Scuba Mask, Dive Mask Review | Scuba Diving

ScubaLab 2013: Scuba Mask Reviews

Diving is all about the visuals, so it's critical to have a scuba mask that keeps the water out, is comfortable and provides an optimal viewing platform. We took 21 scuba masks into the water to test field of view, volume, function and features. Here's the rundown.

ScubaLab Mask Review

Aqua Lung Linea

Single-lens mask

This Italian-made dive mask was designed for a woman’s face, but testers found you don’t have to be a female to get a good fit. The lens, skirt and Euro-sleek frame are molded as one rather than assembled or pressed together. This allows the lens to be positioned very close to the eyes, resulting in excellent field of vision as well as low volume — the lowest in this category. The Linea is built with a large skirt to provide more contact area with the skin and reduce those annoying mask marks on the face. The mask features Aqua Lung’s full-swivel Cardanic Joint buckles that hold fast but allow for quick micro adjustments. The buckles also have guards built in to prevent hair entanglements, and the strap has a wide headband for added comfort.

Atomic Aquatics Venom (Testers' Choice)

Single-lens mask

The Venom is a high-concept mask, with performance as good as its looks. Built a bit larger than others in this test, with its reinforcing internal frame and double-layer, dual-color silicone skirt, the Venom is really comfortable on the face. But what’s immediately noticeable is the excellent horizontal view it provides, by far the best in this group. This is due to a large lens that flares out on its outside edges, made from a high-quality glass imported from Germany called Schott Superwite that allows more light in to brighten the underwater view. The squeeze-button buckles are soft-mounted to the mask skirt, which provides a bit of flexibility in strap positioning, plus they can be folded flat for packing. It’s a winning design that earned the Testers Choice in the single-lens category.

ScubaPro Frameless Mini

Single-lens mask

The Frameless Mini takes its cues from SCUBAPO’s original frameless mask, which has been around for close to a quarter-century. While offering many of the same features as the original, the Mini is built smaller and lighter, with a sleeker design and a more modern inverted-tear drop lens shape. It offers pretty much the same horizontal field of view as the original, but its vertical view is substantially better, due to the shape of the lower portion of the lens and how it sits closer to the eyes. The mask’s double-edge seal feels good on the face. The buckles are basic but effective; they’re soft-mounted on the skirt so they can be folded into the lens for easy packing. It’s an ideal mask for divers with small or narrow faces.

Subgear Ghost

Single-lens mask

Although available in two colors, it’s the white version of this low-volume frameless mask that attracts all the attention. This unusual mask color-pops on the surface as well as at depth, making it easy for a diver to be ID’d even when fully enclosed in neoprene. The lens sits close to the eyes, offering a better-than-average field of view, and it’s made from Ultra Clear glass to enhance light availability. A handy feature is the quick-release buckle system that allows you to attach or remove the strap without having to thread or unthread. Simply depress the buckle’s center button and the strap releases; to reattach, click it back into place. The strap-adjustment tabs work pretty well too. Testers found the finished edges of the skirt to be a bit rough, but nobody complained about the price.

Tilos Versa M990

Single-lens mask

Our test Versa, with its large, unobstructed lens, clear frame and clear silicone skirt, offered one of the most open and airy underwater views in this year’s shootout. The translucent skirt allows lots of light in, making it a great choice for diving in dark water or low-light locales like kelp forests. The lens offers good field of view at all angles, and because the space over the bridge of the nose is so substantial — the largest of all the masks tested — you can maximize the binocular effect for close-up viewing. The mask comes with nonslip rubber strips on the frame corners to provide some shock absorption, and convenient quick-release buckles that are mounted on the skirt, with flexible swivel tabs swivel for fine-tuning fit. The headband is large and comfortable.

Tusa M-11 Kleio II

Single-lens mask

For divers with small faces, and some with not-so-small faces, the compact Kleio II can be a surprisingly comfortable mask. Its relatively large skirt is made of soft crystal silicone, which features rounded edges that lay against the skin without digging in too much. This makes for a more comfortable fit and helps to minimize those face creases that occur after a day in the water. The nose pocket is easy to grab for equalizing, even wearing gloves. Tusa’s Quick-Adjust Buckle System features push-button strap adjustment. The buckles are mounted on soft tabs built into the skirt, allowing limited up-and-down swivel action; they can also be folded into the lens for low-profile packing. Lots of color choices let you match the mask to the rest of your gear.

Cressi Nano

Dual-lens mask

Divers who like small and simple won’t find a better low-profile mask than the Cressi Nano. This super-compact mask is feather-light, it fits close to the eyes and it boasted the lowest volume in this year’s go-round. It came as no surprise to hear that the Nano was designed for free diving and spearfishing — what was a surprise was how well it works for scuba divers. The angled, tempered-glass lenses feature an inverted teardrop shape that delivers solid field of vision in all directions. Buckles attach to the frame via flexible tabs that allow them to swivel up and down and in and out. The buckle mechanism is designed for quick strap adjustment — pull on the strap end to tighten, lift up on the tab to loosen.

