EDIT: UPDATED November 9,2020 (comments at bottom of article)
As Always, exclusively the opinions of Ric Peralta, the Optical Jedi
A few weeks ago, through one of the professional sites I frequent, I heard about a new product from Oakley. Oakley is known throughout the world, as a major developer of lens and frame technologies for sports. You’ll often see their famous “O” logo on many a professional athlete. Their latest product is going after an entirely new market in sports…e-sports. Given their history in developing lenses to improve contrast for various athletic endeavors, I admit to being curious about how they were going to do something different.
Just a couple of days after I found out about these new lenses, I was contacted by a professional colleague, who had contacted Oakley about my blog and asked that I test their new lenses out for them. In all my years of wearing, testing, and working in optical, I have never been paid by any manufacturer to review their products. In full disclosure, I still have not been paid by any manufacturer to give a positive review. I pride myself in being brutally honest about which lenses work well, and which don’t. Oakley did request that I review, but they were also very pointed in asking that I be honest about my experience with the new PRIZMtm Gaming Lens. This was the only reason I was willing to do this.
I have sold a fair number of Oakley frames and lenses over the years, but I’ll be honest, I’ve not had many opportunities to wear their products in the past. I was anxious and excited to give these lenses a shot. Below is my honest take on this product…
WHAT IS A GAMING LENS?
First things first. What exactly is a Gaming Lens? What is this supposed to do that’s so different from a traditional lens? Or even a “blue blocking” lens like most computer use lenses are these days? Well, to start, the Oakley claims the lens blocks 40% of High Energy Visible (HEV) light. I don’t have a real easy way for me to test the efficacy of this claim, but I will say with the rudimentary tools I have available in my lab, the lens is blocking UV and HEV light effectively. Secondly, they have introduced their patented PRIZMtm lens technology to this party. Increasing contrast and enhancing color differentiation, and reducing eye fatigue. Theoretically, this will improve the ability to game comfortably, by enhancing those things hiding in the dark shadows.
As mentioned in my previous posts on HEV, we know that we are being bombarded by High Energy Blue Light pretty much constantly in our modern world, the benefits of a lens which is designed to filter 40% of the blue light will help you day or night, indoors or out. The industry leader for blue light protection, which I have featured before, has a 20% Blue Light block when done without Transitions technology. So the 40% block is pretty solid. Usually, when you cross over the 20% blocking level, the lenses tend to get quite yellow though…
But of course, this lens has been designed to specifically enhance your gaming experience, so let’s get to brass tacks…
GAMING WITH THE GAMING LENS
So, I want to start with the best anecdote of my experience which I feel is incredibly telling about the gaming experience with this lens…
Before I even knew about this new lens, or the opportunity for me to try it, I had gone back to a retro game series I used to love almost 20 years ago. Splinter Cell. For those of you who don’t know, the game is a stealth oriented piece, with moments of complete darkness. I had been stuck on a particular level the entire night before I got the lenses. Just kept getting killed over and over. The day I got my Gaming Lenses, I decided to give them a shot, and I saw for the first time there was an entire room off the main hallway I had no idea existed the previous night. The lens definitely allowed me to spot details in the shadows I had not seen before.
This, quite honestly, blew me away. I will admit that I went into wearing these a bit skeptical of their touted functionality. Since then, I have used the lenses to play a handful of different game styles–from stealth to racing to action/adventure–and with each I felt like colors were more pronounced and I was spotting subtleties in the environments which I would normally have missed. I even made a point of replaying some games I have beaten before to see if I saw anything different. The truth is, I found this lenses revelatory in the gaming experience.
AWAY FROM THE GAMES
Of course, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “That’s great. I love the idea of making gaming more comfortable. But what about the rest of life? I don’t want to spend hundreds for a pair of glasses I can only wear a few hours a week.”
I knew you’d ask this, and that’s why I’ve been wearing my Oakley PRIZMtm Gaming Lenses nonstop for over two weeks. Overall, I’m happy to report that these are very functional and practical in almost every possible situation. I have attempted to really put them through their paces over the last couple weeks and I will break down the various environments for you here.
WORK ENVIRONMENT/COMPUTER TIME
As you might expect, with the nature of my day job, I have been wearing these lenses constantly at the office, as I work with patients. The modern optician’s world involves a lot of time on a computer. But, that’s also a lot of time on a computer that is often shared by multiple staff members, with the screen no ergonomically adjusted for each individual. On any given day, I could be too close to the computer, too low, too high, or too oblique.
As all of you know I’m old enough to be wearing progressive lenses. So, not only am I testing the efficacy of the Gaming Lens, but also the Oakley OTD progressive design. This test is even more in depth than you may realize. The size of any frame, as well as how it sits on your face, can have a significant impact on how well any given progressive design (of the close to 3000) will work for you. The Gaming lens is only available in a limited number of frame styles. I chose the Holbrook Rx because I have always liked the shape of this style in their sunglass collection, and given size of my nose bridge I thought it the best option to work functionally for me. The trade off, however, is that the Holbrook has a very large lens, both in width and depth. These additional frame dimensions can have an adverse effect on how well most progressives work (pushing the reading area too low, or creating dramatic peripheral distortion). I’m happy to say that the design on this lens is VERY comfortable to wear. I did have to do a small manipulation on the frame to make it work for my narrow bridge (adding adhesive nose pads) but after doing that I have found that I have almost no peripheral blur, and the comfort of the height on the reading area and computer zones for the progressive corridor has been so good I have not had any real issues using all of the office computers, at all their unusual heights and distances.
