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Dive Mask and Prescription Considerations for Underwater Photographers

OTS Spectrum full face diving mask with reading lenses installed

Prescription dive mask concerns for photographers and cinematographers

               One of my personal passions, since I started scuba diving at 14 has remained underwater photography. Being able to share images and videos of the sites we are so privileged to be able to see as divers starting with my old 35mm camera and housing I took on my early dives. Some of us divers from a young age need help with our vision and use of underwater camera equipment, while others have vision issues that develop with age. In addition to various vision issues that can affect diver’s ability to use a camera, photographers and cinematographers have unique needs that every mask may not fit. 

For example on the right, is an OTS Spectrum full face diving mask used by a professional photographer. Only reading lenses were used and were made oversize so the photographer could focus on their camera and settings, with a little space left on top for uncorrected distance viewing. 

OTS Spectrum full face diving mask with reading lenses installed
An OTS Spectrum Full Face Diving mask with custom oversize reading lenses installed by See the Sea RX.

In this article, am going to discuss scuba masks and prescription mask concerns as they relate to the underwater photographer including:

  •        Picking a mask for underwater photography
  •        Prescription lens options
  •         Reading lens options

Picking a (prescription or corrective) scuba mask for underwater photography:

While photography needs (and prescription needs) do affect mask decision, it is still important to not forget the basics. While a mask may be one of the less expensive pieces of equipment a diver uses, few things can ruin a dive like a mask that fogs, leaks, or completely fails. A quality dive mask should consist of a silicone skirt, tempered glass lenses, and high quality frame materials (if not frameless). This becomes even more critical when trying to capture the once in a lifetime shot through your viewfinder only to later find your focus was off due to a foggy mask

Picture taken in the Dos Ojos Cenote with a Sony RX100VI by Josh at See the Sea

Modern digital cameras and software allow us to save a lot of images in post processing, but focus cannot be repaired in post (there is always an exception, such as the dual pixel raw Canon 5DmkIV which allows MICRO focus adjustments in Canon software). 

On the left is my 5DMKIV housing which fits the full size DSLR. While the dual pixel raw image does allow some focus shifting in post, it is extremely minor and will not fix an out of focus image but rather is designed to sharpen focus on the eyes for example. 

In addition to general mask concerns, photographers do have a few additional needs. 

To minimize any distortion of lcd viewfinders or monitors, underwater photographers should avoid tinted or mirrored lenses. While tinted and mirrored dive mask lenses are popular with recreational divers to bring back color while diving or cut through glare at the surface, any mirror or tinted lens does reduce the amount of light reaching the eye. As underwater photographers, we want every photon to reach our eyes, so we can see the clearest picture and ensure we are capturing what we would like. 

In my article on choosing a prescription dive mask, one of the larger decisions we have to make when choosing a new dive mask is whether we want a clear skirt or a black skirt mask. Clear skirts let in some peripheral light but tend to yellow over time while black skirts look newer longer. As underwater photographers, the glare from side skirts can be distracting, so in general we recommend black skirt dive masks for photography.

The decision as to whether to use a twin lens or single lens dive mask makes no difference and is a personal choice. 

 

 

Twin lens prescription dive mask.
Single lens prescription dive mask .

Prescription considerations for the underwater photographer

In general, there are three main lens styles for prescription dive masks:

  • Single Vision/Distance Correction Lenses
  • Reading Lenses
  • Bifocals


Single vision lenses
correct for one distance only , and wee refer to single vision lenses for distance only correction. For divers that only need correction for distance due to issues such as myopia or astigmatism (yes we can even create prism lenses for scuba diving ).

If a professional underwater photographer has very mild distance correction, they often choose to not correct for the distance so as to keep the near vision as clear as possible.

Single vision lenses start at $208.00.

Reading lenses correct for close vision due to issues such as presbyopia. For the underwater photographer, who spends considerable more time using near/close vision for reviewing camera settings, camera monitors, and viewfinders, reading lenses can be the most popular option. Photographers require larger reading lenses than a diver who just needs to be able to see their gauge or computer. One of our most popular masks for reading lenses is the Atomic Venom Frameless with Reading glass.

