Multifocal Eyeglass Lenses - issues and questions

Edit: New readers to this topic can go to post #50 for the most recent post as of 17 Feb 2022.

Many of us have or will need multi-focal lenses. Progressives are the more popular option these days but can be pricey. Conventional wisdom is you get what you pay for, but are $350 lenses near enough or as good as $750 ones?

Varilux is sold as the best but there are also Nikon, Hoya, Zeiss, Kodak, and some house branded products.

Choice has previously referenced the materials and a few other relevant bits in a buying guide but appears never to attacked the lenses.


I looked into these about three years ago. My optometrist, who is very good, is with OPSM and so I asked their sales people to show me progressives as well as fixed for my latest prescription as these were new and supposedly better. To cut the story short the fixed were ~$300 and the progressives ~$1000 with similar frames.
I asked how they justified the price given these are bits of plastic ground by a computer, not hand ground from rock crystal by generations of monks with a blessing in every lap round the stone. She immediately offered me $150 off!
I said that if she could make it $500 off we might talk business but otherwise all that she had done was to confirm that their margin was way too high and they were out to skim as much cream as possible from those who wanted the latest and greatest and didn’t think about value for money.
I know that there are set-up costs in new tech and that early adopters can expect to pay more than if you wait for competition to catch up and for re-tooling costs to be covered but fives times more is just ridiculous. Hopefully the market has settled down by now to a more realistic price.
As for Choice testing various makes of progressive lenses I can’t see how this would work given the many variables involved in getting glasses that suit you. The results could be based on user satisfaction but that depends so many things other than the lenses I don’t know how you do a meaningful comparison.


There are some lens qualities that could be reported such as field of vision without distortion, size of the ‘sweet spot’, lack of aberration, and so on.

That would be the case for almost anything from tyres to pans


I agree that it would be good to know if there is really any difference in the lenses.

I’m sure information could be obtained from the manufacturers about the characteristics of their lenses. Then testing could be done on unground lenses to compare the photo-optical qualities of the glass and plastic materials used.


I’ve used both the “cheaper” and “more Expensive lenses” and anecdotally I could not tell the difference except the expensive lenses gave me a better “sunglass” effect, ie seemed to be more effective in bright sunny conditions. The expensive lenses had less scratches/scuffs after 2 years of use, but the could be due to the fact that I took better care of them.

Last year I chose a different optometrist, and received a new prescription to be dispensed. I then asked if the new lenses could be fitted in my 2 year old (still good) Specsaver (very expensive) titanium frames. No, that could not be done as they would not guarantee the lenses that were no in their own frames. Several hundred dollars later . . . . So it seems if you need new lenses, you will need new frames!


I would have thanked the ‘new’ optometrist for his/her time and checked back with Specsavers or another optician for providing the optics prior to buying. They would likely have wanted to recheck the prescription, usually covered by medicare.


With the benefit of your experience, sounds like an up-front question in future. Also sounds very borderline - wouldn’t guarantee against what? Possibly could understand not guaranteeing against some kind of failure/etc related to interaction with the frame itself, but in all other aspects you could reasonably expect the guarantee to stand … and really, they expect people to believe they test their lenses in frames in some real world way to ascertain ‘compatibility’? I smell something :slight_smile:


That is a complete shonky!

There can be limitations based on some scripts viz-a-vis how large the lenses are and where they sit relative to your pupils. Other limitations may be the attachment method, that is, are the lenses held securely in the frame. For example, some thicker lenses need more secure attachment and can not be held like light lenses.

Other than that, there should not be any issue about ‘guaranteeing’ the lenses.


My wife and I regularly reuse frames for new lenses. The main criteria for whether they can be reused is that as @meltam said the lenses can be used in the frames successfully regards fit.

My wife uses bifocal so the frame size needs to be adequate for the lens to incorporate the two functions, and progressives require similar (which I prefer to use). As the frames get older they do deteriorate and we always check with the business if the quality is still good to be used again, if not we replace them. In 15 years this has amounted to about 6 new frames for each of us. Titanium generally has an extended life span and I would hazard that 3 or 4 years could be expected but style wise may not always be what you want.


