[Update 10 April 2013] My Eyefly sunglasses broke! Scroll down for more info.
In my last post, I detailed why polarized sunglasses are great for everyday use and to protect your eyes from harsh glare, but less than optimal for outdoor photography and/or using any devices with an LCD screen like digital cameras, tablets, smartphones, laptops, etc. To recap, lens polarization causes LCD screens to black out at certain angles depending on the manufacturer, so you can't always see what is displayed on the screen. However, there is a solution for photographers and tech geeks: tinted, not polarized, lenses.
I take plenty of photos as a hobby and an ethnographer and spend a lot of time using LCD devices, so I have been on the lookout for an alternative to polarized lenses that will still shade my eyes and enable me to see what I'm doing on sunny days. Not too much to ask, right? Well, previous "designer" sunglasses have cost me up to $700 choosing from the cheapest styles available in my prescription. Those plastic sunglass clips from the drugstore never work for me. Luckily, the past couple of years has seen the state of the glasses market revolutionized by a new set of online retailers offering quality, reasonably priced eyewear to the masses.
After browsing a few sites, I was excited when I learned that Eyefly.com, whose glasses cost only
I'll begin with a little information about the company and a brief overview of the website shopping experience, so scroll down if you want to skip right to the glasses.
Eyefly is a joint venture between Bluefly.com, the trusted designer fashion and accessories retail site founded in 1998, and A + D Labs, fashion eyeglasses designer and manufacturer. Both Eyefly and Bluefly are based in the center of Manhattan's fashion district. New York City is a quick becoming a hot spot for great eyeglass retailers. So for me, Eyefly feels like a local company. As a business, it can be categorized alongside other glasses start-ups currently taking the web by storm. The model is simple: by ditching designer markups, providing a great customer experience and tapping into the web, affordable glasses in trendy styles are brought directly to the consumer without the inflated prices of the traditional retail model. At
Website shopping experience
The Eyefly website is easy to browse with a comfortable, sleek interface. All the information you need is right at hand, including an augmented reality virtual try-on facility to upload a pictures of yourself from a couple of angles for testing out your favorite frames before buying. You can sort the frames by width (narrow, medium or wide), color, material and style, which helps when browsing for your perfect look and fit.
Standard frame measurements are displayed at the top left of each individual product page. I like how the glasses pages also give a brief blurb and highlights about what stands out about that frame style. If you're feeling especially fashionable, you can also follow a link right to Bluefly to complete your look.
This is the first company that I have reviewed which does not offer a home try-on service, but you can make use of their virtual try-on to get an idea of how the glasses will look. The only things I can think of that I would add to the website are the vertical lens measurements for each frame so you can get a feel for their total dimensions. Hardly any websites do this. I'd love if every company would start listing vertical measurements. It would make shopping for glasses online much easier (for me at least).
I haven't counted them all, but there are definitely over 30 different frame styles that come in a variety of colors/finishes. These include a range of classic and vintage acetate frames in angular, wayfarer, cateye or round shapes as well as more modern/architectural metallic and wire frames in full- and half-rim styles. I like that their designs were not too elaborate, yet I had not seen the exact ones on other sites, so they were also unique (see, for instance, Shibuya in blue/tortoise and Calle de Serrano). Each pair is named for an international city street, which is a fun idea.
The great selection of sizes, shapes and styles means that there's something for everyone. I am used to only finding one or two options from a website that I would consider sight unseen, either because of fit issues or they are just not my style, but Eyefly has so many glasses that I like. That said, I quickly fell in love with the Oak Street frames, which have a great vintage style, but are not overly chunky or wide. My only worry was that the lenses might be too tall because the website does not include the lens height measurement. Rather than guess, I sent an email to the customer service team (no live chat right now, but there is also a phone number) and got a reply right away, so don't hesitate to get in touch if you need more information since you can't try them on at home first.
Now, on to the glasses review:
Shortly after I decided on my frames, I received an email from Eyefly with a tracking number and my glasses arrived promptly a couple of days later. Inside the box, the sunglasses came in a new, black Eyefly case which was slid into a slim, white Eyefly box. I like the case a lot. It's a perfect size and has a good weighty feel to it, plus their fun logo branded on it. A cleaning cloth was not included (I was kind of hoping for one with their cool logo), but luckily I had a spare one to tuck in there.
Apart from being a perfect fit (I cannot emphasize enough how refreshing it is to find a range of frames that I really like in a size that will actually fit my face), the Oak Street frame that I had chosen turned out to be so nice that I wish I had a spare $129 to order a pair in another color with regular, non-tinted lenses for everyday wear. I would probably never take them off. I've already had compliments on them.