Reading lenses start at $158.99.

Bifocal lenses are the most popular lenses produced at See the Sea. Bifocal lenses correct for both near and far distances. I wrote a much longer article (which includes a video about bifocals) on bifocal dive masks which you can review here. While many advanced underwater photographers forgo distance correction in order to focus on their close vision, if your distance vision is poor enough the dive quality would be diminished without it, there are two main and one fully custom bifocal options to consider.

Above is a Scuba Pro Synergy II Twin dive mask (one of our more popular masks), with one of our standard bifocal options. With both our standard bifocal options (the ST28 and the St38), the lens is divided into two sections: A large distance correction area as well as a half moon near vision correction zone. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the line separating the areas. The final size of the near correction area is a factor of the dive mask, your pupillary distance, and lens constraints. The St35 (starting at $315) is the preferred standard bifocal for photographers as the near vision area is approximately 25% larger than on the St28.

For photographers that cannot operate their equipment with the constraints of the half moon near correction zone, our fully custom bifocal, the Franklin bifocal, pictured below, allows us to use two separate lenses per eye providing a truly custom product with the amount of distance/near correction per eye determined by the scuba diver/ photographer. As this is a fully custom product, online ordering is not available. Please call us for more information. 

As seen with the Atomic Venom Frameless mask above with Franklin lenses, there are two lenses per eye with the near vision lenses at the bottom of the mask extending all the way across, not limited to a half moon shape. Further the percentage of lens for each eye dedicated to near versus far vision can be determined by the diver while consulting us. 

other considerations and ordering

Some prescriptions limit mask choices, such as those with high plus lenses or high prism generally find our M100 and M200 dive masks to work best due to the space between the lenses and the diver’s face. Other dive issues such as freediving photographers, may prefer a low volume mask. I wrote an article on some of our low volume masks for freediving here. 

If you are ready to order a prescription dive mask, you can go to our order page here.  If you have any questions, you can also click the chat box on the bottom right which comes to us during business hours (and often forwards to one of our cellphones after hours). You can also call us at the office at 1800-356-7190. 

As always, you also can send us your own quality dive mask to have lenses installed, and do not have to get a dive mask directly from us. We also have a network of dealer dive stores across the United States ready and willing to help you pick a mask for prescription lenses from See the Sea. 

Josh

Josh

Josh is an optical technician and owner of See the Sea RX. He is a PADI instructor and has been involved in diving for more than 20 years. He has also worked as a sergeant at the Harris County, Texas, Sheriff's Office, which included time as the instructor for the dive team. Josh also holds a masters degree in data analytics from Texas A&M.

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Single Vision (Distance) Prescription Dive Mask Gallery

Single vision prescription dive mask examples

Single vision lens dive masks are used to correct distance vision while scuba diving or snorkeling. If you have a relatively simple prescription with minimal astigmatism, the premade stock lens masks may work well for you. If you require astigmatism correction, prism correction, or if your prescription falls outside of the range, you will need our custom prescription dive masks. Our custom prescription lens dive masks can correct for extreme corrections, high cylinders, and strabismus (with prism). Below are examples of our custom prescription dive mask lenses installed in masks we stock and masks sent to us from customers around the world.  If you want to see examples of bifocal dive masks, check out the link here

