We all know water is blue, right? And, it’s not just because it’s reflecting the sky back at you. It legitimately absorbs more long-wavelength light than it does short, so warm colors get absorbed and blue bounces back. Why are we talking about water? Well, what is snow made of? For their new Vivid lens technology, Giro figured out how to manipulate the spectral curve of the light that reaches your eyes when you’re out on the slopes to maximize contrast.
You may think that snow is white because it does a really good job of reflecting light back to your eyes. Actually, if you look through snow and let it filter light, you can see that it’s blue, just like liquid water. The Journal of Glaciology determined that snow lets the most light through at the 450-550nm wavelength.
Goggle development over the years resulted in some basic lens tints. The most popular for high light days are black and orange base tints. Black tints block light indiscriminately. Orange tints let in warmer colors and block blue light entirely.
The Vivid Story
I chatted with Travis Tomczak, product manager for the Vivid line, to find out how Vivid came to exist and what it does. Giro started working with Zeiss years ago to provide lenses for their goggles. Zeiss had their own lens tech, called Sonnar, that was already a step above generic lenses at filtering certain wavelengths. Giro’s goal in developing Vivid was to create a lens that took Zeiss’s Sonnar to the next level, enhancing contrast while making sure that the result was comfortable for the eyes.
Through their testing, Giro discovered that allowing in certain wavelengths of blue light – specifically right around 400nm – gives your eyes much more information to process about the contours of the terrain in front of you. Giro took the results and worked with Zeiss to create Vivid lenses – a combination of Zeiss’s optical clarity and Giro’s tints.
Is it Unique?
No. Giro joins Oakley in making lenses that are designed to filter very narrow bands of light. While Oakley developed Prizm lens tints for all sorts of applications from golf to water to snow, Giro focused on snow only. They’ve told us that there will be more applications coming soon.
Oakley offers three different Prizm lenses for snow – black, jade, and rose. I’ve skied the rose lens and it ends up having a similar overall tone as the Vivid lenses – a sort of magenta color. Between the two, I like Vivid better. I have not skied the black or jade Prizm lenses, so I can’t compare them.
Other companies offer tuned lenses, but no one other than Giro and Oakley offer lenses specifically tune for snow conditions. Spy offers the Happy Lens on their goggles. It is based around 480nm instead of 400nm. Instead of serving to increase contrast, Spy’s lenses are designed to literally make you happy. Studies show that 480nm light stimulates seretonin secretion. Smith put their ChromaPop lenses into snow goggles for this year. It’s designed to filter out wavelengths at the crossover points between red/green and green/blue light which Smith says reduces color confusion. I like Chromapop, but it’s not specifically designed to enhance snow vision.
Does it work?
Short answer is yes. I’ve slapped Vivid lenses onto a lot of faces over the last few months, including my own. Every person has been impressed with the increase in contrast that Vivid lenses provide. While it’s difficult to show you what sort of difference the lenses make, I have a few pictures here, same scene, with and without Vivid. These aren’t press photos from Giro. I don’t think the photos do the lenses justice. The video, above, does a much better job of showing how things look through a Vivid lens.
Is it available?
Giro Vivid lenses will be available across their lineup for Fall of 2017. Every ski goggle over $100 will have Vivid lenses. So, bonus there – you don’t have to drop $250 on a pair of goggles to get nice lenses.
Some highlights of the line – On the low end, Giro will introduce the new Axis goggle with a cylindrical, Vivid lens and the low end of the price scale. On the high end, one of my favorites, the Giro Contact, will come with Vivid lenses as well. There will be plenty of models in between to cover all face sizes.
Each model will come with a 30-day performance guarantee. You can try them out with no risk and return them if Vivid is not for you. I’m guessing that won’t happen often.
It’s pretty cool what we can do to bend the way light reaches our eyes these days. Giro Vivid lenses are a pretty big step forward in lens tech. And, they actually do what they say they’re supposed to do. It’s always nice when a product keeps its promise.
What I really like is that Giro isn’t reserving Vivid for the high end of their goggle line. Everyone gets a Vivid lens. That’s how it should be.