Varifocal lenses - what's the difference?

Nowadays there is a huge choice of varifocal types, and the cost can vary greatly. A question we're commonly asked is: What's the difference?

With traditional varifocals, the lenses will be pre-moulded with the change in power occuring on the front surface only. In most cases, this is a "one size fits all" approach. Someone with a very short-sighted prescription will get the same design as someone with a very long-sighted one. Similarly, only subtle design changes can be made to suit the patient's reading addition (ie. the difference between the distance & near portions).

Little or no account is therefore made of people's unique visual requirements.

Up until fairly recently, this was the only way to make such lenses. However, with advances in computerised manufacturing techniques, "digital" or "freeform" lenses are now available. These are not pre-moulded, so they can be individually designed & manufactured to suit your individual requirements, for example:

  • Your prescription
  • Your reading addition
  • Your pupil position on the frame
  • The position of the frame on your face

We can also give you a bias towards a specific task. If, for example, you do a lot of VDU work we can adjust the lens design to give you a bias towards this.

The end result is that your vision should be much better, and more suited to your lifestyle requirements.

It's important to note, however, that freeform is a production process rather than an end product. If the lens design isn't good to start with, you won't see much benefit. It's a bit like printing a picture on a cheap printer and then on a top of the range one. If the picture is of poor quality to start with, the printout won't be significantly better on the high end machine. In fact, the latter is liable to expose the shortcomings of the picture even more. This is why we only recommend reputable brand names (such as Rodenstock or Zeiss) who invest heavily in research & development.

Nowadays the branded freeform lenses are our preferred choice. However, traditional lenses can still be an option for someone on a budget, someone with a low prescription (especially a low reading addition) or anyone looking for sunspecs or a spare pair.

All of our varifocals come with a 30 day non-tolerance guarantee. In the unlikely event that you cannot adapt to them, we will exchange them for goods or services up to the same value providing you return within a month.