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Tuesday, 11 August 2009


I have for a long time been quite near sighted. More recently presbyopia has in. And let me tell you, operting a camera my be one of the more complex tasks to perform with that particular combination of deficits.

We don't all go blind in the end unless of course you count death as a form of blindness... ;-) Seriously though, AMD will get 10-12% of us and there are some things you can do to prevent or delay the onset of blinding diseases. Taking care of your eyes is important. There are some forms of intervention that we can make in areas such as cataracts and wet AMD, but other forms are still elusive to science and medicine. Those are the reasons I am kept up at night working hard on solutions, but please know that there are a number of ways you can go blind and any alteration in your vision should be followed up with an ophthalmologist who can assess things.

I was lucky enough to have really good vision as a youngster, something like 20/10 in one eye and 20/15 in the other. Now that I'm, ahem, over forty, I've got a bit of astigmatism and of course can't focus closer than about six feet. I hate to complain since some people have NEVER had good vision, but man, I really miss being able to read nearly everything without glasses! Sigh, middle age is a series of indignities.

Glad to hear you're no worse off than normal. Good vision is a real blessing.

Glasses ain't so bad. I've worn them since I was 5 yrs. old. A good viewfinder diopter adjustment and I keep them on all the time. I'm nearsighted, and when I want to take them off to look at settings, I have one of those little chains that hooks onto to both arms of the glasses, so I just pull them off and let them drop around my neck. Of course I'd rather not have to wear them (or pay taxes) but it is nice to see well, though I never much cared for the nickname "four eyes."

Mike, I'm glad there was nothing serious about your eye; going blind is bad news for anyone, but maybe 27.3% worse for a photographer.

On a related subject: How does one go about living in the US without health insurance? As someone who grew up in Europe, I find the lack of free health care in the US disturbing. And now that I am about to be unemployed and lose my health benefits, also personally worrisome.

"...this will make me even more cranky about camera viewfinders..."

I'm sure this has occurred to others, but the solution seems simple. Just get a camera that doesn't have a viewfinder and learn to love the LCD. Anyone can do that, right?

In case you want to have plenty of spare glasses laying around, you should read this article:

Inexpensive glasses: http://www.slate.com/id/2198746

I use Zenni optical, and their $12 prescription glasses are pretty darn good.


For most of my life I suffered from 20/400 vision with astigmatism, corrected in the early 80s by soft contact lenses that I abused (over wore) for almost two decades.

About ten years ago, around the age of 50, I opted for LASIK surgery and ended up with 20/15 in both eyes, improved night vision and better reading vision, although I have been using reading glasses for the last dozen years.

I didn't go into the decision for surgery lightly, having four exams over a one year period by three different doctors, before deciding on UCSF because of their reputation in the field.

No one can guarantee the outcome of any surgery, you might want to find out if you would be a good candidate for this option.

And I was assured that the LASIK procedure would not interfere with any future need to deal with cataracts, should that become a problem.

Good luck.
I wasted money on variofocals a couple of years ago.
Then I got reading glasses.
But neither them nor my distance glasses works well for computer use (I have a large screen and view at 80cms distance or so).
So I asked if there was something in-between. "Oh, Intermediates!", they said. Why didn't they mention those in the first place.
It turns out the Intermediate glasses work perfectly for *everything" I need, except for books with extraordinarily small print. So I use them all the time. The difference at infinity between them and the distance glasses is all but undetectable.

Your comment about your eyes, caught "my eye." I'm scheduled to see my eye surgeon next month to discuss long-put-off cataract surgery. Like most people I guess, I kept stalling, until now it looks like I have little choice....have it done or lose your ability to drive.

I'm 75 and have know about this for over a year. My real fear was and still is the fact I only have vision in one eye. It's been that way since birth. And it's my one good eye they want to work on. Success rate is 99% or so they tell me. It's that 1% I keep thinking about!!

"Just get a camera that doesn't have a viewfinder and learn to love the LCD."

If your eye can't easily switch focus between near and far, or if you need to switch from distant to reading glasses to focus within arm's length, or if you have to tip your head back to put the LCD into the reading part of bifocals or multifocals... then the viewfinder is your friend and the LCD is a problem. A viewfinder allows distance vision to be used; if you can see it in the world, you can see it just as easily in the viewfinder - assuming you can get your spectacles-encumbered eyeball into the right proximity to that.

I've worn glasses forever, so this is nothing new. I wear bifocals...but, I have a separate pair of single vision glasses for the computer. The line is extremely distracting when looking at the computer.

Make sure you keep a microfiber cleaning cloth handy (you might already have one for your camera lenses): rubbing your eyeglasses against the viewfinder will smudge them up pretty quickly. I'd also suggest using a rubber viewfinder eyepiece to prevent scratches (I'm lacking that on my K1000 and the glare resistant coating on my specs has suffered as a result).

And be glad it's not anything too serious! Think how cranky you'd be if you ignored it and lost vision as a result. I don't want to go all "mother hen" on you but as a you rely on those eyes for your main source of income, you might want to splurge next time someone gives you a worried look and tells you you really should go see an opthomologist.

Glad to hear the not-so-bad news. I can relate to eye disorder fears. Without boring you, I discovered that I have "pigmentary dispersion syndrome." Benign condition for now, but build up in eye pressure could later create problems. In the meantime, I relish every day with clear eyes. Glasses aren't so bad, and in a perverse way, I wish more camera reviewers wore them... or at least put on a pair with clear lenses when evaluating camera ergonomics. Viewfinder issues are critically important in my camera assessments.

