Transition lenses are also known as photochromic lenses and are lenses that get dark once exposed to ultraviolet light. Other times, they’re clear, so you can see indoors or in your car.
You may have also heard them referred to as light-adaptive lenses or lenses with variable tinting. They’re all descriptions for lenses that simply get darker or lighter depending on what UV light they’re being exposed to.
The most popular brand, Transitions, is a brand of photochromic lenses, but not all photochromic lenses are Transition lenses. Look at it this way. Transition is a brand, not a type of lens, so with that said, let’s dive into the world of photochromic lenses.
How Do Photochromic or Transition Lenses Work?
If your eyes don’t work as well as they used to or as well as you hoped they would, there’s a good chance that you take your glasses off from time to time just to relieve eye strain. Have you ever put them down and realized later that you’re not sure where you put them?
You may even think that if you had only had a single pair that went back and forth from clear to darkened, life would be easier. Especially as you’re searching for that pair that you can’t find that you need to be able to see inside of your house.
Lo and behold, you do have that option with photochromic lenses. You’ve probably heard of them before, but they’ve become more popular and less expensive over time. They are called photochromic lenses, and the beauty that is science makes them a possible solution to all of your glasses-losing problems.
There are molecules coating the outside of the lens that react when exposed to UV light. The result is a darkening effect that makes your glasses look like sunglasses. Because they react to UV light, which is always around even when the sun is hiding behind the cloud, they’ll still darken even on a cloudy day.
Photochromic lenses do not darken when you’re driving, though, unless you’re in a convertible and you have the top down. The glass used in car windows blocks UV rays which means that it will not get to the glasses to make them darker in most instances. There are new technologies that allow for a change in darkening, but it is not yet widely available.
What Are the Benefits of Photochromic Lenses?
The immediate benefit that most people will notice is the idea that you only need a single pair of glasses because they’re clear indoors and sunglasses outdoors. That makes them convenient.
Another benefit, though, is the idea that because they’re available in just about any configuration you can possibly imagine, you can have your glasses made to be this way. By doing so, you’re going to protect your eyes from UV rays, which is a bonus to your health.
Children’s glasses can also be made with photochromic lenses, and as a result, these work well to protect children’s eyes. The photochromic lens is available in a polycarbonate material which makes it lightweight and scratch-resistant for kids and adults alike.
You can make your photochromic glasses even better if you decide to add an anti-reflective coating to your lenses. By doing so, you’re going to make it easier for light to pass through the lens which results in sharper vision. It also means you won’t have to deal with unwanted reflections.
Keep in mind that photochromic lenses also cost more than traditional lenses, so you’re going to have to pay an additional fee. In the end, though, it’s worth it because you’ll have a set of convenient glasses ready to go when you need them.
Top Photochromic Lens Brands
With all the brands that are out there, it’s helpful to know where to start when you’re comparing the different brands against each other. Here’s a quick list of some of the top brands around.
1. Transitions Signature
Transitions Signature is easily the top transition lenses brand. The company is always pushing forward to create the best lens possible. You can get photochromic lenses from them in several different colors including green, brown, or gray. They respond quickly both indoors and out.
2. Transitions XTRActive
These are another set of photochromic lenses from Transitions that are designed for people who are sensitive to light. The lenses have a slight tinting to make them just a bit darker indoors, therefore keeping your eyes comfortable regardless of whether or not you’re inside or outside.
3. Transitions Vantage
Are you noticing a trend? Transition lenses are at the top for a reason. This photochromic lens also has a slight tint when you’re inside. They darken quickly, too, when you take them outside. These are only available in the company’s signature gray.
Hoya Vision Care introduced Sensity in 2016, and they’ve been going strong since then. They use technology that ensures the lens will do what it is supposed to do regardless of climate or temperature. You can get them in gray and brown tints.
These are photochromic lenses that are polycarbonate. You can get them in either brown or gray, and they are available in a variety of different designs. They don’t take too long to darken outdoors and also get lighter once you go inside almost as fast as it took to get dark.
This photochromic lens was first made in Germany. The lenses are available in gray for a reason. The company says gray allows for accuracy in color vision regardless of lighting availability. They darken and lighten quickly as well.
