Saturday, 16 November 2013

Reflections on Reading Glasses

eyeing vernal falls

With the bit of money left in my private health insurance allowance for optical aids this year, $40, I went and bought myself backup reading glasses. In contrast to my primary pair, which cost around $400, this time around I spent – you don’t need to guess - $40.
What did I get for $40 ($6.20 out of pocket)? I got a non branded metal frame and the same lenses as the order of magnitude more expensive glasses had. Thought I’d mention it, in case you  were thinking there is some sort of correlation between the cost of manufacturing glasses and the price we are asked to pay for them. There isn’t.
Also, in case you still harbour positive feelings towards Australia’s tax payer supported private health system, consider that I could have done with much lesser glasses than I initially did. But I didn’t, because it didn’t cost me much out of pocket. Anyone telling you that privatisation is the only way to create efficiencies deserves a lobotomy.

I chose to experiment with these new backup glasses of mine. I went for a thinner frame with narrower lenses that will allow me to easily look the world above them for long range scanning (viewing anything further than a meter or two through reading glasses creates a very fuzzy, headache inducing world). And being that I was on a tight budget, I skipped the anti reflection coating; since that was an expensive item before, I thought it was important to see just how valuable this coating really is.
Now I can report: if you are thinking of using your reading glasses in front of a glaring screen and over long periods of time, get your glasses coated with anti reflection coating. It matters! It matters with the neon lighting at the office, and it even matters when reading on my iPhone in a dark environment. The difference in eye fatigue is so noticeable I could not bear to use the my new backup glasses at work; within a minute I rushed back to my “old” pair. I do have to add a disclaimer, though: my old pair’s larger area lenses meant its coating is much more effective than any coating on the new glasses narrower lenses could ever be.
Where the new glasses work well is normal reading on the train. My Kindle screen uses e-ink, so it’s not glowing; having the advantage of being able to easily look up the station I’m at and quickly go back to reading my book felt nice. Similarly, when paying Lego with my son, the ability to easily shift between short and long ranges matters. Also, at home on my Mac, the new glasses proved good enough for working under our gentle LED downlights and a high quality IPS screen.
So, if you are after some conclusions, here they are. If you seek reading glasses for prolonged work in front of a computer, especially at an office environment, I would recommend larger area lenses (as opposed to the currently fashionable narrow lenses) and I would dearly recommend anti reflection coating. However, for more casual use where you need to shift between long and short range viewing, thin lenses have the advantage.

Image by Thomas Levinson, Creative Commons license

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