I once watched a comedian do a funny skit on why Futons suck. The argument went something along the lines of taking a really uncomfortable couch and turning it into a really uncomfortable bed. It tried to be two things at once and it wasn’t especially good at either of them. After 5 years and 2 prescription changes I decided it was time for a change of glasses and an upgrade to my prescription. My doctor recommended transitions lenses and said they had come a long way in functionality. For those that haven’t heard of them, transitions lenses switch from “clear” to “dark” and are supposed to act like sunglasses when you go outside. The receptionist who sold me the glasses (not at the same office I get my exams done) said that they switch back and forth in under a minute and that they were good for people with light colored eyes (like me) because they are more sensitive to the sun. Since I don’t wear contacts and I really didn’t feel like buying new prescription sunglasses due to the cost, I went for it. I’d always been curious about them anyway so I figured what the heck. Here is one of those times when not doing my typical level of research made my realize why I usually do so much research before buying things I will be stuck with for a while.
I’ve had them for about 2 weeks now and I have to say I think they are a complete waste of money. Here are my reasons why:
- The only time they are ever truly clear is when I am at home with the lights off and the doors and blinds shut. Other than that, even at work where there are no windows, they are slightly dark. Apparently there is enough UV produced by fluorescent lights for the lenses to respond and start changing color.
- They don’t get very dark. They look dark when I see them in a mirror but they don’t really seem dark from the inside when I wear them. I don’t really mean dark either. I suppose what I really mean is that they don’t prevent me from squinting. My Oakley sunglasses do not seem very dark when I look out through them but I can just about stare at the sun without squinting. My Oakleys are awesome. They block so much sunlight but at the same time I can wear my sun glasses at night and still see. I don’t know how that works. When my transitions lenses are dark I find myself wishing I had some sunglasses.
- They are not polarized. If you have ever had polarized sunglasses then you understand why I think it sucks that these lenses aren’t polarized. If you haven’t had polarized sunglasses then you are missing out. Go get some, they are awesome.
- They don’t work inside cars! The glass in your car contains UV filters so your seats and dash don’t fade and you don’t get skin cancer while commuting to work every day. However, those are the UV rays that the lenses need to change color so when you get in your car on a bright sunny day, your lenses turn “clear”. Once again I find myself looking for my sunglasses. I knew about this before I bought them but I still think it’s stupid.
- They don’t change very quickly. They seem to get darker faster than they get clear. Maybe it’s because of the ambient UV in my office but it takes almost 10 minutes for my lenses to turn “clear” again. I have no idea how the receptionist would tell anyone they change in under a minute. They do, however, get dark in under a minute if I stare at the sun.
- They turn dark non-uniformly. How dark the lenses get is directly proportional to how much UV hits them. Reflected UV from the ground and trees isn’t much so the lenses don’t get very dark if you are facing away from the sun. If you stare right into the sun they get very dark. This, at first, sounds great! The lenses vary in darkness in proportion to how dark you probably need them. Having adaptive lenses sounds awesome. However, what happens when you are not walking directly into or away from the sun? When I walk to lunch at work the sun is at an angle behind me and slightly to my right. This has the effect of making the lens on the left get only a little dark and the lens on the right get progressively darker from left to right as part of the lens is hit by the sun and the other part is shadowed by my head. Not only does this look stupid but it actually makes it harder to see due to the contrast difference and it is distracting. Similar things happen when I wear a hat.
- Normal glasses are not shaped like sun glasses. This one isn’t any fault of the technology of transitions lenses but isn’t something I thought about until wearing them for a while. My sun glasses cover a lot more of my face so when the sun is high or to the side, I am still protected by the sun glasses. My regular glasses, for obvious fashion reasons, are not shaped like sun glasses nor are they as large. This means that when I am walking with the sun high in the sky the sun is in my eyes since it peeks over the top of my lenses. Due to the contrast from the bright sun hitting my eyes directly and the dark lenses it’s actually harder to see in some situations. I continue to wish I had some sun glasses.
If you follow what I am saying you can see why I am relating these lenses to a Futon. They try to do a lot of things but don’t really excel at any one of them. I see a lot of people wearing these and I wish someone would tell me what they like about them. When I can afford a new pair of sun glasses I am going to ditch the transitions and go back to standard clear lenses and once again attain ocular happiness.
On a side note: My vision is getting better! Apparently it happens as you get older, which is great, at least for a few years until it starts getting worse the other way and I won’t be able to read anything up close.