I have worn glasses since I was 5 and I am now in my early 60’s. I have found over time it is a balancing act between the cost of frames/lenses and service.
I have visited Specsavers and haven’t been impressed. When I told them my requirements after many years of experience I was treated as “knowledgeable” and it was suggested what the had was good enough for me.
I now have a shop where the people are friendly and (again after many years experience) know their stuff.
I may pay a little more but they go out of their way for fitting, checking script against lenses received and little professional bits most of us never think about.


I went to Specsavers this time based on their prices…Lenses were not cheap and it was going to be cheaper to get new frames than use my perfectly good ones…This seems to be the way most Optometrists work, they all push you into new frames


I have worn specs since teens and these days never will again get them from the places I get to do test - far too expensive frames as well as lenses.

A friend told me to try a buy direct on line and so I did and was amazed to find a frame that was similar to one I had liked at Eye Lines and had checked out the price - asking $459 and these frames were a mere $6.73 - was astounded thought must be a catch but went ahead anyway and ordered them with lenses for distance - transition plus usual coatings they put on and total cost with frames was $70 and at same time ordered 2 others for computer plus reading which had always got as told needed etc. So all up last purchase was only around $175 for these 3 pairs which I still have and are still in good nick.
Since I am told most frames are being made in china and have been for years, I do wonder how large a mark up these various companies have put on them - has to be huge as from cost and quality of my last lot - we are definitely being ripped off on frame prices.
Mark up has to be largest in living history.

I just get the test done these days and buy direct and they arrive in short time by courier, dont even have to go and collect them - saving me hundreds of dollars at same time.


I recently tried a change of optometrist, from my long-time independent practitioner to a big brand. I was happy with my original one but being ‘in between jobs’ wanted to try to save a bit on the costs.
Following my eye test I selected new inexpensive frames (the new company would not fit new lens into my perfectly good and expensive 2-year-old Danish branded frames because their “lens suppliers don’t work with that brand”. First warning bell…).
There was then a fair bit of effort to upsell on the quality of the progressive lens, with 3 varieties being available, each with a wider field of clear vision than the last, offering more clarity at the edges. I selected the least expensive, since the salesperson said that “many customers are happy with that” and I assumed they would be fit for purpose. I resisted all other efforts to upgrade this, that and the other, each item adding at least $100 to the cost. Second warning bell…
The end cost was around $200 less than my previous glasses, but this was because the new frames were about $200 cheaper.
I duly collected my new glasses and immediately noticed I couldn’t look sideways through them, to which the salesperson ‘explained’ that I would need to turn my head to look at something at eg. a 45 degree angle. Third warning bell…
After a week I took them back for a full refund. The frames didn’t fit well, the lens were simply not anywhere near as good quality as my previous ones (where the only upgrade ever offered was a non-reflective coating).
The best thing about this experience was the policy of the company to offer a full refund if you’re not happy with the new glasses. I have now gone back to an independent practitioner who will happily fit new lens into my existing frames.


I’ve been wearing progressive lenses for many years now with the widest possible reading area as I do a lot of handwork. My first pair didn’t have this width and I would have to change glasses to work at the PC and turn my head a little more at corners when driving neither o which I now have to do. Love them.


I have been using multifocal lenses for a few years now as I hate peering at people over the top of my glasses… LOL
My health Insurance cover about 50% of the cost because I but the better lense, with protective coating etc, with an out of pocket around $250.00 through Optical Superstore. Also purchased multifocal sunglasses as well. My first pair were purchased through OPSM and their prices (at that time) were through the roof ($450 - $550 out of pocket) as there wasn’t as much competition around. The only thing I am going to change for the next pair from Optical Superstore is the protective coating… It seems to attract smudges and are difficult to clean.

