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Everything you need to know about varifocal sunglasses

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 You can also book your appointment with us online here.



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