Reading the descriptions of snorkeling masks can get quite confusing, especially when it comes to the deciding between single and multiple lenses and this is why we wrote this article. Historically, the single lens was the first design but the problem with most single lenses was that the inside volume (air space) was large. This can, at times be a hindrance to the underwater explorer when it come to clearing water out of the mask. The original styling of the single lens consisted of a single round face plate which made it look as if you were looking out of a port hole on a ship. The face plate had to be situated pretty far from the users' varied facial contours to be able to accommodate the fit for a wider range of faces. This meant that the nose and a portion of the upper lip were included in the face plate area. For free divers and scuba divers, this posed a problem with many with respect to the ability to equalize the ears. Another situation was that the earlier models were usually made with black rubber. The only available light came from the face plate area and this added the feeling that you were viewing everything from the inside of a tunnel or that the user was wearing blinders. Peripheral vision was non existent.
The snorkeling and scuba industry then found that they could give the user a wider field of vision by making the single face plate more oval rather than round. Instead of looking out through a round tunnel, the user was looking out of a tunnel that was shorter and wider, but still it was a tunnel. This was not quite the best view for people with a touch of claustrophobia. Click to read more on Field of View or Vision.
The next major change came when the manufacturers changed the skirt dramatically, the material was introduced with an opaque material called silicone. The new material allowed for more light penetration into the viewing area of the mask which lessened the feeling of looking through a tunnel. Taking a cue from the swim industry, manufacturers began making masks with two separate lenses. The internal volume was reduced by bringing the dual lenses closer to the face which also meant that the lenses could also be made smaller. Another thing started happening with the skirts, they became more defined and the silicone went from opaque to clear.
Lack of peripheral vision was still an issue but manufacturers were pretty quick on addressing this issue by adding side windows to the existing one and two window masks. The side windows were usually framed at a 90 degree angle from the main viewing len(es) which gave them a boxy look. Some manufacturers figured that if four windows were good then the addition of a couple of more would even be better. More lenses meant that more frame was involved in the construction as each lens was required to be framed in on all four sides. They were starting to take on a look that one might see if they magnified an insect eye.
One of the latest and honestly the greatest innovations for manufacturers with regard to multiple lens masks is the bonding of the lenses together without having to frame each individual lens. This is found in many three and four windows nowadays. It is more of an uninterrupted more panoramic making the field of view quite spectacular.
As you shop the internet, you will find that all of the styling that were touched in this article and on our website, are still on the market today and newer innovative designs will be continued to be made, but one thing will never change. The most important features when getting a mask for snorkeling is comfort and fit.