When it comes to buying lenses for your new eyewear it is important that you understand exactly what you are getting and whether they are correct for your lifestyle and work needs, after all, it’s not really the prescription that determines how well you see, as much as how the prescription is interpreted in the final lens. A badly designed, manufactured or fitted lens will give you poor vision, even when the prescription is perfect!
With this in mind, how should you go about choosing the right lens for you? My number one piece of advice is to find an expert dispensing optician that you trust to give you the best advice and to put your needs above their own desire to make a sale or to sell the most expensive option.
My second piece of advise would be to try and get a better understanding of what your options are so that you can avoid being mis-sold to or baffled with jargon. So here is my short guide to the more popular lens types available.
Single vision lenses are the most commonly used lens design, offering one prescription to correct vision at one focal length. You will likely have heard them referred to as distance or reading glasses.
Advances in technology have led to the introduction of more sophisticated lens designs. For those with stronger prescription there are lenses - such as our Premium SV lens - to help minimise peripheral distortion, giving more comfortable and clearer vision. There are also enhanced lens that help to prevent eye strain and fatigue associated with our modern, digital lifestyles.
Varifocal lenses are perfect for those that need correction across multiple viewing distances and will combine your distance and near prescription into a single, seamless lens to give clear vision at all distances.
In my experience, varifocals are the most complex and most misunderstood lens design. There are hundreds of different designs available and the wearer experiences can vary massively because of this. You may have had a bad experience or know someone that has, but please don’t let this put you off. Genuine non-tolerance cases are rare with good quality, modern varifocals, with most problems arising from cheap designs, lenses being poorly fitted or the wrong design being used for your needs.
I don’t have the space to get into different lens designs here, but if you like to discuss the options further please pop in or call to arrange an eyewear consultation.
Pro Tip: Buying the most expensive lens design will not always give a better end result, it very much depends on your prescription, job, lifestyle and other personal traits. An expert is trained to understand all this and make the best recommendation for YOU.
Often over looked, but critical to clarity and clear vision, lens coatings that include anti-scratch and anti-glare properties really are an essential. When it comes to sorting eyewear for myself and the team, it’s never a question of “Do you want a coating?”, it’s a given that we do. For this reason all of our recommended lenses are supplied with a premium lens coating.
The best premium quality coatings will also include additional hydrophobic, oleophobic and anti-static layers to help keep the lenses clean and smudge free.
There are also special coatings for Blue-Light (HEV) protection, but the harm caused by HEV light has been somewhat over exaggerated. Learn more about HEV light here.
Furthermore, some manufacturers now produced lenses to help with night driving and these will have special coatings tuned to filter certain wavelengths of light from headlights to help minimise night-time glare.
Pro Tip: To get the best out of your lenses and to achieve the best clarity of vision I would always choose a lens with a anti-glare coating. But this isn’t really an area where you want to cut costs. Cheap coatings are always poor quality. They will be hard to keep clean and easy to scratch. There is also a high risk of the coating failing and ‘peeling’ away from the lens underneath.
There are several materials your lenses can be made from and there use will depend on your specific needs, so again seek professional advise. But here are the basics:
Standard plastic (1.50 Index) The most common lens material, combining good optical performance, low weight and good impact and shatter resistance. Ideal for full rimmed frames and lower prescriptions.
Trivex (1.53 Index) A very tough but lightweight material, perfect for rimless and semi-rimmed frames and low prescriptions.
Thin and Light (1.60 & 1.67 Index) Generally around 25-35% thinner and lighter than standard plastic, while maintaining good optical performance and strength. These materials are great for mid to high prescription powers.
Ultra Thin and Light (1.74 & 1.76 Index) Around 45%-50% thinner than standard plastics, these materials are perfect for high prescription powers, but optical clarity suffers a little. Also not ideal for rimless.
Pro Tip: A higher index lens isn’t always to best choice when it comes to getting a thin and light lens. Frame selection is arguably more important. Getting the optimum shape, size and style will naturally minimise thickness and weight and may save money on the more expensive, high index materials.
Everyone should consider getting some kind of sun protection, whether this is with clear lenses with UV and Blue-Light filtering or tinted sunglasses. As most people rely on tinted lenses for sun protection I will focus on that here, but if you’d like to discover eye protection options for clear lenses please pop in or give us a call.
Commonly known as ‘Reacto-lite’ or Transitions, photochromic lenses are light-reactive lenses that will tint when subjected to UV light. You can get a big spread in reaction speed, darkness and colour quality between brands. At Clapham Optical we use Transitions, the market-leaders in reactive tints. There are a number of Transitions technologies available and we can help to find the best one for you.
Polarised sun lenses are our go to option for sun protection lens and my personal favourite. They offer glare reduction (perfect for holidays, winter driving when the sun is low and fishing!) as well as improved clarity, contrast and colour perception. They are available in a choice or tint colours with the option for a mirror finish. Our polarised lenses also include our premium anti-scratch and reflection free coating.
Available in a choice or colours and different intensities of tints, standard sun tints are more commonly used in the wider market due to their more cost-effective nature. Be careful with some sun tints as cheap dyes give poor colour perception and can be unpleasant to wear. Our sun tints have been developed to respect natural colour balance and improved colour perception.
Pro Tip: Polarised lenses can make it difficult to see some digital displays, such as the ones found in your car dashboard! Before choosing polarised lenses for the first time, you can borrow one of our samples to test it out in the car first.
Hopefully you have found this information useful. It really is just a brief overview though, so next time you are looking to replace your eyewear take the time to seek out the advise of someone you trust and be careful of anyone trying to oversell lens options and upgrades that you may not need. A good optician will advise and guide you to make the best decision for you.