The 12 Best Wide-View Masks | Scuba Diving

The 12 Best Wide-View Masks

Masks Reviewed in This Article

Aqua Lung Mythos Aqua Lung Tyke Deep See Spectra Mares X-Vision Mares X-Stream Mares X-Comfort H2Odyssey Glacier 3 HydroOptix Mega Double-Dome Oceanic Prizm Promate Swift Sherwood Scuba Magnum 6 Tusa Visualator XS Scuba Fusion 2

We asked mask manufacturers to send us their newest and best masks with the widest view possible. After eliminating models we had already tested, 31 brand-new models were left.

About half of them feature small windows to the left and right of the main pane, an obvious solution to enhanced peripheral vision. But there's another way to make the picture bigger--by moving the mask window closer to your eyes, which also allows the mask to be smaller and contain less air volume. For that reason, the trend has been toward smaller masks with larger front windows. Side-window masks have gotten smaller, too, and the latest innovation is a side window that meets the front with no corner post. The mating edges are beveled so there's practically no visible seam.

We did our tests both in water and out, and one fact quickly became clear: What you see in the water through any mask is a lot different from what you see in the store, and you can blame refraction for that. Our 12 Testers' Choices for 2003 follow.

| | AQUA LUNG Mythos| AQUA LUNG Mythos

It may look tiny, but the view it offers is huge. This brand-new mask from Aqua Lung scored a perfect "10" both for low volume and wide horizontal vision through the front two windows. Vision is excellent in the up/down direction, too, partly because the lens shape is pointed at the bottom to improve downward vision. Though there are no side windows per se, large cutouts in the "open-design" frame allow you to see a little through the clear skirt. The Mythos is one of the lowest-volume masks we've ever tested. The Mythos earned our top overall score (29).

| | AQUA LUNG Tyke| AQUA LUNG Tyke

The Aqua Lung Tyke is also hot out of the mold and nearly as small as the Mythos. This mask got excellent scores for low volume and horizontal view, and "very good" (8 out of 10) in the up/down direction. The slightly lower score in the vertical dimension may be due to the front windows, which have a more squarish shape for better view through the corners. The Tyke has the same thin straps and the same open-work frame as the Mythos for a little view out the sides if you choose a clear skirt.

| | DEEP SEE Spectra| DEEP SEE Spectra

The Spectra earned a top score for its wide view to the sides. Tall, squarish windows give good vision in the corners too--no surprise, as TV and movie screens are also rectangular. The picture through its big front window felt natural, comfortable and even bigger than the numbers suggest (hey, what can we tell you, it's a square world). The downward view is excellent, too, rating 9 out of a possible 10. The strap adjustment is fairly easy.

| | MARES X-Vision| MARES X-Vision

The oddly shaped windows on this new Mares mask make sense when you look through them. The frames zig outward at eye level to maximize your sideways view, and zag downward directly below your eyes for more downward vision. The result is a top score in the horizontal plane and an excellent rating in the vertical. Though not technically frameless, it still folds flat because the buckles are mounted to the skirt, not the frame, and can fold with it. The X-Vision is also very compact, scoring 9 out of a possible 10 for low volume.

| | MARES X-Stream & X-Comfort| MARES X-Stream & X-Comfort

These look-alikes both have heart-shaped front windows whose points improve your view downward. They scored tops in low volume with an excellent view to the sides. Clear skirts give some extra corner-of-the-eye view, though images are not as crisp as they would be through flat side windows. But again, side windows generally mean more volume and a narrower view through the front. There's a reason both masks had identical scores: They appear to be identical except for their skirts. The X-Stream has a conventional double-lip edge which may seal better on more faces, while the X-Comfort has a single lip.

| | H2ODYSSEY Glacier| H2ODYSSEY Glacier

3 Glass side windows are embedded in the skirt for some extra horizontal vision. They are flat panels, so they do not distort the side view as curved ones would. This is a frameless design--buckles are attached directly to the skirt--so it can be folded fairly compactly for traveling. The skirt itself has a "frosted" finish. As with all the masks we've seen so far, side windows come at the expense of some view out the front. The front view is still quite good on the Glacier 3, however, as is the up-and-down view, and volume control is fair.

