Should I get transition lenses?
August 6, 2015 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I need new glasses and sunglasses. Are transition lenses better than they used to be?

I need to buy new glasses and sunglasses, and I'm wondering if I can combine the two. I had transition lenses years ago: I liked the hassle of not needing separate sunglasses, but they took a long time to change colour, didn't get as dark as regular sunglasses, and over time they seemed to stop going back to fully clear indoors, so I switched to having a separate pair of sunglasses. Are the new transition lenses better than they were 8-10 years ago when I last had a pair? The sites I am looking at offer Transitions VII or Transitions XTRActive brands.

Possibly useful details: I wear glasses for distance only, I plan to buy a pair online with 1.61 or 1.67 index lenses. I don't drive. I live in the UK, so I don't currently wear sunglasses that often.
posted by penguinliz to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My husband got transition lenses a year or so ago and loves them. They get SUPER dark and they seem to transition fairly quickly. He has a pair of cheap sunglasses in the car because they don't work through glass, but you don't drive so that won't be an issue. He said these are much nicer than the transition lenses he had years ago.
posted by bedhead at 10:10 AM on August 6, 2015

I love mine. They get plenty dark for me and I actually, honest to god, hate bright sunlight. The one time I find them slightly annoying is when I go into a store to shop and they take a few minutes to go clear again, and I might have trouble reading labels. But they really do switch back pretty quickly, so it's only annoying if you're in a big hurry or something.
posted by holborne at 10:14 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just got transition lenses for my 6-year old at Costco several days ago. Their in-house lenses are rated as a top choice for consumers in terms of quality. I really don't like the look (or the futility) of half-dark lenses but I was told that they make them much better now, in that they will get really dark, like sunglasses. I am not seeing that to be the case... they do get darker but not nearly as dark as proper sunglasses. I would not get them for myself. YMMV, of course.
posted by rada at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2015

I do think they've gotten better. They get dark (the grey feels darker than brown to me)and transition quickly in and out. My only problems are that they turn dark when it's foggy, which makes it less easy to see (but does remind me that I may need sunblock even though I don't think I do!), and of course the driving thing. And there are some situations/cultural settings in which sunglasses might be viewed as rude, but I don't encounter those often enough to worry.

Anyway, for me, the convenience and being less likely to lose my glasses is worth it.
posted by wintersweet at 10:47 AM on August 6, 2015

Fifth set of transitional lenses. Improving all the time.
posted by Jesse the K at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2015

Another good thing is that you can get them in plastic lenses now, whereas back in the day they only came in the heavier glass lenses --- and if you've got a thick prescription like mine, the weight matters!
posted by easily confused at 11:21 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had transitions lenses for years but gave up in the last couple and went back to normal sunglasses because as I have gotten older I am both more glare sensitive especially when driving and less willing to wait for them to lighten back up - especially when it's cold. If you are over 50 this may be more of an issue for you than if you're younger.
posted by leslies at 2:04 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you're asking about the photochromic lenses manufactured by Transitions Optical and sold under the trademark Transitions.

I have those. They work fine through glass and/or while driving. They change shade quickly. They don't get as dark as some sunglasses I have, but they do the job for me.

Possibly the posters who can't use their glasses when driving have some other brand of photochromic lenses.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:59 PM on August 6, 2015

I'm on my 3rd pair of Transitions (TM) lenses. I love them, but they don't change color in the car (not an issue for you, just contradicting the above commenter's experience). Aesthetically it will never look as good as sunglasses, because prescription eyeglasses don't "look" like sunglasses so it's jarring to see them with dark lenses. But they're SO convenient; I used to just not wear sunglasses and now I can't live without sunglasses when I wear contacts occasionally. My eyes are thankful. Price-wise, they are probably also cheaper than having a separate pair of sunglasses--if you go for 1.67 index lenses, they certainly will be.
posted by serelliya at 4:26 PM on August 6, 2015

It'll help the OP more if we are specific about which models of glasses we are talking about.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:39 PM on August 6, 2015

I got a pair of transition lenses three years ago and decided not to repeat the experience . They worked fine but were known amongst my friends as my "pedo glasses" and I have to agree with them, they made me look like a sex criminal. I think it's because the lenses never went completely clear - they had a pale pinkish tinge even when worn inside.
posted by Wantok at 10:00 PM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A negative aspect about photochromatic lenses, Transitions brand specifically, is that the ones that are intended for driving, aren't polarized. The ones that are polarized won't darken much while driving. Polarization is critical for driving because of the glare from your car's window and dashboard, other cars, the road, and signs. Transitions' site doesn't indicate that their driving ones are polarized or have some other glare reduction technique. Another negative aspect about photochromatic lenses is related to frame sizes. Right now, stylish frames are small, narrow and shallow. For shades, you want them to be a little bit large and deep (like pilot aviators or Wayfarers) so that the block out the light. Small frames can let in light around the sides and top.

The aspect about photochromatics that I appreciate is the money and hassle savings. Instead of buying 2 glasses at $400/each, you're buying 1 pair at $500. It can be a hassle remembering to leave the house with phone, wallet, keys and shades and then leave your destination with phone, wallet keys and shades. It can be a hassle to stop walking as soon as you go outside (or inside), change glasses and then resume walking.
posted by dlwr300 at 7:26 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've not worn Transitions, but I've had friends who have. Generally, they like them, but with caveats. The first has to do with the polarized versions. A lot of computer screens are also polarized and viewing them using polarized lenses doesn't work very well.

The other issue is kind of a niche problem...If your job requires you to deal with color accuracy, the lenses can interfere with this, as they'll slightly darken in the presence of bright light (as used when checking color, in print for instance.) My friends are artists and designers, so color is often very important to them.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:15 AM on August 7, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I marked dlwr300's answer as best, because in the end it came down to size - I got a pair of trendier shallow glasses for everyday wear and then a pair with larger lenses done up as sunglasses. With standard index lenses on the sunglasses, it also worked out cheaper than adding Transitions to my thinner regular glasses.
posted by penguinliz at 6:22 AM on September 15, 2015

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