Anti-Reflective Coating on Eyeglasses – Putting AR Coating To The Test

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An anti-reflective coating is a coating that is supposed to enhance your vision by allowing more light to be transmitted to the eye. Since there is no material that lets 100% of light through it which is the major limiting factor in optical lenses. Whenever light hits your lens some of the light is lost due to reflections. Having an anti-reflective coating helps more light gets transmitted through the lens to your eye.

Anti-Reflective Coating on Eyeglasses

If you have ever gone to buy eyeglasses before chances your optician has offered you a lens with anti-reflective coating on it. The optician would’ve given you some pitch talking about how it would benefit you the most driving at night, or if your occupation has you working in front of a computer all day an anti-reflective coating is a must have coating.

But, is it though?

Working as an optician for 10 years I have had mixed feedback about the anti-reflective coatings. Some people say they can’t do anything without it, and some people absolutely hated the anti-reflective coating. I wanted to put it to the test myself and give an honest opinion about it.

So let’s dive right in and put the claims of anti-reflective coating to the test.

Brief History

Anti-reflective coatings were first primarily used on binocular lenses. The first anti-reflective coating was patented by Carl Zeiss in 1936 and from that is the basis of all the standard procedures for the anti-reflective coating that we know about today.

An anti-reflective coating was also first offered by Carl Zeiss in 1959 and it was offered on glass eyeglass lenses. 

Although in the early years all the way up to the 2000s anti-reflective coating was never truly widely used due to the coatings flaking off, changing colors and a numerous amount of other issues.

How the Anti-Reflective Coating Helps You

Fast forward to 2018 and today’s anti-reflective coating technology has gotten to it’s the best form since it has been invented. With the introduction of newer anti-glare technology like Crizal lens which is supposed to have superior clarity, super scratch resistant, smudge resistant and more.

So let’s dive into this and take a look at the various things that anti-glare lenses are supposed to do for you.

  • Block Glare/Reflections – The main purpose to the anti-reflective coating is to block glare. In the early days the anti-reflective coating, the developed for camera lenses to reduces the reflections and minimizes lens flares. On eyeglasses, the anti-reflective coating helps more light to be able to get through the lens into your eyes so you can see better and there is less surface reflection. This is important because reflections on your eyeglasses can cause unwanted eye fatigue and headaches.
  • Increased Scratch Resistance – Having the anti-reflective coating helps enhances the scratch resistance of the lens by adding an additional layer of protection on top of your lens.
  • Smudge, Water & Dust Resistance – Having the anti-reflective coating reduces smudges and water from sticking to your lens. Water would just slide right off and not stick to your lens. Dirt and dust would easily come off as well and not stick to your lens. Having the anti-reflective coating also makes it easier for you to be able to clean your glasses as well.
  • Cosmetic – This one may seem like it isn’t that important but it really is. Having the anti-reflective coating reduces the reflections on your lenses especially when you’re trying to take a photo. If you don’t have the anti-reflective coating and you are taking a photograph with a camera that has a flash that flash will reflect right off of your glasses. Having the anti-reflective coating reduces the chances of this happening.

By looking at the list of benefits it seems like something you would want right? Yet over the years working as an optician I have gotten good feedback and bad feedback on the anti-reflective coating. It was to the point that some people were very adamant about it not being on their glasses.

So I wanted to know the truth behind the anti-reflective coating. After all whenever you go over to the website of one of the companies that manufacture anti-reflective coating they always have demonstrations that dramatize the glare and it shows that when you have the anti-reflective coating the glare is drastically reduced. But is that what really happens? I wanted to find out.

Putting AR Coating To The Test

For the sake of this test, I did order a pair of glasses with standard polycarbonate lens without the anti-reflective coating just so I can wear them around town and put some of these claims to the test.

For the other pair of glasses that I will be using that has anti-reflective coating will be my everyday pair of glasses which holds a Nikon Eyes lens with their TotalShield No-Glare coating. Which is a coating that is comparable to Essilor’s Crizal anti-reflective coating.

