Review - Fanstoys FT-11 Spotter

When I comes to rounding out the G1 season 1 cast, who could forget Reflector? This trio of near identical robots could combine to form a now retro SLR camera for spying on the Autobots or…taking selfies. Reflectors usefulness compared to an airborne surveillance spy like Laserbeak might come in to question if you think about it too hard, so just enjoy the goofy G1 nostalgia of a Camera combiner and don’t worry about the details! Fanstoys have brought Reflector to reality with FT-11 Spotter, their take on a Masterpiece inspired, G1 animation inspired; Reflector.

Spotter is on loan to me from Urban Pop Shoppe, a fantastic local collectibles shop located in my home town of Calgary Alberta Canada. Check out their facebook page and let them know I sent you! It would go a long way for me if you could like their page, let them know you heard about them here, and if you like my review please let them know as well! Thanks a lot! 

Check them out here! => https://www.facebook.com/urbanpopshoppe/

Alternate Mode
Spotter’s 3 individual bots all compress into nearly identical cubes that are pegged together to form the main body of the camera mode. The transformation is a bit finicky and not something I would call intuitive, but simple enough that after following the instructions once, I never needed them again. The lens and flash unit are add-on parts and both peg in securely, though the connections feel a little soft. There's no solid "click" when connecting the parts. The connection on the lens is solid enough that you could pick up the camera by the lens if you are careful. The flash unit will fall off at the slightest touch on this copy of the toy. Tolerances may vary of course.

The camera mode is incredibly faithful to the G1 animation design with a few liberties taken in the color dept. The front panels of the camera are purple instead of grey, to accommodate the bots having purple shins like the animation model. The viewfinder cover is also grey as it splits in three to become the robot’s backpacks.

From the front the camera looks good as a representation of G1 reflector. Spotter has all the trademark Reflector call backs including making one of the robot’s heads into the shutter button. There’s a clever piece of engineering built into the feet of the 2 side bots that allows their faces to be covered to create the Illusion of a shutter button. The side mounted flash covers the other robots head leaving only the one exposed.

When you take a look at the back of the camera any semblance of an illusion is completely destroyed. The rear of the camera is very clearly 2 robot chests and some legs. To be fair, I don’t really see any other way to do it that would look better while retaining the Fanstoys aesthetic but I just don’t really like it. I think it might be the size. The smaller Perfect Effect Scouting Force has an almost identical aesthetic, but I think I find it more forgivable as a small scout/legend sized toy rather than a large, practically 1:1 scale camera. At the masterpiece size I feel like I want a little more for my money out of an alt mode. There are a couple spots where things don’t peg in or line up exactly perfect in alt mode, but as the toy is on loan to me I didn’t want to get too tough with it, trying to force pegs and tabs to lock in. 

This isn't a car or a jet so there really wasn't much to shoot for alt mode pics, so I included a comparison to Perfect Effect's scouting force in the gallery below if you want to check out the similarities.

Robot Mode

Robot modes are where Spotter really shines. For all the flaws that I could nitpick the camera mode for, the robot modes are nearly flawless.

Fanstoys of course followed the cartoon model, forgoing the three unique bot designs that made up the G1 toy and instead going for the near identical Reflector triplets. This trio of cheeky scouts looks great. Paintwork is top notch and they are incredibly expressive. The robot mode silhouette is very clean with next to no kibble and he looks great from the front or back. There are a couple flaps on the back of the leg that could be considered extraneous but other than that the alt mode is really well contained. The head sculpts are gorgeous and very crisp as has become the norm from Fanstoys. The eyes are painted with a gorgeous metallic red and the jawline and expressions on the faces are well defined. Out of the box each of the bots wears one of the three included expressions. A tough grimace, a cheeky smirk, and a full toothed grin. In the package there are 3 of each face so you can equip them with 3 of the same, or any combination. I didn’t do any face swaps on this copy, instead leaving one of each face equipped for the gallery. The heads are on ball joints allowing for a great range of movement and expression that complement the expressions well.

Spotter’s upper body has all the basic requirements for a great robot figure. Universal shoulders, bicep swivel, double elbows and wrist swivel with a minor tilt. There’s very little he can’t pull off when it comes to basic or action poses. The joint tolerances are tight but not so tight to cause any sort of concern when adjusting them. I was even able to stand one of the Spotters on top of the outstretched arms of the other 2 without any sort of support and without the arms sagging under the weight. Impressive! (unlike the terrible photo, it was more about proving a point) If you un-clip the chest you can even cheat a butterfly joint at the shoulders, just be careful how far you push that one as it isn’t technically part of the designed articulation.

 
 

From the waist down we have a waist swivel, thigh swivels which I’m glad weren’t omitted due to the thigh transformation, double jointed knees, a limited toe joint as a result of transformation, and an incredible ankle tilt. He can do a full, pelvis on the ground, split, and keep his feet flat, though this certainly looks unnatural when pushed to that kind of extreme. On the other hand there is 0 outward ankle tilt which means running poses are very tricky to pull off.The feet and legs have some die-cast content that gives the figure a pleasant natural balance and makes him quite fun to pose. The hip skirts are very tight and are better adjusted manually rather than trying to push them out with the legs while posing. An unfortunate oversight in design, when the hip skirts are raised for posing, they lock or severely limit the waist swivel. Be careful not to force the waist if his hip skirts are in the way.