Or get a Zeiss Ikon on the end of film deal, or wait for the digital version...:)


Stanley U.,
Wow, I sympathize. That's a tough one. Good luck with your decision and, should you decide to do it, your surgery.


"I have a separate pair of single vision glasses for the computer. The line is extremely distracting when looking at the computer."

Jim (and Edward),
It occurs to me, too late, that I should have posted about this before I bought my eyeglasses, to get valuable input from people here....

Mike, "too late smart"

I've been wearing glasses for fifty years. When I was eight years old my world suddenly blossomed from what I could see a few inches from my face to the world at large. It was a breathtaking experience that I remember vividly all these years later. Glad you eyes are OK.

"On a related subject: How does one go about living in the US without health insurance?"

Actually, everyone gets medical care if they walk into an emergency room. But,the rest of us pay for it...one of many reasons health coverage in US is so expensive. Don't get me started.

"I'm sure this has occurred to others, but the solution seems simple. Just get a camera that doesn't have a viewfinder and learn to love the LCD. Anyone can do that, right? "

Assuming you can focus on things within arms' reach. For some of us that's not possible. And you'll look like a tourist.

It must be a week for this - I've just had my eyes tested again. New multi-focals needed, and the cost! I'm seriously looking at buying over the 'net this time.

Well at 55 I find myself wearing what they call progressives. They have 3 different focus zones, one for reading, computer work and driving. Actually it works rather well. I also have the beginnings of cataracts in both eyes, but the upside is they pop out the old cloudy lenses and put in really spiffy sharp new ones. Hey maybe then I could actually use one of those blasted rear LCD screens they have on the digi cams.

Hmm. I just wear my glasses and use the viewfinder. I have myopia that needs 7 and 6 diopters of correction in the left and right eye respectively, along with some mild astigmitism in the left. I haven't had a problem with most cameras yet. Generally it's the older film SLRs that give me a problem. DSLRs usually have a higher eyepoint, or just damn tiny viewfinders that glasses don't come into the picture at all.

Miserere: As someone who doesn't live in Europe or US, and has little experience with healthcare issues (yet), I have to say, free health care is over-rated. What is important, I think, is affordable healthcare. Where I live, there's no free healthcare, but it can be heavily subsidised if you choose to go with public healthcare facilities. I think that's the way to go.

Thought you might find the information below interesting.

High-Definition Lenses - iZon Eyeglass Lenses optimize vision by providing clearer, sharper, more vivid sight through a customized corrective lens. In addition, they can increase vision quality in areas where standard eyeglass lenses fail by improving depth perception, crispness, contrast and color perception.

Heh Mike:

I'm sorry to hear about your eye problems. I was recently diagnosed with a mild form of macular degeneration (Not the wet kind which can be quite serious and which the dry form can morph into I believe.) Anyway, I'm taking vitamins which are supposed to help with the problem and may even reverse it. I get checked every 3 months or so to see what's happening. When I was diagnosed, I was quite fearful but now I appreciate every day of seeing. Here's to photography, a great way to heighten that appreciation. Thank you for sharing your troubles and I hope the glasses help.

Best - RR

Mike, I'm glad everything's alright. Maybe this is a stupid suggestion, and I know it's not as good as glasses, but I find photography much more enjoyable using my contact lenses over my glasses and suggest giving them a shot. My wife finally found a daily pair that she can wear, and her eye's are very sensitive.

I'm definitely with you on the viewfinders though. I just got an Olympus E-620 with the 25mm pancake, and it's an amazing little carry-around. However, even compared to my D300, the viewfinder's a tiny thing. I had a chance to check out the A900 at B&H this weekend, and really understand what I've been missing.

In response to David B. I agree that the LCD is a great tool and live view is useful in many ways. However limitations such as unsteady support (not braced against eye) and difficulty in bright sunlight still makes a good optical viewfinder necessary. Plus, I just enjoy looking through it more than looking at a screen.

Yikes. My mom lost a good part of the vision in her right eye because of acute glaucoma (http://www.gsgd.org/acute_glaucoma.htm). Get to a doctor if any pain returns!

"I hope I'm not one of those new-media types that belabors readers too regularly with personal trivia"

No, no... And if it ever happens, you'll just have to sign up on Facebook, or Tweeter, or wherever people tell about all the uninteresting things that seem to fill up their life...

As old age creeps on us, all I can say is: Welcome to the joys of good AF!

I had cataract surgery in my right eye five years ago at fifty. It wasn't awful. Not compared to the rotator cuff surgery I had three months ago. I had double vision in my right eye - one thing above the other. Every set of headlights coming at me at night looked like a Pontiac from the sixties. Life is much more pleasant with the new lens, so don't fear that particular procedure too much.

Yeah, welcome to the club! I'm nearsighted (quite a lot), have astigmatism, presbiopia, etc. On top of that, every now and then, dry eyes. Well, I found I had dry eyes when things didn't look quite sharp through my K20D's viewfinder, even though the focus confirm kicked in. So I tried adjusting the diopter, no deal, and finally, went to the eye doctor and found out I had it, ha. Now I trust my camera more than my eyes :-)

If I look at the moon, at night, it feels like a lens with a bad case of ghosting, with chromatic aberration and color fringes on top, from my progressives. But on a tripod the shot will come out quite OK.

Eh, nothing a huge, sharp, color-corrected, pixel-peeper monitor can't cure...

I too just got fitted for progressives, which will take some getting used to. Thing is, they cost more than any lens I've ever bought for my camera, and that includes the FA Limiteds.

