As soon as I heard about the upcoming release of this set, I knew I would have to review it, even though by now it's already been reviewed at least twice on Eurobricks. Being a proud owner and reviewer of the original 2001 release 3451 Sopwith Camel, I've been looking forward to seeing how today's version compares with its now elderly relative.
I was fortunate to attend a presentation by designer Jamie Berard at this year's Eurobricks Event in Billund, in which he showed prototypes of the new Camel and his solutions to various problems. He described two main complaints with the previous version: the undercarriage, which was difficult to build, and the decals, which as I explained in my review of 3451 are often named as the epitome of STickers Across Multiple Pieces (STAMPs). In this review, we'll focus a little on Jamie's approach to these issues, and also highlight the remarkable new play feature of this set - the moving ailerons and elevators.
Review: 10026 Sopwith Camel
Name: Sopwith Camel
Price: GB £79.99 | US $99.99 | EUR 79.99 - 99.99 | AU $129.99 | CA $129.99
Recreate your very own piece of aviation history with the historic Sopwith Camel. This detailed replica of one of the most recognizable British single-seat biplanes ever to have graced the skies. Features include a realistic rotating propeller and engine cylinders, hinged tail rudder, realistic tension wires, functioning wing ailerons and tail flaps that can be controlled from the cockpit – just like the real plane! The detail doesn't stop there; this authentic model has over 880 bricks, including rare dark green, dark tan and metallic silver elements.
- Features include a rotating propeller and engine cylinders, hinged tail rudder, functioning wing ailerons and tail flaps that can be controlled from the cockpit
- Includes rare dark green, dark tan and metallic silver elements
- Recreate a piece of aviation history!
- Turn the propellers and see the cylinders rotate!
- Model measures over 15” (40cm) long and has a wingspan of over 19” (50cm)
Click for a larger image
The nicely-proportioned box features the familiar air-force blue stud pattern which graces the entire Exclusives range. The massive wingspan of the plane barely fits, even diagonally; this angle is really the only way to capture the true majesty of this set, and include the wings, engine, and fuselage, as I found out when making the title picture above. A small inset reveals the models dimensions: 40 cm long by 50 cm wide (16" by 20" for the Yanks ).
The aircraft's second best angle fills the rear of the box:
Click for a larger image
This shot from the port side aft gives the best view of the fuselage, and of the working control surfaces. A faux-walnut panel, lined with antique brass, fills the lower end; with its circular fittings I guess this is meant to represent the Camel's instrument panel, though the two gauges seem to have smaller LEGO Camels crashing through them . It's an interesting way to highlight the the features; I'm not sure what the keyhole is for.
Atop the box is the obligatory set inventory; in the absence of figures, a wheel is used for the 1:1 scale demonstration:
The inventory has a bright sky background, making the parts a little easier to see than on some CREATOR boxes, for example.
Further photographs of the plane from various angles are displayed on the box sides, which are sealed with tape rather than glue, and allow repeated opening and closing of the box without ripping the cardboard. The bottom gives the expected multi-lingual Small Parts warning, part provenance, and a surprising advertisement for The LEGO Club on this AFOL set.
10226's box is considerably larger than her eleven-year-old sister:
The newer set is double the price, but allowing for the effects of inflation this is probably reasonable considering there are 50% more pieces in the 2012 version. How this translates into increased box volume is for some clever person with too much time on their hands to work out.
Out of the box fall the bagged instructions, and ten polybags:
There are no numbers on the bags: no modular construction to make things easier for us AFOLs. Two of the bags are identical (centre-left and front-right); the two bags containing the larger plates are made of a softer plastic. One of the bags containing the smaller pieces had split (or had a factory defect) meaning there were parts loose in the box; fortunately, no parts seem to have been lost.
Even AFOLs aren't spared the horror of the screaming Gagne Kid. I couldn't even manouevre the sticker sheet to cover his demonic features this time.
Cardboard backing is included - it's a must for these expensive collectors' sets. My cardboard had a large crease down the centre potentially rendering it less effective, but the instructions and stickers seem to have survived unscathed.
The two booklets each sport the same cover as the box front. Booklet number 2 is thinner, and has slightly lower quality paper, and there's a noticeable difference in colour: look at the blue stud pattern at the top of each.
Inside the front cover, we launch straight into Step 1: there's a palpable lack of any patronising instructions as to how and where to sort your parts. In the absence of any command to the contrary, I naturally chose to build my Camel whilst bungee-jumping from the Eiffel Tower.
