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Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > DIVER TESTS – Atomic Venom Frameless Mask

DIVER TESTS – Atomic Venom Frameless Mask
DIVER

DIVER TESTS – Atomic Venom Frameless Mask

Posted Thursday, October 22, 2015   |   10081 views   |   Sport   |   Comments (0) A mask with no frame? How does that work? Rather well, NIGEL WADE finds

MASK DESIGN BOFFINS HAVE COME UP with some surprisingly innovative configurations in their quest to produce the perfect diving window. 
I’ve been testing masks like a man possessed over my two-year tenure as Technical Editor for DIVER, culminating in a group comparison test in which I examined the field of view of 22 models (Vision Variability, May 2015). 
The group tests gave me an insight into the psyche of the designers in their attempt to create masks that came close to a universal fit. 
I was under the impression that I had seen it all – until, that was, Atomic Aquatics sent me its latest Venom Frameless model to take for a spin under water.

THE DESIGN
The new Venom Frameless has the same shape, lens, buckles and strap as the original Venom, but that’s where the similarity ends. The skirt is where it all happens. 
Atomic has produced what the Americans call “Gummi Bear Ultrasoft” silicon (although the UK distributor would rather I referred to it as “Gel Silicon”). 
The face-seal is constructed from this gel, which is co-moulded to a more rigid body to create a blend of stiff and soft bi-silicon, and the seal geometry has had to be redesigned to make the most of this new material. 
The skirt is bonded directly to the lens, eliminating the need for a bulky frame and resulting in a streamlined low-profile, low-volume mask. 
The single lens is made from Schott Superwite Ultraclear glass, which has had the iron content removed during the manufacturing process to give superior light transmission and subsequent clarity. 
The Venom Frameless is available in black-and-grey or black-and-red colour schemes with the gel carrying the colours. Because of the frameless design, the lens is not available with an anti-reflective coating (ARC).
IN USE
My first impression of this mask was that the seal was a bit on the chunky side. The thicker Gel Silicon seemed a far cry from mask-skirts I had previously used, some of which had employed a thin tapered or feathered edge. 
This seal and the Gel Silicon itself were very different. The best I can do is to compare it to kid’s Play-Doh. 
It feels very mouldable and soft, yet it’s extremely elastic, quickly returning to its natural position after being stretched or compressed. 
I took the Venom Frameless to Stoney Cove during a rare foray up North. 
Under water, the Gel Silicon seemed to fill in all the little gaps on my craggy old face, maintaining an amazingly watertight seal, so much so that I had to consciously inhale a little through my nose or physically lift the edge of the skirt to expel excess pressure on an ascent from the 30m-deep Hydro-box. 
The seal didn’t let a single drop of water in and felt extremely comfortable against my face. 
During my second dive I loosened the head-strap to the extent that the mask felt as if it would fall off, but the seal around my face remained intact. The silicon used in constructing the main body was actually very soft but retained it’s rigidity throughout the dives, and didn’t collapse or compress at depth when I was a bit slow to equalise the internal pressure.
Back in my studio I put the mask through the same field-of-view trial as employed in the group tests. 
Standing in front of a wall-mounted matrix, I recorded the amount I could see through the single lens at a set distance. 
The results were then compared to the original model, with the Frameless mask producing a wider view by a single digit all-round. This was no surprise, because the lack of a frame actually puts the lens closer to the wearer’s eye-line, and this also gives the mask a lower volume than its predecessor. 
To put the results into context, the Venom Frameless provided a FOV that would have been in the top two of the 22 masks tested in May.
CONCLUSION
The Venom Frameless was one of the most comfortable dive-masks I’ve had on my face and gave probably the best seal I’ve experienced. The nose-pocket was large enough (just) to take my big proboscis, and that’s always a bonus. 
The mask I was sent looked very striking with its distinct, almost fluorescent red edges. Atomic calls this its “Wicked Styling”.  An alternative grey colour scheme would most likely suit those of us who want to be perceived as less wicked.
The Atomic Aquatics’ design geniuses have come up with a very different concept by including this Gummi Bear (Gel) Silicon seal in this new mask. Will it provide a perfect fit for everyone? No, of course not, but it seems closer to the holy grail of a universal fit than any other mask in the Atomic range, and is possibly its best model yet. 

SPECS
Price – GBP112 
Sizes – One 
Colours – Black with red or grey accents
Lens – Single, Schott Superwite Ultraclear tempered glass. 
Body – Co-moulded bi-silicon with Gel Silicon seal
Buckles – Squeeze to adjust 
Diver guide – 10 (out of 10)

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