Transitions sunglasses any good?
August 30, 2005 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience, good or bad, with Transitions prescription sunglass lenses? I'm debating between getting a pair with Transitions or just a regular pair of non-changing prescription sunglasses.
posted by parttimesaint to Shopping (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how long ago odinsdream was in high school, but photochromatic lenses these days definitely get darker, change faster, and get clearer than they used to.

I'd say the big question is how long you plan to keep this pair of glasses. After a couple of years, it starts to take longer for the lenses to change and they don't get quite as clear as they used to. Two years is probably a reasonable lifespan for these lenses.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these lenses really need direct sunlight in order to get really dark. If you often find yourself in situations where you're dealing with indirect glare, but your face itself is shaded, photochromatic lenses won't be nearly as good as a pair of real sunglasses.
posted by jjg at 10:54 AM on August 30, 2005

My mom has them and doesn't seem to think they're too great. Her problem with them is that the transformation is triggered by both light and heat, so they don't sufficiently darken when you're driving in your shady air conditioned car. Which is an obvious difficulty because that's when I'd *really* want them to be sunglasses.
posted by LionIndex at 10:55 AM on August 30, 2005

I had a pair in high school as well. The yellowish tint was indeed annoying, but as odinsdream stated, they may have improved upon it.

The "transition" was never as quick as it appeared in the commericals - at least to me. So they were many times I'd walk out of the sun into a dimly lit room and fumble around until it cleared up.
posted by icontemplate at 10:56 AM on August 30, 2005

There appears to be two different technologies available. I had the one you describe, odinsdream, which are based on a brown dye. Not only is the clear state actually yellow, but the dye fades over time so that within 3-4 years, there will be no dye left (i.e., no dimming in sunlight).

I have spoken to people who have RayBan glasses with automatic dimming (don't remember the trade name) and these go from clear to neutral gray and do not lose their effect over time.
posted by RMALCOLM at 11:02 AM on August 30, 2005

I got a pair once due to an optometrist accident. Same problems as the previous posters. I will say the newer ones are better at going back to clear. They get worse over time though — mine were a pretty obvious amber after a year or so when I stopped wearing them.
posted by smackfu at 11:02 AM on August 30, 2005

I had a pair in high school. They definitely don't make you cooler.
posted by willpie at 11:10 AM on August 30, 2005

the transformation is triggered by both light and heat

They don't require heat, they just require that the light be bright and direct.
posted by jjg at 11:18 AM on August 30, 2005

There does tend to be a high dork-factor with these lenses. The fact that they sometimes tend to slightly darken while indoors is a major contributing factor.

That said, it is a real PITA to be an eyeglass wearer and need sunglasses. You have to carry around a seperate pair of sunglasses or some sort of clip-on. Neither are optimal solutions. Transitions are a nice idea but not quite there.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on August 30, 2005

A friend of mine has these and likes them a lot. One thing they do seem to do well at is finding a nice "in between" state for that kind of light where it's too dark for sunglasses but too bright for no eye protection at all.
posted by biscotti at 11:42 AM on August 30, 2005

I agree with Thrzdad that carrying a clip on pair is annoying, but if that is the route you take, I can't say enough about how great the magnetic clip ons are the best. I had them for my last pair, and made the mistake of getting regular clip ons for my current glasses. I am always fumbling to get them clipped on in a hurry, whereas the magnetics went on in a snap and stay very secure. Probably many more varieties that the linked ones here.
posted by genefinder at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2005


i let myself get talked into a pair of Transitions lenses about a month ago when I was buying a new pair of glasses in NYC. I was doubtful about the darkness they'd achieve, and the guy handed me a "tester lens" which, conveniently enough, was backed by white paper, making it look as though the lenses darken a reasonable amount. I was skeptical, but my thoughts at the time were "well, i saved a bunch on the frames, so I'll drop the extra $75 and if they suck I'll just never buy them again". They had grey and brown -- i went with the grey, fwiw, hoping that if it didn't darken all the way, I'd at least be somewhat closer to those yuppie mirrored/halfway tinted sunglasses that everyone is sporting these days.*

Well, they DO suck, and I will never be buying them again, no matter how many awesome lenscrafters commercials i see that inform me "THE FUTURE IS HERE"

while today's transitions lenses DO get fully clear -- and unlike Thorzdad's experiences, I've yet to have them darken at all indoors (although if you've been out in the sun for awhile, they will take awhile to clear up). Unfortunately, they never really get dark (or as dark as you'd get with sunglasses), and unless you're gonna be outside in the sun for a long stretch of time, don't ever get dark past the "OMG TINTED LENSES GEEKTIME". What i find most annoying is that you have absolutely no choice in the matter -- ie, they ain't gonna stay CLEAR outside.