So now I'm a Nikon user. ;-)

How's it you don't have health insurance?

Welcome to the club - the only problem I have is keeping the glasses clean, I don't move without lens cleaning solution and a soft handkerchief with me at all times.
OT - I am a volunteer Ambulance driver and Medic with Israel's Magen David Adom, and everytime I come home after an 8 hour shift or after a bad case I always tell my wife and anybody else in earshot: when you wake up in the morning and find that everything works, that you don't need help in going to the bathroom, you can dress by yourself, eat, walk and are in one piece JUST FOR THAT THANK GOD for what you have. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Man, I didn't like where I thought this post was going what with me just having renewed my subscription to TOP. Glad you are going to be around for a while.

I still remember the night ten years ago when my eyes (for their very first time) couldn't focus on the paper in hand before them. What the!?

Five years later I developed "floaters" (another common degeneration) in my left (focusing) eye. They're small masses of cells that separate from the back of your eyeball and somehow manage to cast shadows on the front, a minor annoyance in everyday life- a major annoyance when focusing to be sure.

Since then I've patiently practiced and achieved what I previously thought would be absolutely impossible- I can now not only focus with my right eye, I can actually compose with it. Renegotiating that sense of balance so crucial in composition was the really hard part- think of having to throw and bat left handed if you're a natural born righty).

Now I don't remember which eye I use...

So I've ordered two pairs of glasses—one a lined bifocal for computer use and reading (corrected for 24" and 15" respectively) and one pair for driving and distance.

Yoy will need a third pair. These are referred to as your 'looking for your glasses glasses'.

Actually, everyone gets medical care if they walk into an emergency room. But,the rest of us pay for it

So what happens with non-emergencies if you don't have (and can't afford) insurance? Do you have to wait for the symptons to get worse to the point of being life threatening in order to get treatment?

Thank goodness for our NHS!

Is it some sort of national stereotyping thing that Americans reduce their eyesight to a set of numbers. Here in UK I'd be surprised to meet anyone who knew their "score"

It's good, in a way.

I used to wear glasses. From 7 to 17. Was slightly nearsighted with some astigmatism. Then I broke the glasses horsing around, didn't buy new ones and never looked back. Had a check-up a couple of years later, when I was in the army, and discovered I had normal vision on one eye and slight farsightedness on the other.

But the last year or two I discovered I should buy readng glasses. Most probably caused by sitting at my computer so much. OTOH, I switched my reading completely to the computer, because I can enlarge the text as much as I wish. OTTH, when the light is good, I can still read a paperback in my lap or even less distant. So I still haven't got glasses. Don't need them for driving, don't need them for everyday functioning, except when I need to read small print.

I loathe web designers who think that one pixel equals one point and define 8px font on their sites. It's abysmally tiny! It's the equivalent of 6-7 point text in print!

BTW, I have never really understood the American system of measuring vision. I understand that 20/20 is normal vision. But 20/10 or 20/15 or 20/400? How much is that in real money, that is, diopters?


You're a Jackson Browne fan? Another plus point, my good man. anyways, glasses ain't so bad

Well, what with the E-P1 and the upcoming GF-1, it seems camera manufacturers don't want you to worry about viewfinders much, so all's well.

(Good news and keep well.)

AF will be your friend. Saves a lot of eye strain....Not long after I started wearing glasses (about 20 years ago), I accidently stepped on them on the day of an assignment. I had just gotten one of those new-fangled EOS cameras. Even though everything was a bit of blur, AF got me through the whole thing in fine shape. That was an eye-opener!

I've been wearing glasses for quite some time in m short life now, and they have become second nature - except for two things: They get dirty, and they make using a DSLR (Pentax K20D) much more annoying. I wish they made viewfinders like they used to...

But otherwise I'm really happy with my glasses! Not only do I obviously see better with them, I look better, as well. They are the only jewelry I wear, so to speak.

By the way, and pardon me for making this political, but I know it's a hot topic in the USA at the moment: I am from Germany, where we have socialized health care. And every time I read from somebody in the US that, on top of their medical worries, they had to worry about money, I am shocked. Socialized health care is not "socialist" or the government trying to steal your money at all. It's about freeing patients from monetary worries so they can get the treatment they need, when they need it, regardless of income, regardless of the cost of the treatment. I may well have worries in my life; but I've never worried about my health bankrupting me, or me not getting the right treatment. That, to me, is one of the key benefits of living in a first-world country. You should not deny yourself this.

On a lighter note: Does anyone know whether the K-7 has done anything for glasses-wearers over the K20D? (And when will we see your review, Mike?)

You don't have health insurance?

I'm now 66, about 5 years ago I was diagnosed with corneal dystrophy, as well as cataracts. Basically I was going blind. I found a great corneal surgeon, had transplants in both eyes (and the cataracts extracted) and after wearing glasses since I'm 13 years old (and shooting with the camera pressed up to my right glass lens) I am almost free of corrective glasses - except for my close up reading glasses. I got RGP contact lenses. Astigmatism taken care of. Distance vision is now 20/15 (that's better than normal). And my camera viewfinder fits comfortably right up against my thick skull. But all in all, glasses weren't so bad. But no glasses is better.

Ok fellas, (and almost everyone who chimes in on this blog is a fella, I've noticed), the guy needs glasses, for goodness sake. Why should we care? Because we rely on his peepers for a great deal of photography related information, wisdom, and inspiration.

