When it comes to lenses, you’ve got options: tinting, mirror coating, gradient, transition, polarized or non-polarized, and, of course — lens material.
For some clarity on which lens material is best for you, let’s have a little face-off between the generations-old glass and the (relatively) young upstart polycarbonate.
The veteran of optic materials, glass has been in the game for 1,000 or so years. Although an increasingly less popular option, glass still has merits that justify its staying power.
- Its resistance to scratches is off the chart. Like most objects, glass is still susceptible to scratching, but its inherent qualities make it hard to scratch and therefore doesn’t require an additional scratch-resistant coating for protection.
- Glass is considered to be the most optically clear material available, which is why it’s still used in other tools that require precision clarity such as camera lenses, microscopes, and binoculars.
- Glass is heavy and can be uncomfortable to wear for sustained periods of time.
- While it may be resistant to scratches, it has no such claims to cracks and shattering. Glass has very little impact resistance and could prove to be very dangerous if hit.
- Glass offers very little protection against harmful UV rays, which can destroy your eyes. An additional UV coating needs to be applied in order to make glass acceptable for sunglass use.
In 1953, two scientists working independently on opposite sides of the world developed polycarbonate within 1 week of each other. Initially used for electrical and electronic applications such as distributor and fuse boxes, polycarbonate became a popular lens option in the 1980s.
Since then, polycarbonate lenses have become the standard for safety glasses, sports goggles and children's eyewear, and its popularity shows no signs of diminishing.
- Polycarbonate lenses are highly resistant to impact, won’t shatter, and are 10 times stronger than glass or standard plastic, making them ideal for children, safety lenses, and physical activity.
- Lightweight and thinner than glass lenses, polycarbonate is more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- Polycarbonate inherently blocks 100 percent UV rays without needing a special coating.
- Due to the lightweight and flexibility of polycarbonate, these lenses are easier to remove and install than glass lenses and are available in more styles of sunglasses that cannot accommodate heavy glass lenses.
- Polycarbonate is susceptible to scratches and requires a scratch-resistant coating for durability.
- Although a great option for most people, a small percentage of the population complains that they do not see as clearly through polycarbonate lenses.
Depending on the individual and their use of sunglasses, one lens type may be more preferable than others. While some diehards swear by glass, the greater majority opt for the more impact resistant polycarbonate. Whatever you choose, as long as you’re sunglassing it up, we’ll call it good.