Using Stick-on Magnifiers at the Top of Snorkel Mask

Snorkeler showing stick-on magnifiers at top of mask.
Testing Stick-on Magnifiers at Top of Snorkel Mask

By Aryel Levy (France)
I have a new prescription mask with +4 corrective lenses. That’s the correction I need for far vision. I have to add +3 stick-on magnifiers for close vision. Everybody sticks these extra half circle lenses at the bottom of the mask. I am trying to stick them on the top part. This way I’ll have to tilt my head downwards, not upwards, to look at small critters and check my camera screen, and keep my head horizontal under normal conditions.

I had a custom mask made eight years ago by an optician. He could not fit progressive lenses, only bifocal. Unfortunately there is only one optical company in France making prescription masks, Demetz. The close-up correction lenses were stuck at the bottom of the mask lenses, the top reaching the exact level of the pupil of my eyes. I had to keep my head slightly down and my eyeballs a bit up to see a clear image above that merging line. Watching the sea floor or my camera screen meant I had to keep my head up while looking down, stressing my neck.

I paid almost 500€ for that uncomfortable mask. Now I have been asked 700€ to have a new one made by the same company. Instead I am trying something new. I wanted to share about my underwater experiences with my new 150€ unconventional mask. On-land first impression was good and promising….

Inside view of snorkel mask with magnifiers placed at the top of the lens.
View from inside mask showing magnifier placement.

Here are my first impressions using my bizarre bifocal mask. In a swimming pool the results are almost as I anticipated. While swimming, looking ahead and downwards, and keeping my head slightly down to cover a 90 degrees field from the surface to the bottom, the lower rim of the stick-on magnifier fitted on top of the main lens is hardly noticeable. But looking up above the surface creates a blurry zone at the very top of my vision area (the sky or the top of the shoreline). Tilting my head slightly backwards easily solved this minor inconvenience.

The real bonus comes when swimming close to the bottom (of the pool now) where I am always searching for small creepy crawly creatures for macro photography. My neck-to-head angle is now by far more comfortable than it was with my previous traditional mask. With the magnifying lens at the bottom I had to keep my head up and my eyeballs down for a clear image. Now the position of my head is perfectly natural with my eyes in line with what I want to see. I can effortlessly read my watch, the screen of my camera, and observe the area where I usually find my little friends.

I definitely recommend any macro photography fan with poor close vision to give my idea a try with stick-on magnifier lenses. They are removable and repositionable so it’s at no risk.

There is so far a problem I didn’t overcome in the pool. While the main lenses remain fog-free with a bit of saliva, the extra lenses get foggy after a short swim. I haven’t yet tried soap nor toothpaste. Spray is banned (instruction notice on the stick-on lenses).

A second try in a swimming pool reveals the same fogging issue despite my using shampoo before getting in the water.

So I eventually tested my unorthodox mask in real life. Swimming in the shallows, 1-4 feet, the vision is just right to scrutinize the bottom for creepy crawlies to take pictures of. Looking up horizontally for the pelagic is less comfortable, my head must be held slightly backwards. I found that I had to shift my mask with my hand up and down a bit every time I changed from short range to long range vision. Holding my camera with my right hand I would use my left hand to move the mask up or down half a centimeter.

As seen in the pictures, the set up could be improved by repositioning the close-up lenses in order to adjust the pupillary distance. As it is, the lenses are set too far apart.

Looking through the lower lens for long range vision, the rim of the upper lens is too low, that is why I had to tilt my head back, stressing the neck, or shift the mask upwards a bit, using my hand.

I solved the fogging issue this time by using shampoo and saliva then rinsed with sea water.

My conclusions:
1. The placement of the stick-on magnifiers at the top of my mask was better than in the bottom of my mask for macro photography. I could easily read the camera screen.
2. The idea needs some improvement for my long range vision.
3. It would be useful to have a professional optician place your stick-on lenses so that pupillary distance is accounted for when positioning them.

I am open to any feedback and suggestions. Thank you.

Comments Moved From Previous System

Galen – Dec 10, 2018 – Great Idea & Testing!

Thanks for sharing this Aryel.

I also use stick-on magnifiers in my mask for the same reason, though in the bottom of my snorkel mask. You can read my review of them here.

Here are a couple of ideas you might consider trying:

1. Nicole thought maybe you should flip them, so that the flat edge is at the area where you change magnification, like it is with the lower position.

2. I have found that I really only use one eye for viewing my camera settings with the stick-on magnifiers, so I might try removing one. This might solve the issue with getting the lenses positioned correctly for being centered on the pupils too.

Aryel Levy – Feb 22, 2019 – Update

I am coming back to you regarding the bifocal diving mask with the stick-on magnifying lens on the upper part of the lens.

I tested my mask on two occasions, and gave it up. But the issue had nothing to do with the position of the silicon close-up lenses, I adjusted them to perfection and this proved to be extremely convenient for my macro photography purpose.

I bought the main prescription lenses online. The + correction was certainly right, but the pupillary distance was not and astigmatism was not dealt with.

The end result was that wearing this mask was uncomfortable most of the time for looking around and out of the water, but very appropriate for close-up and scrutinizing the bottom from about one meter away at the most.

If you are an optician or if you know one who would take the trouble to further develop my initiative I am still convinced that a very convenient mask could be made this way.

I can have one custom made in France paid by the public health scheme. But I am not sure if the only place in Paris to do bifocal masks would get involved enough to try something different as their monopoly is already making them very busy and wealthy. I’ll return to France this summer and get in touch with them.

An optician genuinely interested in creating a new product should allow some time to develop the concept and not charge too much.

Aryel Levy – Jun 28, 2020 – My Prescription Mask Made with Bifocal Lenses on Top

Snorkeler in mask with prescription magnifiers installed at the top of the lens.
Custom Prescription Snorkel Mask With Bifocal Magnifiers Placed on Top

Hi Galen! As promised, I am following up on my experiment. In this picture you can clearly understand that if the close-up lens had been set in the lower part of the frame the pupillary distance could not be adjusted. As one looks closer, the eyes are converging, reducing the distance between the pupils. Given the shape of the lenses, parting further to allow for the nose rubber cover, the lens correction will not possibly be adjusted to align the optical center with the pupil.

Snorkeler looking through magnifier lenses mounted at the top of snorkel mask lenses.
Both Eyes Can Focus on Something Close

This photo shows that setting the close-up lens on the top of the glass allows both eyes to watch simultaneously an object at a short distance.

For the purpose of macro photography or close-up observation underwater the head will be held slightly downward, not upward as with the regular mount at the bottom of the lens.

The first underwater testing in my swimming pool was very promising.

Leave a Comment