[ A Better Artists Mannequin – SFBT-3: in depth review ]

Posted on January 15th, 2016 at 12:21pm

Before you ask, no sorry, mine SFBT-3 is not for sale.

This SFBT-3 review follows on from my original [A Better Artists Mannequin – 1/6 Synthetic Human Test Body: a review] post.

What is the SFBT-3

The SFBT- 3 (Special Fullaction Body Type-3) is a limited available posable Japanese figure by M-field (sculpted by Maeda Tsuyoshi). International sales are sold via Dolk Station. The SBFT-1 originally was developed over many years from a sketch.

It is not a toy for young children and definitely would be a choking hazard.

It comes pre-assembled using press fit (poly-cap) so the pieces just push together. It’s 30cm tall and boosts 80 joints. Their website states “We made it possible to move the doll with perfect freedom” which I feel is a fair claim. It’s entirely hand-made from light durable ABS resin which also makes it a bit shiny.

http://m-field.b.la9.jp/index.html (Japanese)
http://dolk.jp/s.f.b.t/en/ (English)

This review is quite detailed (and long, you’ve been warned =P) but I want to stress that the negatives are very minor compared to the overwhelming positives. The SFBT-3 is truly an unprecedented feat of engineering and grace. They are also prototyping the SFBT-4 with is a male body (androgynous at least) which might be something to look out for and could address some of the SFBT-3 niggles making it an even better art reference! But there is no indication yet about if or when the SFBT-4 might go on sale.

Why a mannequin?

Before people jump all over me about figures not replacing live drawing classes, scientifically anatomically correct books/figures and 3D programs/apps, I definitely agree, they don’t. Like I said in my first post, I see and treat this a “drawing aid” to compliment all the other ways to learn. Plus I’m really not a fan of the 3D posing programs, I find that it takes ages to even get close to a basic pose and lacks subtle nuance… however I can image programs will improve in time and I’m open minded to conversion hahaha.

How I got mine

It’s costly!!! I guess it depends, because I’m sure in terms of collectibles it’s reasonable-ish, but for a lowly artist like myself it’s painful.

I pre-ordered mine in July 2015 and it cost $300 USD (plus shipping which was about $21 USD to Singapore), but as of Jan 2016 it’s gone up to $320 USD + shipping. It takes about 1-2 months to make and ship so you have to be patient.

Even though I was lucky to buy the Synthetic Human Test Body in 2014, the SFBT-3 was always in the back of my mind. Thankfully they started to produce them again after an extended break due to problems with manufacturing. While stocks are limited, it is available monthly.

Ironically the Synthetic Human Test Body now seems extremely difficult to get, as far as I can tell 1000toys still mainly focus on conventions but sporadically take online pre-orders (best to follow their 1000toys FB page).

I digress.

1) Go to SFBT-3 international shop page here:

http://dolkus.com/detail.php?id=18697

2) Check the time & date

They go on sale around about the end of the month. On the listing page, a week or so before, they will state the upcoming time & date of the next opening. Check your time zone, it’s usually morning Japan time.

3) Register

I advise registering for the website before the start.

4) Wait for the button to change

When it starts it the button will change from “soldout” to “Add to cart” and the quantity left. For me the button changed 1hr 30mins later than the stated time but others suggest that on different dates it’s been opened on time. People also report available stock at least 2 hours after which is also my experience. I also have seen units available outside of the dates at random times in the month, I wonder if that’s when someone fails to pay or they have spares. You can order a max of 2 per person. It’s not clear how many they have every month, but I’m guessing between 15-20 but yeah hard to say.

5) Check out & wait for email (paypal) payment instructions

Once you checkout the pre-order you actually don’t pay up front but shortly after when you get an email to confirm your order and instructions on the next steps like payment (PayPal) & estimated shipping times (1-2months).

So it’s not impossible to get one, just have to be persistent and patient.

They also say that registered customs that buy the doll officially (not third party) and unmodified can have free repairs & maintenance for a year.

Another side effect of being in a collectors world is that people buy them up to sell on with jacked up prices which is painful considering it’s already expensive to start with. I don’t think it’s that hard to get hold of via their official website so I advice that way first, save yourself some cash.

[ Review ]

This review is from the point of view of it being an artist rather than a collector.

Packaging & opening

– It was wrapped up well for shipping however inside it was just standard bubble wrap. For the price you’d hope for cut foam inside, but I guess bubble wrap did the job.

