Gear Review: Smith Optics ChromaPop Lenses

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adventure journal smith optics chroma pop nomad sunglasses

Months in advance of the summer Outdoor Retailer show, the p.r. folks at Smith Optics started telling me they’d have something big and lens-related to reveal in Salt Lake but they wouldn’t say what it was. I shrugged, which is hard to convey in an email, wrote okay, can’t wait, and forgot about it until I was standing in the Salt Palace at the very very busy Smith booth under neon signs announcing ChromaPop! The grass is really greener!

My exclamation points do not imply cynicism. You’ve been to trade shows, you know how it is.

ChromaPop lenses, my contact explained, are designed to counteract a kind of visual dissonance that Smith says takes place when green, blue, and red lightwaves cross one another. “Where color wavelengths cross one another,” Smith says, “the eye has trouble distinguishing color…We filter light at two specific points, creating greater definition and vivid colors.”

Cue cynicism.

I put a pair of ChromaPop glasses on and looked around the Salt Palace. It seemed pretty much the same. Maybe the greens were little bright, but it was negligible. I compared several pairs, both with and without ChromaPop, and really couldn’t tell the difference. “Well, fluorescent lighting…” said the contact, “I’ll send you a pair. Try them.”

A week later, they arrived at the morning Fedex drop. I opened the box, set them on the counter, and forgot about them until late in the afternoon when I went outside for an errand. Walking down the street, I thought to myself — and this is literally, absolutely what I thought — I thought, “Damn, what a gorgeous day it is. The sky’s so blue, the air is clear, everything looks great.” No joke. And then I remembered I was wearing the ChromaPops. Holy smokes, I thought, they really work.

I don’t know if this whole lightwave cross thing is what’s really going on or not, but I know that ChromaPop lenses make the world look better in every way. Yes, there’s greater definition. Yes, colors are more vivid. And yes, I have refused to wear any other sunglass except for the ChromaPop Nomad aviators since they arrived six weeks ago. I don’t know it that’s really how they work, but they work.

ChromaPops are available in 21 Smith styles, including one technical glass and several women’s models. The new lens adds $60-$70 or so — the non-ChromaPop women’s Skyline is $139, while a similar women’s glass, the ChromaPop Hemline, is $209. The matte black Nomads I tested also are polarized and sell for $269.


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{ 3 comments…read them below or write one }

  • John Sulik

    That is how they work but Smith’s explanation needs some elaboration for clarity. “Where color wavelengths cross one another,” doesn’t refer to a physical property of light itself; it refers to a consequence of humans’ biophysical sensitivity to light (the cone receptors in our eyes). Objectively speaking, wavelengths of light (before light reaches our cones) don’t cross each other at all.

    ChromaPop blocks specific bands of light for which each cone (blue, green, and red) shares sensitivity (advance ~70 seconds into http://chromapop.smithoptics.com/#section-2 ). This overlap is due to the fact that light from the sun is most abundant in the green region and so each cone is trying to be sensitive to the region where the greatest amount of light is coming from, but still provide information that is unique from the other cones. What this means is that the color information from each cone is not completely independent from the other cones and this results in a bit of signal redundancy and muddled colors.

    ChromaPop blocks out the redundant (non-independent; dependent; spectral overlap) light wavebands and everything looks so pure because each cone is sending our brain more unique (independent) information than we experience without these special filters. The reason the glasses didn’t do much indoors is b/c fluorescent lights generate mostly short wavelength (blue) light whereas natural light is mostly composed of longer wavelengths around green-yellow. I suspect that ChromaPop would work better for incandescent lighting than fluorescent.

  • MarkS

    Hasn’t Maui Jim been using this technology for the past dozen years? I’ve read the Maui Jim patent, it sure seems like the same idea.

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