Sunglasses: Selecting The Right Lens For Optimum Optical Performance

How to select sunglasses:

There are several important factors in selecting the right sunglasses and lenses to optimize your vision and protect your eyes.


By Dan Sanchez

For the active outdoor enthusiast, the right pair of sunglasses can offer superior eye protection and vision in a variety of situations. But most don’t know that the tint, and the amount of light it allows to transmit to your eyes has a lot to do with improving your vision while hiking, climbing, fishing skiing and more. Here’s some tips on how lens tint and light transmission can affect your performance in a variety of outdoor activities.

Lens Index Rating

Many manufacturers offer a Lens Tint Transmission Profile that shows the performance of a particular lens shade that block sunlight in ranges from 8  to 93%. The basic light transmission value index ranges from 0 to 4, and each lens is given a proper value to determine its overall light transmission.

  • Index: 0 – Aesthetic, very low protection. Overcast
  • Index: 1 – For weak sun brightness. Partly Cloudy
  • Index: 2 – For average sun brightness. Sunny
  • Index: 3 – For strong sun brightness. Very Sunny
  • Index: 4 – For very strong sun brightness. Very Sunny, Snow Reflection, High Altitude, Not for use when driving.

No matter what the color, manufacturer’s often list the Index that the lens falls into. This can help you decide which lenses can improve your visibility in a variety of situations.

Proper Protection

One of the first concerns when selecting a pair of sunglasses should be how well they protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. UVA is the major cause of cataracts, while UVB can cause cancer. It’s imperative to only use sunglasses that offer 100 percent protection from UV protection. Many people who also suffer from mascular degeneration often find it difficult to focus or strain when subjected to blue light. Many sunglasses often filter out blue light, which can improve contrast and visibility for some.

Lens Color

Manufacturers of performance sunglasses often use a variety of lens colors to optimize vision for certain outdoor activities.

  • Brown-Amber: Minimizes glare. Best for water sports, freshwater fishing, skiing. Enhances green.
  • Gray: Most popular. Provides best true perception with least amount of color distortion. Non contrast enhancing color that’s best for cycling, golf, salt water sports.
  • Green: Excellent to enhance contrast in low light conditions. This color also reduces eyestrain in bright light.
  • Yellow: Excellent for depth perception and in low light and low contrast conditions. Commonly used in shooting sports and skiing.
  • Rose-Vermilion: Enhances all colors and improves low light conditions. Helps contrast objects against blue and green backgrounds. Used most often for hiking, hunting, diving and other activities in dark forested areas.
  • Mirror: The mirrored coating is often added on top of a Rose or Gray lens color. It’s used as a buffer against glare and reflect much of the light to the eyes. Thus they make things appear darker. Used in extreme light conditions like in snow and high altitude conditions where bright light is reflected.
  • Polarized: A special lens material that blocks light at varied angles. Polarized lenses dramatically reduce glare from the road and water making them an excellent choice for driving and fishermen.

Knowing the right color, amount of UV protection and Index profile of a pair of sunglasses can dramatically improve your vision during your favorite outdoor activity and help keep your eyes healthy so you can relish all that the outdoors has to offer.


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