Your out of pocket can be reduced (we only have basic extras) depending on how stylish you want your frames to be, but even with the good frames my out of pocket nowadays is half what it used to be. Also at the end of the day most of these lenses come out of China. Our American friends buy their prescription glasses from Costco, and for the very good reason is Costco stand by everything they sell… even their prescription lenses.


Ebay do me. 2-5$ delivered from China - and I get far less headaches now than I did with the script ones I kept breaking. I keep breaking the Chinese ones too, but it hurts less … not progressive though, I take them off for long distance.


Same story, I paid $120 for progressive , darkening lenses in a titanium frame. Also paid $500 for same spec lenses in a PLASTIC frame as a test. Both seem identical except the Titanium are noticeably lighter. When I asked for lenses to be fitted to my other existing Titanium frames the opto said the Titanium frames were “worn out” and fatigued and no longer usable! Titanium worn out- he had th be joking.


Related to this but with at a slight tangent:
Q. Why do your spectacle frames (whether new or used) which are getting lenses have to be sent to the lens people?

Surely it could be arranged that a digital template (of every frame ever manufactured) be held in the lens manufacturers’ digital library, and the lenses shaped to fit. The correctly shaped lens would come back to the optometrist, who would fit the lens into the spectacle frame.

From the discussion to this point, it is obvious that optometrists are often loathe to reuse frames. Now I understand that sometimes frames are distorted, or misshaped from use. Surely the optometrist (or the dispenser who is probably not an optometrist) could see if the frames are in good condition or not. If the frames are really distorted, then maybe they are either in need of replacement, or they can be sent off to have the lenses fitted.

If the old frames were in good condition, the client could wear the old script to the optometrist, and walk out with the new script, instead of possibly being without spectacles for up to two weeks. Obviously, this would eliminate the need to buy new spectacle frames just to have prescription glasses to wear. It would mean that people only need to buy frames when THEY chose to.

Perhaps, Choice could do a shadow shop of spectacle dispensers :nerd_face: and see if they are attempting to pull the wool :sheep: over our eyes by refusing to reuse shoppers’ perfectly good :eyeglasses: frames?


I am not sure that is always the case, but I suspect that in spite of what seem to be exact standards to us, the same product can vary depending on the factory. I previously posted about pairs of the ‘same’ shoe where those manufactured in one factory were perfect and those from ‘the other’ did not fit me. The company provided the explanation; there was no visual or coded difference excepting where the logo was applied. The processes in the two factories had minor variations resulting in ever-so-slight different product characteristics. How many of us buy multiple pairs of the exact same shoe? Not many, hence we might never notice similar variations in the industry.

We also bought two ‘identical’ sets of Target branded dishes from the same display and did not need the second set for a long time; we just checked for cracks and chips and repacked the second set. When we needed the second set the dishes were about 2mm larger diameter than the first set. I would expect both factories worked from the same drawings that probably had a generous +/- tolerance to keep the costs down and both were in tolerance.

Since the costs of the lens can be comparatively high I can accept they might want everything in hand. While one might think if an engine manufacturer can build to tolerance why not frames, but. Could be the softer materials coupled with contract manufacturing – that is my suspicion not necessarily fact.

There was a TV report on Luxottica a few years ago and all the attention was on cosmetics with functionality second because that is the market they created. Prior to Luxottica glasses were boring and functional. Luxottica got ‘credit’ for changing the market to high fashion where they could deliver fairly cheap-to-make merchandise at high fashion prices. They continue to absorb related companies and dominate the frame (most brands) and lens (Essilor) markets.

From personal experience I have old frames in as new condition, and others that look as new that developed weakness, especially where the hinges mounted, and one where the nose bridge lost its temper. So I can understand why most just do not want to deal with the possibility although I do not agree with it.


I tried multi focus glasses some time ago, but couldn’t stand them. I kept tripping on steps because was looking through the wrong part of the glasses.

I returned to by-focus glasses, and they are much better for me.