  • Glare Indoors – For this part of the test I will be wearing my glasses indoors inside of a building that has fluorescent lights. 
    • No AR – My pair of glasses with no anti-reflective coating were horrible indoors. The fluorescent lights caused white reflections all around the edges of my lens and it made it very distracting to look out of. Looking straight out of my glasses I can see clearly but all around the edges, there is glare all around.
    • With AR – The glasses with the AR coating the vision was very clear. If I was being really picky I can pick out a slight bit of glare at the corner of my lenses but it isn’t distracting or in your field of vision at all.
    • Verdict – Anti-reflective coating is a must have if you work inside buildings with fluorescent lights or any other bright lights that could reflect off your glasses.
    • Winner – With Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Glare in Front of Computer – The anti-reflective coating is supposed to beneficial for people that work on the computer for extended periods of time. The anti-reflective coating helps to reduce the eye strain that you would get from the reflections you would get on the front the back of the lens.
    • No AR – Honestly I didn’t notice too much glare as far as looking out of the glasses while I was working on the computer. What I did notice however after sitting there on the computer for about an hour was that my eyes were hurting. The reflections that were on my lenses were causing eye strain without me even physically seeing the glare looking out of the glasses.
    • With AR – My glasses with anti-reflective coating performed just as well with no glare that I could visually see. The anti-reflective glasses, however, didn’t leave me with a headache after an hour of use.
    • Verdict – If you work for extended periods of time in front of a computer screen or tablet screen it is a good idea to get the anti-reflective coating. While you may not notice any glare while you are looking out of glasses without anti-reflective coating the eye strain is happening without you noticing and by the end of the day, your eyes are going to be very tired.
    • Winner – With Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Glare Driving at Night – This one is a big one for me, I have a high astigmatism prescription and glare at night is especially troublesome. It is bad to the point where I have a hard time with the glare if I am wearing my contact lenses are nighttime driving. Driving at night
    • No AR – This one came at a bit of a surprise, the glare was bad without the anti-reflective coating but it wasn’t as bad as how dramatized it is in photos demonstrating glare driving at night.
    • With AR – Now this is the shocker, There was a very minimal difference between my glasses with no anti-reflective coating and with the anti-reflective coating. Yes I know I was shocked, and so was my colleague that I mentioned my test to that I have with working with for the last 10 years. The glare I got from the headlights and the streetlights looked almost the same between both pairs of glasses. A bit of a disappointment here.
    • Verdict – I personally myself will not mention this as a benefit to people until I can further test out a different lens and see if it was just the coating on my Nikon lenses or if anti-reflective coating benefiting drivers at night have always just been a bunch of unnecessary fuss.
    • Winner – None.
  • Scratch Resistance – I currently don’t have a way of testing this without potentially destroying my own glasses, but this will be a topic of a future article. In my experience, the anti-reflective coating does help with scratches. The extra layer of the anti-reflective coating helps protect the lens, but remember it is NOT scratch-proof.
  • Smudge, Water, & Dust Resistance – This is a big one for me as well. I am not sure if it is just me, but I can’t stand it when there are little dust particles on my lens. It drives me crazy, smudges too. So let’s see how effective it is at helping to prevent these.
    • Dust – The anti-reflective coating is very effective at keeping dust off of your lens. I have posted a side by side comparison of my glasses that I just cleaned with the same exact microfiber cloth. You can see on the lens without the anti-reflective coating on the left there are small dust particles that are left behind after I cleaned my glasses. The photo on the right my glasses with anti-reflective coating there is still some particles of dust but there isn’t as much as the one without anti-reflective coating,

    • Water – Having the anti-reflective coating on your lenses helps a lot with any liquids that might come in contact with your lenses. Making it much easier to clean than if you didn’t have it. In the comparison photos below, I put a drop of water on each lens and then tilted the frame to see if the water would slide off. The photo on the left without the anti-reflective coating the water bead got stuck and didn’t slide off, while the photo on the right the lens with anti-reflective coating the water bead slid off leaving only minimal water left behind.

    • Smudge – Anti-reflective coating manufacturers have always claimed that anti-reflective coating reduces smudges on your lens, but I have mostly found this to be untrue. My eyelashes hit my lens from time to time depending on what frame it is, but it always leaves smudges on the lens. In my comparison photo below I ran my finger across each lens and like I thought the smudge didn’t show up as much on the lenses without anti-reflective coating as it did on the lens with anti-reflective coating.

  • Cosmetic – People don’t realize this but when you take a photo if you have glasses without anti-reflective coating there is a chance that the glare could be really bad if you catch it at the right angle, and sometimes there is only one chance to take that perfect photo. Here I have posted a side by side photo of me wearing each of my glasses. You can see in the photo on the left the glasses without the anti-reflective coating the glare is intense and you can’t even see my eyes. The photo on the right, you can see that the anti-glare reduced the glare from the computer screen and you can actually see my eyes. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it, as you can see some of the things that the anti-reflective coating was supposed to do like keep smudges off your lens, as well as the anti-reflective coating not working like I would have hoped for with the glare while I was driving at night.

Do I believe that the anti-reflective coating is a must have on your glasses? Yes, I do believe the benefits that are provided with the anti-reflective coating on the lens definitely helps, especially with fluorescent lights inside of buildings.

It is also beneficial for anyone who works on the computer for extended periods of time. While you may not physically see the glare reflecting off of your lenses while you are on the computer, it is causing unwanted eye strain that will leave your eyes tired and potentially cause headaches.

The benefits that it provides you definitely is worth the extra cost.

Do you have anti-reflective coating on your glasses? What do you think about it? Let me know below! As always thank you for reading and if you have any questions, comments, concerns leave them below and I will get back to you.


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2 thoughts on “Anti-Reflective Coating on Eyeglasses – Putting AR Coating To The Test”

  1. Hi there, I don’t wear glasses myself but I really did find your article fascinating, especially the part about there being no known material that lets 100% of light through. This I had no idea of!
    What are great experiment you have done in finding out about the pro’s and con’s of having anti-reflective coating on glasses.
    It seems to me that it can only be of benefit judging by your findings. It’s interesting that you say some people don’t like it. I’d like to know out of interest what reasons did they gave for this?
    Also, does the protective coating get put on both side of the glass, or just the outside? Thanks 🙂

    1. Huy ABOC, NCLEC

      Hi Stefanie most lenses these days come with the anti-protective coating on both sides of the lenses due to reflections coming from all directions.

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