– The SFBT-3  comes completely assembled.

– It came with instructions both in Japanese and English.

– It comes with a basic stand.

Proportions

The SFBT-3 proportions completely reflect that of the Japanese market and clearly a manga type doll. Below I’m mainly talking about height and key skeletal proportion points which I find more important than width proportions which change more per character when fleshed out.

Cons

– It’s “anime/manga” style is reflects in the large head, exaggerated facial features & eye pupil size.

– I can’t express how cringe worthy the breast shape, size and height are. I nearly didn’t buy it from this alone. I was able to carefully remove them but it looked worse without them so I put them back on (also warning that part of the breasts are glued so if you force it you could damage it and void your warranty).

– The shoulders are too narrow/close together so I feel the arms hang too close to the body. You can see the vertical lines where I’d like them and it’s obvious when comparing the 2 figures.

– The figures & thumb aren’t in portion but it’s forgiven as it’s clearly a limitations of how small they could make the joints.

– The neck is too long.

Pros

–  The proportions are roughly where I’d expect. This is ultimately what I’ve been looking for in a drawing aid mannequin.

Movement

It is quite durable, but I am definitely careful to not over extend the movement and even then occasionally things have popped out, but a quick panicked shoved you can push the joins back.

I have used the figure for about 3 months now. All I can say is the movement is crazy epic! It’s so natural to move I doubt I’ll ever want to try another 3D mannequin program again. Compared to the Synthetic Human Test Body, what sets the SFBT-3 apart is how it has been meticulously engineered to stop you moving the figure beyond natural human movement (mostly). I compared the movement to my own body because I honestly couldn’t believe it sometimes. Overall it’s range is very realistic.

They claim it has about 80 joints which seems creditable as I counted roughly the same. 30 make up the figures & thumbs joints.

Movement restrictions:

– The Feet & toes don’t point as much as I’d like which would have benefited dance & action poses.

– The knees don’t bend enough so the heel cannot reach the butt needed for sit kneeling.

– The beasts restricts some of the arm movement across the body especially as the beasts are far too high on the torso.

– The wrist joint is interesting as they have managed to incorporate a hinge & ball joint in one to mimic a ellipsoid joint, which is impressive. However there is a huge limit in the left and right movement (like when waving) which means some hand positions are difficult to achieve. But I applaud their effort.

– The connection between the wrist and ulna (forearm) regularly comes apart with just standard use even when following the instructions. This is the most delicate part of the model, take care!

– The eyelids don’t always stay open and they don’t fully close.

– The eyeballs themselves are only held in place with foam and needless to say they don’t sit in the socket that well. The eyeball direction can be changed, I just don’t touch them any more because it’s a pain.

– It can’t hunch/rise the shoulders as high as I’d like (e.g. holding a phone to your ear with your shoulder). I don’t find this too much of an issue though.

– Greater side to side neck movement is needed.

Movement marvels:

– The shoulder joints are great (despite the slight hunching limitation). Paired with extremely amazing twisting in the forearms the figure allows for very natural movement. It underpins why this model is amazing.

– Having the ability to move the fingers individually is invaluable. You can even interlock the fingers with some fiddling. It stands apart from the Synthetic Human Test Body which only had interchangeable hands.

– Bending the back and torso is very realistic. Most figures you can’t bend forward naturally, so the way they have designed the collapsing of the torso is simple but cleaver. Think Iron Man torso armour.

– The hip & thighs expand well outwards but also collapse meaning the thighs can touch closer, making it easier to cross the legs.

– The fact the SFBT-3 has shoulder blades is a nice touch. The fact they also move when the arm is lifted reflects the overall attention to detail which goes to show this is no normal figure!

Posing

My first impression of holding the model was that it was super light (100g) compared to the Synthetic Human Test Body (170g) making the SFBT-3 feel fragile. It’s held together so far after 3 months with the main weak point being the wrist, but I now have lost that fear it’s going to easily break (and I have dropped it few times by mistake and has survived).

Posing is the primary reason I bought this, but I always remained realistic about what it might achieve.

Cons

– Easy to move joints (which is a pro), but also means it’s easy to accidentally knock parts out of place.

– The lack of weight can make finding the balancing point quite challenging via feel with standing poses. This also makes the model more susceptible to air movement.

