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Bifocals vs. Progressive Lenses…What’s the Difference?

Bifocal vs. Progressive Lenses

When you have deadlines, reports to finish, and just need to see to do your job, it’s important to choose the right reader lens. You’ve heard from friends and co-workers that bifocals may be the way to go. On the other hand, you’ve also heard that no-line bifocals or progressive lenses are better. So which lens type is best: progressive or bifocal?

Differences in Bifocals and Progressive Lenses

There are many differences when comparing a traditional bifocal to a progressive lens. Each type of lens offers its own set of pros and cons. And, it’s up to you to determine which one is best based on your needs. Let’s take a look at what makes a traditional bifocal different from a progressive.

What are Bifocals?

A bifocal is a type of lens that provides distance correction at the top and a reading portion at the bottom. In the case of non-prescription readers, the distance viewing area is clear, with no correction.

More specifically, the bottom part handles what you can see up close, like looking at your books, magazines, and other reading materials. Usually, this distance is between 16 inches to 21 inches away from your face.

Bifocals have been around since 1784 when Benjamin Franklin invented them. He grew tired of switching between distance and reading glasses and combined them into the top half for distance and the bottom half for reading.

Bifocals haven’t changed much since then. While technology is constantly improving the manufacturing process, the basic set up of bifocals remains the same.

Pros of Traditional Bifocals:

  • You eliminate the on and off hassle of single vision readers, and also less likely to lose or misplace.
  • They’re less expensive than progressive lenses

Cons of Bifocal Lenses:

  • The “line” on the bifocal lens is cosmetically unappealing
  • The transition between distance and near is sometimes disorienting
  • The range of clarity for near is often too limiting for everyday usage

The most significant limitation of wearing bifocals is that it doesn’t cover the intermediate vision distance. That’s where your computer screens, laptops, and tablets reside. For you to focus using your bifocals, you’d often have to bring your digital device closer to you, which can be inconvenient.

What Are Progressive Lenses?

When you look at a progressive lens, it seems like a single vision lens since you don’t have a line or segment that can be seen.

That’s why progressive lenses are often called no-line bifocals, which is a bit inaccurate. Progressives also have an intermediate zone where you can view things from approximately 21 inches to 3 feet—perfect for your computer screens, tablets, and laptops.

Progressive lenses were invented to handle the distance, intermediate (computer usage), and near tasks (reading usage), all in one lens.

Rather than two distinct segments, progressives have a continuous field of view and gradually increase to your full reading power at the bottom of the lens. They are not limited to just distance and near. They have “no-line” which is the only accurate comparison between bifocals and progressives.

Pros of Progressive Lenses:

  • Cosmetically more appealing than bifocals since there’s no line
  • No image jump or abrupt image disruption
  • The most appropriate eyewear for viewing computers and other digital devices

Cons of Progressives:

  • May have a slightly longer adaptation period than bifocals since they don’t have the line as a reference point. It can take a few days for your brain to reflexively find the sharpest point of focus.
  • Can be slightly more expensive than bifocals due to their more complex construction
  • More chance of distortion when looking at the periphery of the lens – though once your brain figures adjust to progressives, you will no longer notice it.

Which is Better: Progressive or Bifocal Lenses?

Whether you chose bifocals or progressive as the most appropriate vision correction for you largely depends on your lifestyle and work habits.

After a short adaptation period, progressives can restore your natural vision. They offer the best of both worlds if you are a power user of computers, laptops, and other digital devices since that intermediate-range would be suitable for that activity. Also, if you don’t like the "line" and are conscious of giving away your age, then progressives would be great.

If you just need clear distance and near vision, and you’ve tried progressives and just can’t get used to them then bifocals remain a practical option.

So, are progressive lenses better than bifocals?

It depends. There are lots of pros and cons to think about when it comes to progressive lenses vs bifocals. However, the best way to approach this is to try either one first, and if it doesn’t work out, then you can try the other one. offers a huge selection of progressive and bifocal readers. With free shipping and returns, there’s no risk when you shop our collection. Find your perfect pair of reading glasses today.

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