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ESS Tactical Turbo CAM review

by Arnie

Tactical Turbo CAM
by Arnie




I came to write this review I actually had two sets of goggles
to directly compare against each other. Now if you remember
some time ago I had a pair of ‘unmistable’ Bolle X800s. If your
memory stretches back further you’ll remember that they died
a hideous death and exploded into two pieces cracking down the
bridge of the nose. Since then I’ve been using my trusty Guarder
, or a standard mesh mash.

first pair of goggles that I got a couple of weeks ago was a
set of Oakley
Assault A-Frames
that I’ve had my eye
on, kindly supplied by Extreme

also been after a pair of ESS TurboCAMs for some time, so when
I spotted someone selling a pair in the UK I jumped at the chance
and grabbed them, as ESS don’t (as far as I know) have any stockists
in the UK.

note: do read the entirity of this review before making a final
decision about them. There’s a lot to be said about these goggles,
and there are contrasting viewpoints.

why these goggles?
Well the ESS Tactical goggles have these
standard feature sets:

ventilated frame with maximum airflow – for extreme fog resistance
and filtration of airborne particles. 2.4 mm thick, high impact
polycarbonate lenses with high quality anti-scratch and anti-fog
coatings. Dual thermal lenses on some models. High memory straps
systems designed for use with PASGT helmets. Anatomical, padded
face fit that accommodates most eyeglasses. Rx Insert available.
Tear-off lens cover compatibility. Tinted lenses available.
100% UVA/UVB protection. ” ESS

so that’s what most goggles have (well kinda), but these are
not only comfy to wear, but they feature an ingenious fan ventilation

patented Turbo CAM fan technology exhausts humid air to prevent
condensation on the lens that could impair vision during high
intensity operations.

Airflow is drawn in along the lower edge of the goggle frame,
and exhausted out of the top at fan speeds up to 15,000 rpm.

2-speed fan can be set to hi for maximum exhaust, or low for
silent operation.

fan can run for up to 50 hours of continuous operation on two
AAA batteries-for max battery life, operate the fan only as
needed to prevent fogging. A battery charge status light illuminates
on the hi setting.

power pack switch has a lockout feature to prevent activation
during storage…” ESS

how’s that for cunning? It’s a nice simple invention, and just
the kind of innovation that I like. Of course if you ask any
ageing paintballer turned Airsofter (there’s more than a few
out there ^_^) you’ll find out that really this isn’t a hugely
new idea, and to be fair it isn’t; but to my knowledge these
are the only production goggles out there that are Airsoft ballistic
safe, and feature this fan ventilation system.

does it work?
Well it’s quite simple really. A battery
pack attached to the strap provides power for a hidden
fan at the top of the goggles that pulls air up from the
bottom and pumps it out the top. The moving air keeps
the humidity low, so that mist does not form on the inside
of the lense. It’s much like demisting your car in the
morning really.

cunning idea is that these two little AAA batteries provide
power for around 50 hours of use on low speed, the switch
has two settings, one for constant on (which is quiet)
and one for instant de-mist (high speed, but noisy). The
high setting isn’t recommended for use in CQB as although
it’s not a dead giveaway but you can hear it running
within a few feet
– actually no scrub that as that’s
a bit much, what I meant is that the noise will be a slight
distraction to the wearer.

two batteries are hidden behind a sliding cover on the
pack. getting them in is somewhat difficult to work out
at first, but just read the instructions and you’ll get

switch features a switch, that can be pulled towards the goggles
for ‘hi’ and pushed backwards for simply on (constant low speed).
I really like the idea that the entire cover is the switch,
so you don’t have to hunt for the switch with gloves behind
your ear where you can’t see it yourself. Good thought out idea
that – one simple notch with your hand and you can switch it

‘hi’ a green LED comes on to indicate you are using the higher
powered and faster setting. This is something that is a useful
idea but ultimately a bit silly really. The green LED indicates
to you that the goggles are on hi, but for one thing you’ll
be wearing the goggles so not able to see the light, and for
another the green light is very bright, and in a night game
will easily give your position away.

white logos on the side are again something that I’m not to
keen on as they increase your visibility, this isn’t a huge
problem though as you can easily pen them in with a black magi-marker.

the battery box is a rocker switch, working much like a shotgun
safety. When the latch shows red you can’t switch the power
switch, when it’s green you can operate the battery slide switch.
To operate it push the green in to reveal the red end of the
rocker to lock the switch, and push the red end in to reveal
the green end to unlock the switch mechanism.

