Transitions Drivewear review
- Rating ★★★★☆
- RRP from £150
- More info transitions.com
- Buy this example on Amazon.co.uk (currently £121)
- Review date May 2016
THERE COMES a point in most motorists’ lives when a routine trip to the optician results in the dreaded phrase: “you’re going to need to wear glasses when behind the wheel”.
Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress and failing sight is made even more bothersome when the sun decides to show its face in the spring and summer months, often hanging annoyingly low in the sky, making the all-important business of viewing the road ahead tricky.
Do you risk taking off the prescription spectacles and replace them with sunglasses only to realise you are quite blind? Or do you invest in a pair of prescription sunglasses and then complain when you constantly have to swap them when it clouds up?
There is hope, as new lenses by Transitions Optical, dubbed Drivewear, have been designed specifically with motorists in mind and attempt make life easier by adjusting the tinting of prescription lenses under harsh sunlight.
Drivewear lenses can be purchased and installed into any frame, meaning they can look as stylish as you want, or included in off-the-shelf set-ups from Salt and offerings from French designer Jeremy Tarian.
They also provide glare protection through polarisation and shield peepers from sunlight through photochromics. This technology responds to both visible and UV light and allows the lenses, which are made from a material “Trivex”, says the maker, to adjust their degree of darkness according to lighting conditions.
That means they work equally well outside the car and when sat behind a windscreen, which tends to filter out some UV light and often plays havoc with fixed tint technology.
The plano (non-prescription, as I’m lucky to still have 20-20 vision) lenses provided to test were nestled in a pair of ultra-trendy Parisian LaFont frames and adopted a mild olive hue when not subject to direct sunlight, making it easy to see in low light conditions. But upon stepping out into the spring sunshine, they turned a dark brown and cut out most of the glare from shiny surfaces.
While driving, under normal lighting conditions they provide a clear view of the road ahead but do a brilliant job of blocking glare from wet road surfaces when the sun shines.
There’s no need to constantly take off sunglasses when travelling in and out of tunnels, while the stylish frames make them acceptable to wear at the pub. Although I did receive a few questions as to why my sunglasses kept changing hue.
One issue with polarisation is that it interferes with screens and displays, meaning if you are lucky enough to own a vehicle with TFT monitors and touch-screen infotainment systems, these can look slightly warped or have sections blacked out. Not good if you rely on satellite navigation.
Tinted and transition sunglasses will never be the peak of cool but these manage to look good and will prove handy for those irritated by the driving glasses dilemma.
Transitions Xtractive adaptive lenses review
- Rating ★★★☆☆
- RRP From £150 for non-prescription, then priced up according to prescription
- More info transitions.com
- Buy at “all reputable opticians”
- Review date January 2017
Many things in life fill us with awe: space travel; voodoo wasps; Stonehenge… add to that list Transition Xtractive lenses. Like the Drivewear lenses above, these react to light to increase the tint as the intensity of the light increases. When you think about that, it’s extraordinary.
Smarter still is that both Drivewear and Xtractive work behind a car windscreen and, as many drivers will know, car glass to varying degrees removes UV rays from sunlight. To ensure the lenses still work as intended while inside a car, the Transitions scientists have developed photochromic dyes in the lenses that are able to activate in the lower spectrum of visible light, in addition to UV light.
Xtractive lenses differ from Drivewear in that the latter are permanently tinted — in other words, full-time sunglasses — whereas the former are completely clear when not exposed to sunlight. That means they can be worn indoors as well as outdoors by those who require prescription lenses, without the need to switch between sunglasses and standard spectacles.
That’s a liberating idea. As someone with 20-20 vision, the thought of having to mess around with various types of glasses to suit different environments is vaguely depressing.
Transitions XTRActive lenses are also claimed to be the darkest Transitions everyday lenses, providing “superior darkness outdoors in bright sunlight, as well as in hot temperatures, making these lenses ideal for those who spend a lot of time in the sun.” Like all Transitions adaptive lenses, they also block 100% of UV rays and can be matched to a plethora of frames to suit your style.
Sadly, the reality isn’t quite as exciting. Although Xtractive lenses are claimed to reach a category 2 tint, which allows 18-45% of light through, we found the tint insufficient in bright sunlight, particularly when driving during the winter, with a strong sun hanging low in the sky.
Tinting is quick, with the significant change happening within a minute of exposure to sunlight, but in our our test we found full tinting can take around three minutes (see video below).