Single Vision Prescription Dive Mask Gallery

The MP208/Atum freediving mask is very popular with freedivers and spearfisherman. We often do this mask in bifocals, but here it is with single vision corrective lenses. We would discourage the use of this mask for individuals with sphere corrrections greater than +4ish. If you have questions about whether this low volume mask would work for you, don't hesitate to reach out.
The Atomic Venom Frameless has quickly become our most popular dive mask/scuba goggle- recently overtaking the Scubapro Synergy 2. Here is the single lens dive mask with our prescription distance lenses.
Here is a Cressi low volume mask with our prescription distance lenses. This mask, while a bit smaller can accommodate mild to moderate prescriptions well.
The Scuba Pro Synergy Twin in the older version (since been updated with the Scuba Pro Synergy II Twin) is the all time best selling series of dive masks at See the Sea due to its unique twin skirt seal. Moderate and mild prescriptions will get close to 100% lens coverage. Stronger prescritpions may result in smaller lenses.
This is a mask a diver sent to us for distance lenses. Every pair of prescription lenses we make is custom to your specific mask and prescritpion.
The Hunter mask is one of the less expensive masks we offer (But still a quality mask)- here we installed very strong prescription lenses (Over -20), but in general we recommend a different mask for stronger prescriptions.
Here is a Hunter low volume mask with prescription lenses. The hunter mask is also shown above right, with a much stronger prescription. You can see here how much larger the prescription area is with a moderate strength correction.
The M100, one of our most popular stocked masks, is shown here in the aluminum frame with clear skirt. This is with a fairly strong distance correction, and the m100 is recommended for stronger prescriptions over the Hunter mask for example.
The M100 Color Correction is one of the newer masks we stock at See the Sea. It provivdes a mirror lens and a magenta tint to provide more vivid colors at depth. Here the M100 is outfitted with custom distance prescription lenses.
The Scubapro Spectra Mini is one of our more popular masks for medium to smaller faced individuals. It also can accommodate stronger prescriptions.
The M200 pictured here and to the right in the discontinued yellow color, is my favorite mask for smaller faces and also it accomodates strong plus lenses. It features an aluminum frame and is available in clear and black skirts.
The m200 dive mask is also avialable in color correcting mirrored lenses. This is a special order item.
We used to stock the Oceanic Enzo, pictured above. We still can provide it on special requests and it can accommodate mild to moderate prescriptions well.
The Scubapro ghost mask with prescription lenses. We would only encourage the use of this single lens low volume diving mask for very mild prescriptions.
This is the most popular color of the Scubapro Spectra Mini- clear and blue with prescription distance lenses.
Here is a Seac spearfishing mask a diver sent in for prescription lenses. As we make all our prescription lenses custom, we were able to match the shape of the mask for this final product.
The Aqualung Mission dive mask has a unique shape which we matched with the prescription lenses here used to correct astigmatism for this diver.
The Atomic Frameless is a single lens dive mask available on See the Sea. We are able to install our prescription lenses on single lens masks, and you can see the final product here used to correct for distance and astigmatism.
The Atomic Subframe is likely the sturdiest twin lens mask we stock. The lenses installed in this mask are fairly strong, and the subframe can accommodate most prescription lenses. If your prescription is stronger than +/-6 in either way, we may suggest another mask.

If you take your glasses off to read...

If you take your glasses off to read on land, you may want to consider the below option when building out your single vision prescription lenses. This option, a check box in the build out processes, tells us to leave space at the bottom of the mask without prescription so you can see your gauges or computer clearly. If you need further assistance seeing your dive computer, you may want to consider bifocals. 

The M200 dive mask pictured here with our "see under" option, leaves space under the prescription lens for the diver to see their gauges without correction.
The scubapro synergy II with see under space. This can be customized to be as high or low as you would like.

Picking a dive mask for prescription lenses can seem to be a stressful task. Hopefully after seeing available options for various prescription ranges, we have made the selection a little easier. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and be sure to check out our other articles for more information. 

Josh

Josh

Josh runs See the Sea RX and has been diving for over 20 years, 15 of which have been as an instructor and trip leader.

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Bifocal Scuba Dive Mask Gallery

Bifocal dive mask lens gallery

Recently, I published a post on different bifocal scuba mask options, but I wanted to create a post with more images, so you can see examples of more options for bifocal lenses in your mask or when ordering a mask from us. Bifocal lenses correct distance vision as well as providing an add power for the near vision section. No more struggling to see your gauges or dive computer. Our prescription dive mask lenses- made custom to your prescription can be produced in as little as three days with rush fees (standard processing is 2-3 business weeks. for more information on our rush options, click here). 

