Product Review: Infinitely-adjustable corrective lenses from Superfocus

This unique setup is an alternative to bi- or trifocals, with some caveats...

After a previous column on protective eyewear for law enforcement officers ran on Police1, I received an email message from a representative of Superfocus suggesting that their product would be an asset to police officers. I’d seen Superfocus advertised on television, but was put off of trying them because of the cost. Superfocus offered to supply me with a demonstration pair of glasses ground to my prescription, which I’ve been wearing for the last few days. This is my evaluation of the product.

Most eyeglass wearers start out with single-vision lenses that correct for vision defects at all distances. I had these into my forties, when I suffered the same problem that most of us do at that age when the biological lens that sits behind the cornea began to harden. This hardening causes presbyopia, or poor near vision. People who don’t wear glasses start out trying to compensate by holding reading material farther away, and eventually getting reading glasses that magnify close-up objects. An alternative is to get bifocals, which have a near-vision prescription “window” ground into the lower center portion of the eyeglass lens, leaving the rest of the lens for distance viewing. In severe cases, a trifocal prescription is needed, with a second “window” ground for intermediate distance objects.

Progressive (also called “no-line” or “invisible”) bifocals and trifocals vary the prescription gradually from the lower portion to the upper portion of the lens. The wearer focuses on an object by tilting their head up and down to put the right portion of the lens on an object and bring it into focus. This takes some getting used to when a wearer first gets the graduated lenses, but it eventually becomes second nature.

Superfocus eyeglasses have no separate “windows” or graduations of the wearer’s prescription for near or distance viewing. Instead, there are actually two lenses in front of each eye. The outer lenses are rigid, held onto the frame by a magnetic anchor. The inner lenses are flexible, becoming convex as a slider over the bridge of the nose is moved. Sliding the button to the left or right focuses precisely on whatever the wearer wants to bring into view.

Even though I have progressive lenses for my “regular” glasses, I have a pair of single-vision glasses for working at my desk. These are ground to focus at 38 inches, which is the distance between my face and my computer monitors. I see the computer display very well with my “computer glasses,” but the Superfocus lenses bring it into much sharper detail. It’s one of those things you don’t notice until you see it so much more clearly.

I have a similar experience while watching TV. My regular glasses allow me to see and read most everything on the screen, but the Superfocus glasses make the image crystal clear, better than I see it with my regular glasses. It’s like having a custom-ground prescription for every distance, an infinite number of pairs of glasses. The Superfocus literature says that wearers quickly adapt to adjusting their glasses with the slider and soon don’t think about it.

Because the outer lenses pop on and off magnetically (and it really is that easy), wearers can keep tinted and/or self-darkening outer lenses available and exchange them when going in- or outside. There’s no need to have a separate pair of sunglasses.

I’ve found two drawbacks to the Superfocus glasses. The first occurs when I move between seeing something at a distance and up close. I often have a book or a magazine in front of me when watching TV, and to move from one to the other requires a manual adjustment of the Superfocus slider each time. With my regular glasses, I just tilt my head.

The other issue is more of a personal problem. The stainless steel frames of the Superfocus glasses I have are, on me at least, butt-ugly. I’m inclined to think people would point and laugh hysterically if I wore these out in public. I look like a white Urkel, but geekier. The function of Superfocus glasses requires they have round lenses, and rimless frames aren’t possible. They look okay on the models pictured on the Superfocus website, but on me, they’re clown-like.

At $599 base price for a satin finish stainless steel pair (that’s what I have) and $749 for other models, these aren’t going to be a casual purchase for most of us. The cost may be covered by a vision insurance program, and Superfocus offers a 30-day no-risk guarantee if you decide you don’t like them. If they look good on you and the mechanism suits the nature of your assignment, they may give you the sharpest vision you’ll ever have with glasses.

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