NOW HERE;S A FIRST FOR ME, A REVIEW OF NOT ONE BUT TWO masks in the same DIVER Tests. My well-documented mask addiction is taking a double hit. Ooh, I’m feeling a little faint!
These two masks are very different from each other but strive to do the same thing – to keep the air in and the water out, allow for sinus equalisation and provide the wearer with an unrestricted view of the underwater world.
One is a twin-lens model from Italian gear-maker Cressi; the other’s a single-lens model with side-windows from the Americans at TUSA.
Cressi Air Crystal
Cressi was the first mask-maker to incorporate reverse-teardrop-shaped lenses that were raked at a downward angle.
This now-patented design delivered an increased lower field of view, assisting the wearer in accessing risk-critical information displayed on pressure gauges and integrated computer consoles traditionally secured around the lower torso.
The first models were aptly named Big-Eyes and garnered a huge following. The original Big-Eyes masks had quite large profiles, unlike Cressi’s Nano mask, designed for freediving. This smaller twin-lens model has a minimal internal volume while still incorporating the raked, reverse-teardrop lenses.
The latest Air Crystal mask uses design features borrowed from its smaller stable-mate. Its tapered structure is derived directly from the Nano design, with the now-standard shaped lenses raked at precisely the same angle.
The Air Crystal has a dual integrated frame with an extremely low profile, allowing the tempered-glass lenses to sit close to the eyes, so increasing the angle of view and reducing the internal volume.
The material used for the skirt is Cressi’s own clear Crystal silicon, with a thicker section above the frame that’s claimed to increase the mask’s sealing ability by stiffening the skirt in this area. Swivelling buckles are attached to the mask-frame via silicon tabs to allow for adjustment of the mask-strap.
CRESSI AIR CRYSTAL
LENSES: Twin-teardrop, tempered glass
SKIRT: Clear Crystal silicon
COLOURS: Blue, yellow, pink, lilac & black
CONTACT: Cressi Masks Website
DIVER GUIDE: 9/10
The Freedom Tri-Quest
TUSA has been making masks for what seems an eternity, and they have acquired a big following. The Tri-Quest is a single-lens design with twin domed side-windows.
The tempered front lens is made from CrystalView optical glass, which has had the iron content and other impurities reduced to leave a lens without a green tint. It’s said to transmit 92% of available light.
The frame uses high-grade polymers and encompasses clear polymer side-windows. The skirt represents TUSA’s “Freedom Technology”, a set of features claimed to offer superior fit and comfort.
It uses varied thicknesses of soft silicon and has a rounded-edge cross-section with strategically placed ridges to add stability and prevent it collapsing under pressure.
The surface of the skirt’s seal line has a low-friction finish with small dimples intended to prevent slippage and make it feel more comfortable.
The head-pad is adjusted via pinch-to-release buckles attached to silicon lugs on the skirt.
Air Crystal in Use
The extremely low profile of the Air Crystal was immediately apparent, because the lower portion of the teardrop lenses were almost touching my cheeks to either side of my nose. This was due to the acute angle of the lens-line and the very low internal volume.
The effect of placing the lenses closer to the eyes was amazing, allowing super-wide vision from what is in effect a narrow and small mask outline. The downward field of view was enormous, allowing me to see my BC-mounted pressure gauge with just a flick of the eyes, as opposed to a full head-tilt.
The nose-pocket is quite large, thankfully taking my Romanesque hooter with ease. Pleasingly, the section of the frame around the top of the nose has been contoured and didn’t put any unwanted pressure on my bridge (something from which the big-bugled among us often suffer).
The buckles locked the strap firmly in place but were a little fiddly to release with gloves on. Because of the raked angle of the frame, the nose-pocket was almost completely exposed and very easy to access.
This, combined with the very low volume, made equalisation and purging a doddle.
Freedom Tri-Quest in Use
The Tri-Quest with its bulbous side-windows has a large profile and therefore a large internal volume. Under water it felt a little bulky, but this quickly became an insignificant consideration as I enjoyed the widest panoramic lateral field of view I’ve ever experienced.
I could see all around me without swivelling my head, and was acutely aware of divers and medium-to-large marine animals trying to sneak up from behind. I did have to raise my contents gauge to be able to read it, but that was no big deal.
The skirt felt outstanding against my face. I’m not sure what all that Freedom Technology was actually contributing, but it felt very soft and pliant and provided a fantastic watertight seal. I can’t remember having to purge water from the inside once.
The frame came almost to the tip of my nose, so I had to place my forefinger and thumb underneath it to pinch my nostrils shut to equalise on descent.
The whole experience was very pleasant, with the large amount of light let in by this mask giving it an airy feel.
The claustrophobic tunnel vision to which I’ve been subjected in the past had been replaced with super-wide, almost all-round vision.
TUSA FREEDOM TRI-QUEST
LENSES: Single-tempered CrystalView optical glass, polymer side-windows
SKIRT: Clear or black silicon
COLOURS: Black, pink, blue and translucent (clear skirt). Black, blue, yellow & pink (black skirt)
CONTACT: CPS Partnership website
DIVER GUIDE: 9/10
On paper these two masks are polar opposites of each other – one a super-wide-vision, large-framed, single-lens model with side-windows, the other a medium-sized, twin-lensed mask with minimal volume delivering an outstanding downward view.
However, each one represents state-of-the-art mask technology.
I can remember when a mask lens was circular and the size of a ship’s porthole, the skirts made of rubber and the internal volume measured in gallons.
That’s all history. The wonderful thing is that there’s an awful lot of choice now for maskaholics like me, and landscape- or portrait-style views are just a small part of the picture.