Everything you need to know about varifocal sunglasses

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People buy varifocal sunglasses for many different reasons. Some people only need reading glasses, but don’t want to keep swapping between their non-prescription sunglasses and their prescription reading glasses. Others need glasses for distance, but also want to be able to read when necessary. Others still may struggle with seeing the dashboard when driving, and need their sunglasses to adjust so they can see the instrument panel as well as the road ahead.

The bottom line is that varifocal sunglasses allow you to do everything you need to do in bright weather, without having to think about it. They allow you to focus at any distance quickly and easily. But did you know there are many different types of varifocal sunglasses – and I’m not just talking about the frames…

In this blog we’re going to look at some of the most popular varifocal sunglass technologies, so you can get an idea of which ones might be right for you.

First, let’s look at the varifocal design itself

This is the way the lens is set up for distance, intermediate (ie. dashboard) and reading. Unfortunately, all varifocals (even the very best) have some areas of soft-focus, where your vision won’t be so clear. Generally, different varifocal designs put these areas of soft focus in different places.

The best design for you will vary depending on the activities you’re most likely to be wearing them for. For example:

Varifocals set up for sport usually push the soft focus into the lower parts of the lens, meaning you have the largest possible area for distance vision, but retain the ability to read (albeit through a small area) when necessary.

If you’re wearing your sunglasses for longer periods of reading, you want a more balanced varifocal design, which allows you an equal amount of distance and reading vision. In this diagram, you can see that the reading zone is much larger.

We will take the time to design your varifocals to be perfect for the activities you most need them for, whether it’s a particular sport, a variety of sports, driving or general use. For more information on varifocal lenses, click here to watch our video.

Next up, sun protection

Not all varifocal sunglasses protect equally. One of the most important things to look for in any pair of sunglasses is polarised lenses. Polarised lenses eliminate glare, making your vision significantly clearer, especially for driving or fishing.

Polarised lenses (right) vs tinted lenses (left) when looking at the same image.

We can easily combine polarised lenses with varifocal lenses, in virtually any prescription (don’t be put off if you’ve been told by other opticians that isn’t possible).
You can even go a step further, for a really stylish look, and choose varifocal polarised gradient lenses:

As you can see in the image above, this is where the lens is darker towards the top, and lighter towards the bottom. Not only does this look really good, it also means the lens is brighter to look through when reading, and therefore clearer.

If you’re particularly light sensitive, you might want to consider a mirror coating on your lenses. This reflects away around 5% extra light (particularly infra-red light, which has the effect of making your eyes hot and uncomfortable) to produce extra dark lenses. Of course, some people love the look as well!

Mirror coating are available in many cool colours. Silver, as seen above, is great for a smart look. Gold, Bronze or Rose Gold look very glam, and Blue, Red or Green are really sporty.

Varifocal sunglasses for sports

Providing you get the right lens design (as covered earlier in this piece), varifocal sunglasses can be perfectly suited to almost any sport. We can make varifocals for everything from cycling to golf. We even offer varifocal snow goggles. There are too many permutations to cover in a single article, but we would love to discuss your specific needs and recommend a solution.

Varifocal sunglasses for driving

There is one undisputed winner in this category. Drivewear lenses are by far the best for daytime use. They are so good that they become more than just sunglasses; drivewear lenses even enhance your vision in overcast or rainy conditions.

This is thanks to a special amber tint, which improves contrast and above all depth perception. Your ability to judge distances when driving is crucial, and even the smallest improvement in reaction time can be the difference when it comes to a potential accident.

These lenses combine the amber tint with polarisation (to block glare) and adjust to light automatically as well. They are the only photochromic lens to activate to sunglass level inside a car.

All these reasons are why Drivewear lenses ensure you are as safe as possible when it comes to your vision.

What are the best varifocal sunglasses?

That will depend on what you want them for. However, if you aren’t doing a specific activity and just want them for general use, in my opinion, the best varifocal sunglasses are Zeiss Adaptive Sun lenses. These come in Grey, Brown, Green or Blue, and combine polarised technology with PhotoFusion – Zeiss’ light reactive technology. The result is both the lightest and the darkest polarised lens in one pair of sunglasses – depending on the conditions.

Zeiss Adaptive Sun lenses are incredibly versatile, which is what you ideally want from your sunglasses. You don’t want to have to be constantly switching between different pairs of glasses or sunglasses. And if you need varifocals to see clearly, this technology allows you to go into a shop and see clearly (and look normal), and go back out into the sun without any problem.

Finally, the frames

You want your varifocal sunglasses to look good, feel good and last a long time, so once you know the lens type that’s perfect for you, it’s important to choose the right frames as well.

Click the image above to watch our video all about these limited edition frames.

If you want your sunglasses to be perfect for sport, some frames are more suited to individual sports than others:

We have a huge range of sunglasses suitable for varifocals. The brands we stock include Maui Jim, Carrera, Polaroid, Chopard, Nike, Hugo Boss, Longchamp, Jimmy Choo, Face a Face, Titanflex and more.

I hope you found this article on varifocal sunglasses useful. If so, please follow us on twitter @specfactory. If you have any questions, you can ask them there or email rob@thespectaclefactory.com. You can also book your appointment with us online here.

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The Spectacle Factory was recommended to me by a friend and my experience from my initial eye test to taking delivery of my new glasses was first class throughout. The attention I received from James during my eye examination was both extremely thorough and professional. He worked patiently and diligently to fine tune my prescription. Robert's involvement in choosing my new frames and lenses was brilliant. At no time did I feel under pressure into making quick decisions regarding the choices made available to me. His expert knowledge and enthusiasm was very reassuring at all times. Having experienced several years of eye discomfort, I am now overjoyed with the difference that the team at The Spectacle Factory have made to my vision. Many Thanks.

