Academy 1/350 Bismarck
by Guido Hopp, Düsseldorf, Germany
On the market for injection mold plastic kits Tamiya has set a standard of quality, every other maker has to compete with. Not only is Tamiya’s quality top shelf, but the prices, too. Finding economical alternatives in 1/350 has been difficult so far. Cheaper competitors like Revell would not be able to live up to the quality standards of authenticity, accuracy and fit of Tamiya.

In an unexpected onslaught Chinese manufacturers have invaded the German market during the last few months. Out of pure curiosity last week I bought an Academy's 1/350 Bismarck. As well, Academy's 1/350 Tirpitz was available. Both their retail prices were just above Revell's and considerably lower than Tamiya’s 1/350 kits. 
Will Academy be a match for Tamiya?

The first impression is quite nice. In a very Tamiya-like way of packing a one piece hull, a three piece deck and various plastic bags present themselves to the viewer.
Click the images
below to enlarge
The instruction is printed in English. The front page shows a portside view of Tirpitz (!) and the general paint instruction (for Bismarck). The painting instruction is limited to a starboard view of the Bismarck showing her famous camouflage scheme. The colours given here are not referring to any specific brand. The rest of the instruction seems to be in fair condition, showing the construction and placement of the parts and units quite clear.
The decal sheet for the Arado floatplane seems to be acceptable while the flag sheet is a sad joke (there’s no way of using it!)
The display stands provided with the kit, is coming in pretty trashy brass imitation.
The hull is about 1 1/2 scale feet too short, but we do not want to be counting peanuts here. Molded lines indicate the position of the waterline. The keel shows a reasonable molding seam. Additionally there are some molding seams in the area of the shaft channels, that wont be easy to cover up.
The three piece deck fits well onto the hull. The main deck sections show the usual out of scale plank structure. Molded anchor chains and details lack the crispness of the Tamiya counterpart. On forecastle and quarterdeck parts the sprue has been removed already, but the decks have been dented slightly in due process. 

The centerpiece of the deck is in fair condition, showing a reasonable amount of flash.
Seven of the eight part-frames are marked “Bismarck/Tirpitz”, indicating that the difference between these two will be restricted to one frame only. Interestingly enough, some parts for motorizing the kit are provided in the parts-frames, even though there is no socket for battery placement inside the hull and no extra bag with metal shaft, switches and propellers. As well the assembly instruction doesn't indicate any hint in that direction: So it seems to be a either a knock-off of the Tamiya kit or a licensed copy.

The parts are in fair condition, showing a minimum amount of flash.

Considering the possibility of being a copy, I wonder , that the detailing of the parts is scarce and some completely out of proportion.
Same as the mid level price, we get a mid level quality product. There is definitely a lack of crispness to the model. Usually, when I open a Tamiya box, I can't stop myself looking at the parts and details, getting all excited to start a new project. This feeling escaped me on this one. As a novice to the Bismarck, I can't tell about authenticity and accuracy.

I guess, the Academy Bismarck is a nice one to start the hobby without investing too much money into the first trial. On the other hand, given enough patience, time and some aftermarket products this grey chick might turn into a swan. Still, if I invested in the aftermarket products, wouldn't I want to have the best possible foundation to place them on?

A personal statement:
During recent weeks and months there has been a discussion on this and other pages about the costs of developing a 1/350 model. Knock-offs (…and I guess this one isn't fully developed by Academy) heavily damage the markets for inventive model suppliers. I recently talked to Mr. Pöpcke, owner of HP-MODELS (Germany). He strongly complained about the knock-off flood coming from the far east, saying that he stopped his wholesale to some far eastern countries, because his products would be copied instantly and there was no way of getting any legal protection, let alone compensation.

We should not forget, that a lack of commercial success will stop the inventive makers from supplying new models for us. I am left with the hope, that you will keep away from these knock-offs, supporting the companies truly investing and inventing to make our hobby more multifarious.

Guido Hopp
Düsseldorf, Germany