| | OCEANIC Prizm| OCEANIC Prizm

The Prizm earned good scores for its view in both the horizontal and vertical planes through the front window. The side windows are flat glass panels for distortion-free images, and they are beveled where they meet the front window so there's no corner post. In air, the front window and the side windows combine for a single IMAX-like image. Under water, however, you get a slightly different image in each window because of refraction. Some divers may find the two images a bit awkward, but if you like those small convex mirrors that stick to your car's rearviews, you may like the side windows on the Prizm. Nonetheless, the Prizm rated good to fair regardless of the side windows. It has a wide, soft skirt and strap and easy strap adjustment. Also available with a high-volume purge (Prizm 2).

| | PROMATE Swift| PROMATE Swift

This is a near-clone of the frameless design pioneered a few years ago by Scubapro, and that's good. A large, square front window gives an excellent view both to the sides and downward as well as to the corners. The volume is low for a single-window style mask, which true frameless designs are. It folds flat for easy packing, and it can tuck into a BC pocket for those who like having a backup.

| | SHERWOOD SCUBA Magnum 6| SHERWOOD SCUBA Magnum 6

The Magnum 6 is unique for having not only side windows, but another pair in the lower skirt that affords you a view of your belt buckle, your clipped-in console, etc., without craning your head. The windows are small but since they are glass, the image is clear--you can actually read gauges through them. Other masks would require you to bend your head for this kind of downward view, and your second-stage often prevents that. All those windows come at the price of slightly larger volume and only fair downward vision through the front window itself. The horizontal view still rates "good" even discounting the side windows. These share the drawbacks of other side windows. Testers felt the downward windows were far more valuable, however.

| | TUSA Visualator| TUSA Visualator

The Visualator is a large-volume mask (about twice as large as many in the test), but earned top scores for the view both to the sides and vertically--in fact, the only mask, big or small, to score so high. What's the trick? A big frame and a skirt that seals high on your forehead but doesn't protrude too far. The Visualator is like having a pancake on your face instead of a Kaiser roll--lots of dough but wide and thin. The front window is huge--twice the square inches of some--and not far from your eyes. The large soft skirt is comfortable and will probably fit large faces best.

| | XS SCUBA Fusion 2| XS SCUBA Fusion 2

The Fusion 2 was best of all the side-window designs in its view through the front window alone, both to the sides and up and down. It was only "fair" in the low-volume category, a result of having side windows. These side windows are flat, clear and beveled where they meet for no corner-post effect. Testers were divided over whether the no-post corner found here and on the other masks is a good thing. One camp said no post means more glass, more image. The other felt a post acts like a DMZ between the warring front and side images. Meanwhile, the Fusion 2 gives a good all-around view through the front window alone. Also available are a version with purge and one for smaller faces.

The Ultimate Wide-View Mask?

HYDROOPTIX Mega Double-Dome

| | HYDROOPTIX Mega Double-Dome| What a concept: crystal-clear, distortion-free, virtually unlimited vision under water. That's the claim made by HydroOptix, manufacturer of the Mega-4.5d Double-Dome ultra-wide-view scuba mask. Scuba Lab hasn't had a chance to test the Mega yet, but the mask is getting a thumbs up from underwater photographer David Doubilet.

Designed by a team of scientists, doctors and Hollywood cinematographers, the Mega's double-dome lens produces a view the company says is 350 percent more expansive and an edge resolution 100 times sharper than so-called "flat" masks. The polycarbonate lenses are made from bulletproof material and provide excellent impact protection. A twin-turbo purge system uses snorkel-sized flapper valves to dump water quickly, a key feature for a mask this size.

Too good to be true? Here's the catch: In order to use this mask, most divers will have to wear special disposable contact lenses to make themselves near-sighted (if you already are, you might not need them). Under water, the double domes shape water into twin negative diopter lenses and correct the vision. Presto--you can see!

