Echo Base Discusses the Best Lenses for Geeking Out with Resident Optician
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking about lenses with the Echo Base crew. A little reference here: on my day gig, I’m a Certified Optician with 16+ years experience in the industry.
I know a lot about eyeglasses and I usually jump at the chance to discuss eye wear. So when I pitched the idea of a glasses related article on Echo Base the team instantly started to pick my brain about lenses and how they can help us in our geek-related endeavors like gaming or going to the movies.
Here’s some of the best info from our conversation. Feel free to drop me a comment with any other questions we didn’t touch on here. I can probably answer just about any inquiry for you.
Christopher Scott: What would be the recommended additions [for lenses] you’d want as a gamer or graphic artist if you’re spending a lot of time staring at your screen?
Phil: Anti-glare coating is must. (This is the same as an anti-reflective coating. The terms are interchangeable.) You’ll really benefit from anti-glare coatings on your glasses in any situation. Particularly when looking at screens and low light situations. Like, driving at night you will notice more reflections so these are scenarios where we really stress the importance of anti-glare coatings on your glasses.
The basic principle is that any lens in front of your eye is going to create reflections. Not only do you see those reflections, but the reflections are preventing about 10% of the light from passing through your lens, effectively reducing the clarity of your vision. With an anti-glare coating on your lenses, you won’t see the reflection of your screen or the screen in a movie theater on your lenses. Also, the light transmission of your lenses goes from 90% to above 99% when an anti-glare coating is applied to your lenses. This means more light passes through your lenses and into your eyes rather than bouncing off and creating reflections.
Blue light blocking lenses or coatings are even better. Screens on monitors and devices are known to emit high frequency blue light that can lead to Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Since so many people are using devices more and more, and especially if you’re an avid gamer, it’s a really good idea to wear a lens that blocks this blue light to help prevent the onset of AMD.
One other thing, yellow tinted lenses can have benefits for some people. The yellow tint can help to increase the contrast of screens and what not, so some people find it helps them focus better.
Christopher Scott: What about frames? Heavy geek chic or light and frameless?
Well that’s a can of worms, but there are definitely pros and cons to each if you plan to wear them for long periods of gaming. It’s important to keep in mind that these will be somewhat subjective for each person.
Plastic frames, or heavy geek chick as you called them, are very popular these days for their style, but they also offer some comfort benefits. (Plastic is kind of an umbrella term for so many materials such as acetates, nylon, or zylonite, which is the source for the term we use in the industry, “Zyl.”)
With plastic frames, you’ll find that the bridge of the frames almost always has molded nose pads made from the same plastic as the frame itself. This is in contrast to metal frames which usually have rubbery pads attached by a tiny adjustable arm. From my personal experience, and from customer testimonials, I’ve found that plastic frames can be more comfortable on the bridge of the nose. This is for a couple of reasons. The molded nose pads tend to be larger and help spread out the weight of your glasses over a larger surface area. This reduces the feeling of a pressure point that the smaller rubber nose pads of metal frames are prone to create. Also the material of the frame tends to be smooth and glossy and less abrasive than rubbery nose pads. (There are some caveats here, so more on nose pads in a bit.)
The trade off with plastic frames is that because the nose pads are molded plastic, they really aren’t meant to be adjusted. So, you need to make sure any plastic frames you decide to buy are a very good fit on the bridge of your nose. Sometimes an uncomfortable or ill-fitting plastic frame is going to be a deal breaker even if you love the shape, color, etc.
Metal frames on the other hand don’t offer as much for style in most cases, but they do tend to use less material and as result are thinner and lighter. This is a rule with many exceptions because so many frame styles are mixing and matching materials these days. So take that with a grain of salt. If you want something that is going to be light and offer a subtle look, then metal frames are going to be a better bet than plastic in most cases. Additionally, metal frames are almost always going to have nose pads on the bridge and this is good because they can be adjusted. If you love the frame and they aren’t fitting perfectly, your optician can readjust the frame for a more optimal fit. On the other hand, the weight of the frames tends to be focused on a smaller point on the sides of your nose and this can be uncomfortable for some folks. Another trade off for metal frames is that they almost always have a thinner eye wire. If you are trying to avoid seeing lots of frame around your eyes, metal frames will benefit you on this.
