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I'm learning to dive and the first purchase is a mask and snorkel. The issue I have is discerning what mask to get colour-wise. There seem to be two main types for the silicon, clear and black. The lens can then have different coloured frames. My question is:

What is the difference between clear and black masks, and do the colours impair your vision in any way? (Such as a red frame making things seem more red.)

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when you say colour, you mean the frame not the lens right? – Liam Feb 18 at 14:41
    
Yes the frame. I would imagine coloured lenses would definitely effect how you see. I will edit to male it more clear. – Dynadin Feb 18 at 14:48
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yeah, that's what I thought. It's a good question. – Liam Feb 18 at 14:49
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It's basically that and the snorkel that you will be recognized as under the water. The more unique it is, the more recognizable. – Raystafarian Feb 19 at 15:04
    
Its a very subjective thing, the frame wont change how you perceive colors, I know that some feel claustrophobic with a black mask. Personally i find a black one with very low profile awesome in general but even more for photography, but to me that one feels the same in a clear skirt version thanks to the low profile. Best thing one can do is to try several first – Erik vanDoren Feb 19 at 15:42
up vote 16 down vote accepted

In my experience fitting people with Dive masks frame colours almost entirely come down to personal preference. As others have noted the actual silicone skirt of the masks, as well as the shape of the frame, will have a greater effect on what you can actually see.

The most important thing to consider when getting a mask is the fit of the mask, even if you look as bad-ass and stylish as James Bond, you are not going to enjoy your dive if your mask is leaking or pressing against your brow/forehead. Go to your local dive shop and try on the masks that they have on display. The staff there will be more than happy to talk about the fit and features with you (I certainly was whenever an interested student diver came in).

It seems from your question that you want to maximize visibility, so I can share a couple of tips on things to look for. First try on a handful of masks and narrow them down to ones that fit comfortably, once you have done that you can narrow them down further. Your field of view in mask is mostly determined by two things, size of the lenses and distance between the glass and your eyes. Masks with great big glass lenses to them will allow you to see a whole lot, but are also a bit bulkier and more difficult to clear/equalize (not usually a huge deal when diving, but can be annoying if you plan to snorkel with the mask as well). Likewise masks with the glass close to your eyes will allow you good field of view without the bulkiness, but can be very difficult to fit properly (people with even a bit of a brow my find they push into there forehead causing discomfort). Try and find a balance between small mask and big glass that works for you, personally I prefer smaller masks as they are easier for me to clear/equalize when snorkeling.

The only time colour really makes a difference is when you drop the mask or it falls off your head. Clear masks with clear silicone are really hard to find when you drop them or they fall off the boat. Other than that we would recommend the neon yellow masks and snorkels for parents of children or other snorkelers that wanted to be more visible on the surface (either to people on shore or boating).

I could go on all day about mask fittings (black silicone vs clear, single window vs. two , teardrop glass vs square, etc. etc.) so let me know if you have any other questions.

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1  
not a bad answer :) – AquaAlex Mar 30 at 15:27
    
Thanks, it has been a while since I fit a mask but hopefully this hits most of the important points. – Malco Mar 31 at 13:19

In general, a black silicon mask will block out a little more light from close to your face. But for me, the effect is unnoticed unless I specifically look for it.

Frame colors have never made any noticeable changes to the colors I'm seeing.

I had a "low volume" mask that was to close to my face that pressed against my forehead and gave me a headache diving. I don't have that mask any more.

I personally like the 3 window masks. They are higher volume, but the side windows allow me to pick up motion in my peripheral vision more easily.

So my advice to look for a mask that fits your face first and is comfortable. Colors are mostly useful for differentiating your mask from other people's on the boat and for displaying your fashion sense.

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I have found the differences are mostly subconscious, and a matter of personal preference. Black blocks your widest of peripheral visions. You almost never look out that far, but your brain does process it. Clear silicone masks instead blur that part of your vision, permitting you to see rough outlines and colors.

Some people find the black masks constricting, others (like myself) find it improves their focus. Some people find the clear masks increases their feelings of immersion, others (like myself) find they're distracting. Definitely try both styles at the store, and try to feel which one is best for you.

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I'm only a beginner, but...

I found in my very first pool dive that losing my peripheral vision with a black silicone skirt on the mask gave me immediate and profound claustrophobia. I spent the whole dive stressed about what was around me. I went out and bought my own mask with a clear silicone skirt. Problem solved.

From a practical PoV I'm well aware that I can't see clearly through the skirt, but then that's not the point of peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is designed to let you know that there's something to the sides. For me personally, I can't deal with not having that awareness. For other people (Cort Ammon above, for instance) it may be a distraction they actively don't want. For you it may be a no-big-deal either way.

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Black silicon blocks out all light except that which comes in through the lenses of the mask, leading to less light from peripheral. Spear fishermen, technical divers, free divers tend to prefer this.

Clear silicon tends to discolour especially when stored with black rubber.

But as far as true visibility goes the black or clear silicon does not make a difference.

Visibility can be improved by getting as low profile mask as can comfortably fit you. This will mean less air space in mask that needs to be equalized and greater visibility arc.

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