To keep from stumbling on the dive boat, however, get the $60 Coverlens, which snaps onto the mask to let you see, or an $85 Surface Interval Kit, which includes corrective eyeglasses, clip-on sunglasses and a nice dry box to keep it all in. Then again, you can keep it simple by peering through the included monocle, scanning the boat Sherlock Holmes-style for your lunch.

Price: $150, contact lenses sold separately. Contact: HydroOptix at 877-943-3393; web www.HydroOptix.com. --John Brumm

{mospagebreak}OTHER MASKS TESTED:

ACTION PLUS Oasis

The Oasis has clear side windows with corner posts where they meet the front window. The view to the sides through the front window alone is only "fair," though it's better in the vertical plane. A big, high-volume mask with a small price.

AERIS Goby 4

On the Goby 4, side windows are clear sections of the frame. They are slightly curved, so the picture through them is somewhat distorted. Front windows and frame have a sleek, European look. The Goby 4 is available in a two-window version as well.

AERIS Max View

There are no side windows, and the view through the large front windows is actually better than with Aeris's Goby 4 and Moray 4--rating "good" in both vertical and horizontal directions.

AERIS Moray 4

Similar to the Goby 4 in having side windows that are clear, curved sections of the frame. View to the sides through the front window is good and the volume is fairly low. Corrective lenses are available.

AQUA LUNG Falco

A mini-mask rating "excellent" in the horizontal view and low-volume categories, but only "fair" in the up/down direction because of the stylish "gun slit" front windows. It missed earning a Testers' Choice by only one point.

DACOR Nautilus

The mask has no side windows, but the view to both sides rated "excellent" nevertheless. The view in the vertical plane was "very good" and volume control was "fair."

DACOR Phaz

Another one of the side-window masks with no corner posts because of a beveled joint, though side views and front views do not quite merge under water. Side view through the front window alone was "good" in the horizontal plane, "fair" in the vertical.

DEEP SEE Talon

Despite a fairly large volume, the Talon gives a wide view through its single front window, rating "good" in that area; its horizontal view was "fair." The mask is a good value.

IDI Bonaire 4

Rated "good" for horizontal view through the front windows alone. Its side windows are clear and meet the front windows on a bevel, though front and side images do not match up under water. Has a purge valve.

IDI Cozumel

The nose pocket intrudes less into the single front window than on some other masks of this type, so the view to the sides is good with both eyes at once. The Cozumel is frameless and the buckles are mounted near the front window on pins so they can fold flat.

IDI St. Croix

A stylish and fairly small mask for a single-front-window design, the St. Croix gives a good view to the sides, though somewhat restricted up-and-down vision. Side windows give more peripheral vision, though it's distorted because they're curved.

OCEAN MASTER Equalizer One

Peripheral vision is very good horizontally and good vertically despite the mask's large volume. There's plenty of glass over the nose pocket for less obstruction. Comes with Ocean Master's unique "Q Strap," which adjusts behind your head, not at your temples. Purge and non-purge versions are available.

OCEANIC 4 Site

Side windows are integrated into the frame. They're curved, so their images are distorted a little. Through the front window alone, the horizontal view rates "good." Prescription lenses are available for this mask.

OCEANIC Contour

A handsome wrap-around frame but a fairly small front window add up to "fair" scores in horizontal view and volume. Vertical view was below average.

PROMATE Hammerhead

Has clear side windows mounted in a frameless skirt. Buckles fold on pins, and the side windows themselves also fold for a compactable three-window design. The side view through the front window alone is "good" and the up/down view is "fair," but the volume is, well, ample.

PROMATE Ocean Window

Rates "good" for low volume, an achievement for a three-window design. The view to the sides and up and down through the front window is "fair." Side windows are flat, therefore non-distorting.

TILOS Panoramic Double

Non-distorting side windows meet without a corner post, with the pros and cons that implies. Vision through the front window alone rated "good" in the horizontal plane, "fair" in the vertical. A purge-valve version is available for an extra $4.

