View Full Version : Progressive Lenses - a mistake?

Kirk Keyes
3-Feb-2008, 14:58
OK - I'm now 45, and it was time to get new glasses, and as I figured, I now need a "bifocal" lens. So I got a progressive lens. I understand they take some time to get used to, and it's only day 2, but I find them a little disorienting, and I'm not happy with how narrow the on-axis field of view is, and there seems to be a "barrel distortion" effect on the lower half of the view.

The optician said they would work with me to get a lens that I like, so should I go back to them and get a true bifocal, or should I try another progressive design?


Ralph Barker
3-Feb-2008, 15:19
I tried progressive lenses a number of years back and hated them. In addition to the narrow field of in-focus view, I hated having to point my nose at what I wanted to see. A regular bifocal will provide a larger in-focus area, but also has the limitation of being optimally in focus at a specific distance - like a few inches, arm's length, or whatever you tell the optician.

3-Feb-2008, 15:43
Hi Kirk,

I have been wearing Progressives for about seven years. It did take a little time to get use to them, but I have also had a couple of bad lenses made that my optician sent back to the lab for remakes. Ask your optician to check them for you. I understand lab quality control can be an issue.


Dan Fromm
3-Feb-2008, 16:19
Kirk, I tried progressives a number of years ago, hated 'em. Didn't do as Darr did, investigate the possibility of lab error, because in addition to seeming to have not quite the right correction for distance vision they distorted near objects badly.

The top of a coffee cup, for example, is a circle. With the progressives, when I looked at my cup I saw an oval. I reasoned that this is inherent in lenses whose power varies across the field, so didn't bother with looking for other possible problems. After giving them a month, I went back to trifocals. I found adjusting to them impossible.

I'm still wearing trifocals, don't plan to try progressives again. My big objection to trifocals is the people who make them. Unless I make a huge fuss they put the zones where they think best, not where I want them.



neil poulsen
3-Feb-2008, 16:40

Are you near-sighted or far-sighted?

Regardless, I'd get two pair of glasses. Get one for your view camera that optimizes your eyes for whatever viewing distance you use to your ground glass. You could maybe also use these for reading. I like to read close, so I use mine for reading. Not all optometrists know how to do this.

Then, get a second set for distance, if you still need that. My distance glasses are optimized for infinity, not 20 feet like most distance glasses. Again, not all optometrists know how to do that.

Bruce Watson
3-Feb-2008, 16:41
OK - I'm now 45, and it was time to get new glasses, and as I figured, I now need a "bifocal" lens. So I got a progressive lens. I understand they take some time to get used to...

Been there, done that. I used mine for a full week. Never could get used to them. At all. I think "progressive" lenses will always be a problem for photographers in particular because of the distortions. If you are like me (and you are an LF photographer, so you are at least a little like me ;-) you want to stand and survey the scene looking for the right perspective from which to make the photograph. And for me that means holding my head still and moving my eyes. And that's just not how progressive lenses work.

I had to go through a few iterations with "normal" bifocals. It's difficult to get the "height" right (how far the "near" lens is positioned under the pupil), and the width of the near lens is also interesting. I found that I needed the middle width (I forget the actual dimensions) so that I could read a book without having to move my head. Finally, I had to back off the near prescription a quarter of a diopter. Apparently my O.D. was more pessimistic about my eye's accommodation capabilities than he needed to be.

They say the first fitting is the most difficult. Now I know why! At least I can read a menu without having to take my glasses off now, and I guess that's a good thing, yes?

Eric Woodbury
3-Feb-2008, 16:59
FYI I'm far sighted and my eyes are unbalanced.

I now have my second pair of progressives. I like them. With the first pair, the lenses were more oval and thus cut off more of the 'close focus' area. When it was time to re-up, I asked about getting a larger reading area and now I have a rounder lens. This works fine. The barrel distortion doesn't go away as you are looking thru a lens of varying magnifications. However, it gets so you don't notice it much. I used to notice it when I moved my head, but now I think I close my eyes when my head is moving or something to ignore that distortion. I do some woodworking and it is hard to evaluate straight lines with progressives. For this I use a straight edge or sight directly down the edge. For computer work, I have a one magnification lenses in a half-glasses style. Good for reading, too, and spotting prints. With these I don't have to tilt my head back all the time. For focusing on the ground glass, I use drug store glasses or a loupe. I also have some +5 lenses, but if you are trying to focus on the GG with these, then it is hard to tell if the image is out of focus or if your out of the depth of focus range of the eyeglasses.