Standard and ST35 Bifocals

Below are images of standard and ST35 bifocal masks. The main difference between the two bifocal types is the ST35 gives the diver a bit more near vision room. 

Tusa Freedom Ceos Dive Mask with bifocals. These lenses were installed in the customer's own mask, and due to the smaller size of the CEOS mask the prescription lenses provide almost 100% lens coverage.
The Hollis M3 is a popular twin lens mask. We do not sell the Hollis line, but this mask was sent int by a customer. Twin lens masks are my preffered masks for prescription lenses in general.
This mask was sent to us by a diver for bifocal lenses.
The M100 dive mask is one of our most popular masks on the See the Sea site. The masks costs under $100 before lenses despite its aluminium frame. The m100 is a great average fit mask, and it can accommodate stronger prescriptions.
Many divers are unsure whether single lens masks can accommodate prescription lenses. Here is a scubapro crystal vu with bifocal lenses installed. While the lines are difficult to see in this image, the mask does have the standard lined bifocal.
The Scuba Pro Synergy II remains the most popular mask on See the Sea. We have installed lenses in more Synergy II masks than any other mask in our history. The final lens product comes out near edge to edge on the Synergy, including here on this bifocal.
Seadive masks several mask models with a UV blocking lens. UV blocking lenses are becoming more popular in dive masks to help reduce exposure at the surface. Here we installed bifocals in a customer's mask.
Here is another Synergy II with bifocal lenses installed. We no longer stock the pink color, but can bring it in on special requests.
As previously stated, the Synergy II is our most popular dive mask. The clear and blue is also the most popular color. Bifocal lenses help scuba divers see their gauges, computers, and camera controls while also correcting distance vision.
The Tusa Paragon is another mask that blocks UV light. Here is a Paragon with lenses from See the Sea.
An Atomic Frameless dive mask with prescription bifocals installed at See the Sea RX in Houston.
This is a Deep See single lens dive mask with traditional bifocals installed. One questions a diver has to answer when picking a new mask is whether to get a black or clear skirt. Clear skirts do allow in more light but tend to yellow over time. Black masks are favored by underwater photographers.

Franklin Bifocal dive masks

Franklin bifocals are custom made by hand in our lab in Houston, Texas. The Franklin is the ultimate custom option for divers that want the most room for near correction. The franklin is fully custimizable, so divers can choose exactly what percentage of the lens they want for near and distance correction. Professional photographers often have more than 50% of the lens corrected for near and only a small portion for distance as the majority of their time is spent looking at a monitor or camera controls within arm reach distance. 
Another benefit of Franklin bifocals are for those with strong corrections. We can achieve an overall thinner lens design by using high index glass for both distance and near lenses in the mask. 
Franklin orders are not available online, and divers should call for pricing. 

The Atomic Venom Frameless mask is one of our favorites for franklin bifocals. This is the mask I am currently diving, and the seal even works for some of us with facial hair.
Another Atomic Venom Frameless mask with prescription Franklin lenses installed here in our lab.
Scuba Pro Synergy II with prescription Franklin Bifocals.
Atomic Frameless mask with Franklin Bifocals to correct both near and distance vision.
The M100 aluminum frame dive mask with frankklin lenses fora high correction.
Franklin lenses also provide more correction than a standard dive mask bifocal in single lens masks. Here are Franklin Bifocals installed in a Scubapro Gorilla mask.

If you need any help deciding what dive mask would work best for you or what lenses will work with your prescription, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Stay safe and Happy Diving!

-Josh & The Team 

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Prescription Dive Mask with Color Correcting Lenses

Tinted lenses for color correction and Scuba diving


Seeing unique colors and seascapes we don’t normally encounter is one of the joys of snorkeling and scuba diving. Water, however, can limit some of our perception of color as we descend. Water and light interact differently than how we experience light on land. One of the most noticeable differences is color.

Water absorbs color as you descend, which in turn means, the coral reef becomes less vibrant. The water column absorbs colors in the order of the rainbow. Red is lost first, in as little as 20 feet. 

We receive frequent requests from snorkelers and divers about tinted and color correcting lenses for prescription lenses. 

