Gadget Guru Review: Costa Del Mar 580 Lens
One of the biggest sunglasses brands in the Southeast (they’re from Florida), Costa Del Mar has partnered with Eastern Mountain Sports to grow their business in the Northeast, and after looking at the world through their “580 Lenses”, it became clear (see what I did there?) that this was another area where EMS would lead the way in providing exceptional optics for adventurers with eyes.
“What makes these so special?” you ask. Great question. In order to answer that, it’s important to understand what the numbers mean.
Costa (that’s my pet name for them) classifies their lenses in two categories: 400 & 580. The number represents the wavelength of light in nanometers (nm). So if the next question is, “what?” I won’t make fun of you for being confused (to your face, at least).
So here’s the rundown…
First: nanometers (nm) equals (=) 1 millionth of a millimeter (mm). That’s literally smaller than small. So while you think you can’t see something that small, think again, because that’s how small light is, which allows you to see. It’s a conundrum that is the foundation for sight.
Light is one of many types of electromagnetic waves, including: radio, microwave, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma. As these rays increase in frequency (ν), their wavelength (λ) gets smaller and vice versa. The visible light spectrum is between 400 nm & 700 nm, with each color at a different wave length/frequency. Before 400 nm is ultraviolet light. After 700 nm is infrared light.
Here are some pictures to help that make more sense:
.7μm = 700nm, which means .4μm = 400nm
Got it? Good! We’re not done…
Notice in the colorful picture that 400nm is the border between visible and ultraviolet (UV) light. For Costa glasses, this translates to mean that the 400 series lens from Costa is calibrated to filter out all UV light (A, B and C, the latter which does exist, but minimally). Also notice that just before 600nm is a brief yellow patch. That is actually hovering around 580nm. The lenses in the 580 series are reducing the light in the yellow spectrum, while also enhancing red, green & blue, colors that take up most of that visible light spectrum.
If you were the type of person to ask a lot of questions (like a child, for example), this would be a good time to ask “why?”
The answer is: because yellow’s a difficult color for our eyes to process and results in optical exhaustion and strain. Here’s a couple of quick examples to illustrate that point:
- Take a piece of white paper and write on it with a traditional yellow highlighter. Notice how difficult it is to see what you wrote? Try the same thing with a pink or blue highlighter, no problem.
- Hang out in a room with yellow light bulbs. There will come a point where you need to refresh your eyes because they feel exhausted/strained. You may feel the urge to rub them or leave the room. Room’s with pure white bulbs don’t have that intense reaction, hence the growth of the white bulbs.
So the next question should be “how?”
Costa has patented technology (patents: 6,334,680 & 6,604,824) that creates a chemical reaction inside the lens that reduces the yellow and enhances the red, green and blue (RGB). This is contingent upon light hitting the lens, of course, which it does, especially on sunny days. These patents ensure that only Costa can use this technology to enhance users’ vision (unless they sell the license on the patent, which would be stupid, in my humble opinion).
When our customers try these on, there are two responses people typically choose from: “WOW!” or “Holy S#!t”. The optical contrast and quality is that good. 580 lenses come in a variety of material & color options. Here’s a simple chart to help figure out which lens is for you:
Two materials are listed here, glass and polycarbonate. After the wild success of the 580 Glass lenses, Costa debuted 580 Polycarbonate as an alternative to the 400 series CR-39 (a harder plastic) but with the superior 580 clarity and contrast. There are many varieties of polycarbonate blends for sunglass lenses, but all of the them are highly impact resistant. The trade-off is scratch resistance. Glass has high scratch resistance, but has a higher risk of shattering.
In short, use polycarbonate (soft plastic) lenses for activities that have a higher risk of smashing your face, and glass for activities that require you to see as clearly as possible without being concerned about weight (it’s heavier).
Notice how we haven’t even discussed their frames? Costa produces frames in one of four countries (Japan, Taiwan, Mauritius, China), depending on who specializes in particular materials and construction. Pairs like Corbina and Blackfin are made in Taiwan because of their specialization in a rubber that grips to the face better when it’s wet (see: sweat, oceans, rivers), whereas popular models like Zane, Fathom & Brine are made in Japan due to their specialization in high durability, lightweight & flexible threaded nylon that maintains shape even when under physical pressure.
All Costa sunglasses are built by hand in Florida. Many frame styles can get prescription lenses, including 580 prescriptions, new for 2011. 400 Series styles range from $129 (CR-39) to $199 (Glass), while 580 Series styles begin at $169 (Polycarbonate) and max out at $279 (Glass w/metal frames). There are well over 1500 combinations of frames, frame color, lens quality & lens color, so it’s impossible to stock every option. That being said, all Eastern Mountain Sports locations can special order any pair for you, so if you stop in to one of our locations that currently carry Costa, don’t be afraid to ask for the perfect pair for you! Check out our online assortment here.