A friend of mine with progressives said that he had to sign up for trying progressives for 2 weeks before he could return them. It didn't take him that long to like them, but I thought that was an interesting condition for refusal.

Alan Davenport
3-Feb-2008, 17:00
I tried progressives when I reached the age of bifocal eyeballs about 7 years ago. The lab gave me a 30 day bring-em-back period to try the progressives, or I could take them back and get standard bifocals. I made it 10 days until I decided I was tired of falling up the stairs, walking into door jambs, etc. Never again.

Progressive eyeglass lenses were not invented as an improvement in vision technology. They were invented for a narcissistic population who can't stand the thought of themselves getting old and looking like it.

Pete Roody
3-Feb-2008, 17:54
You get used to them in time. It took me a couple of weeks. I wear them most of the time, but i have to wear normal glasses when doing anything athletic. The problem with progressives is you have no vertical peripheral vision. Try getting onto an escalator with them.

For reading, working at a desk or on the computer, driving and using a lf camera, they are good. I prefer normal glasses for everything else.

Walter Calahan
3-Feb-2008, 18:32
Like anything, takes time getting use to.

I've always had progressive lenses.

The problem when I started was that the optician cut the lenses wrong, I complained, but they said I simply had to get use to them. Fortunately I nicked the lens within two weeks, had an extended guarantee, so took them back. When they measured them for a replacement, they saw that the lenses WERE cut wrong, and apologized for not believing me in the first place.

A good shop with give you a try out period so you can return them.

3-Feb-2008, 18:37
.....it's only day 2, but I find them a little disorienting, and I'm not happy with how narrow the on-axis field of view is, and there seems to be a "barrel distortion" effect on the lower half of the view......That's what I thought when I first started using progressives. Use them for at least 2 weeks before you make any decisions. I've had progressives, and bifocals, for about 10 years, and I would never think of going back to bifocals. The new progressives, the ones I got this year, are better than the ones I got about 8-10 years ago.

Kirk Keyes
3-Feb-2008, 22:45
Thanks for all the replies. I am near-sighted, and as Neil suggest and Pete suggest, I think I may get a pair with a single correction as an everyday pair. I really value being able to see everything sharp that is in the field of view of my lenses. And it is truely wierd to be walking and not have my feet infocus without having to tilt my head sharply downward.

I will give them another week or so and see how it goes. They did say I could try them out for a while and see what I think. Perhaps my brain will reprogram itself to work with the new lenses. I understand that you can invert what your eyes see with a pair of mirrors and in a few days, your brain will rewire itself and invert the image again so that what your eyes see looks right side up again.

Bruce Watson
4-Feb-2008, 06:47
I understand that you can invert what your eyes see with a pair of mirrors and in a few days, your brain will rewire itself and invert the image again so that what your eyes see looks right side up again.

Yes, you can. You can even learn to ride a bicycle with the inverting mirrors. But... this is a "fixed" distortion -- everything in your field of view is effected the same way and the same amount.

Progressive lenses present a variable distortion to your visual system. The amount of distortion applied to any given object in the scene varies depending on where you point your noise. I have my doubts (never read anything about this one way or the other) about how well, if at all, our visual systems can learn to compensate for this. Instead I suspect that the best that happens is that you get used to it and it doesn't bother you so much. But will you ever see that diagonal line as the straight line it is in reality when the glasses-induced curvature of that line varies depending on which part of the line you look at?

Here's an example photograph (http://www.achromaticarts.com/big_image.php?path=smokies&img_num=5) I made a few years ago. It has just such a diagonal line running through it from upper left to lower right made of the branches of a tree to the left and a fallen tree to the right. I made this photograph from this location because I saw this composition.

The question is, would I have seen this diagonal if I'd been wearing progressive lenses? I doubt it. As it was I was the only one in the group (there were four or five of us working this scene) who saw it.

I'm just sayin'...

Dick Hilker
4-Feb-2008, 07:05
Have you considered contact lenses? When my vision deteriorated to the point where the only effective correction introduced severe linear distortion, I started wearing contacts: after about 40 years with contacts, cataracts finally required implants and, much to my delight, I now have nearly 20/20 vision with no corrective lenses at all! The newer contacts are available in bifocal versions, one of which uses one eye for distance and the other for close-up work, the system I used very comfortably after about 6 months of getting used to it.

4-Feb-2008, 13:57
I have bifocals, and they took me at least a couple of weeks just to get passably OK with. I'd give them a bit more time and then evaluate.