TILOS Panoramic Single

The Panoramic Single also has postless side windows, here with a single front window. Like the Panoramic Double, the view to the sides is "good," the up-and-down is "fair."

Mask Manufacturers

ACTION PLUS
www.action-plus.com

AERIS
www.diveaeris.com

AQUA LUNG
www.aqualung.com

DACOR
www.divedacor.com

DEEP SEE
www.deepseeinc.com

H2ODYSSEY
www.h2odyssey.com

INTERNATIONAL DIVERS, INC.
www.internationaldivers.com

MARES
www.mares.com

OCEAN MASTER
www.oceanmaster.com

OCEANIC
www.oceanicworldwide.com

PROMATE
www.promateusa.com

SHERWOOD SCUBA
www.sherwoodscuba.com

TILOS
www.tilos.com

TUSA
www.tusa.com

XS SCUBA
www.xsscuba.com

FEATURES PERFORMANCE
MANUFACTURER Product Name PRICE WINDOWS| PURGE?| VOLUME| HORIZ. VIEW| UP/DOWN VIEW| SIDE/LOWER WINDOWS| TOTAL SCORE
--- --- ---|---|---|---|---|---|---
ACTION PLUS Oasis $36 3| NO| 5| 6| 7| 3| 21
AERIS Goby 4 $70 4| NO| 5| 7| 7| 1| 20
AERIS Max View $70 2| NO| 6| 8| 8| NA| 22
AERIS Moray 4 $65 4| NO| 7| 8| 7| 1| 23
AQUA LUNG Falco $65 2| NO| 9| 9| 7| NA| 25
AQUA LUNG Mythos $75 2| NO| 10| 10| 9| NA| 29
AQUA LUNG Tyke $75 2| NO| 9| 9| 8| NA| 26
DACOR Nautilus $50 1| NO| 7| 9| 8| NA| 24
DACOR Phaz $60 4| NO| 7| 8| 7| 3| 25
DEEP SEE Spectra $45 2| NO| 7| 10| 9| NA| 26
DEEP SEE Talon $40 1| NO| 5| 8| 7| NA| 20
H2ODYSSEY Glacier 3 $49 3| NO| 7| 8| 8| 3| 26
IDI Bonaire 4 $60 4| YES| 7| 8| 6| 3| 24
IDI Cozumel $50 1| NO| 7| 8| 8| NA| 23
IDI St. Croix $50 3| NO| 7| 8| 6| 1| 22
MARES X-Comfort $59.95 2| NO| 10| 9| 7| NA| 26
MARES X-Stream $59.95 2| NO| 10| 9| 7| NA| 26
MARES X-Vision $79.95 2| NO| 9| 10| 9| NA| 28
OCEAN MASTER Equalizer One $75 1| NO| 5| 9| 8| NA| 22
OCEANIC Contour $59.95 3| NO| 7| 7| 6| 1| 21
OCEANIC 4 Site $74.95 4| NO| 7| 8| 7| 1| 23
OCEANIC Prizm $59.95 4| NO| 8| 8| 7| 3| 26
PROMATE Hammerhead $70 3| NO| 5| 8| 7| 3| 23
PROMATE Ocean Window $55 3| NO| 8| 7| 7| 3| 25
PROMATE Swift $49 1| NO| 8| 10| 9| NA| 27
SHERWOOD Magnum 6 $79 6| NO| 5| 8| 7| 6| 26
TILOS Panoramic Double $56.34 4| NO| 7| 8| 7| 3| 25
TILOS Panoramic Single $70 3| NO| 7| 8| 7| 3| 25
TUSA Visualator $75 1| NO| 6| 10| 10| NA| 26
XS SCUBA Fusion 2 $65 4| NO| 7| 8| 8| 3| 26
RATING SYSTEM: We awarded points this way: Volume: Up to 10 points. Horizontal View: Up to 10 points. Up and Down View: Up to 8 points. Side Windows: Up to 3 points. Lower Windows: Up to 3 points. The best possible total score would be 34. In this review, masks that scored a 26 or better were Testers' Choices.

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