The lenses do clearly have a distinct yellow tinge to them, not as bad as some of the other products on the market (like Gunnar, or most other blue blocking lens designs), but it is there and you can’t deny it. That being said, I was surprised to find that once I put the lenses on, I wasn’t really aware of that yellow shift until the lighting I was under had some yellow to it (flourescents for example) which definitely make that yellow more dramatic. But the additional level of HEV filtration of the Gaming Lens makes them quite comfortable for extended computer work. And the nature of the progressive lens channel also makes them very comfortable for almost any computer distance or height (i.e. laptops and desktops work equally well in this lens, as well as tablets).
JUST HOW YELLOW ARE THE LENSES?
As I mentioned above, the lenses do have a distinct yellow hue to them. I know Oakley has said that these lenses are not as yellow as most HEV blocking lenses. Despite the clear yellow appearance, I would agree with this qualifier. Most other blue light blocking lens technologies (with a few exclusions) are VERY yellow in comparison to the Oakley PRIZMtm Gaming Lenses.
With every other previous yellow-hued HEV lens technology I’ve worn, I found the color made my eyes feel even more tired. I felt like the world got muddy and less defined. This has most definitely not been the case with my Oakley Gaming Lenses. The only very rare circumstances in which the color bothered me, it was, as mentioned above, when I was under a yellow producing light source (think the Sodium street lights, or the most yellow/older Fluorescent style bulb). And even in these rare moments, I didn’t find that the extra yellow of my vision in any way hindered my ability to see clearly. I simply became more aware of the yellow-ness of the lenses.
If you’re intending to wear these lenses as a primary pair, of course you have to be concerned (especially as our clocks just switched back to Standard Time) with how well you will see at night, especially for driving. My initial thought when I wore them for driving at night, was that I did feel like I had a loss of light and did not feel as comfortable. But as I’ve continued to wear them, I’ve shifted that opinion. While the world does not seem brighter, similar to the gaming environment, I do feel as though extra contrast is produced in the shadows, and the HEV component has a significant improvement in dealing with the extreme white/blue light of HED headlights coming straight at you. After having now worn these for a couple of weeks, I’m finding myself wanting to wear them almost all the time because of the comfort and clarity.
While cooking, I found that, at least in my kitchen, the lighting is very pronounced with its yellowness. It appears that the fluorescent lighting we have in our kitchen produced such a warm light that through these lenses it becomes significantly more noticeable. When the world shifts that yellow, at least for me, I find it makes my eyes feel more tired. It’s the one space where I don’t particularly enjoy wearing the lens. Even with that complaint, it’s not so bad I’ve actively switched to another pair while cooking.
THE TAKE AWAY
After 2 weeks of constant wear, I have to say this lens truly surprised me. I’ve seen products promise to do something new and fail miserably at delivering. I really had trouble visualizing how a Gaming Lens could be any different from any other HEV Blue Light Filtration lens on the market, but Oakley proved me wrong. This product clearly does something different and if you are a serious/avid gamer this lens definitely deserves your consideration. I find it mildly irritating the lens technology is only available in a small handful of frames at this time. And given how many kids game religiously, I’m really quite shocked there are no kids or tween sized frames available at this time. But, if you have the extra money, and game or spend a significantly large amount of time on a computer, this lens can solve many of the ills you have, and maybe even a handful you didn’t even know existed.
Given the yellowish tint of the lens, I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense as a general purpose everyday lens for anyone who does not spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen or a console gaming system. Even despite that concern, the lenses function amazingly well in pretty much every environment I could pace them through. If you have never tried an Oakley lens technology in prescription before, this could be the lens for you.
UPDATED NOTES: November 9, 2020
Over this past weekend I went on a camping trip with my family to Pinnacles National Park and I wanted to share some new insights from the 5 hour drive and hiking in 40 degree weather with strong winds.
First and foremost, the PRIZM Gaming Lenses only come in a specific set of frames (as mentioned above) which are designed to be “headset compatible” for using audio gear when doing the multiplayer games. Well, a side bonus to this technology is that the frames are also dramatically more comfortable to wear with a beanie in cold weather because of this innovation. Typically when wearing a beanie, no matter how thin the temples may be on my frames, I find that they have a tendency to pinch my ears and the glasses tend to get pushed down by the knit cap. I didn’t have to push my glasses up once while hiking 2 1/2 miles over some rugged and vertical terrain (and facing gusts up to 50 mph).
Secondly, and perhaps to a less advantageous note, I found that the progressive design did cause some issues for me viewing my wing mirrors while driving unfamiliar roads, checking the traffic around me. I had to turn my head down and to towards the mirror much more dramatically in most of my other glasses. I would not call this a deal breaker, but if you tend to drive a lot, and/or drive an SUV with a higher viewing platform, you may find that checking your mirrors takes your eyes off the road a bit more.
The last update I want to drop here is that I was informed since publishing this, that several new frame styles have already been added to the Headset Compatible category, including some youth styles, so there are many more ways you can make this lens work.
As always, all thoughts, comments, and opinions are entirely the sole work of myself, Ric Peralta, the Optical Jedi.