Clearly not your traditional
THREE-WINDOW DIVE masks are cool because they greatly expand your peripheral vision at depth. The downside is, at the joints where the front window meets the side windows, you tend to get a lot of distortion due to refraction. At least this is the case when you’re using the mask under water, which, of course, is the only place a mask’s performance matters.
If you haven’t used a three-window mask before, what happens at depth is when the object you’re looking at moves from the front lens to one of the side windows, it tends to disappear. It eventually reappears in the side windows, but it can sometimes take a while. This distorted view drives some scuba divers crazy; others put up with it because they like the additional side vision a tri-window mask provides.
Mares’ I3 Liquidskin mask suffers from this too—all three-window designs do—but what we noticed during our in-water tests is that the level of distortion you get with the I3 is lower than any other three-window mask we’ve ever used. This is due in part to the beveled joints the I3 uses in place of the thick corner posts you’ll find on some tri-view masks. But we’ve used other masks that eschew corner posts for beveled joints too, yet the virtually clear aquarium corners on the I3 still seem to make even more of a difference in minimizing distortion.
Measuring field of view in the water (a mask’s in-water field of view is always about 30 percent narrower than what it is in air), testers found the I3’s front window offered a horizontal range of 160 degrees (80 degrees to the right and left of center, a little above-average when compared to standard one-window masks). Now, incorporating the side windows, once our indicator slipped from view through the front window, it disappeared—for 30 degrees—then reappeared at 110 degrees and remained visible in our side vision all the way out to 140 degrees to the left and 140 degrees to the right, for a total horizontal field of view of 280 degrees.
This overall horizontal field of view is pretty impressive when compared to other masks we’ve used, and so is the minimal range of distortion. Test divers who have a tendency to be impatient with the “dead” spots found in three-window masks felt the I3’s distortion was so inconsequential they could learn to overlook it, especially if the payoff was gaining so much additional peripheral vision. The vertical view through the front window also proved above-average; 70 degrees overall, with 25 degrees of upward vision and 45 degrees looking downward, which makes seeing BC waist buckles and attachments all the easier.
Beyond its actual viewing characteristics, the I3 LiquidSkin uses a bi-silicone material in its mask skirt that places softer silicone where the skirt seals against your face, while a slightly stiffer silicone connects to the lens and frame. The buckles are soft-mounted to the skirt for added flexibility and fitment, plus they can be folded into the lens for a flatter profile when packing, similar to what you can do with a frameless mask. The narrow silicone strap widens in back into a large bi-silicone head pad that helps keep the strap from twisting and enhances comfort.
Bottom Line: Fans of three-window masks really need to take the I3 LiquidSkin on a test dive to appreciate its minimal side-view distortion. And divers who don’t like three-window masks because of the inherent distortion might change their minds after trying this mask. The I3 also tends to be sized a tad smaller than a typical three-window mask which often feels bulkier on the face than a standard single-window mask. All good reasons for giving the I3 LiquikSkin a closer look. Available in clear or black silicone. SGR
Made In: Thailand
Warranty: 1 Year