet to be produced - anything else is a disappointment for some reason or other.
In the end, only you can decide how much of a problem the canopy is for you. Aftermarket alternatives will no doubt appear, but I expect by far the majority of modellers will be perfectly happy with the kit parts. Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly enjoying building the 'E-1 and I confidently expect the new 'E-4 to build into an equally impressive model.
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