IST Sports SMP204 Spear

Dual-lens mask

The Spear is a nice-fitting, all-purpose mask that delivers very functional field of view. It’s relatively lightweight, and its thin and soft hypoallergenic crystalline-silicone skirt molds comfortably to the face. The sides of the nose pocket provide textured patches that are easy to grab with wet hands or gloves, plus there are pleats in the silicone that expand as you squeeze the nose pocket, so you can equalize without breaking the mask’s seal. The quick-release buckles are a great convenience feature, allowing you to separate the strap from the mask with the push of a couple of buttons. They attach to the skirt and fold flat but don’t swivel. The strap also adjusts easily for fine-tuning fit and includes a split headband for maximum comfort.

Mares X-Vu Liquidskin

Dual-lens mask

With the X-Vu LiquidSkin you can tell right off that a lot of attention to detail went into the making of both the frame and skirt. The result is a mask that testers found to be super-comfy, with better-than-average field of vision, especially when looking downward. The skirt uses two types of silicone: firmer around the frame for structural support, and butter-soft LiquidSkin along the edges to mold to the skin for a snug seal. Additional soft silicone is injected in the nose area to act as an anti-shock bumper. The buckle system provides full swivel range for perfect strap alignment and effortless adjustment, and the large dual-compound headband lets you achieve a fold-free fit. The X-Vu is also available in a Sunrise version that has a smaller nose pocket and a wider skirt.

ScubaMax MK-219 Arc

Dual-lens mask

The Arc is one of the smallest and lightest masks in this group, yet it offers above-average horizontal field of view. It helps that the lenses sit so close to the eyes; this also cuts down on interior volume — the Arc turned in some of the lowest-volume measurements in this year’s go-round. Acting almost like a frameless mask, the dual-seal skirt can deliver a comfortable, leak-free fit on a variety of face shapes. Test divers liked the textured nose pocket that lets you get a firm grip for equalizing. The strap is pretty standard, but buckles are soft-mounted on the skirt and offer easy push-button strap adjustment. With its budget price the Arc works equally well as a primary mask, especially for free divers, or as a backup mask for scuba divers.

Scubapro Spectra Trufit (Testers' Choice)

Dual-lens mask

Divers will have to look long and hard to find a mask as soft, sealable and just plain comfortable as the Trufit. A series of ribs molded into the supple silicone skirt create the perfect balance of softness and shape — it lays like a second skin on facial contours. Testers rated the view it provided of the underwater world as excellent, second only to the Venom in horizontal field of view and among the best in vertical field of view. An efficient buckle system attaches to tabs on the skirt to optimize range of motion when dialing in fit; this also enables the mask to be folded flat for easy packing. The frame features a unique paint process that creates a cool powder-coat effect. The Trufit was the undisputed Testers Choice in this year’s Dual-Lens category.

Sherwood Scuba Onyx (Best Buy)

Dual-lens mask

With its stealthy black-matte finish, the Onyx may look all business but its soft skirt and near-custom fit reveal a comfortable, lightweight, low-volume mask with pretty good all-around field of view at depth. Able to provide a leak-free fit for a wide range of divers, the Onyx comes with effective push-button buckles and an ultra-narrow strap that incorporates a stretchy split headband. Testers rated it one of the most versatile masks of the group, well-suited for all underwater activities from scuba diving to free diving. In addition, its minimalist frame and foldability make it the perfect choice for a backup mask that fits neatly in many BC pockets. It’s a lot of mask at a pretty good price, which prompted testers to give it the Best Buy nod for this year’s go-round.

Mares I3 Liquidskin

Three-lens mask

The i3 LiquidSkin uses three lenses to create its expanded underwater view. The front lens by itself provides an 80-degree horizontal view; the side lenses increase this to 140 degrees. Refraction creates about 20 degrees of dead space between where the front lens leaves off and the side lenses pick up; however, if you can deal with that you’ll radically increase what you can see on your flanks when cruising the depths. The i3’s skirt uses two types of silicone: firmer near the frame for structural support, ultra-soft where it comes in contact with the skin. New push-button buckles allow for easy adjustment of the dual-silicone strap. Also available in a Sunrise version with a smaller nose pocket and wider skirt, the i3 earned the Testers Choice in its category.

Tusa M-41 Freedom Quad

Four-lens mask

The Freedom Quad is a four-window mask with a large skirt that’s built with a series of small dimples strategically placed along the edges. Also built in are stability ridges and a variety of thicknesses in the silicone. This is all intended to create what test divers found to be a pretty comfortable mask that seals well, feels good against the skin and minimizes face creases from extended wear. The mask provides average field of view out the front lenses, but when you add the small side windows this expands to about 140 degrees, allowing for about a 30-degree separation due to refraction. The lenses are made from CrystalView optical glass to maximize light transmission, and the push-button buckles are mounted on soft tabs on the skirt for easy adjustment of the mask strap.

