This is actually a fairly old kit, one that I had intended on reviewing long ago, but never got around to it. It was released shortly after the Revell Pz. IV Ausf. H, but prior to their Ausf. J, hence the apparent duplication in kit subjects. There are two questions I would like to answer in this review: 1) how accurate is this kit for an Ausf. J, and 2) how does this kit differ from the Revell Pz. IV Ausf. J?
What's in the Box?
First, be aware that the kit in the box isn't precisely what is shown on the box top. Most obviously, the box shows an earlier version of the Ausf. J with four return rollers, when in fact, the kit comes with a later version hull with only three return rollers per side. Although eight rollers are included in the kit, the hull has location marks for only three per side (but it certainly would be easy enough to mount all eight, if you wanted to).
There are some inconsistencies with the details for this particular version of the Panzer IV. The main telling factor is the presence of only three return rollers per side, which as I mentioned indicates a very late version hull. However, Planet should also have extended the hull sides to the front and rear making tow eyes integral with the hull armor plates, which they didn't do. This hull was probably made sometime around September or October 1944, after they stopped applying zimmerit coating, and started using the flame-dampening mufflers. A couple other changes that Planet accurately shows includes the new square radiator filler cover, and including the wire mesh armor screens. So overall, the hull is not too bad; all it needs are the tow eyes added to the front and rear hull corners.
The turret, however, is not very accurate. It was based on the turret that came in the Hasegawa Ausf. F kit, and includes the gunner's vision port on the turret face, and a signal port adjacent to the commander's cupola. This signal port was dropped after the Ausf. F, so is very out of place here. Luckily, both of these items should be fairly easy to scrape off. The armored ventilator cover is not very well represented, and the commander's hatch represents the earlier hinged hatch, instead of the late pivoting hatch seen on the very latest Ausf. Js. There are no visors or pistol ports on the turret sides, nor on the side hatches, which is correct for late Ausf. Js. But most Ausf Js also had the crane mounting sockets (pilzen) on the turret roof, which this kit doesn't include. So as you can see, we once again have a mish-mash of details from several different versions of the Panzer IV.
The easiest solution would be to slice off the two items mentioned above, in which case, this could represent a fairly early version of the Ausf. J turret. There is nothing saying that an early turret could not be paired with a late hull. However, if you want to be consistent and make this into a late turret to match the late version hull, then you should add the pilzen, add a close-support weapon port next to the ventilator cover, and change the cupola hatch into a pivoting hatch instead of a hinged hatch, which should actually be fairly simple to do.
The road wheels are copied from the old Hasegawa Panzer IV wheels, which aren't too good. They would have been better off copying the newer Hasegawa wheels from their Flakpanzer kits, or the wheels from the Revell Panzer IV. The sprocket wheels, idler wheels, and return rollers are all copied from the Revell kit, and are very nice. The return rollers are the all-steel variety. The tracks are the same black vinyl tracks included in all the later Planet Models kits (and are also sold separately by CMK), and appear to be vinyl copies of the Revell hard plastic tracks. While they are certainly very nicely detailed, I would prefer hard plastic tracks myself.
Other small parts included in the kit are two tow brackets for the front hull (which should probably be left off), the hull MG, notek light, a two piece muzzle brake, and only two pioneer tools: the jack and fire extinguisher. Other tools will need to be provided by the builder. No decals are included, but the instructions are very clearly drawn.
Compared to Revell?
So which kit should you buy if you want an Ausf. J? Overall the Revell kit is superior, mainly because of the hard plastic tracks, but also for accuracy considerations. This Planet kit will take a little bit of added work in order to make it an accurate Ausf. J, but if you do that, then it will be a nice late version of the J, when the Revell kit represents an earlier version of the J, so it's not strictly a straight comparison. Plus, the mesh side skirts in this Planet kit are a nice touch, as are the etched fenders, so an add-on etched detail set will probably not be needed with this kit. All things considered, this isn't a really bad kit, but then again, I've always been partial to resin kits, though I don't really know why ...