The Oak Street frame features a keyhole bridge and has a slim, lightweight profile that doesn't weigh heavily on the nose or overpower the face. They come in black, brown, or my chosen pair: black front and tortoise arms. Even though they are quite thin for plastic frames, they contain my high index lenses perfectly, are well-built with sturdy hinges, and extremely comfortable. I can tell that the frame is well balanced because my right lens Rx is a little thicker than the left, which caused some tilting in a lightweight designer frame that I had previously owned, but these are completely level. Meanwhile, they are so light that I forget I have them on.
My only very minor complaint is that the hinge on one side is screwed on very tight (not much movement when you fold or unfold the arms) while the other side is easier to move. I tried loosening the screw with a glasses tool, but couldn't get it to budge. It doesn't affect fit in any way, but it is a little stiff when I'm trying to get them back into the case. They will probably loosen with wear.
I couldn't help but get carried away on the glasses themselves, even though the main point of this review is to assess the lens tint. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten! The lenses arrived with a gray tint although I did not specify a particular color in advance (also available in brown). As it happens, gray is the ideal tint for photography because it maintains the most natural colors and also happens to match the frames I had chosen perfectly, so another thumbs-up to customer care for thinking it through for me.
With sunglasses, you still get Eyefly's standard or high index polycarbonate lenses with UV protection, only the lab can't add their usual anti-glare coating because, according to their customer service rep, it would prevent the tint from sticking to the lens. I have always worn glasses with anti-reflective coating, so I wasn't sure if it would be bothersome in some way, but it's not noticeable at all when wearing them.
It had been raining and snowing on and off prior to the arrival of my Eyefly sunglasses, but luckily the weather broke as they arrived and I got a few sunny and glare-y days to test out the lenses. As soon as I put them on, I could tell that the prescription was accurate, which is great. There really is nothing worse than getting a new pair of glasses that make you dizzy, as I attested to in another post. Best of all, they provide exceptional clarity of vision in the sun. At first I thought that the tint could have been even darker (no doubt because I'm super photo-sensitive) but on second thought, it's ideal for photography and LCD viewing as-is. Screens are clear and easy to read. It was a welcome relief to be able to see my camera screen from all angles and to just keep one pair of glasses on all day without worrying about changing a clip.
Final notes: guarantees and customer service
Eyefly offers 30-day returns or exchanges for another style if you change your mind or are unhappy for any reason. They provide free shipping both ways. The first pair of frames I got from them had a slight defect, but they happily took them back and remade the glasses at my request. A customer service rep even double-checked the quality control to make sure they would be perfect this time and kept me informed about the progress via email right up to shipment. There was a short delay between my return and the replacement pair when I had to send a follow-up email, but I really have no complaints about the service.
The customer support team went above and beyond for me. For the purposes of this review, a standard optical frame (Oak Street) was fitted with the gray tinted lenses that are normally only available in their sunglass frames. Because the sun frames in their collection were a bit large for my face, they graciously obliged my special order and I couldn't be happier with the result.
Pros: Great selection of frames, tinted non-polarizes sunglass lens options, accommodating customer service, cool case
In sum, I highly recommend Eyefly for glasses and especially suggest you check them out for tinted sun lenses for photography and LCD work in the field.
Update [30 April 2013]: They broke!
On April 10th, only a couple of weeks after my Eyefly glasses arrived, I took them out of the case, but before I could put them on, one of the arms fell right off. I had only worn them a handful of times. I was especially sad because I was planning on wearing them for a trip upstate on my birthday that weekend. Anyway, I wrote to Eyefly about it and they offered to send me a new pair, which they did. All told, this is the third pair I received, so it has taken them three tries to get it "right".
In my review, I mentioned that one of the arms on the glasses was stiff. That's the arm that broke off, so there was definitely some kind of defect. This new pair is not stiff (in fact I had to slightly tighten one arm), but the arms are a bit splayed out compared to the perfect fit on the last ones. I haven't managed to get to an optician to have them fitted, mostly because the opticians here loathe helping customers who get glasses online and I don't feel like dealing with that; but also because the last opticians I asked to fix my glasses really messed them up. So my latest pair isn't as perfect in appearance or comfort as the previous pair. The new case was also a little dinged up. And I now realize that what I thought were very sturdy frames are actually rather delicate. They must be to break after only a handful of wears. After all this, I'd definitely advise choosing a more robust frame if you order from Eyefly. That said, their customer service was prompt in replacing them.
Image credit: Eyefly screenshots by Grip Design; unboxing photo by author.