Masks are obviously a pretty major concern for all freedivers, and an essential bit of kit unless you are going without a mask altogether or you are using fluid goggles. Three of my favourite masks are the Cressi Superocchio the Cressi Minima and the Omer Bandit.
What do we want from a freediving mask?
- Low volume
- Compressible or comfortable during compression
- Good seal – especially when inverted
- Half decent vision
Best way to do this review then will be to go through each point, for each mask.
1. Low volume
Cressi Minima: Obviously low volume, as its basically a pair of swimming goggles with a skirt on it. In comparison to the other masks its probably the lowest volume overall, but it really is borderline. Its delicate feel on the face means that I find I sometime over compensate it, which is a bit counter productive (my issue though). This mask probably uses up less of your precious air for equalisation compared to the rest. Rating 4/5
Cressi SuperOcchio: One of the oldest freediving designs on the market, popular with spearos and freedivers alike. Very low volume, slightly more than the Minima due to the depth of the skirt, but about the same as the Bandit. Rating 3/5
Omer Bandit: Very similar in design to the Superocchio so a very similar volume. I wouldnt be able to call it if there is a difference in the volume between these two. Rating 3/5
2. Compressible or comfortable during compression
Cressi Minima: The Minima feels very comfortable when subject to most pressure levels, but it does suffer a bit at depth. Although it will flex a bit, the shallow nature of the skirt means that if you slow down mask equalisation towards the end of a deep dive, you will start to feel strong pressure against your face from the frame. When breaking residual volume depths I tend to pretty much forget about mask equalisation, so things can get a bit uncomfortable beyond say 40 m in the Minima. Rating 3/5
Cressi SuperOcchio: The Superocchio is a pretty comfy mask. It has a deep skirt which means that it can push and flex (the skirt) closer to the face when under pressure. The frame itself is totally rigid though. I have dived to 60m with this mask with only the briefest of equalisations after 40m. Rating 3/5
Omer Bandit: The Bandit has by far the softest silicone skirt. Similar overall depth and dimensions to the superocchio, but easier to compress. At depth it flexes easily around the contours of your face and remains really comfy. Rating 4/5
3. Good seal – especially when inverted
Cressi Minima: Not the best. Something about the skirt lets it leak a bit around the nose, especially when its heavily compresssed. Rating 3/5
Cressi SuperOcchio: Probably the best seal, although the least comfortable. The skirt material is fairly firm, so it really slams itself shut and rarely leaks. I often have a sore upper lip/ nose after a days diving though. Rating 5/5
Omer Bandit: Great seal for some. Personally I sometimes get leaks from the mask despite its super soft silicone. My mate Andy totally rates it though! Rating 4/5
4. Half decent vision
Cressi Minima: A restricted view, simply due to the size of the lenses. Not nearly as bad as you might think though. For freediving its more than enough…. perhaps a bit restricted for spearing though. No distortion. Rating 2/5
Cressi SuperOcchio: A good overall view. The lens is a little way away from the eye so you get a bit of tunnel vision , but its not bad. I never feel like im missing out on things when wearing it. Feels a little bit like you are watching a screen… No distortion. Rating 3/5
Omer Bandit: Probably the best vision in the batch. Slightly less distance from the eye to the lens than the superocchio gives a broader field of vision. Its got a bit of a flare in the shape (think Dame Edna glasses) which adds to the broader vision. No distortion. Rating 4/5
CRESSI MINIMA : 12/20 CRESSI SUPEROCCHIO: 14/20 OMER BANDIT: 15/20
Bit of a shock result for me actually, as i prefer the Superocchio for general use, but I have been as objective as possible here so those are the scores!
At the end of the day its down to the individual and one mans perfect mask is anothers worst. Case in point…. i’m not a fan of the Sphera mask due to the distortion (it makes me feel a bit sick), whilst 80% of the freediving community LOVE the thing!
What would be my perfect mask? Mask manufacturers listen in please!!!!
Swim goggle style design like the Minima, but with a softer gummier skirt to give a better seal and larger lenses for better vision (tiny bit bigger). A flexible bridge joint to allow flex between the lenses, letting the mask compress easily. Frameless design. (EDIT 2013 – This mask now exists! Check out the Sub Gear pocket mask, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztjIqkIS-lU, ironically, i dont like it due to the distortion from the raked lenses)