Now that I've aroused your self-interest, I challenge those of you who, like me, have been frequent TOP readers-but-not-subcribers, to pony up and toss a few coins in Mike's fountain. There's never been a better time. You might want to think about how much your subscriptions to other oft-enjoyed publications cost, and go from there...Rolling Stone, anybody? PopPhoto? Motor Trend? Joyful Nudes?

From one astigmatic to another, Mike, I feel for you and I hope the glasses clear things up for you. Astigmatism, hmm......maybe that's why that A.L. Lavazza frankenphoto looked SO bad to you.....

As a lifelong eyeglass wearer, I've never felt the least bit handicapped by them. I think eyeglasses are the real reason that Nikon created the high eyepoint viewfinder. The F3HP and a .58 viewfinder Leica solved the problem nicely. And an MF camera with a waist level finder does not discriminate against eyeglass wearers.

I'm in the same boat (Dinghy) Mike. I made the mistake of not getting biocals since I only read with them.

I believe I had an adverse reaction to the notion of needing old man glasses.

Live and learn.

Welcome back.

I hate to be the lame guy to bring this up, but I feel I just need to say it. You mentioned you don't have health insurance. I highly recommend you get some sort of health insurance. I'm 28 and totally healthy, no family histories, etc. Last year I was hospitalized for a perforated appendix and developed abscesses around all my vital organs. Long story short I was in the hospital for 5 weeks, 4 more weeks of at home I.V. antibiotics, and countless follow up visits. In the end I had racked up a bill of $260,000. I work for a typical dumpy American company with pitiful benefits...you know, mega high deductible and nothing is covered. But, once I paid the deductible, the insurance covered the rest, so I'm not bankrupt. If I hadn't had insurance at all, the rest of my life would have been financially wrecked. Just thought I'd say something, since I too am guilty of going without insurance in the past.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned monovision contact lenses in this discussion. One lens is adjusted for distance, the other for closeup, and your mind blends the two images nicely so that your vision is similar to what it was before presbyopia set in. I'm very nearsighted and I started to wear glasses at the age of five. I switched to contacts at age 20 and now, at (gulp) 70, I'm still wearing them. I use soft contacts for comfort, and my corrected vision in my distance eye is 20/20 while my closeup eye is 20/30. By wearing contacts I avoid smudges, raindrops, and all the other problems that come with wearing glasses. I use my distance eye to look through the viewfinder.

Mike, I'm very glad to know that your problem is a minor one. And, like Jeff, I don't want to get started on the disgraceful health insurance situation in the United States; I was self-employed for many years and I know what Mike is up against.

I have been wearing Focus Dailies, a disposable soft contact lens, for years, and have never had a problem with them. Additionally, despite being 56 years old, my eyesight has not changed in years. Nevertheless, my optometrist now has me pissed off because he insists that I (and all contact lens-wearing customers) undergo an annual exam. I called his office yesterday to order another 90-day supply of contact lenses and his assistant turned down that request, stating "you are due for an annual eye exam because your last one was a year ago, and we can't give you more lenses until your eyes are once again examined." What a racket! Again, my eyesight hasn't changed and there is no indication of any acute changes involving my eyes otherwise. My former general medicine doctor had a cocaine habit, my latest general medicine doctor habitually throws money at the stock market, and my optometrist drives an $80,000 Mercedes Benz. I, therefore, am really pissed off that he insists I give him money every year for an unnecessary eye exam so he can support his expensive, unneeded auto and other undoubtable addictions. Professionals? No, quacks is what they are!

The K-7 has worse eye-relief than the K20. Eyeglass-wearers will be less pleased with it.


Interesting commentary and post. Having suffered though a severe eye injury, I love having glasses to "protect" my eyes; the thought of contacts, let alone eye surgery, just makes me cringe. Eeewww!

Glasses are good. No line bi-focals; I just lift my head to focus on the LCD, though I'm pretty adamant that cameras have viewfinders, even crappy ones.

I too just got an Olympus E-620, and for me (with glasses) the viewfinder is perfect, since--unlike my Nikon F100--I can see all corners of the frame.

Like you, Mike, I didn't need any glasses until I got old and then I tried readers, vari-focals etc. until I finally got fed up and got bifocal soft contacts. They aren't perfect, but they keep me functional without glasses as long as the light is reasonable. And, most importantly, I can see through my viewfinder just fine without frames getting in the way. I do have to work the non-illuminated camera controls by feel if shooting in dim light, but most of what I need is on the lcd, and it lights up. I'm a big fan of b/f contacts.

"How's it you don't have health insurance?"

Well, I don't have a job! As of about ten months ago, when I lost my last freelance writing gig (I should note that I gave up several of them voluntarily), this website is it.

I like to say that it's about 2/3rds of a living, and I'm plenty grateful that it's that much (seriously). I'm what economists refer to as a "forced entrepreneur"--I lost my last corporate job in 2001, and could not land another one. "Forced entrepreneur" translates to "Do SOMETHING or you're gonna starve."

I live modestly but perfectly comfortably and happily. I have a 1000-sq. ft. house built in 1957 and an 11-year-old economy car, a teenage son who's into some good stuff and no bad stuff, and a dog I love. I have music. What's to complain?

My only real problem is health care, which is the Achilles' heel of my existence. In 2008 I was planning to get a job as a car salesman (I live in an area where there are scads of car dealerships, probably the highest concentration in the greater Milwaukee area), just to get benefits, when the economy went kablooie and all the car sales jobs went away. (Good for you if you like TOP--I probably couldn't have done both--but bad luck for me.) I still don't know what I'm going to do about health care. It's like a sword of Damocles over my head. I could tell ya stories....


