We’ve seen the advent of head-mounted cameras, and the little GoPro and its clones are proving popular with purchasers.
However, the Liquid Image product goes that little bit further, in that the camera is integral with the diver’s mask. It’s a camera mask, and the 1080p HD is top of a range.
Now you may consider this a silly idea, but I recently took one of these camera masks on a liveaboard and a surprisingly large section of the passengers decided that they’d like to have one – so no ridicule there.
In fact there was no shortage of people offering to try the mask out for me, but in the event I persuaded fellow-passenger Michelle Kim to give it a whirl.

The Design
The mask itself is a typical two-glass low-profile affair but with a camera unit mounted along
the top of its frame, the lens positioned in the middle to give a Cyclops effect.
I was concerned that the unit’s weight would tend to tip the mask forwards, causing it to leak water and require frequent clearing, but the batteries are installed in two separate compartments on the lower sides, thereby balancing the whole thing out.
It runs on four AAA batteries, either alkaline lithium or rechargeable. Long-life lithium batteries make sense with this product.
The screw-caps are well marked so that they can be closed just the right amount without overdoing it. The top cap covers a second water-resistant plug that gives access to the memory card. This is a Micro SDHC, about the size of a toenail-clipping but with a massive 4g memory!
It is rated to be watertight to 40m deep. The little cards are available with memories up to 32GB but must be Class 4 or above.
A 32GB card will record up to 20,000 images or 354 minutes of video, or any combination
of the two. The camera mask has no internal memory, and will not work without an SDHC card.
You can download the files either by taking out the micro-card and inserting it into the
full-size SDHC adapter (supplied) or plug a cable (also supplied) directly into the mini USB connection that sits alongside the Micro-SDHC card slot in the mask.
The camera’s CMOS sensor has a resolution of 12MP, and the f/3.2 lens of the camera allows it to work in relatively low light.

Operation
On the right side of the mask, above your right eyebrow, is a rocker-switch. This has a rubber plug on the left side that prevents it being activated by accident.
The plug is permanently attached to the switch, so there’s no danger of losing it, but it is easily unplugged to allow you to press down on the left side to get things working.
An LCD display at the back of the camera tells you what’s happening although there is, of course, no way you can see this while wearing the mask. However, it comes in useful during the short time needed to learn what things do.
The LCD indicates the number of files recorded, whether these are individual pictures or video sequences. It also displays remaining battery life, and will show “Lo” together with a beeping sound when batteries need replacing. You can also set the time and date.
When under water, an indicator light close to and above the right eye will tell you which operating mode you’re using.
One press to the left for about a second gives a blue light, indicating that the mask is in 720p at 60fps video mode (short for 720 progressive scan frames per second / 60 frames per second). This is useful for fast-moving subjects such as free-swimming sharks.
A second press to the left gives a green light inside the mask, which means that it is in 1080p 30fps high-definition video mode.
A third press elicits a red light, which puts it into single still-picture mode. A long press followed by a release turns the whole thing off.
It will record in either PAL or NTSC, and that needs to be preset.
Once you have chosen the operating mode you require and got the appropriate colour indicator light, you use the right side of the rocker-switch to take either still pictures or start recording video.
A second press stops the video. The whole thing automatically switches off after three minutes of non-use, to save battery power.

Lights
Michelle shot a lot of blue video sequences, because of course there is not a full spectrum
of light at depth. We really needed some additional white light.
A fourth operating mode (purple light) gives the opportunity to use the camera mask
in still-photography mode in conjunction with an underwater flashgun, should you buy the optional connection lead. We didn’t have that.
There are also strong mounting points on either side of the mask with standard tripod bushes for additional fixed lighting. We didn’t have that either.
Still, Michelle seemed quite content to see her buddy performing in front of her later on my computer screen, albeit in monochromatic blue.

Downloading
I just stuffed the Micro card into the SDHC adapter and read it via a card-reader. It downloaded onto my MacBook Pro, and we watched what Michelle had recorded. It was simple to do.
Evidently it works with Windows XP (SP2 or higher) with any computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E6300 processor or similar.
You’ll need at least 2GB of RAM and a 256MB graphics card in your computer. I’m a Mac man, so I just press the button!

Problems
Michelle reported no discomfort or repeated flooding of the mask, so no problems there.
The most obvious snag during recording was the interference of exhaled bubbles passing up in front of the lens.
In fact, these almost call for you to hold your breath during video recording, to swim fast forwards, or always to be in a position to look down at your subject, to divert the bubbles safely out of the way.
The other snag was Michelle’s long hair, which obscured the camera’s lens from time to time.
I wouldn’t have that problem! The camera mask records sound, but of course the sound was predominantly Michelle’s breathing.
We expected the flashing indicator light (video operating) or steady light (standing by) to be a little distracting.
Michelle reported that this was not so and in fact, in the brightly lit shallows of the Red Sea, it was almost undiscernible. This might be different during a night dive, of course.
You also have to keep your head still while recording. The lens has a 135° angle of view,
but you must stare at what you’re recording or your audience will have cause to vomit while watching your material later.
Overall, this camera mask provides a good aide-memoire to a dive, and although it doesn’t rival serious underwater photography equipment, it adds up to a lot of fun.
It’s also available with an extra-large skirt as an option.

Comparable cameras to consider:
GoPro HD2 (with underwater housing), £349
CamOne Infinity, £208
Contour GPS POV, £300

SPECS
PRICE £330
SENSOR 12MP CMOS
LENS F/3.2 135° FOV
CLOSEST FOCUSING 40cm
DEPTH-RATING 40m
MEMORY CARD SD/SDHC 4Gb
FILE FORMAT Jpeg, H.264 MOV with Audio
BATTERIES 4 AAA
PC INTERFACE USB
TV FORMAT PAL or NTSC
CONTACT www.hahnel.ie
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