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I brought my daughters in recently for their first eye tests and I was so impressed with how patient and thorough all the staff were with us. Trying to get a four year old to sit still enough for the scans was very difficult but Ben tried his best and didn’t seem to let it phase him. Claire was wonderful during the eye test itself, employing my 6 year old to be her assistant and making it fun for them both. Not being a glasses wearer myself, I was quite overwhelmed when I was told my 6 year old needed glasses, but Robert helped me to understand what her prescription meant and made sure that her beautiful new glasses fit her just right! Thank you so much to everyone at SF!

- Emma Venn


Picked my Reykjavik Eyes glasses up Thursday . Robert and his team are outstanding . I am a nervous customer due to bad experiences when I was young . They made the whole experience special and made me at ease throughout both visits . Robert is brilliant regarding frames to suit you no pressure just brilliant support and help . I would wholeheartedly recommend The Spectacle Factory to everyone. Thanks a million everyone.

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Five stars without any hesitation. I immediately felt at ease and the atmosphere was very welcoming. The service was prompt and efficient. I felt the examination was very thorough and any questions I had were clearly answered. When it came to choosing my frames and what my prescription involved the options available to me were fully outlined. I didn’t feel under any pressure and I felt in charge of the transaction. From entering to leaving it was a lovely experience. I was a little hesitant in the current situation, but my fears were soon allayed as every precaution was taken to minimise the risks. Superior to any high street optician. Excellent all round! EH

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Living some 300 miles from The Spectacle Factory visiting was not an option for me, however, after checking all the reviews I decided not only to buy my J.F. Rey frames (seen on an online video by Robert) but also have my Zeiss smart life progressive lenses made by them. I had no worries. After taking advice from Robert the measurements required for the lenses were done locally at a nominal cost. I am now the proud owner of a pair of handmade 'wow' glasses and a very happy new customer. Use them with confidence. The customer service is truely outstanding.

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Well they you pay for what you get. It’s definitely true of The Spectacle Factory. There customer service is the best I have experienced anywhere. I was not rushed with any decision and I was made to feel like I was there most important customer. What I paid was an eye watering amount but I got smartlife ziess lenses and frames that are very comfortable. I now also have very clear vision when reading. I thought it was not clear due to lighting in modern offices and homes. Wrong it was bad lenses and persecution not being quite right. Thank you for sorting it all out at the first attempt.

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ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT I have been using the Spectacle Factory for a long time, but the latest visit was the best BY FAR..... I desperately needed an eye test, and was fitted in quickly. James, the optician, was excellent , as usual. 4 members of staff were outstanding in the service I received. Robert, Ben and Emma were absolutely perfect.....and Ruth, the manager was excellent, as she always is. The best visit by far...I cannot rate this place higher !!!

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Welcomed by and dealt with Robert during the whole process of choosing through to final fitting. Great service, great range of glasses, really helpful and informative. I would highly recommend

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After reading all the positive reviews I decided that a 40 minute drive would be worth it to try and get a new prescription and frames- I wear my glasses all day so need to get this right. I was so impressed with everyone’s desire to be helpful and make sure I was happy at every part of my visit. I wasn’t the quickest at choosing new frames but never felt rushed by Robert. He listened and gave helpful advice as we worked through choosing the frames and lenses I needed. They have a huge range of frames which meant I ended up with a pair I was really happy with. I actually chose a pair of prescription sunglasses as well, which I have been meaning to do for years. I loved the combination of cutting edge technology and personalised service. It’s so nice to see a team that places such a priority on customer satisfaction - they certainly deserve 5 stars.

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Fantastic service! I attended the spectacle factory over a year ago for an eye test. They were amazing, and so patient with me! My Polaroid frame broke recently, so in desperate need called the spectacle factory to order a replacement frame. They were so efficient and helpful. Also my frames were covered under warranty and I didn’t have to pay a penny. AMAZING. Couldn’t recommend them anymore!

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Visited the Spectacle Factory a couple of weeks ago for the first time. James did my eye test and was very thorough and informative. Chose a pair of glasses afterwards with the help of another member of staff. Great customer service. I have always gone to high street opticians before and never sure what glasses suit me. I was allowed to take my time and offered helpful advice. Love my new glasses which I picked up with the week. I will be returning to the Spectacle factory in the future. Far superior in terms of quality and customer service compared to other opticians I have been too.

- J B


My wife and I both have great glasses (and sunglasses) from The Spectacle Factory. Right from our very first visit we have been very impressed with the highest level of care and attention to detail, both with eye tests and the choice of lenses and frames. They seem to have a flair for helping you to choose the right glasses. Once your order is ready, nothing is too much trouble to ensure that the fit and the suitability of your glasses is perfect for your needs and that you are completely happy. Their ongoing service is second to none. We can highly recommend The Spectacle Factory..

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The Spectacle Factory offer me the kind of customer service and ability to customise my choice of spectacles that just is simply not available on the High Street. From Initial contact, to delivery of the finished product, you are treated like a loyal friend. Nothing is too much trouble. Unbiased advise, on choosing the correct spectacles for your particular application. A vast range of frames from the very cheapest to the latest designer frames. I choose the Spectacle Factory, because they can provide me with, customised glasses, to align with my particular needs and requirements. Most high street opticians have a 'one size fits all' attitude. The Spectacle Factory does not subscribe to this theory and treats every client as an individual. Their eye sight is very comprehensive and is 50% longer than the industry standard. If you value your eyesight, and want the very best care, this is the place to visit.

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