|Here's the two machines I tested|
L-R: Janome MC5200; Pfaff Expression 2.0
I got Joanne to demo the Expression 2.0 for me (remember it's currently $1299 - $700 off). Joanne got the machine set up for FMQ which included manually adjusting the tension which didn't take long, just a couple of tweaks of the knob down from 5 to 3. She did a bit of FMQ and then let me have a go. Considering I have had hardly any experience FMQ I did pretty well and it was fairly easy. The speed had to be adjusted to medium but that was it. I played around for a few minutes and was pleasantly surprised with how well my stitch length was. So much better than what I'm getting with my current machine and the open toe (an extra) was quite large so you could see what you're sewing really well. I would probably be happy to FMQ a quilt straight away with this machine. I loved the 10" harp space, the menus looked pretty straight forward and I liked the fact that it told you everything you need to know for a particular stitch (which foot, stitch width and length etc) without having to pull out the manual. It also has a nice little compartment at the front for holding all your feet neatly and it has a tie off function which you can do manually (with a little button above the presser foot) at the end of a seam or you could set it to auto and it would tie off your stitches at the beginning and at the end of a seam without you having to do anything. Joanne also demo'd the buttonhole function, and it seemed surprisingly simple. The only negative thing I could pick was the plastic on the external body - to me it felt and looked cheap when you compare it to the Janome.
|Pfaff Expression 2.0 (photo from here)|
Shane and I talked about the Janome's, we narrowed down the selection to the MC5200 (I was told that it is very similar to the MC4900 QC minus a few stitches and the knee lift and a few hundred dollars). I haven't checked the specs to see if there are any other differences. In fact, he doesn't even stock the MC4900 QC because he said it doesn't sell that well. The MC5200 is currently $999 ($500 off). It looked like an impressive Janome machine except the harp space was just a regular 7". Again the menus looked pretty straight forward and the body looked nice and sturdy and there was a front compartment for feet same as the Pfaff but the open toe which doesn't come with the machine is small (it looked the same as the one I have already). Joanne got the machine set up to FMQ and then handed it over to me. I had a lot of trouble FMQ with this machine, the first pedal Joanne put on was small and probably not the one that comes with the machine. I found the response time to be really poor, there was a definite delay between putting the foot down and the machine responding. I found I had to put my foot down the whole way, after a second or two it would start working slowly and then go full speed. We swapped the pedal to a different one and it was the same. After a few minutes of FMQ I actually felt like I had had a work out. Mentally and physically it had taxed me. This was disappointing since I wanted to like the Janome more than the Pfaff.
|Janome Memory Craft 5200 (photo from here)|
So I am keen to go to another Janome dealer to try out the MC5200 and see if I have the same problems. I would also like to at least check out the MC4900 QC for myself. When we talked about the MC6600, CSC recommended buying the Elna version (supposed to be same machine but different badge and a fair bit cheaper - I think it was $1500). I'm not so sure I would be comfortable with this. The MC6600 at around $2500 is really out of my price range.
|Pfaff Smarter (photo from here)|
On the matter of the Pfaff Smarter 1100 Pro - I contacted Pfaff head office yesterday. Maybe I just spoke to the receptionist, she wasn't too knowledgeable and was quite cagey about giving out any top secret information. All I wanted to know was would this model be available in Australia since you can buy it in the US/Canada/UK and probably lots of other countries. For starters she didn't even know what model I was talking about. What I was told was that there have been some new machines released and no one will know what we will be getting until the Managing Director orders them. However, they will be launching in August. Not even the staff at CSC knew this!
So the search continues and I'm almost tempted to wait until August in case the Smarter is available (although it retails in the US with the Quilters Companion for around $1500 - I'm assuming the price tag here will be around $2000). To me the Smarter looks like a sturdier machine since it has more metal parts than the other Pfaffs. I figure a good sewing machine is something that you buy every 10-20 years so it's best to do your homework and maybe it's worth paying that little bit extra (here we go I'm already willing to blow the budget!).