Umm...I meant my comment mostly as a joke based on the EP-1 discussions here and the fact that Mike specifically complained about glasses not working with viewfinders (can't eliminate the glasses? eliminate the viewfinder). I'm not looking to start that viewfinder/LCD debate again...sorry if it came off that way. (I do appreciate the thoughts and arguments though...)

I had a cataract operation in my right eye last year; following a retinal detachment the year before. Whilst I would not recommend the procedure for the latter, (in my case a vitrectomy), at least in terms of stress and discomfort, the former is such an easy, painless operation to undergo and the results are just fantastic, long distance is perfect whilst mid distance is good, although for near distance I need reading glasses. I can now use a Leica finder with considerable ease and it has transformed my focusing ability. From my experience I would recommend getting the cataracts done as soon as it's possible to do them.

Tony - That may be an American thing...I've always known approximately what my vision was in numbers (either something like 20/400, or -7) and I think most of the people I know who wear glasses/contacts would at least know approximately what level they are.

One thing I found is 2 sets of bifocal glasses... One for everyday use, and one for computer use, which are totally useless for everyday use, but will make a world of difference when using a computer day after day. My relieance on these started when I reached Gezzerdom... About 50 years old...
Dave.... :)

Sorry to have to welcome you to the club.

The most frustrating aspect of eyeglass-wearing for me is the chromatic aberration, I'm not entirely sure which of the many adjustments my eyes require is primarily responsible for it, and it only really catches me when I'm working at the computer and trying to correct CA on-screen, but .... man, what I wouldn't pay for APO eyeglasses. :)

"In the end I had racked up a bill of $260,000. I work for a typical dumpy American company with pitiful benefits...you know, mega high deductible and nothing is covered. But, once I paid the deductible, the insurance covered the rest, so I'm not bankrupt"

Ok, another one of many reasons US health rates are sky high. People think their company benefits are pitiful, even when most of $260,000 is picked up by insurance! There are no incentives in the system to reduce costs, in part because people don't understand the real cost of procedures when they don't have to pay.

But, the advice is still sound, Mike. Get insurance.

I've been wearing glasses since about 5 years old. I was surprised to find that buildings had sharp edges, and blades of grass actually existed.

I don't think I've seen this in the comment thread, but investing in anti-reflective coatings is quite helpful - for both computer work and photography. The coatings are a bit soft thus you'll need a good lined case for your specs, and microfiber cloth for cleaning... and a good rubber surround for the camera eyepiece.

Make sure at home to always put your glasses in the same place - cuts down on psychic wear and tear trying to find 'em!

BTW- For the most hilariously in depth discussion on US health care, check out the second video here (1st one aint bad either).


I lived in the States for the first umpty years of my life, and have lived in England for the next umpty. Let me tell you, the answer to your insurance problem is to move to England. 'Free at the point of delivery', and a sense of confidence that, whatever happens, whoever you are, you're covered. Some say you might be better off in Germany, France, or one of the Scandinavian countries with their public insurance/public health systems. Maybe so, but England works just fine, thanks. Let me know when you're arriving, and I'll meet you.

Mike, I'm keeping my Fingers crossed for your health and your finances.


People think their company benefits are pitiful, even when most of $260,000 is picked up by insurance! There are no incentives in the system to reduce costs, in part because people don't understand the real cost of procedures when they don't have to pay.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but socialized healthcare actually reduces cost (because, while I as a patient don't know or care about cost, the healthcare system sure does! Keeping people healthy reduces overall cost, btw). The USA spends almost twice as much on health care per capita than most european countries (which have socialized health care), and yet has a lower average life span. Do not be scared into thinking socialized healthcare would cost more or reduce quality of service.

Getting back on topic, I put my glasses on first thing in the morning and take them off when I go to bed (or in the shower), so I always know where they are, and I've also become accustomed to them very quickly. I don't know where my case is, though, because I never take the glasses off...

A good microfiber cloth works wonders for cleaning glasses (and other lenses). I've recently gotten myself a cheap small ultrasonic cleaner, which works wonders.

Hi Mike, and welcome back.

I think you’ve made a good choice with the two pairs of glasses. Here’s what works for a fellow 52 year old (me). I've worn glasses since I was eight years old to correct for moderately bad myopia and a little astigmatism that's slowly increasing. I tried and enjoyed contacts for several years as a substitute but had to give them up due to dry eye and the resulting corneal abrasion. Three years ago, with increasing presbyopia, I realized that I was having slight headaches when reading, so, like you, had a second pair made based on a 15" or 18" reading distance. The optometrist tried to steer me into bifocals or progressives, but, based on what I'd seen friends go through, I insisted on a single vision pair. The solution worked well, despite the swapping involved, and I congratulated myself for avoiding the "waving head" routine I'd seen others go through. But I revisited the choice a few months ago when I took up the offer of a trial pair of progressives on the condition that I could hand them back at no cost if I didn't like them. When I went to the optometrist to collect them, I put them on and looked up at the wall clock behind the counter. The clock was clear, as was a zone one clock in diameter around it, but beyond that pretty narrow zone, everything was smeared radially outwards. If I wanted to see an object clearly, I was expected to turn my head, android-like, directly towards it. So I said "No thanks", and am happy again with my two pairs of single vision glasses. The close pair does well for reading and computer, but your choice should be good too as I think it will be straightforward to master the split line between reading on the computer and books. I just didn’t want them for distance and close.