Rimless frames are similar to metal frames in many regards except for the fact they they have no eye wire. This further reduces the interference from seeing the frame itself. If it’s really important to you to be seeing as little of the frames as possible, metal or rimless frames are going to really open your view of the screen.
On the subject of nose pads on metal frames, keep in mind that there are different type of nose pads that can be interchanged. Larger nose pads can help reduce the feeling of a pressure point on your nose by spread the weight out. Silicon nose pads tend to grip better, but can also pull on the skin of your face. If the nose pads are pulling on your skin and leaving red marks, harder, non-grippy plastic might be better than silicon pads.
All that being said, please also keep in mind that I feel picking frames when ordering new glasses is super subjective. Be sure to pay attention to the things that matter most to you. Each person is going to have certain criteria that matter most. Whether you’re looking for gaming glasses, computer glasses, or glasses just for when you’re watching TV or movies, each scenario is going to call for certain aspects of a frame that will be more or less important to each person.
Frank Dardzinski: I know Doug and I complain about wearing glasses on top of glasses when seeing 3D movies, especially IMAX.
Phil: Yeah, I can relate to you guys 100% here. As a full time glasses wearer, I pretty much avoid 3D movies like the plague. The modern version of 3D glasses operate on the same principle (although applied quite differently) as polarized sunglasses. Each lens is polarized on a different axis which allows different parts of the image through to each eye thus creating the illusion of depth.
The reason the movie can become fuzzy for glasses wearers is mainly a problem with vertex distance. Vertex distance is the distance from which the lenses sit away from your eye. When looking through any lens, much like a keyhole, as your eye gets closer to the lens, you increase the effective viewing area. With 3D glasses on top of your prescription glasses, you’re often not looking through the 3D lenses at the distance they were designed to be worn.
They are a few millimeters further away from your eye. So imagine trying to look through a keyhole from many feet away versus a few inches. You can see much more of what’s on the other side of the door when you’re closer. Something similar is happening here with your 3D glasses. With the lenses are sitting further out, you’re not getting all the information from the movie transmitted through the lenses, and this results in the fuzziness. I wish I had a great solution to this (and I have kicked around the idea of creating prescription 3D glasses), but as it stands, I think if you’re going to a 3D movie, you might want to try contact lenses for the best experience.
Christopher Scott: Buying prescription glasses online… As online glasses prices have plummeted lately, and having several pairs for selected functions, pros and cons? Plus, where to buy them and where not to?
Phil: The online market for glasses has really exploded. I think that having multiple pairs for different purposes is a GREAT idea. With the cost of glasses going way down due to online competitors, this is much more viable for folks than it used to be. If you’re under 40, you may not need too many pairs of glasses. A distance pair for everyday wear, a pair of polarized sunglasses, and maybe a pair for the specific purpose of gaming or computer use. If you’re over the age of 40, you will begin to have trouble focusing up close, so then you may want to get some reading glasses in the mix as well. Multi-focal lenses like bifocals or progressives are great, but can be harder to use for gaming or computers due to the reduced visual field that comes with these types of lenses. Having a pair of glasses set up specifically for computer use can really alleviate much of the complications that graphic designers or gamers have when working on large screens or multiple screens.
As for where to buy them and where not to… that’s a pretty loaded question. I’m going to go ahead and plead the fifth on this one, mainly because I believe I have too much personal bias. Full disclosure: I used to work for one online prescription lens website for nearly 4 years. That being said, I would advise you to find a good local optician you can trust to help you with your eye wear that you purchase online. Almost any pair of glasses is going to need some custom adjustments to make sure they fit well, meaning they lay straight on your face and don’t slide down your nose. You may need to pay a nominal fee to an optician for this service, but it’s worth it!
Trust me on this one. In many cases, you may find an optician that is happy to adjust them for free. Tips are appreciated though!