Lens materials and optical quality chart

The following chart compares the price, index, and optical performance (Abbe value) of various lens materials available on sites such as Zenni and EyeBuyDirect.

Higher Abbe values mean less chromatic aberration – i.e. color fringing – which is especially noticeable when looking through the sides of a lens. Prices for Zenni and EBD include anti-reflective coatings.

Looking at the chart, here are some conclusions I would draw:

  • Do not buy 1.59-index polycarbonate lenses. Either pay a few dollars extra to upgrade to the 1.6 lenses, or save some money and go with the 1.57. Both options have significantly better optical performance.
  • CR-39 (1.5 index) is awesome and cheap. Do not consider anything else unless your myopia is worse than -3.00, maybe even -4.00.
  • 1.57 lenses from Zenni are a steal. Choose them if you’re on an extremely tight budget and CR-39 is not an option.
  • Trivex from Zenni is overpriced. 1.6 lenses are cheaper, quite a bit thinner, and almost as good optically.
  • 1.6 lenses are probably the best option for most people with mid-to-high myopia (unless your myopia is really high and/or you absolutely need the thinnest possible lens).

I got polycarbonate lenses on one pair and I regret it – the fringing is very annoying. I made this chart in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistake.

Here is the data the chart is based on:

Material Index Marketed as Abbe Zenni EyeBuyDirect
CR-39 1.498 1.50 59 $0 + $4.95* $0 + $6.95*
Trivex 1.527 1.53 44 $29.95 + $4.95* N/A
Essilor Ormex 1.558 1.57 37 $0 + $4.95* $16.95
Polycarbonate 1.586 1.59 30 $9 + $4.95* $18.95
MR-6/MR-8 1.592 1.6/1.61 36/41 $19.95 + $4.95* $25.95
MR-10 1.661 1.67 32 $34.95 + $4.95* $40.95
MR-174 1.732 1.74 33 $74.95 + $4.95* $84.95

*Additional cost for basic anti-reflective coating.

Sources below. Please let me know if you notice any inaccuracies.

41 Likes

Is there a way to tell what lenses you have?

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@Bobby: you may be able to figure out which material your lenses are by measuring the size and thickness of the lens and then using a lens thickness calculator in reverse, i.e. try each of the materials and pick the one that’s closest in thickness to what you actually measured.

Soft polycarbonate is for rimless glasses. It can be drilled easily without risking cracks in the lenses, which can’t be said for CR-39.

That said, half-rim mounted CR-39 with anti-reflective coating is king, obviously. :nerd_face:

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@Varakari good point. There are a few constraints I did not consider – mounting options and shock resistance chief among them. However, I figured most of us here are not on the market for glasses to wear long-term :wink:, so style and durability are probably not the top priorities. (Also Zenni and EBD will not allow you to pick a material that’s not suitable for the style you chose anyway.)

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Just noticed an odd detail. In my correspondence, EBD said this:

The 1.6 index is made from a material called MR-6 1.6.

So that’s not MR-8, like in your chart. Here’s what I logged for them:

Index Abbe S.G. Material EBD Lens Name Price w. AR/$
1.5 58 1.32 CR-39 Basic 6.95
1.57 37 1.36 Essilor Thin and Light 16.95
1.59 30 1.21 Poly Polycarbonate 18.95
1.6 36 1.34 MR-6 1.6 Super-Thin 25.95

Where S.G. is specific gravity.

Minor detail, of course, but looks like there’s a difference between the two. This was a number of months ago, so it could be outdated.

Edit: whoa! I just realized you used an actual table, didn’t know that Discourse can do that! Changed my table from monospace Ascii art.

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Interesting. I couldn’t find any mention of MR-6 on the Mitsui site so I assumed they were using MR-8. It appears as if MR-6 has been discontinued, and MR-8 is its replacement. I sure hope Zenni and EBD are using MR-8 now, since it has pretty much the same index but it’s lighter (1.3 vs 1.34 SG) and has better Abbe (41 vs 36).

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@Varakari what’s your source for 1.57 lenses being Essilor (Ormex)? I struggled to find a material of that index, and I initially assumed it must have been Ormex, but I’ve since noticed a bunch of references on Chinese sites to a Korean made compound called CW-55, or KOC55, or NK55, which seems to fit the criteria. I could be wrong though.

I simply asked EBD support a few months ago. I only asked about the four indices that interested me, they gave me the material names, and I looked up the parameters based on the names they had given me.

Wouldn’t know if it’s outdated or if the support made some other mistake; all my personal glasses are CR-39. Back then, I ordered some for others along with mine, which was why I asked about the materials.

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Ormex. I never knew the name of the 1.565 index composite material. Now I do.

Btw, pretty sure Zenni uses Essilor lenses.

That’s some really helpful information right there. Thanks for posting that.

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Permission to repost in the blog? :slight_smile:

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Sure thing. Go for it!

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Thank you for sharing this with the group. It will be very helpful for future orders. I just looked up my order history on EBD, and it does show the Index of previous purchases, but not the material.

@jakey to make the blog post really solid it would be amazing if you could get official confirmation from Zenni and EBD about the materials used. In particular there are doubts about which exact Mitsui monomer they use for their 1.6 lenses, MR-6 or MR-8. The newer MR-8 is much better so it would be awesome to know if both or either of the vendors have upgraded.

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It looks like distortion can be an issue, too, and can be resolved by choosing a material with higher index.

I just inspected my new -3.25 glasses, which are CR-39, and the distortion is a bit high compared to -3. My -4 glasses are 1.56/1.57, and have lower distortion (and are thinner).

I’ve decided to go with 1.56/1.57 index for anything higher than -3, and CR-39 for anything -3 and below in the future because of this. So, I agree with the -3 cutoff for CR-39 as best compromise (and I’m using fairly small lenses).

I’d consider Trivex for -3 to -3.5 if it weren’t so expensive. I always buy the most expensive coating.

I’ve heard 1.57 (Ormex) might be a combination of CR-39 and Polcarbonate. Does anyone know if this is technically possible? The abbe values tend to agree with this idea.

I am thinking about paying for the Blokz lenses to help protect from computer use. Does anyone know if they cause any type of distortion or are otherwise unhealthy to use?

Thanks,
OmaLou

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How about lenses with UV Blocker as differentials? Any other recommendation lenses for differentials since it is used for up close computer stuff :slight_smile: .