Sadly unlike those of her elder sibling, 10226's instructions feature no interesting sketches or schematics behind the instruction steps; just the plain blue with yellow surround normally found on CREATOR sets. Perhaps it's no bad thing: the steps are logical and clear, without the issues of colour differentiation which plagued the earlier set. Small sub-builds abound, as seen in this shot, and as we'll see later, there is even pictoral advice for how to tweak the moving control surfaces.
Aside from the screaming kid advertisement at the back of manual 2, and a VIP scheme and LEGO Club promotion at the rear of manual 1, there are no set advertisements at all throughout either booklet. Only the usual inventory pages occupy the penultimate page and inside rear cover of book 2: See Page 1 and Page 2 on Flickr.
Decal Sticker Sheet
Grumble grumble stickers grumble groan. Of course there would be stickers in this set. The big Royal Flying Corps red, white and blue roundels are such a necessary feature, and I'm sure people would be complaining if LEGO had tried to brick-build them (see the mini-Camel). So I can't really complain. Let's have a look at them:
The sticker sheet looks smart, and is certainly simpler than 3451's extravagant array. Jamie Berard said that this set would address the STAMPs problem of 3451 - how was this achieved? We'll have to wait for later in the review.
The absence of modular construction at least lends itself to a more succinct review of the parts. I've divided the pieces by polybag, into (roughly) large, medium, and small.
The five larger bags yielded the following pieces, and two smaller bags:
I suspect the quantity and variety of earth green plates will get many people's pulses racing! The four 8x16 and sixteen 2x16 plates are new in this colour, as are the four 6x6 tiles and 3x3 round corner plates. Also unique are the reddish brown wishbone arms (they came in old brown in the 2001 version), the Technic 1977 steering wheel in black, and eight 4x4 macaroni pieces in metallic silver.
Not rare, perhaps, but interesting are the numerous 1x4 plates with ball hinge, and their respective 2x2 sockets; we'll see how those are employed in due course. Also worthy of note are the strings, which come in two lengths: 41L, and the shorter 11L. I understand that LEGO string is made by on outside contractor, and is very expensive to produce, so existing strings with established lengths were used in this set.
The smaller parts selection is dominated by the 63 (sixty-three) 1x3 tiles in earth green.
Note the collection of various incarnations of SNOT (Studs Not On Top) brackets over centre-right: the brand new 1x2 SNOT plates sit next to the old 2x2 bracket that dates back to the early days of Classic Space.
New also to this set are the double-curved 1x4 slope in reddish brown, and the much desired dark tan 1x1 bricks; the 1x4 dark tan bricks (in the first photo) are also new, but feature in even greater quantity in the Friends Summer Riding Camp.
Finally, the two little baggies from the first parts picture don't quite get forgotten:
There's a little Technic, but less than you might expect. Most notable are the eleven 1x1 round tiles in pearl dark grey, unique to this set at the time of writing.
Parts Verdict: A lovely selection of of rare and useful parts in the earth tones make the set a great parts pack.
Unlike the original Sopwith Camel and its contemporary, 10024 Red Baron, which employ very similar build processes, 10226 is built very differently. I've arbitrarily divided the build into three sections.
We start with the lower wings: a sandwich of large plates, with many earth green tiles forming ridge detail on the upper surface.
Now a little plate-built structure to which two of the 41L strings are attached is placed on a tile in the centre. This will form the basis for the aileron mechanism. I've left the strings in their tapes for now.
Immediately in front of this is a small 2x2 bluish-grey string reel - a part that will look familiar to anyone who has ever built Ikea furniture. At the moment, it's just sitting there.
Next, an orange Bionicle tooth is placed upside-down between the cheese wedges of the aileron mechanism...
... its axle connects to the ball-jointed mechanism shown here, forming the control stick. Moving the stick from side to side rotates the orange tooth, thereby sliding the plate/string construction in the opposite direction to the stick's movement.
Pushing the stick forwards and backwards moves the black steering arm in the opposite direction; this will allow movement of the elevators.
The mechanism is now buried as contours and detail are added to the engine section and cockpit, and the base of the pilot's chair is formed, like in the 3451 Camel, from window grilles on jumper plates.
Now we turn to the fuselage. A stepwise construction of dark bluish-grey plates provides an upward slope towards the tail:
Onto this go two arch window panels, and through them is fed a Tecnhic liftarm in what must be the second most interesting use of these pieces I've seen. (Sorry, Jamie, but the award for the best use goes to the roof detail from the Town Hall modular. )
This section clicks onto the back of the engine/cockpit area, and the white liftarm connects to the black steering arm ...