Glasses can even be useful: I think they’ve saved my eyes a few times from sharp rock fragments thrown up from geological hammers. And my eyes have received less UV exposure over my lifetime.

Antireflection coatings cut down back reflection a good deal. As for scratching, I never wipe the glasses when dry; for decades I have held and turned several pairs under hot tap water each morning (despite warnings) with no ill effects. If that’s not possible, I lick each side a few times to remove the dust first (but not straight after eating!). Clean towels work well to dry.

I agree with the earlier comments stating a preference for good viewfinders over LCD screens. The view through my Mamiya 7II 6x7 format rangefinder is big, clear and bright, even inside at night. With glasses.

Everyone seems to have a similar story, with differences, of course. I started wearing reading glasses around age 45-50. Around my mid 60's I noticed that I was having so much trouble focusing my Nikon SLR (ground glass screen) accurately that I switched to rangefinders, finding the view through the Bessa IIIA 1:1 finder was sensational. The smaller bulk and weight of the kit didn't hurt either. Progressively my eyesight became worse until I was experiencing blurring and double vision all the time. Had both eyes done for cataracts 18 months ago - brilliant! Result is better than 20/20. Opted for long range replacement lenses (for flying) and using multifocal reading glasses for computer and small print. Now have slight astigmatism remaining in my left eye (the one I use for the cameras) which will be fixed next month by laser treatment. It seems scary to think about letting someone mess with your eyes but my experience was that the procedure is very quick, not in any way traumatic and the results are wonderful. go for it!
Hey, I might even buy myself a digital camera for my 70th birthday!!!

Hmmm, seems like lots of people in the same boat. I'm 55 now.
Back in 1985, my left eye suffered a coroidal tear in an accident. A tennis ball hit it. It took 2 months to heal, during which time my right eye developed a blister (sympathetic reaction) which needed laser treatment.
Just last year, my optician said, my right eye has the beginnings of a cataract. In fact, my right eye is more blurred than my left, which still has that scar from the earlier injury.
I have a Pentax-A 35-105/3.5, I find it very hard to manually focus expecially in low light. Sigh!

Yeah, it's way waaaaaaaaaaaay OT, but I don't like the idea of you not having health insurance. Like most everyone here, I've never met you, Mike, just read your blog, but I care anyway. Don't like the idea.

Mike, you'll be fine. Modern cataract surgery is a piece of cake. You'll see better than you have in years.

For all of those who are considering buying prescription spectacles via the internet - especially those with progressive lenses - think again.
There's a really good reason why they're so cheap on the 'net... they're junk. There's no way for a lay person to know if the lenses are made accurately or if they're aligned in the frame correctly. Its a total crap shoot. Many of us are willing to drop hundreds, even thousands of dollars on fine optics for our cameras. But when it comes to our eyes, we balk at the price of quality. Do yourself a favor, avoid internet glasses sellers. After all, it is true that you get what you pay for.

BTW, I have never really understood the American system of measuring vision. I understand that 20/20 is normal vision. But 20/10 or 20/15 or 20/400? How much is that in real money, that is, diopters?

The first figure of the Snellen chart is the distance (in feet 20/20 or metres 6/6) which you read the chart from. The second figure relates to the size of the letter. Imagine two lines joined at one end and at an angle of five arc minutes. A third line is added to make a triangle at the specified distance away. The length of this line is the height of the letter.

"The K-7 has worse eye-relief than the K20. Eyeglass-wearers will be less pleased with it."
Well it's no flipping good to me then, is it? I will stick with my K20. No sale.

I was reading Geoff's featured comment on floaters, and had to chime in:

I'm now 29, but have had floaters for as long as I can remember. I recall squinting to see what were these weird things when I was just a little kid.

While I never truly had a reliable count of the number in my eyes, I do know I have a lot, and it doesn't seem to be something that increased with age. I just have a lot of them since young. If you ask me now, I think I have at least 50 in each eye, and maybe more that are not floating within my field of vision.

My point is, well, while it can be a little annoying at these things floating about, having lived with them since young I have learnt to filter them out when needed. They certainly don't bother me when I'm doing my photography!

Mike, there's good news and bad news here. The good news is that your retina is not affected. Refractive issues are fixable with good to excellent results, in comparison with retinal ones where progress from "distinguishes light" to "can detect hand movement 2 inches away from the face" is considered fantastic. The bad news is that at some point you're going to need cataract surgery with intraocular lens implant. I think that the estimate your doctor gave (20 years) is quite optimistic. I'm afraid you may need it sooner. Without insurance that is exceedingly expensive in the US. BUT, for a fraction of the price you would pay in the US you could become a medical tourist! you get cheap and excellent quality surgery and visit a foreign country at the same time. I worked in the field of cataract surgery for 5 years, I know what I'm talking about. If you want to know more send me an e-mail.

"In the end I had racked up a bill of $260,000."

What gets me is that the insurance probably settled the bill for something like a tenth of that. So the $260K is basically a "screw the guy without insurance" price.

"Do yourself a favor, avoid internet glasses sellers."

I'll soon have one data point on that score. I got two pairs of glasses from my local optician and have ordered two supposedly identical pairs over the internet for 1/5th the cost. I accept that my experience won't be probative for all cases, but at least I'll get to see for myself...no pun intended.


Doctor visits...
Mike please go to the doctor whenever you have concerns. I would be greatly saddened if you suffered the same fate as Warren Zevon! I don't know about your personal faith but in my world I would rather be in bankrupcy but still alive.

It's about time you get acquanted with lens culture.