In this post, and in the video above, I will discuss the advantages (And draw backs) of tinted lens dive masks, options available, and costs. 

Coral Reef in Mexico- Photographed by Josh with a Sony RX100 VI, Ikelite Housing, and DS160 strobe in December 2019.

advantages of color correcting lenses for prescription dive masks

The largest benefit of tinted lenses for underwater use is the color contrast and clarity by shifting the light as it passes through the tinted lenses. The mirrored finish on some of the tinted lenses can also reduce glare at the surface for those who are more sensitive to the sun.

One of the disadvantages, anytime you add a filter, you are reducing, even if slightly, the overall amount of light entering your eye.

I find the color shift to be pleasantly subtle, and after a moment or two of wearing the lenses, I often forget I am wearing a tinted lens dive mask, until I take it off. 

who should (and shouldn't) use tinted lenses while scuba diving?

Jay diving in Cancun, as shot by Josh, with a tinted scuba pro spectra dive mask with prescription single vision lenses.

Bringing back color sounds awesome?! Tinted lenses designed for scuba diving enhance the dive, but they are not for everyone. 

Who they are good for:

– Snorkelers & Divers who want to enjoy more color during a divce.

– Divers and snorkelers who are light sensitive. The tinted lenses often come with a mirror tint which can reduce glare at the surface.

Who should not use tinted lenses:

– Photographers and videographers. Any lens tint reduces the total amount of light that reaches the eye 

how to order a prescription dive mask

Currently,  we offer the M100 color correcting dive mask for divers and snorkelers that want color correcting and glare reducing features of a tinted lens dive mask. To order, simply go to our prescription dive mask order page. The M100 Color Correcting costs $124.00 and is available in all lens types including single vision (distance), bifocals, and reading glass. 

We recently published an article explaining the differences between our bifocal dive mask options. 

 

Can I order prescription lenses for my own tinted lens mask?

Yes! All our prescription lens options are available for your scuba diving mask even if it has color correcting lenses. Simply go to our prescription scuba mask lens order page, and click “I have a mask”. You can then select from available lens options and send us your mask! 

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Bifocal Dive Mask Lens Options

Diving with bifocals

You are down 60 feet on a tropical dive in Roatan, Honduras. You look down at your computer to check your bottom time, and the numbers are getting a bit fuzzier than you remember. As many of us scuba divers who wear glasses or contacts age, we face a new problem- trouble seeing our gauges, computer, or camera controls. See the Sea has a variety of options for those of us that need help not just with the distance correction but with reading distance as well. 

In this post, I will discuss:

  • Why we need bifocals when diving
  • What masks will work with bifocal lenses
  • Which bifocal option is best for me
  • How to order a bifocal prescription dive mask

The quick summary (For those short on bottom time)

If you are in a bit of a rush, and want just the “facts”, here is the basic info:

See the Sea RX can install Zeiss bifocals into any quality dive mask, whether you send one to us or buy one of our quality masks. There are primarily three options for bifocals when scuba diving.

–  Standard Bifocal (FT28). Starting at $285.00, the standard bifocal is designed for those that just need help seeing their gauges.

–  ST35. Starting at $315.00, the ST35 has a a reading section that is approximately 20% larger than on the standard bifocal. This bifocal is great for divers who spend a bit more time using their ear vision such as photographers or divers looking at macro life.

–  Franklin Bifocal. The Franklin Bifocal is a full custom option, where we install two completely different lenses on each side of the mask, one for near, and one for distance. This option, designed for professional photographers and underwater cinematographers, is the ultimate bifocal dive mask choice, as you get to choose how much near or distance lens you want. Please contact us for pricing information.

Why we need Bifocals

As we age, generally starting in our 40’s, it can become more difficult to focus on near objects, such as for reading, using our gauges, dive computer, or camera controls. This is caused by  the loss of elasticity of the lens over time

For some, reading lenses alone can help, but if you need distance correction including astigmatism, bifocals help by correcting for both the distance and near vision, so you can see the coral reef and read your gauges.