Aqua Lung Impression

This dual lens mask offers lots of horizontal field of view and an excellent view looking downward. The fit of the skirt reaches further back on the face, increasing the amount of skin area being covered to create a comfortable seal. This is aided by the use of different textures on the skirt edges to optimize the chances for an efficient seal even if a rogue hair interferes. This extended skirt design also minimizes those creases in the skin divers get after spending a day in the water. The Impression uses full-swivel cardanic joint buckles that hold fast but allow for quick micro adjustments with the push of the buttons. The strap has a wide headband for added comfort, and the sides of the nose pocket are textured for easy gripping while equalizing.

IST Sports MP206 Chameleon

The Chameleon is made from a special liquid-injected hypoallergenic silicone that is soft and supple, resulting in a skirt that offers lots of comfort as well as a watertight fit for a wide range of faces. Its raked inverted-teardrop dual-lens design delivers good peripheral vision and even better vertical vision, especially looking downward. To enhance the underwater view, the mask is fitted with a new type of lens that is ultra clear—this allows for increased light transmission, creating a bright and airy viewing experience. The Chameleon is available with a clear skirt and a purple and white or blue and gray frame, or a black skirt with a red and black frame. Two pairs of snap-on ornamental frame pieces are included to add a touch of individuality to each mask.

Mares Star Liquidskin

Ultra-low-volume, the Star is designed for scuba but its small size and low-profile design make it idea for free divers too. With a couple of lively-shaped lenses that are rounded on the bottom and come to sharp angles in the upper corners at the ends of the eyebrows, the lenses are set at a slight angle and sit close to the eyes. The skirt seals snugly to the face. Made of Liquidvision, it’s an exclusive Mares skirt material that uses two different types of silicone—a firmer portion to support the mask structurally, and a softer portion where it comes in contact with the diver’s face to ensure a comfortable fit. Buckles attach to flexible tabs on the skirt for full positioning freedom and fold into the lenses for easy packing or stowing in BC pocket.

SCUBAPRO Synergy Trufit

The Synergy delivers excellent field of view, both horizontally and vertically, and combines that with one of the most comfortable mask skirts around. Called the Trufit and identifiable by its unique ribbing pattern, the skirt is made from a high quality silicone that is built thicker and firmer near the mask frame. This portion, sporting a matte finish, provides support and rigidity. Along the edges of the skirt the silicone is much thinner, enabling it to deliver maximum softness and elasticity for a comfortable watertight seal that molds to facial contours. A push-button buckle system attaches to tabs on the skirt to optimize range of motion when dialing in fit and enables the mask to be folded flat for easy packing. A mirrored lens option (shown) provides a glare-free view of the underwater world.

Sherwood Scuba Oracle+

The Oracle+ takes Sherwood’s best selling mask and ratchets it up a notch or two. This upgraded version comes with a 1.75 positive diopter installed in the lower one-third portion of each lens. These small magnifying lenses don’t get in the way of normal forward-looking viewing; however, when looking downward they greatly enhance the ability to read wristwatches, computer screens and gauge clusters. When looking forward, the mask’s wide lenses also provide above-average horizontal view. The Oracle’s Quick Disconnect Buckle system allows the strap to be removed from the mask with the push of a button, and lift tabs make for easy strap adjustments. The headband is wide and includes a center panel for a comfortable fit. An ample nose pocket makes for easy equalizing on descents.

Tilos Senza M996

This is a nice looking mask with a lot of horizontal field of view and respectable vertical field of view. The skirt is comfortable and the sides of the nose pocket provide textured patches that are easy to grab with gloves when it comes time to clear your ears. Also, pleats in the silicone expand as you squeeze the nose pocket so you can equalize without worrying about breaking the mask’s seal. The over-molded frame has a forehead tab to discourage any tendency to over-tighten the straps. Our test mask was equipped with Tilos’ optional E-Band, which replaces the standard headband with a flexible concave-shaped rubber pad that rests against the back of your head. Rather than adjusting the strap at the mask corners, you adjust at this head pad using a double-pull, push-button buckle system.

Tusa M-212 Freedom CEOS

The M-212 Ceos is a compact two window mask offering good field of view. It is built with Tusa’s Freedom Technology, which takes a soft silicone skirt of varying thicknesses and builds in stability ridges, rounded edges and sections of dimpled surfaces, all designed to deliver a comfortable seal that keeps water out while reducing the creases that are typically left on the face after a day of diving. The Quick-Adjust Buckle System incorporates a new low-profile push-button buckle that mounts to flexible tabs on the skirt. These tabs have corners, preventing a full range of motion, but they nonetheless allow for increased strap alignment to suit individual tastes. The mask is also available in a “Pro” version with CrystalView optical glass lenses treated with a proprietary anti-reflective and ultraviolet coating.

Looking for more ScubaLab testing? Check out more of our gear reviews:

SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Bag Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Regulator Review
SCUBALAB 2014: BC Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Lights Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Wetsuit Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Fins Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Mask Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Regulator Review