Yesterday, the mad scientists at Oakley invited selected members of the motocross media to join them for a day of riding at Chaney Ranch. The Oakley Prizm MX lens was brought to market earlier this month, and this event gave us the chance to ride with them and interact with the key players in the lens’ creation. Truth be told, we’ve been riding in Prizm lenses for several months now, as we were given the chance to offer some of our feedback when the lenses were in their pre-production state. Our experience with Prizm lenses thus far have been overwhelmingly positive, as the contrast yielded by the carefully tuned lenses actually help you see the variations in the track surfaces better than a standard clear or smoke lens. Until yesterday, however, we didn’t really understand why or how the Prizm lenses improved our riding vision, but after getting the chance to sit down with Oakley’s Vision Performance Lab Manager Wayne Chumbley, it all makes sense…
Prizm is an effort to build a contrast through maximizing your natural color vision. What we can do with a Prizm lens is identify what colors you’re naturally prone to seeing effectively, then look at the environment and match up those colors, so you have a lot of contrast, which gives you better depth perception which ultimately gives you performance value. When it comes to motocross, that translates to the identification of bumps and transitions between textures in dirt and things like that allowing you to see better in shadowy ruts giving you an advantage.
It’s only available in the Plutonite lens, which is the injected lens. It’s not available in a traditional goggle because it’s not possible for us to do that with a Lexan lens.
We have some Oakley sunglasses that are Polarized Prizm. What is the difference between polarized and Prism?
The lens you have is what we call Daily Polar, which is Prizm technology. We are tuning color in a way that’s effective, but the Polarized is also a glare reducer. That’s not necessarily something that you need for motocross, so Polar would actually hurt you in that situation. Polar is a daily use lens where you have constant glare behind the wheel of a car or something like that.
When you’re looking through a polarized lens at a tinted window, why does it look like there’s soap on the window?
That’s because the window is also polarized. That’s basically two polarized filters fighting against each other. If you tilt your lens one way or the other, it’ll change. Those are the two filters not on axis with one another. The minute they’re on axis or 90° from each other, it’ll go completely black. The same thing will happen with the screen on your phone.
Getting back to the motocross Prizm lens, we really enjoy riding in them, as it seems to make everything brighter and easier to see, even though it has the feel of a tinted lens…
The Prizm lens is actually not making anything brighter. What we’re doing is maximizing your natural color vision and exploiting the colors that you see naturally and heightening that. We are also reducing the colors that you don’t need, so you have a better contrast ratio that makes everything feel like it’s popping out at you and brighter. The reality is that the lens is shading the natural light so that it’s not brighter. You just get that color contrast that allows you to see things more effectively.
Can you explain the three different lens options you have for now?
Yeah, we have the Bronze which carries across all three skews with the same base and same substrate. The Prizm technology is really in that lens base. That lens can be used universally for nearly any condition. It’s dark enough for full sun exposure, however if you’re sensitive to light and want a darker lens, you can go with Black Iridium. It’s pretty much the same profile, but the Black Iridium makes it a little bit darker. With the Jade lens, we are giving you a little bit of a green pop with the Green Iridium, and we can also tune color with that. We recommend that for woods riders. It’s going to give you a better experience and everything is going to look more alive.
So what would be good on an overcast day?
Stick with the Bronze since it’s a neutral lens.
Are there going to be any more colors to be introduced later?
Yes, absolutely. With Prism, our options are pretty limitless. I would look for us to do a little more environment specific products specifically for sand, red clay and a really deep, dark soil. Look for more Iridium options, as we progress and tune Iridium so that it doesn’t negatively affect the Prizm substrate.
For the non-scientific guy, how is this lens made?
We use dyes and up to four different colors are used, depending on the lens recipe. What the dyes do essentially are block or knock down some color in really narrowband spectrums, so if we want to target a specific wavelength, we can use a dye to target that wavelength. What will happen is the wavelength on either side of that will increase.
What effect does a stack of tear-offs have on the lens?
You’ll definitely get some backside glare and you’ll have a little bit of absorption of light, so it’ll actually knock down some of the transition level. Other than that, it won’t do anything to color.