... giving us our first inkling of how forward/backward movement of the control stick will be transmitted to the elevators.
Using a technique that will be very familiar to owners of the original Camel and the Baron, or anyone who has ever built an X-Wing, the sides of the fuselage are made from an attractive combination of dark tan and dark bley:
Again the bottom is stepped upwards towards the rear; note the light bluish grey cheese wedge, seen from the back in the port side.
The fuselage sides are added, and strengthened with some tiles:
You can see the clips inside the fuselage: white from the sides, pointing inwards, and bley from the centre pointing out. I don't know what they are for; they don't connect to anything. Possibly to prevent too much pressure if the fuselage is squeezed from the sides?
The horizontal stabiliser and elevators are added, and we get to see how the ball-joints are employed:
This is mounted onto the rear of the fuselage, and the third 41L string connects the elevators to the end of the white liftarm:
At the moment, the string is pulling the elevators quite sharply upwards: more on that story later.
The fuselage is completed with a nicely-curved roof section, and we can see the upright part of the pilots chair has been completed:
Some clippy pieces form the struts that will support the centre of the upper wing. Talking of which:
The upper wing is a sandwich of plates like the lower wing, but note the hole and wedged recess in the centre, and the notches at the outboard front surfaces.
To the underside of the wing are attached the wishbone struts, some more 11L strings ...
... and some ball sockets.
The upper wing is placed on the plane, and more ball sockets are added to the base of the lower wing:
Now have a look at the front end of the fuselage, where you can see some bluish-grey and black tecnhic plates with axle holes.
These allow connection of the undercarriage, which, unlike in 3451, is build as a separate module:
Although it too bases the undercarriage design around the wishbone piece, 10226's solution is vastly different to 3451's. Used in this trapezoidal formation, the wishbone parts aren't rigid: the whole will flop from side to side. In 3451, two steering arms were used as cross-supports to keep the shape rigid, but they weren't true to the original plane, and were very tricky to attach.
Jamie's solution is ingenious. There isn't a part that will connect the inner of the two technic holes on the wishbone pieces together at this angle, as the distance between them isn't an exact number of studs; so, the two suspension springs are used as they can be compressed to the correct length. Magic! Looking at it, though, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the plane itself therefore has suspension. It doesn't.
The only downside to this technique is that the plane doesn't sit quite so stably on the undercarriage as 3451 does - it tends to wobble a little.
There remain only a few fiddly bits to build. First the ailerons, two for each wing; the upper wing on the left and the lower on the right:
The lower ailerons have an extra ball plate to allow placement of elastic bands; the upper have an extra 2x3 plate on the top surface, which we'll encounter again before too long.
The tail fin is a simple brick-built structure topped with slopes ...
... while the movable rudder uses clever SNOT-work to allow the red, white and blue stripes to be brick-built - unlike 3451's tail fin, which used stickers and didn't move.
Finally, we build the engine and cowling, propeller, and guns:
Here the engine cylinders are made from stacked studs topped by 1x1 round tiles; each attached perpendicularly to an octagonal bar-frame plate. Technic gears keep the cylinders at the correct angle. The axle fits into the 'Ikea' string reel piece mentioned earlier.
These parts are attached to plane, elastic bands are attached, some string-trickery is employed, and the model is completed!
Or is it...?
The final instruction page in the manual gives direction on how to tighten the long 41L strings to get the control surfaces working properly:
With the control stick central, twisting the string attachment studs tightens the cable, bringing the ailerons level. It isn't pointed out, but in this diagram (from the instructions scan download from Shop@Home) you can see how a similar technique has been used to tighten the other string in the bottom right of the picture.
This is all well and good, but when I built mine, this is what I found:
The strings are so taut that both ailerons are pulled up, and the control stick doesn't move at all. I suspect that this is due to differing lengths of the long string piece; mine must have come out of the factory a little shorter than intended. Or, it is possible that the string will stretch over time.
Anyway, we can't have the flagship feature of the set not working. After some experimentation, here's how I solved the problem:
Removing both the 2x3 plate from the top, and the black stud from the SNOT rear panel, allows the aileron to sit nicely level with the control stick central. Super.
Now let's turn to the elevators.
With the control stick neutral, the elevators sit roughly level; however, 'neutral' for the control stick is actually slightly forward. Pulling back on the stick raises the elevators, as expected, except that 'back' on the stick isn't very far back: look in the cockpit in the right-hand pane to see what I mean.