The first thing I noticed about these goggles
was how comfy they were to wear, and putting the fan on was
a rather weird sensation, as it’s rather odd feeling air passing
past your eyes (you get used to it). For such a small fan it
really does rip along on the higher of the two settings.

Arnie’sAirsoft patented “Dimwit tests” passed with
flying colours (see
Guarder glasses review
), as the lenses were more than up
to the challenge of stopping an upgraded AEG at point plank
and a sustained burst of fire.

the box you get some instructions, a tear-off cover, and a bag
to keep the goggles safe in (which doubles as the recommended
cleaning cloth). As with most goggles these come with a mysterious
coating on them that inhibits fogging, so do use the bag to
clean them inside and out, and nothing else.

tear-off strip is a great little addon, but not something that
I can see myself using, as I don’t skirmish in conditions that
would warrant such an accessory. If you happen to need such
an item, I’ll sure you’ll be pleased with it. One use that the
tear off cover does give, is that it doubles as a protective
shield, and will protect your expensive lenses from flying debris,
so anyone that skirmishes in harsh environments such as desert
etc. will be happy with this idea.

sad truth:
I’m afraid that a lot of people are
going to hate me for saying this but: It simply
doesn’t work! .. well not like ESS say.

two big problems, firstly I steamed up the last
time I went out in these, and secondly the fan is
far too fragile.

  • Firstly
    it must be understood that I get quite hot and sweaty
    when I’m active, it’s not that I’m unfit, far from
    it, I just have a high body temperature. Someone with
    a degree in biology can explain it – I can’t, something
    to do with metabolisms or something.. anyway.
  • Secondly
    for this review I was wearing (for some of the time)
    a balaclava and Guarder SWAT vest, both of which keep
    you rather warm.
  • Thirdly,
    although I was wearing a fair bit of warm kit, this
    was in the British winter, so outside temperatures
    were in the 10-15degree Celsius area.

are not that I would consider to be unreasonable
conditions for me to expect these goggles to function

you’ll see in the attached image from their brochure,
ESS plainly call these goggles “fog-proof”,
and suitable for “the most extreme circumstances”.
I’m sorry to say it, but as I’ve said I’ve found
them to mist up for me under normal use, so the
electrical fan system really has failed as a product
– at least in my eyes.

you consider the goggles themselves as a separate
item (without the TurboCAM), I feel that they are
actually quite good, if not some of the best goggles
I have used.

first problem:
In an effort to increase fan cycle
performance per battery set and to decrease fan noise
the fan has been made in my opinion far to light and fragile
(please note the image to the left is looking at the underside
of the fan from the inside out – hope that makes sense
^_^). One problem is that if the goggles are pressed towards
the face (such as if you’re touching the back of a scope
with them) the area that the fan is in deflects and presses
against the side of the fan blades, causing an uncomfortable
chewing noise and at worst stopping the fan turning.

one point I found that the fan wouldn’t start, and had
to be encouraged by the poking of a finger to get it turning
again. My guess is that the fan had stopped at the engine
equivalent of top dead centre when it stalled brushing
against the side of the mounting when the goggle frame
flexed (above).

second problem:
well sadly this is a bit of a design
flaw. The goggles are really comfy to wear, but that’s
not the problem. The problem is that all the foam that
makes up this comfy surround soaks up and stores water.

result is that if your face is sweating the goggles soak
it up. This oval of foam around the lense increases the
humidity inside the goggles to such a point that the fan
just can’t pump air through at the rate needed to demist
the goggles, even if permanently left on the high setting.

A minor issue is that the fan is mounted
in the center of the visual area, so the primary area
that it demists is the bridge of your nose. This would
be fine if I happened to be a certain character from Futurama
with one eye in the center of my face, but I’m not. A
better design would be to have two fans, one over each
eye. That way, even in cases of near 100% humidity the
fans would at least afford some ‘defogging’ double the
fans would halve the lifetime of the batteries, but at
50 hours I think I could survive with 25 hours of use
if they drove two fans. ^_^

battery compartment
is not what I would call robust
– I’m afraid that a decent aimed volley from an AEG would
smash the battery cover. A rubberized cover for the pack
would be a better idea – it would also mean that it would
be water resistant – something that it isn’t in it’s present

somewhat reluctant to test this as I rather like the goggles
despite their flaws.

problem is that if you slide the battery cover across
to the “hi” setting you could easily slide the
battery cover off. This is a bit silly as the compartment
switch is quite obviously designed to be easy to use when
gloved, but the fact that you can slide the battery cover
off so easily is.. well a little silly. There’s also nothing
to stop the tiny piece of plastic from getting knocked
off by a light brush against something.

retaining strap
has a quick detactable buckle on it
which is somewhat of a blessing and a curse in one. Quick
attach means quick detach, and I’m not keen on my goggles
coming off in the middle of a skirmish. The fact that
the buckle is made of plastic simply adds another insecurity
to the strap system, it also doesn’t help that the buckle
clip isn’t exactly over engineered. Remember that this
clip is behind your head, so I’d recommend a buddy system
to ensure that it’s coupled properly before leaving the
safe area.

