Online optical stores

Online optical stores are undercutting bricks-and-mortar retailers by a wide margin, but they can make critical mistakes.
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04.How to buy spectacles

Follow these steps:

  • Go for an eye exam and ask for your prescription; make sure the monocular PD measurements are included.
  • Check which type of frame suits you - but also ask your optometrist if a particular type of frame suits your eye problems more than others. This is particularly important for multifocal lenses, higher power lenses, or more complicated prescriptions.
  • Get a quote, and talk to your health fund to find out if they give a benefit for a purchase at this online store.
  • Make sure all quotes include lenses with anti-scratch and UV protection, and an anti-reflective coating.
  • You can also read our shadow shop of budget optical stores

More about multifocal lenses

There are different qualities and price ranges for multifocal glasses. Compared with cheaper, older-style progressive lenses, ‘free form’ or ‘tailor made’ progressive lenses - which are the most expensive - ensure more natural vision from distance to near and with greater accuracy and sharpness in all areas of your visual field.

With a wider field of vision in all areas of the lens, it’s likely that your eyes will adapt faster to these ‘free form’ lenses.

“You get what you pay for,” says Richard Grills, Chairman of the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA). “A person who is wearing a modern lens design would absolutely hate older-style lenses because they do not provide the visual freedom of the modern designs.”


How to read your prescription


  • SPH - Strength of lens required to correct your focus. If there is a - (minus) symbol, it means you are short-sighted; a + (plus), or neither a plus nor a minus sign, means you are long-sighted. 
  • CYL/Axis - Compensate for astigmatism. Front surface of your eye is shaped like a rugby ball (toric), not a perfect sphere like a football. 
  • ADD - For reading glasses or progressive lenses. Normally the same for both eyes; only one number may appear. 
  • Prism - Eye alignment problems such as double vision. 
  • Distance/Intermediate/Near - What are your glasses designed for. Distance = activities such as driving and watching TV. Intermediate = activities at arms length, such as computer use. Near = activities such as reading. 
  • PD - Distance in millimetres between the centres of your pupils. 64 is for distance vision, used for single vision glasses and progressive lenses. 60 is for reading glasses. If you're given 33/31, it's a more accurate measurement for right side and left side for the distance vision PD.


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