Because the 'neutral' position of the stick is actually slightly forward, there isn't a lot of leeway for pushing the control stick further forward.
In the left-hand pane, I've push the stick as far forward as it will go, and as you can see this simply returns the elevators to level. I can push the elevators further down by hand, as in the right hand pane, but I can't get them into this position by pushing on the stick. Ideally, the stick needs to rest in 'neutral' further back than it does.
I eventually solved this problem by reattaching the elevator string in a different position: this has an effect similar to lengthening the string:
Now with the control stick in neutral position, the elevators point slightly downwards; this is how they would lie when the plane is parked on the ground, so I can live with that; plus there is now a full range of movement of the control stick and surfaces.
I should mention at this point that I have two copies of this set. The box pictures are of the one I bought in the UK, but the parts and construction are of a set I bought in the US. This might explain the discrepancy in the string lengths, if they were made in different factories; though the instructions pictured here are also American so if there is a problem with string lengths it doesn't seem come to LEGO's attention yet.
Applying the Stickers
I hate stickers. Did I say that already? Normally I refuse to apply them, but as their design is central to one of the improvements of this set over its elder sibling, I couldn't do a complete review without putting the little stuckers on. Here's where they go:
It's a shame that the round stickers aren't cut perfectly, making the white edge uneven. But: each sticker fits entirely onto one piece (the 'SOPWITH' sticker is on both sides of the bley brick). So, no more STAMPs! And you can take the set apart without permanently destroying the decals! Hallelujah!
That made me, and the leftover pieces, smile:
Build Verdict: This is a great build: fun from the start, never boring, with some intriguing techniques; the control stick mechanism is delightful, and I can even forgive the stickers. Only having to improvise a solution to the string-length problem detracts.
The Completed Model
Stickers are stuck, strings betweaked, and she's ready to fly. Chocks away!
First things first: I love the colour scheme. The choice of dark green for the wings, dark tan and dark bluish grey for the fuselage, and reddish brown for the cockpit section is perfect. It's a pity they couldn't make some earth green 1x3 wedge plates, though.
This angle is best for showing off not just the colours, but also the smooth contours of the fuselage, and the lovely SNOT rudder fin. Despite the studs, the lines of the wings are crisp, and the stickers tastefully understated.
The delightful symmetry of the wing struts and cables is apparent from the front:
The centre struts and wheel braces also make a nice hour-glass shape. Perspective makes the forward-mounted upper wing appear wider, but it's actually the same width as the lower. Both are perfectly parallel, unlike the real Camel.
From above, we can again delight in the beautiful colours, and the pleasing lines of the wings.
If anything, though, the wing roundels are a little small: - they should really fill the entire width of the wing.
The underside is remarkably smart and clean. I love the way the steps on the tapered sides of the fuselage match those of the centre.
The aileron and elevator mechanisms are a little obtrusive, but the use of (for the most part) black lessens this effect. There ought to be roundels on the underside of the wings, too, but you can't stick stickers on antistuds. Sticklers for authenticity might consider modifying the set with some of these.
Incidentally, I personally like the use of tan for the underside of the wings; although it might seem a little surprising, it does appear that a lighter colour was used, as we shall see.
The stepped lower surface of the fuselage only starts to look a little ragged when viewed from the side.
I don't think there's an easy solution to this. Note in this shot the steep downward tilt of the landed plane towards the rear, typical of most taildraggers; you can also see the little grey cheese wedge which represents the pilot's footplate for ease of ingress.
This is a good opportunity to compare to the real thing.
Picture from www.aviation-history.com
Camels were painted in a variety of colours; judging by the similarity to this LEGO incarnation, both in terms of the colours, the B-number, and the SOPWITH logo on the tail, I wouldn't be surprised if this were the reference plane the designer used.
Here's the same plane from beneath:
Picture from military.discovey.com
Note the lighter-coloured wing undersides, and the black wheel braces; also you can see the pronounced dihedral of the lower wings, absent in both 10226 and 3451.
Design Verdict: She's a beauty. Some serious thought and effort has gone into her design and realisation. I really cannot fault it.
Let's take a closer look at the engine:
Eight cylinders form this powerful rotary engine. The previous version only had six; it appears that eight is the correct number. I really appreciate how the propeller blades are built with wedge plates to simulate their twist. I also love the metallic macaroni pieces used for the engine cowling - it's a small point, but it makes a big difference.
If it turns, give it a spin!