– When posed without a stand, it can collapse under it own weight at times e.g. a knee will buckle, the ankle will not hold, the toes don’t help important balance, it definitely cannot do an unassisted hand stand (I tried, a lot lolz). I managed to get it to stand on one leg unassisted but it’s not safe. Two legged flat footed poses are best without a stand. This is where the Synthetic Human Test Body excels in it’s balance because the feet/toes really help poss. My advice is use a stand for more complex poses.

– It’s terrible at holding props. The finger joints aren’t stiff enough for a good grip and the arms normally collapse. I have manged to get it to hold extremely light objects and even then it doesn’t always hold.

– The stand clearly is an after thought as it is so basic it limits the potential poses.

Pros

– It is very easy, I might as go as far as say satisfying, to pose. As I mentioned, the shoulders, arms & hands make this a stand out item! So far it’s the upper body posing I use the SFBT-3 for the most.

– It excels at natural sitting positions (though not kneeling).

– The bending, twisting and arching of the torso really helps give the figure a natural feel.

– There are very few poses I can’t achieve. Even when it’s not 100% right it’s still helpful.

Other Notes

– I don’t put it in a case, dust loves it.

– There is something unsettling about the model. Maybe it’s because it’s flesh coloured and “naked” while paired with a skeletal feel and realistic movement. It has taken me awhile to not feel creeped out by it. But its skeletal feel is why it makes for a great drawing aid!

– The SFBT-3 has hair a clothing you can buy separately, it a poor selection.

Main Points

Main Cons

– Expensive and requires patience to get.

– The breast shape & height is close to unforgivable… almost.

– It can collapse under it’s own weight.

– Limitations in knee, feet/toe & neck joints make some poses difficult, but to be expected for a “doll”.

– Wrist often comes apart and is a design fault.

– Shoulders too close together.

– Joints feel a little loose with regularly used.

Main Pros

– To die for natural movement and posing.  If anything that should be the only reason you need!

– Excels at upper body and sitting poses (even considering the knee cannot bend fully back).

– If you are able to look past the breasts, head size & shoulder width, you’re left with a model that has useful skeletal “guide” for drawing.

Conclusion

I have not be able to find anything comparable for range of movement on the market! But the price can not be ignored either. A mannequin might not be essential for everyone so I really do advise you think close about your individual creative needs before shelling out so much.

After 3 months of use, I have saved valuable time rather than hunting for ages for specific image references. It has made me more open to drawing a wider range and more complex poses. It is great to be able to try out ideas before having to commit to a single line.

I hate to say it, while I love the Synthetic Human Test Body, the SFBT-3 hands down wins. Occasional the Synthetic Human Test Body comes in handy, but in general I pick up the SFBT-3 first.

There is no doubt in my mind, the SFBT-3 is going to be hard to beat! It has such attention to detail, flexibility, subtly and realistic movement. Though keep an eye out for the SFBT-4 that’s in development.

Every now and then I look out for new mannequins, but often new ones still seem as limited and unhelpful as those terrible wooden mannequins. I continue to hope someone out there creates a useful art focused mannequins for a mass market or someone with a 3D printers gives it ago… but for now I applaud the efforts of talented “toy” makers.

Update 3rd March 2017 – I don’t use it that often but lately I have noticed the joints starting to feel very lose. This model prob was never meant to be used for regular use. Since writing these reviews I have started to more people bring out models. So for the cost maybe it’s worth looking else where in terms of art tool.

___

This post follows on from my original [A Better Artists Mannequin – 1/6 Synthetic Human Test Body: a review] post.

6 Comments

  1. avatar JOHNSON JOSEPH ROZARIO says:

    I would like to have this one. This is the best mannequin I have ever seen. I live in India and its not available here (through online).

  2. avatar Kate says:

    The narrow shoulders really puts me off…they just look ridiculous. Looks bad enough to prevent me from purchasing…surprised they got that so wrong. Have you had to compensate for that in your drawings?

  3. avatar wohg says:

    sou do Brasil

  4. avatar erin says:

    Showing this to my spouse, she wondered if we could sand the breasts down. ;-)

  5. avatar erin says:

    Thanks for this – very thorough and helpful review!

  6. avatar Thomas Frotz says:

    Hello, do you know where to order exact this figure shown on this site? Can you provide a link of an online shop? That would be great. Many thanks in advance. Best regards, Thomas Frotz

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