It’s not often I get critical with reviews, but I
feel justified with this one. I read all the reviews
and all the promotional blurb for this product and
saw it as the solution to my problem. Up until this
point I’ve been unable to find a pair of goggles that
will not steam up for me, and I thought I had when
I sourced these, sadly this turned out not to be the

light usage these goggles will be great do not get
me wrong here, the fan will help keep the lense clear
and they are very comfortable to wear.

Gosh darn it I’m rambling so much
here, but the simple truth is that there are two contrasting
thoughts in my head concerning these goggles. I’ll
leave these two opinions listed here for you to read
so you can see where I’m coming from and so you can
draw your own conclusion.

The big problems I have are that for around
120USD I expect a lot more from a pair of goggles.
Sure the goggles look and wear really well, but they
are not fog proof. I would consider them to be more
fog resistant than a single lense system, but the
fan system is a gadget, and I’m sorry to say it’s
really not that effective.

you have to consider is that a basic ESS Tactical
goggle set with a dual lense system from ESS costs
49USD. This means you are paying over 80USD for the
fan and electrical system in the TurboCAM.

idea is truly sound, but the electrical additions
to the goggles are not robust in design and the battery
pack specifically could well (IMHO) be destroyed with
any heavy use.

design these goggles for ‘Tactical’ use. I actually
contacted ESS themselves about these goggles to see
if they were suitable for Airsoft use, but they wouldn’t
even entertain the idea (I was only interested in
the ballistic side of things). You have to respect
that in the manufacturer, as to be fair, ESS never
intended this product for Airsoft use, so please do
remember I am looking at these from an Airsofter’s

afraid that as goggles they are very nice, but the
added expense of the fan system (80USD) is simply
put – wasted. The fan is inefficient, placed in the
wrong place and simply can’t cope with really sweaty
conditions. In short.. don’t waste your time and get
the ESS Tacticals without the fan.

idea is sound and the thought is there, but there
are too many minor flaws in this product for me to
warrant recommending it to anyone. You’d be better
off getting one of ESS’s Tactical Goggle sets without
the fan feature (e.g. model # ESS 02BK-T). I really
rather do hope that someone like Guarder or Oakley
come up with a design similar to this that works better,
or even for ESS to revise the design.

the record these goggles could really be the very
best out there as there’s a lot going for them, but
a few additions/alterations are needed in my opinion:

  • The lense should be double layered

  • Replace the single fan with one over each eye rather

  • The battery compartment needs a rubberised one piece

  • The LED to be dropped from the design

  • The foam replaced with a similar material that didn’t
    soak up water so much

on a personal note I’d quite like them to drop the clip
on the strap, but that’s just my personal taste. ^_^

On a
more curious note, I wonder whether the goggles would serve
better if the fan pumped air from the top downwards, rather
than hot air from around the hose/mouth area upwards?

I really do like these goggles, and in the world
of goggles these are the best I have come across, sure they
steam up, but they do fair better than anything else I’ve
tried (apart from mesh masks, that have their own limitations).

I buy them again if I knew what I knew now at the time of
purchase? The simple answer is yes. These goggles are incredibly
“gucci” and a gadget, so in my eyes loveable.

If you
accept the fact that they are not unfoggable, the minor
flaws and that you’re paying a premium for them, then they
really are about the best goggles you can get for your money.


well, my quest continues in the search for the ‘unsteamable
goggles’. I’m going to attempt to ‘upgrade’ the goggles
with some divers/motorcycle anti-mist wax, as I’m
sure that’ll help matters and bring this product back
into a more favourable view.

Oh if the kind fellow that sold these to me reads
this (I bought them in a private sale) – please don’t
think I’m in any way annoyed with the sale or yourself.
I had to buy these goggles to try them out for myself.
^_^ I don’t consider the purchase a waste of money,
and I do actually look upon the ESS goggles as a valuable
addition to the toy cupboard.


Assault A Frame review

on this review in the forums

Wednesday, February 19, 2003 6:31 PM
Copyright 2003 ArniesAirsoft

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