Jim Bradley
4-Feb-2008, 18:03
It took me a year to get use to mine. I used them intermiitently with a couple of pairs of fixed focal lengths. Finally one day they "worked" and the horrible distortion to the sides "disappeared" (actually it is still there but it doesn't drive me as crazy at it did initially).

Clay Turtle
15-Feb-2008, 07:27
I tried progressives when I reached the age of bifocal eyeballs about 7 years ago. The lab gave me a 30 day bring-em-back period to try the progressives, or I could take them back and get standard bifocals. I made it 10 days until I decided I was tired of falling up the stairs, walking into door jambs, etc. Never again.

Progressive eyeglass lenses were not invented as an improvement in vision technology. They were invented for a narcissistic population who can't stand the thought of themselves getting old and looking like it. Ya, some might say that I wore contacts out of a sense of vanity . . . actually I learned that contacts tend to make the one work harder & therfore I only had to change prescription eveery 2 years insstead of every year.Shooting meant being out "camping for periods of time which isn't condusive to putting in your contacts. So I went back to glasses (now bifocal) I worn progressives for awhile now. The older strait progressives didn't really hinder me but more resent changes, do have their limitations, I found that when backing up, I normally tilt my head to look back tomake sure someone isn't in a blind spot. The newer versions tend to be like contacts designed to ride at a particular axis to the eye when you rotate you rotate your head these progressive tend to act like the swing & tilt does with the film plane in the camera you shoot.

15-Feb-2008, 11:19
Read here about my experiences with progressive eyeglasses:


Kirk Keyes
1-Mar-2008, 12:57
Well, time to update this thread.

I gave the progressives 2 weeks to see how they worked. I got used to the distortion on the sides and from tilting your head. But I was still not satisfied with having such a narrow field of focus. The requirement to move my head instead of my eyes to see something in focus was not going to work for me.

I went back to my old prescription while they sent the frames in for new bifocal lenes. It took a week or so for those to show up, and within about 1 hr of putting on the new bifocal lenses, my brain had adapted to the new focus. I find the blurry, vaseline-y line between the two focal lengths much less of an annoyance than having a field of view that's 90% out of focus...

I had them put the division between the lenses a couple millimeters lower than the optician suggested to give a larger area of far vision. As it sits now, I can see the instrument gauges in the car on the top part of the lens, so I don't have to pop my nose up to get the transition line out of the way of the gauges. I'm glad that I did and I may have them drop it a couple millimeters again on the next prescription in a few years.

I went snowshoeing with the progressives and I could see that hiking on a narrow trail was not going to be something I'd want to do. Even with the bifocals, there's a large enough area that's almost in focus at the distance of my feet when looking through the lower half of the lens that it would not be much of an issue. Even with that, I'm getting my old frames relensed to be single focal length focused for distance for when I go hiking or riding or other outdoors activities.

1-Mar-2008, 14:51
Hi Kirk,

Good to hear you're accommodating to the new progressives... continue giving them a chance and, eventually, they'll be fine.

I've had mine for the last 10 years and they were definitely a challenge to get use to.

For the folks who wear progressives... how has your experience been in terms of focusing your LF cameras?

Personally, the glasses come off when it comes to focusing... but then, the nose is about an inch from the screen! :>0 But, they go back on when I'm using a loupe.

Somebody has recommended a pair of "computer glasses." Anyone have any experience with these?

Just think... the next step is the possibility of cataracts. For some people, after having cataract surgery, their vision improves to normal!

No more glasses, contacts.... or progressives! :)


Dave Moeller
2-Mar-2008, 04:41
I've been wearing progressives for about 10 years. I wore regular bifocals for one year before I switched to the progressives. When I first put on the progressives, I thought I was going to hurl because of the way the world distorted when I moved my head. Within a few minutes my brain had adjusted, and everything was fine.

My first progressive lenses had one small spot in which my close-up vision was corrected for reading, but the newest generation have a much wider "sweet spot". I actually had to adjust again when I got my latest glasses, but once again it only took a few minutes.

I know plenty of people who were never able to adjust to progressives. I know of no good explanation for the differences in how different people handle the lenses (beyond the obvious: "Everybody's different"). If you put on progressives and don't adjust within a day or two, I doubt that you will ever adjust to those lenses. Standard bifocals have worked fine for millions of people over a couple of hundred years. If they work for you, enjoy your corrected vision.