Another voice from the glasses-wearing contingent...

I've been wearing glasses since I was fourteen, for myopia and astigmatism. My myopia is sufficiently bad that I might as well be far-sighted as well; I have a clear zone of focus that's only about six inches in depth (things held closer than a hand's width blur from the difficulty on focusing close, things farther away are increasingly blurred).

(For those keeping number scores, the prescription is something like 20/200, which was explained to me thus: 20 feet for me entails a degree of blurriness equivalent to what a person with perfect vision would see if they were looking at something 200 feet away.)

I find it rather ironic that such a visually-oriented person as myself has such poor sight, but there you go. Here are some of the things I've realized; maybe some will be helpful.

Range-finders are a lot easier to focus manually than the blur-crisp type lenses.

Pentax has some of the nicest, brightest large viewfinders I've seen. The ist*DS' viewfinder was a huge part of its selling point for me.

Lockable auto-focus is a good thing, not something to dismiss as a crutch. It's especially good if you can fine tune the focus manually while holding the focus locked. (This is especially important with macro and tele lenses, unsurprisingly; it took me a while to figure out that locking on the center part of the image and swinging the lens to re-compose could produce out-of-focus results when the depth of field is small.)

Contacts are a mixed bag. On the one hand, there's no lens in front of your face to bash into the viewfinder. (Though, honestly, I find binoculars to be far more obnoxious in this regard than cameras.) On the other, the crispness of the focus is not great, especially for soft contacts. I tried semi-permeable contacts for a while, but they didn't work so well - but they were significantly better at providing crisp vision than the soft ones.

On the insurance front... you might see if there are any professional organizations to which you belong or would like to belong, which might have some sort of insurance package for members. Often the coverage isn't great, but it can be useful as "catastrophic insurance" - although you'd be in the same boat as before as regards doctor's visits, it'd be some sort of safety net in case something major and expensive occurs.

(I fully understand the catch-22 of the pre-existing condition; between the bout of iritis I had six years ago in my dominant eye - now, there's an eye problem to chill the photographer's blood! - and a variety of other, basically non-threatening conditions that blow up in a tiny percentage of the population, my deductibles are ridiculously high, and my premiums run at about 40% of my monthly income. I've been afraid to go to the doctor the past few years for a check-up, on the basis that I'm frightened of what new unknown "pre-existing condition" might appear to screw up my insurance. It's only because I'm getting married next summer, and thus become eligible to go on my fiancé's insurance plan, that I'm thinking of making an appointment this year. It all completely SUCKS.)

Robert, I've worn glasses since i was a kid, and wore contacts for about 15 of those years. As I need new lenses, I'm checking out contacts just to make working with cameras that much easier. I was fitted with monovision soft contacts to check out. I knew 30 minutes after getting home that they won't work. Distance vision seems OK, but everything up to arm's length is worse than without any correction at all. I go back next week to try again, but the tech pointedly told me that vision with soft contacts cannot be corrected as much as the progressive lenses I wear in my eyeglasses.

I'm very nearsighted, with presbyopia and astigmatism, and have had cataract surgery and implants in both eyes. I wear progressives for all-around use, and use a simpler prescription with my computer glasses. I usually read without either pairs of glasses.

I've found that I need to move my head around just a bit to take in everything in the viewfinder on any camera. Now that i've done it for years, I'm accustomed to the annoyance. But, it remains an annoyance.

I don't want to side-track this but I do have to say one thing about health care. For obviously political reasons, detractors of Canadian (where I live) and European health systems like to use terms like "socialized" health care. In the U.S., at least, using the "s" word carries with it a boatload of button-pushing baggage.

It's not socialism. It's a single-payer insurance system. Actually, in Canada, it's a 10-payer insurance system because the 10 provinces each administer their own program.

There are probably people who think that having competing private insurance companies helps bring down the cost of medical care. That makes me laugh nearly as hard as when people claim that private companies are efficient or that conservatives manage countries' economies better.

I met a photographer-surgeon from Michigan at a B&B in Newfoundland while on vacation a few years ago. We started talking about health care. I described our system to him and he described how much time he and his staff waste, handling all the different administrative procedures of all the different insurance companies he is forced to deal with.

Just remember: An insurance company is your friend while you pay them premiums. As soon as you make a claim, the two of you are adversaries. When someone in that company denies you a claim, saying no to surgery for example, they get a bonus for saving the company money. They are not on your side, do not fall for that cheesy advertising.

Sorry, end of rant.

>>There's no way for a lay person to know if the lenses are made accurately or if they're aligned in the frame correctly. Its a total crap shoot.

Indeed. My lenses and frames cost seveal hundred dollars, and they are worth every penny. The ophthalmologist I've used for several years is the best I've seen, and the associated optical shop is the first place that told me that frames and how they fit are an important part of providing correction. Every other optician I saw happily put me in any frame tht struck my fancy.

Simple prescriptions may be doable on the net, but anyone needing bifocals or progressive lenses should deal with professionals who know what they are doing.

I've worn glasses for most of my life, and I can tell you two things for sure: (1) excellent glass in the lenses makes a difference for really critical vision, in glasses that you wear while you're out and about, or driving, especially at night, and (2) the glasses you get from WalMart or Sears, while not the best glass (or plastic), are just fine for computer glasses...and you don't need fashion frames for computer work. Take your prescription down to WalMart and you can walk out with a pair of single-vision, plastic-framed computer glasses for less than $50. You need to know how far you usually keep your face from the screen. Lots of computer stores sell (or give away) little plastic loops that you can attach to the side of your computer or screen and you simply hook the bow through the loop when you walk away, so they're always there. For a guy who spends as much time at a computer as you must, I'm astonished you don't have these things. They're cheap and good. I promise, if you try to read a computer screen with bifocals, your neck will be killing you at the end of a long day because of the way you'll cock your head back.


