Underwater Photographer’s Mask

Selecting the right Underwater Photographer’s Mask or as we call them “shooter’s mask” is critical piece of gear. Essentially for the average SCUBA diver and point and shot camera photographer any diving mask you have will work. The following are the features that I look for in my SCUBA mask.

I am currently using the Atomic Aquatics Subframe Mask


The following are the key attributes of a good photo mask:

1. Proper fit – it must fit properly. Test it just like you did in your original open water divers course. Put it on, suck in the air from your nose and shake and see if it comes loose. If it stays on and feels comfortable move to step 2:

2. Black silicone skirt – make sure you get a good high-grade silicone base. You don’t want to skimp on your window to the underwater world. I prefer the black base to a clear since it helps block out the overhead light allowing me to get a better focus on the viewfinder of the camera. I have dove with both clear and black and I prefer black more. When I am not taking pictures I like the clear skirt mask since it does bring in more light.

3. Proper Mask Preparation – to clean the mask for the first time I recommend you use the mask cleaning solution from 500 PSI most old and crusty instructors will tell you to use white paste toothpaste to clean it. Yes, you can do that but not many people are using white paste toothpaste any more. Also, I have cleaned my last 3 masks and those of my family and students with 500PSI and have not had any problems. Note: When you buy the mask many dive shops will actually help you clean it for the first time in the shop.

4. Mask Defog – there is nothing more frustrating than a fogged or dirty mask when you are trying to focus on taking a great picture. If you gave the mask a good cleaning you will need just a little defog to keep it from fogging on the dives.

5. Gauge Readers – for those in the over 40 crowd like me you need bi-focals to read the computer or viewfinder to adjust the settings on the camera Most dive shops can get prescription lens for your mask with either the full lens of just a corner so you can read your gauges. I prefer to wear contacts rather than a prescription mask so I have been using Aqua Dive Optx Flexible Mask Magnifiers. If you take the time to install them properly they will stay in place.

6. Strap Cover – they come in all shapes, sizes and designs and are far easier to adjust underwater than the actual silicone mask strap. Especially if you have long hair these can be a dive saver to make sure your mask sets correctly and does not tangle. For divers with long hair this saves you from ripping out a bunch of it when you remove the mask.

7. Mask Case – good masks are not cheap. Make sure yours comes with a hard plastic case. Most good masks do but if you have one that does not look around for a case. Sometimes you can check with a dive boar or shot since people will often leave them on the pool deck or on the boat and they end up in lost and found. They will sometimes give them to you or sell them for a nominal rate.

These are the main items I consider when I am looking at a new mask or caring for my current one. Any others?

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