Progressive lenses


The above photo is representative of a pair of glasses, similar to but not actually the ones I bought.

Executive summary – progressive lenses are expensive and a bit weird. They might be useful but they are almost certainly not the answer to your dreams.

So here I am at 57 (would that be Heinz age?) with eyes that need three levels of power-up for me to be able to see clearly. Round figures I need;

  • Distance +1.25
  • Mid range +2.25
  • Reading +3.25

That said, I can perfectly happily walk around and even drive without any glasses at all although with driving I find glasses help when I’ve done more than a few hours behind the wheel especially at night.

Let’s go back a few years to when I bought my first pair of half-progressive lenses mainly for use at work to cover the range from computer screen to reading, roughly +2 to +3. Aside from a very short while needed to get used to them, they have been superb. They do, however, only cover one aspect of life, namely sitting near a computer screen, and while this is something I do often, that one pair of glasses had limited use in daily life leading to my collection of about 10 other pairs of glasses ranging between +1 to +3 that I had obtained from shops, opticians and petrol stations in Poland, Italy, Greece and the UK.

Having so many pairs with differing practical uses was getting annoying. I was always having to carry around at least two pairs and often found myself a focal length short of what was needed. I could see what was happening on stage in the theatre but I couldn’t check the football scores on my phone. I could see what was on the supermarket shelves but couldn’t read the labels. Or vice versa. Not to mention that those purchased without prescription weren’t exactly of the best quality!

And so it was that I jumped to the conclusion that I needed to get an eye test and buy some new glasses and furthermore that if I was so happy with the half-progressive pair then getting some full progressive ones that added the third, long distance, dimension might be a whizz of an idea.

Vision Express in Zlote Tarasy is where I went, I explained what I’m trying to do and after many tests they were positively gushing about how perfectly suited my eyes were for fully progressive lenses. Despite the utterly ridiculous price, I ordered two pairs.

When I went to collect them, one pair seemed fine in the shop but the other had a problem when reading such that one side of the page was in focus and the other side was not. They were returned for adjustment and I took the others. All was well until I tried to use them at work with a laptop. Absolute disaster. Could hardly read anything on the screen unless I moved my head around all the time side to side and up and down to try and get some focus. Agghh!

Back to the shop and explained the problem, which is when they decided to tell me in more detail about how progressive lenses work. A little too late.


As you can see from the above diagram you get a big area for distance, an acceptable area for reading but a small area for mid range that is also acting as a corridor between distance and reading. In real life the effect is very strange. When doing anything other than working with a computer the progressive works very well and allows you to get everything in focus. They work best with distance and reading but even things that are the same distance away as a computer screen are well enough defined as to make them good all-purpose glasses. Get them anywhere near a computer though and try to do some work, web browsing, whatever, and they are utterly useless.

At first we all thought I just needed to get used to them and there’s no question they improve the more you wear them, or perhaps your brain works out how to interpret the signals better would be more scientifically correct, but I’ve been using them for a while now and they are still useless for computer work.

So, my dream of one pair of glasses to cover everything crashed and burnt. The only question was whether to keep them or to change my order. To be fair to Vision Express they were happy either way. What I’ve decided on is a strategy of keeping the progressives for all general use but also having a separate pair of half-progressives for computer work. This could be achieved by only having only two pairs of glasses but given that I want spares of each I’ll end up with four. Two pairs of full progressive, one of which I carry with me each day for general use + my old half-progressives to be based at home for computer use + a new pair of half-progressives based in the office for work use. All three being upgrades on the current set-up.

At least all my glasses will be proper optical quality and not gas station quality and I’ll be able to throw a lot of old pairs away.

Close but no cigar.