In addition, let’s be honest: Transitions lenses aren’t considered the cutting edge of cool.
In short, we found ourselves reaching for our usual sunglasses, which offer a stronger tint and, assuming they’re easily within reach, full protection as soon as they’re worn.
It’s a shame, as the technology behind Transitions lenses is clever and the Xtractive version takes it to the next level; if you normally require glasses, this should be the one stop solution for all your needs. Many may still prefer to wear contact lenses and carry around a pair of good, old-fashioned shades, though.
Serengeti Positano review
- Rating ★★★★★
- RRP from £173
- More info serengeti-eyewear.com
- Buy this example at Amazon.co.uk (currently £120)
- Review date May 2016
There are two distinct occupations that require clear vision: the professional driver and pilots. Serengeti crafts bespoke lenses for both, which is why they are well worth a look for anyone keen on improving their view out of a windscreen.
The company, which uses borosilicate optical glass by Corning Incorporated (they manufacture the Gorilla Glass in your smartphone), prides itself on injecting more technology into its lenses than anyone else in the business.
Photochromic, Polarization and Spectral Control Technology are just a few technical phrases Serengeti bats around its brochure but despite the slightly contrived scientific jargon, the results are genuinely impressive.
From a driver’s perspective, the Photochromic tech really comes into its own, as it sees molecules inside the glass actively expand in brighter environments to create a darker lens that absorbs more light.
Unlike Transitions and other reactionary lenses, all Serengeti models are sunglasses first and foremost, so they can’t transform from completely clear to opaque but they look much better for it. In fact, I’d go so far to say that they can rival many of the big brands in terms of stylishness.
The additional technology, such as Spectral Control and Polarization, also make a genuine difference. Spectral Control, for example, manages light wavelengths, which in plain-speak means haze and glare are reduced and blue light is filtered out to reduce eye fatigue. Perfect for those long motorway drives.
The plano (without prescription) Polarized driver lenses in the smart Positano frames I tested during a 200+-mile journey managed to make the view ahead clear and bright without overpowering the eyes, while overcast and hazy views somehow looked radiant and sharp.
It was more akin to applying an HD filter to my eyes rather than the typical tinting or darkening experienced when wearing less advanced sunglasses. Plus, the digital and TFT displays in my car weren’t plagued by annoying black lines that can be found in cheaper polarised specs.
Slight niggles include the fact that buyers are limited to the brand’s range of frames, as you can’t simply opt for the lenses. But as previously mentioned, the choice is good and covers most things from cosmopolitan style to traditional Top Gun-esque aviators.
Plus, Serengeti offers all of its glasses in prescription from +6.00 to -8.00 and in numerous tints from 555nm blue to snow-friendly Sedona, which it claims covers 99% of customers.
But you will have to head to an official optical stockist in order to have the prescription fitted. It’s best to check the website for nearby stores before venturing out, as mine was around 15-miles away.
All in all, a pair of Serengetis may prove an expensive initial outlay but if you’re keen on reducing the strain on your eyes when behind the wheel without looking like a wally, they really are worth every penny.
Bollé Keelback review
- Rating ★★★★☆
- Price from £82
- More info bolle.com
- Buy at Amazon.co.uk (currently £63.61)
- Review date May 2016
Although not specifically designed for driving, Bollé’s range of sport-orientated glasses has been developed to accommodate the demands of elite athletes and that means the science-y stuff is also great for the everyday commuter.
Offering an all-out sporting snug fit, the Keelback tested here features a wraparound frame design for improved sun protection and some serious lens technologies that proves just as useful when behind the wheel as it does when on a bike or out for a run.
Again, Photochromic tech is embedded into the lens, meaning they automatically lighten or darken depending on the weather conditions, while polarisation aligns light rays from the sun for a clearer view ahead.
Because the Keelback has been designed with sport in mind, the lenses also feature a Carbo Glas coating for added protection against bumps and scrapes, as well as an anti-fog treatment so they don’t steam up should you move from hot to cold or get a sweat on during the roasting summer months.
Like the aforementioned Serengeti range, most Bollé models can be specified with B-Thin Active Design prescription lenses ranging from +6.00 to -8.00.
The range of sporty frame designs certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes but the lenses perform extremely well in changeable conditions, while the frames are lightweight and designed to offer maximum comfort over longer periods.
Plus, I found the oleophobic (oil repellent) treatment on the outside of the lens great for avoiding the awkward smudge marks suffered after scoffing a packet of greasy crisps during a typically hasty service station lunch.