The good, the better, and the best of progressive lenses

Shopping for progressive lenses can be a daunting task. In Calgary, we can choose progressive lenses from one of the six main eyeglass lens suppliers in Canada. Some common questions are: Which one has the best reputation for value, quality and service after purchase? How can a consumer know?


There are many, many brands of the progressive lens on the market; each with important features that are not easy for most people to understand. Heck, there are people in the eyecare industry who don’t fully understand the in’s and out’s of progressive lens optics. Ever had a set of progressive lenses that didn’t work well? Then you likely know what I mean.

Some progressive lens designs work better with certain prescriptions. Some work better for certain tasks like driving while others emphasize computer vision. Some work better for new progressive lens wearers. Some are available in sunglass designs and some are not. On top of all this, there’s one more very important problem: Progressive lenses are more expensive than single vision lenses.

Since they require a greater investment, all these decisions are just that much more important when choosing your new progressive lenses. Obviously, when you spend more money on your glasses, it is natural to want them to work well.

Understanding progressive lenses

Hello everyone. It’s Doctor Doig writing this blog. In my 25 years of providing progressive lenses to my patients, I have seen a lot of positive changes and improvements in progressive lenses. These changes have made them work better for sure, but there is still no single progressive lens that will work for everyone.

Part of the optometrist’s role is to help you know which progressive lenses will address your needs. Why? Because progressive lenses are varied and technically advanced. It takes a clear understanding of lens optics and design to know which lens features are most important in addressing each patient’s individual visual demands.

You need someone with the training, understanding and expertise in lens design and optics to recommend the progressive lenses that will work best for you. As you carry out your internet research in progressive lenses, I hope you will find some of this information useful. I hope it will help you know what questions to ask your optometrist so they can make the best recommendations and so your next pair of progressive lenses will work wonderfully for you.

Choosing the right progressive lenses

Good is good. Better is, well, better. Best is ideal, of course. Best is what we all want, so why would anyone ever choose anything less? Usually, it has something to do with cost. There are limits to most insurance plans, and after that, we need to honour your budget.

Your eyeglass dispenser should also respect your desire to spend some money on the frames that will showcase your new progressive lenses. So, you will have some choices to make. I’ve always found it helpful to create a worksheet for my patients that I like to call a discussion sheet.

It will give you my recommendations regarding which progressive lenses will work best for you in each of three categories: Good, Better and Best.

What you need to know about progressive lenses

The Best Progressive Lenses:

  • Have broad viewing zones for distance vision at the top of the lens and near vision at the bottom of the lens.
  • Have a comfortable, easy transition between the two, with usable intermediate vision in the middle of the lens.
  • Optimize the optics of the lens before each eye in order to make this happen.
  • Allow your optometrist to customize the distance between these viewing zones so they will match the position of your eyes during your individual viewing tasks.
  • Allow your optometrist to customize the optics of your progressive lenses to match the position of your glasses on your face.
  • Allow your optometrist to balance the optics between your two eyes.

It’s rare to meet a patient with exactly the same prescription in each eye, and these differences between the two eyes are one of the most common causes of problems with prescription progressive lens adaptation. Making prescription progressive lenses that do all of the above requires a lens lab with equipment capable of manufacturing such highly technical lens designs. This is precisely why the best lenses tend to cost the most.

Affordable progressive lenses

On the other end of the price spectrum, we have the most affordable progressive lenses. As you can imagine, the most affordable lenses are affordable because they are not customized to the same degree as the best lenses.

In most instances, the most affordable lenses are not customized at all, which creates a problem for patients. How can you tell the difference between affordable lenses that work well and cheap lenses that really don’t? Again, that’s part of the optometrist’s job.

There are many, many progressive lenses in the good category - it’s the biggest category! As a professional optometrist, it’s my job to help you know which ones are worth spending money on.
In between, the better lenses offer some of the features of the best lenses, and some of the customization that makes them better than the lenses in the good category.

Final thoughts

In my experience, there are always a few progressive lens designs in the better category that offer the features and customization that are important for a particular patient’s visual demands, even though they may not offer all the customization and features of the best lenses. Again, It’s an important part of my job to know and to help my patients know which lenses in this category will work better, or even best for them while honouring their budget and respecting the limits of their insurance plan.

Please come back to this blog over the next few months as we discuss which progressive lenses fall into each category from the 6 main manufacturers in Canada. I hope consolidating this information will help you with your internet research and your decision about your next progressive lens purchase.

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