You can get these German-made photochromic lenses in green, gray, or brown. If you choose, you also have the option to select shades of either orange or green to enhance your tinting as well.
Polycarbonate or lightweight plastic PhotoViews photochromic lenses are available in either brown or gray. You can even use them in multiple frames without worrying about whether or not they’ll fit.
9. Thin & Dark
The primary pull for these is the way that they are thinner than most other photochromic lenses. They also claim to be lighter than the others, too. You can get these in gray tinting.
What to Look for in Photochromic Lenses
When you start looking for photochromic options, you’re going to see that you have lots of choices to choose from. It can even be overwhelming. When you’re deciding what to choose, you’re going to need to look for a few things.
As an example, see what the VLT or visible light transmission is for the photochromic lens you’re considering. A higher VLT is better and will perform well in many different light conditions.
You’re also going to want to look for lenses that are polycarbonate because those particular types of lenses are shatterproof. If you’re rough on your glasses, then this is the best bet.
Once you have your lenses picked out, you’ll also need to verify that they’ll fit in the frame you want. As you pick your frame, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that the glasses sit well on your face and are securely on your nose.
If you want further assistance guarding against glare, consider adding polarization or an anti-reflective coating for a more improved experience.
What to Avoid in Photochromic Lenses
You already know that expecting the lenses to darken inside your vehicle is just not going to happen. If you need glasses that are dark while you’re driving but don’t care about them being dark any other time, then you’re probably going to be better off with traditional prescription sunglasses.
You’ll also need to do your research to see what is available wherever you purchase the glasses you’re thinking about. Your local optometrist may not carry PhotoViews, but they may carry PhotoFusion. You’ll have to decide if that matters and only go to places that carry the type of photochromic lenses you want.
The Cost of Buying Photochromic Lenses
Depending on the lenses you want, you may find yourself needing to go somewhere that has a higher price tag. Certain brands like Oakley have the option for photochromic lenses, but they’re expensive.
Thankfully, with technology being what it is, you can find darkening lenses for a relatively inexpensive cost at sites like Zenni Optical. You may have to wait for a longer amount of time, but for some, the cost is worth the expense.
Pros and Cons of Photochromic Lenses
As you’ve been reading and researching, you’re no doubt coming up with a list of pros and consregarding these types of lenses. There’s a lot to think about before you decide to take the plunge, so we’re going to weigh in with our own pros and cons list based on our research.
These lenses automatically adjust to any lighting condition. By doing so, eye strain is reduced as is visual fatigue. Because they auto adjust, your glasses will never be too dark for where you are in that moment.
Sensitivity to light is greatly reduced due to the way the lens protects the eye from otherwise harmful rays. By reducing these factors, you are also reducing the risk of other issues like cataracts.
You can find the lenses in a variety of tints. That means you can have greater powers of customization for the lenses of your choice.
Photochromic lenses are available in just about every prescription. They’re also able to be used in just about any type of frame which means that they’re extremely versatile.
There just wouldn’t be a pros list without a cons list to counteract it, right? The truth is that there aren’t very many negatives about photochromic lenses compared to other types of lenses.
Perhaps the biggest negative is the way they don’t change in the car when you’re driving. It’s inconvenient and for some, it’s enough to say that they won’t ever go for these types of lenses if they won’t change automatically in any lighting regardless of the science behind it.
When taking pictures or performing outdoors, your glasses are going to look like sunglasses. If that doesn’t bother you, then don’t stress about it. If you’d rather not look like a wannabe rocker, then you’re going to need to remember to remove them before the pictures are taken.
These types of lenses are also more expensive than standard lenses. You can expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars on top of your lens price. In other words, if you got standard polycarbonate lenses that have been made to fit your glasses, you would pay more to convert them to polycarbonate photochromic lenses.
A Few Last Words on Photochromic Lenses
Remember that Transition lenses are nothing more than a brand of lenses. What you’re looking for are photochromic lenses that will adjust when you walk outside.
They’re easy to care for, and they protect your eyes. Even if they are a little pricier than the standard lenses, what’s the cost that you’re willing to pay to protect your eyes now so you can see when you’re older?
Do your research and find the photochromic lenses that will work best for you.