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Contrast Enhancing Lenses


Sunglasses  are standard equipment for any excursion to the beach. Since we knew we would be right next to one for a few days for Columbus Day weekend, we brought along a few pairs (Julbo, 180s, TruFocals, Oakley) to do some side-by-side InTheWild comparisons. Of special interest were the TruFocals and contrast-enhancing lenses for our Oakleys.

We did a FirstLook review of the TruFocals and have been wearing them a few days a week for the past two months, but only indoors. This is because we wear contact lenses during the day and the TruFocals at night. We love the “teashade-ish” look of the TruFocals. They remind us of the glasses worn by Seraph in the Matrix. Of course, the ones worn by Seraph were always dark. The TruFocals we got had a coating on the front lenses which darken when worn outside. We thought a weekend at the beach would be a good time to get some data on the TruFocals as sunglasses.

Yellow lenses are used by pilots, boaters, and sportsmen for their contrast enhancement and depth perception properties. It has been suggested that yellow filters provide an increase in perceived brightness because they “reduce some of the wavelengths of the chromatic and achromatic channels, improving the responses to low-contrast, midrange spatial frequencies.” In other words, things look clearer on cloudy days.

A few readers have asked if yellow lenses advertised as vision-enhancing really work. We had wondered the same thing, but never really set out to see for ourselves. We found that the trade-off with yellow lenses is a decrease in color fidelity but an increase in contrast, especially when viewing objects against a blue background such as the sky. The contrast of objects is clearly enhanced due to the selective filtering of short-wavelength light (blue) by the yellow lenses.

There are a lot of options for yellow-lens sunglasses, but Visionary Lenses was the only vendor which had contrast-enhancing lenses (yellow, gray) for our Oakley frames. The Oakley Juliets we have are slightly different in color (aluminum, titanium), but otherwise the same or so we thought. When we tried to install the yellow-tinted lenses in the aluminum-colored frame ones, we were not able to get the lenses to fit. The gap was just too large to close. Not knowing whether it was the lens or the frame, we tried the lens in the titanium-colored frame. The lens popped right in and we were able to screw things back up with no problems. Just for completeness, we tried the gray lens in the frame that would not work with the yellow lens. To our surprise, we had no problem with the fit. Hmmm… It seems we still don’t really know where the problem lies, but we do know that there is some variability in the size of both the frames and the lenses.

As for the enhancement claims, we definitely noticed a distinct difference in contrast with the yellow-tinted lenses as compared to the normal light-darkening ones. Objects had more defined edges. Things “popped” more with the yellow-tinted lenses. However, as cool as the effects are, we would not wear them in all situations. First, they were not designed to reduce brightness much. So if you need to reduce the amount of light, these are not the way to go. Second, the color-distortion can actually make you MISS seeing some details you might want to see. Obviously, these trade-offs are well worth it in the right situations. As the weather was beautiful all weekend long, we did not get to test how the glasses performed on a cloudy day. We will keep the yellow lenses in and report back after we have had a chance to wear them on an overcast day.

As for the TruFocals, the light-sensitive lenses worked amazingly well. The auto-darkening change occured quickly and was very effective against the glare coming off the dunes. It was nice to be able to get up close to something on the sand and be able to change the focus to see it clearly. Those who have considered these glasses know that there is a premium one has to pay for the features of the TruFocals. After two months of use, we feel that what users get in return (wide field of view, adjustable focus) is well worth the price. If you are undecided on the TruFocals because of cost, we suggest you take advantage of their 30 Day risk-free trial. You may be very surprised at just how much you are willing to pay for what they have to offer! Wonder if they offer a yellow-tinted lens option…

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