Optilabs make a range of high quality angling orientated prescription sunglasses but I was unaware of this until I saw their advert a couple of years ago. Subsequently when I looked at their website, I found they make an incredible range of glasses for almost every application, with both prescription and non-prescription lenses. Being short sighted, I use a combination of contact lenses with normal polarized sunglasses or bespoke clip-on polarized lenses when wearing my specs. Each combination has its good and bad points, but in my experience polarized lenses offer the best option if I am to avoid a glare-induced headache when aboard a boat. Optilabs’ polarized Ultra 2000 prescription lenses looked to offer the ideal solution, particularly as at the time I saw the advert, I was about to depart for a two week trip to Grenada in the Caribbean.
As well as being polarized, Optilabs’ Ultra 2000 lenses have further totally unique features: The lens is also a variable tint design, adjusting its opacity to suit the ambient light levels. The lens also changes colour from an olive tint in low light (such as dusk and dawn), to a deep brown in strong sunlight. This combination of varying tint with strong horizontal polarisation means that maximum glare reduction is achieved, while the changing colour optimises the sunglasses to suit the characteristics of the human eye for the light levels encountered. It all sounded great so I obtained a pair in time for my trip – it took around five days for the glasses to be made after I had given Optilabs my prescription details.
No more headaches
In use they were nothing short of superb. On coral reefs at dawn the Ultra 2000 lens cut through the glare on the sea, enabling me to easily spot fish and hazards. At their minimum opacity, they are obviously darker than a pair of normal spectacles but that did not cause any problems at this time of day – I think the olive tint at this setting must be a factor in this. In noon conditions afloat the lenses performed equally well. I had chosen the ‘Panther’ frame, which is a wrap-around style that also incorporates removable leather side-shields. This meant that even when worn without a peaked hat no stray light can get between your eye and the lens to cause unwanted reflections and glare.
The lenses react to varying light levels quickly yet almost imperceptibly, such as going from the deck to the cabin and vice versa. I used the sunglasses for far more than fishing and apart from in the evenings, or when indoors for a considerable time. I pretty much wore them the whole time and by removing the leather side-shields I even wore them while swimming in the pool and the sea. The frames grip your head well and there was no need for any additional straps. These glasses really did make a hell of a difference to the whole trip for me. Even if I possessed perfect eyesight I would still want a pair in non-prescription form, which are also available along with varifocal versions.
Optilabs’ web catalogue contains a wide variety of frame styles, which should hopefully accommodate most tastes. They also manufacture prescription glasses specifically for other outdoor activities like cycling and shooting, as well as swimming goggles and diving masks. There are also more lens types in addition to the Ultra 2000. Prices vary but the Panther frames with single vision Ultra 2000 lenses tested here cost £221.95 plus P & P. Considering the unique benefits, I feel this offers good value.