There are no differences that I noticed in articulation between the different molds. I did notice after a little bit of messing with the figures a few of the joints loosened up quite severely. In particular the ankle joint on one of the figures became almost completely frictionless after a few minutes of posing. The rest of the ankles are as tight as they were out of the box so maybe it’s just some bad luck. There are a couple screwed in joints that I found a little scary to mess with as well, such as the purple face cover pieces on the ankles of the 2 identical Spotters. They were so tight that I was worried about stripping the connection just transforming them. A couple loosened up after one or two transformations but one of them remains quite frightening if twisted in the wrong direction. Be careful and go slow if you are unsure.

Accessories

Oh boy. The accessories. The accessory package for this figure is comprehensive, if a little weak. The accessories themselves are ok, very middle of the road, acceptable inclusions. There’s some A grade stuff in there, like the swappable faces, and the mini reflector camera. Everything else is mediocre at best. The implementation of the camera lens and flash unit in particular really disappointed me. Let’s get in to the details of all the included parts.

Pistols (x3)

There are 3 identical pistols included, that seem to be an original design of Fanstoys. I haven’t found any sort of G1 reference material matching their design. The pistols are well detailed and simple, lacking any paint or articulated components. I think the design is nice enough but they are a touch small in hand and can be a pain to slot in to Spotter’s palm grooves. Take care when pegging them in not to break the handles. The plastic feels tough and is of good quality but the force required to snap them in to the slot is more than I’m comfortable with in the long run. Personally I would have liked to see something a little bigger, and a touch of paint wouldn't hurt either.

Camera Lens Parts (x3)

The camera lens splits in to 3 separate pieces. 2 identical side portions and the main center mass. The center portion becomes a stylized blaster for the leader of the Trio. The clearances are tight and transforming this piece feels scary especially with the lens being made of clear plastic. The final result is unsatisfying and really just looks like Fanstoys trying to make do with what was left over. The other 2 sections fold in half and combine with the outer shell of the flash unit to create large blasters for the other 2 bots. Much like the main lens gun these look very slapdash and there’s really nothing I like aesthetically about them. They peg in to the forearms of the bots for a more secure hold which is nice but the weight can cause the arms to sag if held out straight.

It’s nice that Fanstoys did something with the leftover lens pieces, but I really can’t stand behind the end result. These are pieces that will most likely be left in the box if you are a robot mode display oriented collector. With that in mind, if it’s just going to be kept in the box the lens could have been left whole and not suffer from the seam lines created by disassembly. Ideally I would have liked to see the lens integrated in to the bots similar to Maketoys Visualizers even if it resulted in larger backpacks.

 
 

Flash Unit Parts

The flash unit has 2 main components. The top flash piece separates from the base and splits in to 4 pieces, forming the bases for 2 of the lens rifles and 2 knife sheathes can be attached to the thigh of any of the robots. The knives stored within are painted in a nice silver but they do not lock in tightly and will fall out with a glance. The pieces are symmetrical and unfortunately this means that you can’t put 2 knives on one bot, only one on each. The outer flash units have a sliding portion that will move the chromed portion back to allow the lens barrel to attach. The sliding mechanism is very tight due to the chromed pieces and they can require a good amount of force to slide in and out.

The base of the flash unit is a grey chunk of plastic. It houses another knife that is incredibly hard to remove. Other than that it is just a piece of plastic that goes back in the box. I couldn’t find any way to use it as a backpack or accessory for the bot modes. Disappointing.

Faces (x9)

There are 9 total faces for Spotter, 3 of each expression. Each face is well painted and the details are clean and crisp. They require you to unscrew the original face plate which is really my only concern as over time there is risk of stripping the screw holes. A magnet or clip in system would be preferred.

Energon Cubes (x3)

3 translucent pink Energon cubes. Not much to say about them. They look good, if a bit small. They would probably look better with the Fanstoys Not-Insecticons but it’s a nice toss in to add to the package.

Mini Spotter

Aside from the faces this is my favorite accessory in the box. A little mini Spotter in camera mode. It’s even got the little robot mode heads, and the flash is removable! I’m not sure if the lens comes off, I was a bit hesitant to try and twist it on a loaned toy so I didn’t try. The camera has a ton of detail and looks great with other MP style figures.

Final Thoughts

The bot modes are a shining example of Fanstoys pedigree and why many people hold them in equal or even higher regard than official Takara Masterpiece figures. The alt mode is a similar example of their slavish nature to the source material, for better or worse. Spotter is an exceptional quality product that in my opinion is best enjoyed as a trio of robots. I would like to get my hands on Maketoys Visualizers and of course keep my ears open for any official news, before making a final decision on a Masterpiece Reflector for my collection. Spotter ticks a lot of boxes but not enough that I can definitively say it's the Reflector for me. If you are a robot mode collector only, then I can give it a strong 9/10 recommendation, with the only real weakness being the included accessories and a couple hinges coming loose with repeated movement. If you want to display the figure in alt mode, then I would say take a look at the final product, if you are happy with it aesthetically, then you'll be happy as the plastic and construction quality is top notch. I would have liked to see more camera like features included such as a faux LCD screen, battery meter, shot count etc. Something to make the final product look a little more like a real camera and less like a purple brick. This is entirely up to your own opinion and taste, and your collection aesthetic. 

Thanks again to Urban Pop Shoppe for loaning me this figure to review.  

What do you think? Leave me a comment below! I would love to hear your thoughts on Fanstoys FT11-Spotter!


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