True to life, the engine spins with the propeller; not as smoothly as I'd like, and it only goes for four or five turns before friction brings it to a stop. It would be possible to motorise this set, but I doubt it could be done without losing the control stick mechanism.
The cockpit looks a little cramped; those grey inverted slopes and cheese wedges seem to limit the would-be pilot's legroom. I'm not sure why they are there; they don't seem to restrict the control stick's movement, which is limited by the range of the ailerons.
It's a common piece, but the printed dashboard is the most appropriate part for this plane. It's certainly better than the Baron's 'Citroen Car Key' and the older Camel's 'digital 82' displays!
Now let's review the set's flagship feature:
Stick to the right, plane banks to the right; stick to the left, she banks to the left.
Stick forward, elevators down, nose down; stick back, elevators up, nose up. Perfecto!
I've also cheekily moved the rudder left and right here, to show that it does indeed move. Not remotely, however: though it would be quite possible to include controls to move the rudder via pedals, it would be tricky to get your finger in there to use the feature.
Playability Verdict: Let's face it: this is a display model, but still she has some great 'play' features. Not only is she eminently swooshable and take-off-and-land-able, and has a spinning propeller, but you can amuse your non-LEGO friends for hours with your in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of a World War One fighter biplane! They'll be so overawed by your nerdiness that they will forget to raise an eyebrow at your LEGO hobby! Everyone's a winner!!!
Comparing the Camels
I dug the old bird out of retirement specially for this review. To be fair to both, I compared them before I applied 10226's stickers, which I will never do for 3451.
The most obvious difference, aside from the colour scheme, is how much tidier 10226's wings are. I do like the expanses of tile on 3451's wing surfaces, but compared to the neat regularity of 10226, they just don't look as good. They are also flimsy, and prone to breaking; 10226 is built to last.
Also tidied up are the wing struts. Quite why the wishbone pieces weren't used here the first time round is anyone's guess; instead, ugly Technic beams and axles were employed. The 2012 solution is much better. I also prefer the enclosed silver engine cowling over the red fence pieces.
Modern curved pieces allow for a smoother gradient to the top of the fuselage and rear of the cockpit, but they are otherwise quite similar here. Even the two inexplicable 'dots' are preserved.
10226 also has a tidier tail end; the horizontal stabiliser fins look neater, and the tail fin and rudder gorgeously built. Perhpas the one tiny detail where 3451 wins over its new rival is the pilot's footplate: I prefer the use of the 1x2 tile with handle over the cheese wedge here.
Conclusion & Scores
I sang the praises of 3451 to the high heavens when I reviewed her back in 2010. In her was a classic set, and I was proud to own a piece of LEGO history what was also a great model. I was therefore surprised and slightly disappointed to hear the set would be re-released; it would be like TLG making a new version of 497/928 Galaxy Explorer. I was also sceptical, thinking there was no way LEGO could improve on the old classic.
I am delighted to admit that I was wrong. 10226 is a beautiful set, that not only addresses the few failings of her predecessor, but also adds clever and innovative features that LEGO has never seen before. 3451 is still a classic, perhaps not as sought-after as it might have been, but 10226 surpasses it and is a must-have for parts fans, collectors and indeed all adult LEGO fans.
Design 10 Beautifully rendered, she makes clever use of modern parts and innovative techniques that not only solve the problems of her predecessor but add innovation to the LEGO Exclusive universe.
Build 9 Interesting and involved, the build is a joy from start to finish. Intriguing techniques make the build out of the ordinary even for die-hard LEGO aficionados. A point is lost only for the 'string' problem.
Parts 9 The colour palette immediately makes for an interesting parts selection; most of the pieces will find a useful place in anyone's collection, and there are plenty of rare or unique parts here.
Playability 9 This display model is likely to get a lot of attention. With a hand around the fuselage, you can swoosh this beauty around the house, manouvring with a finger on the control stick, and making 'rat-a-tat' noises at the cat. Great fun!
Value 9 Coming in at under 10 pence per part, and bearing in mind that many of these are large and/or rare parts, she's good value for the parts alone. When you factor in the awesomeness of the set, she's excellent value.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this Reviewers Academy 4th Anniversary Special review. Please comment on the review and the set!
Review: 3451 Sopwith Camel For an in-depth look at the 2001 Sopwith Camel, read this. It includes some factual information about the 'real' Camel, and a debate about The LEGO Company's decision to release sets based on warplanes.
Review: 10024 Red Baron The companion review to 3451's. See the LEGO realisation of the Camel's nemesis up close. Maybe they'll re-release this some day.
More and larger picture on my flickr page.