Different types of varifocal lenses

Different types of varifocal lenses

Varifocals are one of the most popular types of multifocal optical lenses.

They can help you with your close, intermediate and distance vision, all one pair of glasses. But are there different types of varifocal lenses?


Varifocal lenses provide progressive focal power to help your vision for multi-distance tasks. Generally, they come in 3 types; standard, advanced and elite, which provide differing levels of visual performance. These lens types can be tailored for specific purposes such as for driving, sport or occupational use.


In the sections below, you can go into more detail about how varifocal lenses work, their different types and how they can be tailored to suit your optical needs.


Illustration showing what varifocal lenses look like to see through


What are varifocal glasses?

Varifocals are considered as a multifocal lens, also sometimes called progressives.

They contain a progression of focal power to help you see at different distances. Depending on your prescription, they can help you with at least two of the three vision zones which could be for close, intermediate and distance vision.

The uppermost portion of a varifocal lens is for distance viewing beyond arm’s length. The middle portion is for intermediate viewing at arm’s length. Finally, the lowest portion is for close vision for tasks like within 35cm of your face.

Unlike bifocals, varifocals have no discernible segment within the lens. Instead, they have a spectrum of power from which you can ‘visually select’ to see in-focus.


What is the visual corridor?

Characteristically, varifocal lenses contain zones which let you see at different distances. The top of the lens is for distance vision whilst the bottom of the lens is for close vision. Between these two sections is the 'corridor;' a narrow section for intermediate viewing which blends the distance and near powers.

Regardless of their quality, varifocal lenses always contain unusable areas of visual distortion at their outer edges. This distortion truncates in the middle of the lens which creates a 'corridor' in the intermediate section.

See the example below.

Illustration of the varifocal lens visual corridor

Types of varifocal lenses

There are 3 types of progressive lenses which are categorised by the way they’re made and the width of ‘visual corridor’ they provide. These can be determined as standard, advanced or elite lenses.


What are standard varifocal lenses?

Standard varifocal lenses are our entry level freeform varifocal, offering a standard field of view at all distances with minor distortion in your peripheral view.

Standard varifocal lenses are recommended if you’ve never worn varifocals before as this is the least amount of change making it easier for longer periods of usage and less fatigue and allowing you to become accustomed to using varifocals.


What are advanced varifocal lenses?

Advanced varifocal lenses are our more premium freeform varifocal which offer you a wider field of view for reading and distance with significantly less distortion in your peripheral view.

Advanced varifocal lenses are recommended if you’ve worn varifocals before and are accustomed to how to use them. These lenses have a more ‘eased’ corridor length offering greater distance and reading in the lenses than a standard lens equivalent.


What are Elite varifocal lenses?

Elite varifocal lenses accommodate both your frame shape and your prescription. Together, this generates an optimised freeform varifocal to provide the best and widest field of vision in all distances. They have minimal distortion in your peripheral vision.

Elite varifocal lenses are recommended if you’ve been wearing varifocals and seek a tailored lens suited to your individual style and positioning of wearing your glasses. This option maximises your lenses and puts less strain on your eyes over long periods of use.


How much do varifocal lenses cost?

Standard varifocal lenses start from £70 with basic anti-scratch and anti-glare lens coatings. However, depending if you'd like advanced or elite lenses, this can affect the price as well as the refractive index of the lenses.



Varifocal glasses lens being cut inside a grey machine


Which are the best varifocal lenses?

The best varifocal lenses depend on how you use your glasses; therefore, they can be tailored to give you a larger close reading portion or a wider distance portion in the lens. This is what differentiates specific varifocal lenses for driving, office work, sport or everyday use.


Can you drive with Varifocals?

Driving-specific varifocals are tailored to have a much larger distance and intermediate portion within the lens. This is especially helpful when you have to see far away, focusing on the road ahead. For close vision tasks like reading and writing, driving varifocals aren’t suitable, so you may need a separate pair of reading glasses.

For tips about glasses for driving click here.


Are varifocals good for computer work?

Office varifocals have a much larger close and intermediate vision portion within the lens. They’re designed to help you with tasks such as using a computer, reading and writing. Generally, they’re limited to a maximum distance vision of about 4m which makes them perfect for the office but totally unsuitable for tasks like driving.

For more information about office varifocals, click here.


A varifocal glasses lens being cut to shape


Do I really need Varifocals?

Varifocals are ideal for correct deteriorating eyesight for near and farsightedness in a single pair of glasses. Unlike bifocals, varifocal lenses are seamless without any discernible ‘segments’ within the lens.

If you already need help seeing far away, the onset of presbyopia is main reason why a multifocal lens can also help you see close-up. The benefits of progressive lenses speak for themselves.


Is there an alternative to Varifocals?

Instead of varifocals, you could opt for bifocal glasses to help with both your close and distance vision. These glasses have a characteristic ‘segment’ or ‘window’ within the lower portion of the lens which acts a reading section.

For more information about bifocals, click here.


Should Varifocals be worn all the time?

Varifocals are designed to correct your vision at multiple distances, close, intermediate and far away. Therefore, there is no reason why you couldn’t wear them all the time in order to help you see.

The only instance where varifocals should not be worn is if they don’t cater for distance vision for tasks such as driving. If you have office varifocals, they’re completely unsuitable for distance tasks therefore should not be worn.


More questions about varifocals?

If you'd like to know more about different types of glasses lenses, feel free to get in touch. We're more than happy to discuss which lens is best for you, coatings, refractive indexes and more.

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