It's my crusade. Sorry.

Eli: "However limitations such as unsteady support (not braced against eye)"

Your eye (or, more realistically, your forehead and nose) are very bad things to brace a camera against. They're the wrong shape, and they're rather hard (not much "give" to help conform to camera shape), and your head is one of the most mobile parts of your body.

While it is of course possible to hold a camera out in front of you unstably, it's also possible (very easy) to hold a camera out in front of you more stably than you can hold it to your face.

The trick is to use the strap, and push out against it. Hold the camera by the sides, bring your elbows in to your belly, and then push the camera out until the strap is tight on your neck. In my tests, this is a much more stable position to hold a camera in than up against my face (and I had been practicing that for 30+ years in very low light before I got my first LCD camera and invented the other hold).

Rather than bifocals with a line and a separate pair of distance glasses, I would suggest progressive lenses, as others have. They cost more, but IMO, are well worth the price and they're probably less expensive than two pairs of glasses. I think my eyesight is similar to yours, although I've never had any glare problems. Some people have issues getting used to progressives, but I never have (but make sure the optometrist gets the centers correct). For photography, I don't wear my glasses when looking through the viewfinder. Instead, I adjust the viewfinder focus. I put my glasses back on when looking at the LCD.

As for cataracts, the surgery today is absolutely miraculous and should you need it, at the same time they will usually perform laser surgery to reshape the lens and you might not even need glasses afterwards, although sometimes the laser surgery does leave some side affects, like glare.

As for health insurance, you need it. If you're a freelancer and can prove you have income from clients or sales, you can obtain somewhat reasonably priced health insurance from the Freelancer's Union. It's not the greatest insurance in the world and you pretty much have to go to doctors who are on the plan in order to be covered, but it's far better than nothing. Without health insurance, if you need something serious (like cataract surgery), it can break you financially to the point of having to declare bankruptcy.

There is a myth that one can walk into an emergency room and receive free health care. That is most certainly not the case. One of the first things they'll ask you is "how will you be paying for this?" In most states, it's illegal to deny emergency care, but if it's not an emergency, they'll deny care and if it is and you don't pay, they'll turn it over to a collection agency.

And that's aside from the issue that others have stated that it's unfair to not have med insurance and obtain free care because in essence, it means that others are paying for your care.

Although I don't necessary fully agree with what is being proposed, we do need a fix for health insurance in the U.S. It wasn't that many years ago that health insurance was reasonably priced and generally covered most care without major hassles.

I'm 55, nearsighted, I've worn glasses all my life. I now alternate between glasses and soft monovision contacts. Expensive, but I prefer to see as well as I can.

Some people love "progressive" lenses. I tried them, but couldn't get used to them. So I have two pairs of glasses--bifocals for distance/reading and single-vision glasses optimized for the computer.

With glasses, I can just see the 35mm frame on an M8, 50mm on a .72x film M. My DSLR is an Olympus E-510. The small finder image is fine with glasses, but I have to move my eye or the camera to see the data in the viewfinder.

I looked through a .58x M once, but didn't like the reduced rangefinder image--too hard to focus. So I stuck with standard-issue Leica viewfinders.

Monovision contacts may work for some. I find them great at work, and I can focus the camera with my right eye (distance) and see all the M framelines. But the "near" lens in my left eye is not strong enough to see the camera controls and LCD clearly.

Soft contacts need to be wet, and the eyedrops can smear the camera viewfinder. Hard contacts may be better, but normally, eyes change rapidly for a number of years in one's late 40s and 50s, so soft contacts may be less expensive until vision stabilizes again.

Eye relief for glasses is complex. It depends on your prescription, the shape of your eye socket, and the size of your glasses. I now have glasses that are small enough that I can push them closer to my eye with the camera without them catching on my eyebrow ridge. This helps a bit with 28mm on the M8 or 35mm on film Ms.

Viewfinders with adjustable diopters help, especially whey you're at the stage where your eyes are changing rapidly. I often use the Megaperls 1.15x magnifier on my M8 for long lenses--it has an adjustable diopter.

Fixed diopter lenses work too, and when my eyes stabilize, I'll probably get one. DSLRs with adjustable diopters in the viewfinder are a lifesaver.

The Zeiss rangefinder is probably the best viewfinder there is for glasses wearers, if you shoot film.

With rangefinders, things are more complex than with SLRs, because you're viewing an ariel image rather than a screen. So one diopter setting may not cut it, you may need one for close-up and one for distance. That's another great thing about the Megaperls 1.15x magnifier--just twist the eyepiece a little, and all's good.

All this is annoying, but fortunately there are many options available. Sorting it out and paying for it is the "fun" part.

Good luck, Mike! I once saw a TV ad for an optical company. It showed a bunch of middle-aged baby boomers demonstating in front of an official-looking building a la 1960s. One sign read "Free the Presbyopic Six." Another said "I can't read this sign, either." :-)

Well - we all go blind in the end - sweeping statement that that is - when we do reach the end we don't care - being blind is just part of being dead.
As for the glasses - get two pairs of cheapo reading glasses. One for computer and one for reading. Less than 20 bucks all in. And you can pick them up at the hardware store (around here anyway) as well as the local photo store.

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