If you wear glasses, and if there's a certain distance you want to have between your eyes and the ground glass when you're focusing, an optometrist can get you a pair of glasses that will correct your vision at that distance. "Computer glasses" are the most common example of such lenses. I know people who have such glasses, both for computer work and for other uses, and they're all happy with the results. One friend had a pair of bifocals made with the close-up area of the lens taking up a much greater portion of the lens than is usual, for working on pottery. The larger magnified area makes it easier for her to work with her hands, and she still has the small area for distance vision at the top if she has to look up at something.

I have no problem using progressives under the dark cloth. When I'm composing I just look through whatever part of the lens makes the image clear, and when I focus I look through the lenses and through my loupe. I tried a pair of drug store reading glasses to see if they would make focusing easier (magic-bullet chasing, as was trying to fix a non-existant problem), but for me there was no difference in ease of use (except that it was annoying to switch glasses).

I admit freely that I originally bought progressives out of vanity. I quickly learned, however, that the transitional area of the lenses (between the standard prescription at the top and the reading prescription at the bottom) can be used to correct vision at distances between close-up and far away. I've become somewhat reliant on that correction. For example, when I'm under the dark cloth of my 8x10, I can get close to the glass and look through the reading part of my lenses, or I can back up as far as possible, tilt my head a tiny bit, and get a corrected view of the entire image. I find this very handy.

4-Mar-2008, 04:54
oh man! i have been wearing glasses since 5th grade.....now it looks like i will be heading to a whole new arena of bad eyesight and glasses...damn!

but thanks for the heads up. now when i get there i know what to expect!

Tri Tran
8-Mar-2008, 07:59
To make it short.
Bifocal , Trifocal and Progressive lenses are totally different.
Bifocal comes with Ft 28, 35 and Executive for reading lower part ( the bigger number the wider bifocal ). They are designed to use for 2 distances and often have no peripheral distortion. You can request your optometrist for RX to your need.
Progressive lenses convenience for most people . They give you clear uninterrupted vision at distance, intermediate and near. Wearing them you would be able to see clearly for driving for computer an reading.Progressive come in different brand depending on the vision demand. difficulty adjusting progressive usually come from wearing incorrect type so in our office Physio or Physio 360 is nice an smooths usually best for general use and photographers . AR is also recommended , a good brand is Crizal Alize Clear Guard. Hope this helps and if you have any questions you can call me direct at my office for further assistance.


8-Mar-2008, 09:54
Thanks Tran for the explanation. I have been wearing Crizal Progressives for many years with no problems. I only wish my contact lens which are multi-focal would be near as good. At least the Progressives are working well. :)

David Karp
8-Mar-2008, 10:01
I am on my third or fourth pair of progressives. I absolutely hated the first ones. Now, unless I am trying to read in bed, I rarely have an issue with them. (Using the reading portion while lying down is a pain because you have to tip your head back. I am nearsighted, so I just take them off to read in bed since the book is close to my eyes.)

I think Tri Tran's point is right on. After the first pair I used a different type of lens. They are lighter, and there is far less distortion at the edges than with the first pair. Next time, I purchased a smaller frame, one requiring smaller lenses. Together with the improved lenses, the distortion problem is not an issue any more.

For photography, I brought my Walker and a tripod to the doctor's office and had the optometrist watch me work with the camera. She saw where I liked to look at the gg without a loupe while framing and doing rough focus. We decided to have the optician grind the lens so that the close up portion is higher, close, but not quite reaching, to the middle of the lens. As a result, I hardly have to tip my head back while working under the darkcloth, and I can use my loupe with my glasses, using the bottom of the eyeglass lens. When walking around, I just have to tip my head forward a bit and look through the upper 1/2 of the lens. I have used these glasses while hiking with the camera on my back, no problem with tripping so far.

Interestingly, for the photo glasses, I used the frames from my first pair of progressives. There is far less distortion with the newer improved lens types, even though the lenses are bigger, and the original lenses in these frames had lots of distortion.

This seems to work just fine for me. Might be worth a try.

John Bowen
8-Mar-2008, 10:15
Man Gettin' Old Suks! .... He said as he read this thread through his progressive lenses

Sal Santamaura
8-Mar-2008, 10:49
...Gettin' Old Suks!...Doesn't suck as much as the alternative does. :)

David Karp
8-Mar-2008, 12:27
Man Gettin' Old Suks!

For photography, I brought my Walker . . . .

I should have said that I brought my Walker Titan SF 4x5, just to make sure that it's clear I was not talking about an assistive device to aid my perambulation! :)