Whether or not they provide reasonable protection -- well, i think i've been squinting a lot less in the daylight, but it's tough to tell. Personally not looking like a dork is a higher priority for me.

That said, at the particular shop I went to, $75 would buy a pair of the "non-featherweight" lenses, and $90 would buy a pair of "prescription sunglass lenses". Since I only paid $50 for the frame (bought used vintage, which I would highly recommend), I could've probably just spent around another $50 and had a pair of sunglasses AND eyeglasses.

anyways, if you care even a little about how your glasses are gonna look on you, I'd advise against it. If you're 100% for practicality, it might be a good deal for you.

* no luck, because the reason those sunglasses look reasonable is all in the frame, man. You put that tint on a pair of 60s vintage glasses and it looks DUMB.
posted by fishfucker at 11:59 AM on August 30, 2005

I'm wearing them right now, my pair is...actually I have no idea how old these are. My general recommendation? Contacts and sunglasses. Frankly, that works the best, I just need to get my perscription refilled. Otherwise I would highly consider going the clip on sunglasses route.
The transitions don't get dark enough to really be useful, no where near as useful as a good pair of sunglasses. And frankly, you do look like a dork when wearing them. I have any of a number of pictures where I'm wearing the damn things, and yeah, it's pretty bad.
posted by KirTakat at 12:13 PM on August 30, 2005

My wife has a pair and hates them. They darken just fine to bright light, but upon entering a house or building, they take way too long to lighten up again. She ends up taking them off so she can see better.
posted by pmbuko at 12:29 PM on August 30, 2005

I have them and like them fine. I was never much of a sunglass wearer though. Too much trouble to keep track of and switch out when I go outside so I like that I don't have to think about it with transition lenses. They definitely don't get as dark as fast as you see in the ads. If you like realy dark shades I agree with the contacts+sunglasses suggestion.
posted by krix at 12:30 PM on August 30, 2005

I've got coke bottle type lenses, even in this day and age, and so prescription sunglasses just look weird. So I have had Transitions lenses--and the same lenses--for more than 10 years, and they work fine for me, and always have, in all kinds of lighting situations. Outdoor-to-indoor is slower than indoor-to-outdoor, but well within my tolerance.

This sounds like a YMMV situation.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:44 PM on August 30, 2005

I like mine, I do wish they blacked out like in the ads. Central Texas location; if the severity of the sun is a factor.
posted by buzzman at 1:04 PM on August 30, 2005

Another point is that we have been encultured to think that sunglasses are of a completely different style (typically cooler) than regular eye glasses. I mean, when you go to your eye doctor for prescription sunglasses, you don't go, "hey, can I just put some dark lenses in some regular frames."

Thus whilst wandering around outside with Transitions eye glasses masquerading as sunglasses, you look an utter dork.
posted by forallmankind at 1:27 PM on August 30, 2005

I've had them in the past with okay results except when driving. They don't do much if any transitioning in the car because of they're UV activated:

All photochromic lenses are activated by the ultra violet rays. Windshields block UV rays. Therefore no photochromic lens will deliver a high level of activation behind a windshield. However, Next Generation, is activating slightly better behind a windshield than competitive lenses."
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:58 PM on August 30, 2005

I have them and they drive me nuts, for the reasons Thorzdad mentioned. It's a bit demoralizing to realize, in the midst of a meeting, that you like Dr. Strangelove.

I'm fairly new to full-time glasses-wearing and after trying the two-specs method, and now the Transitions, I'm going with extended-wear contacts and $5 sunglasses off the street.
posted by vetiver at 2:24 PM on August 30, 2005

SteveInMaine writes "I've had them in the past with okay results except when driving. They don't do much if any transitioning in the car because of they're UV activated:"

That's true. What's more, at least as of two years ago, they don't get as dark when the temperature is above 80 degrees. As a former optician, I hate them. Rx sunglasses or contacts plus sunglasses are best. Sunglass clips are a huge pain and far too easy to break or lose.
posted by underer at 3:10 PM on August 30, 2005

A visit to the cinema will put you off. They used to drive me nuts when they darkened because of the bright screen.
posted by tellurian at 4:45 PM on August 30, 2005

I love mine. No trouble atall.
posted by konolia at 6:27 PM on August 30, 2005

I have transitions as my sole pair of glasses, and I generally like them. The only drawback I have is that while they darken quite quickly, they lighten slowly. So, if you get out of a car to go into a room where dark glasses are not appropriate (like a court room...), you either put them in your pocket as you walk in the sun (blinding me) or endure their looking stupid for a couple of minutes. Also, know that because they require direct sunlight to darken, they lighten once you are in your car for a few minutes, making them useless while driving. That having been said, there have been many times when I have really appreciated them, needing dark glasses when I sure would not have brought another pair -- and clip-ons are a pain.
posted by rabbus at 8:56 AM on August 31, 2005

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