We often get asked if we can put progressive lenses in a dive mask, and the short answer is yes, but for diving traditional bifocals remain the better option. 

which masks will work for bifocal lenses

We can insert bifocals into any quality dive mask with tempered glass lenses, but there are some caveats. If you have a strong plus prescription, the lenses are going to be thickest in the center, and come towards the face. For those with stronger prescriptions, specially +sphere lenses, I encourage you to go to a higher volume mask. Masks with very high angles from the nose piece will reduce the amount of available space for the reading section of the bifocal and should be avoided. 

Currently for standard or ST35 bifocals, my favorite masks are the Scuba Pro Synergy II and the Atomic Subframe. 

For our custom Franklin Bifocals, the Atomic Venom mask works particularly well.

Prescription Atomic Subframe Mask
An Atomic Subframe with distance only prescription lenses. The Subframe works well for ST35 bifocals.
A dive mask sitting on a shelf containing lined bifocals.
An Atomic Veom Frameles mask with custom franklin bifocal leses. Please contact us for pricing on Franklin lenses.

Bifocal lens options for dive masks

See the Sea produces more bifocal dive masks than any other lens here at our lab in Houston., and we offer two bifocals online on our order page and one custom option (the Franklin Bifocal). It can be a bit confusing as to which bifocal is correct for you. We get messages daily on our chat and on the phone about the differences in our bifocal options. 

standard bifocal

The standard bifocal is the most ordered l ens at See the Sea RX.  The standard bifocal uses a 28mm st28 glass blank, which means when uncut, the width of the bifocal is 28 mm wide, but this does NOT mean you will receive a reading section 28mm wide, and in fact in almost all situations you will not. The final result will be based on the mask itself (how the lenses angle out from the nose) and your pupillary distance. I don’t want to start rambling on optics (okay I do, but you would be bored with me after about a paragraph), but the standard bifocal is a great option for divers who just need some help seeing their gauges and want their distance vision corrected (including correction for astigmatism and double vision). The result is a distance lens with a half moon reading section in the lens. If you spend more time looking through the near portion of the lens, the ST35 lens is probably better for you. 

ST35 or "Photographers' Bifocal

Both the standard bifocal and the ST35 bifocal utilize similar lens designs. The principal difference is the reading portion of the ST35 bifocal is 7mm wider (before the lens is cut) than the standard bifocal. The reading portion also extends farther down. This lens is slightly more expensive, but is worthwhile for those that spend a larger percentage of their time using the near portion of the lens, such as photographers. 

The Franklin Bifocal

The Franklin Bifocal is the ultimate custom lens for those that need distance correction and the largest possible near vision area. Benjamin Franklin, invented the original bifocal, now called Franklin Bifocals by using two different lenses in each eye, one for distance and one for near vision.

The Franklin bifocal, for those that demand the best, allows us to install the near vision lens however high up the mask you would like for your needs (photographers often request 50% or more near vision glass), as well as giving the diver edge to edge near vision, versus a half moon in the lens.

One of the disadvantages of the Franklin Bifocal is it can cause a split image near the lens lie which can take some adjustment. 

Another benefit of the Franklin Bifocal for those with higher prescriptions is the ability to install more glass for distance and near than would be possible in a one piece thick bifocal. 

To order this bifocal, please call or message us, as price is dependent on your specific vision needs. 

A dive mask sitting on a shelf containing lined bifocals.
Atomic Venom Frameless Mask with custom Franklin Bifocal Lenses from See the Sea
M100 Diving Mask with Franklin Bifocals

How to order a bifocal dive mask

To order a scuba diving mask with standard or ST35 bifocals, please visit our ordering page here. Standard bifocals start at $285 plus mask.

Turn Around time

Our standard processing time of approximately 2 business weeks applies to all our custom lens options. If you are in need of your mask sooner, please review our rush options here.

Other considerations

In general, we do not use bifocals for those just snorkeling. The exception is snorkelers who want to use a camera and are unable to see their controls without near correction. Our full face snorkel masks are also available with bifocal lenses.