The array of lens colours available for shooting can be daunting, even for an experienced shot. So, this blog aims to explain what lens colours are available for shooters, how you should choose lens colours and what they are best used for.
The two categories of lenses
In the simplest definition, lens colours fall into two main categories:
- Light management lenses
Lenses that manage the weather & light conditions to help you see better.
- Contrast enhancement
Lenses that modify backgrounds and target colours to increase the visibility of a target.
You will find that many lens colours will help you achieve both simultaneously by using colours and tints that manage the light and alter contrast simultaneously.
The first decision to make when choosing the lens colour for the target presentation should be based on light management, i.e., picking a lens that will help you see the target based on the light conditions.
For example, if you are shooting a stand where the target crosses the sun, and you don’t have a dark enough lens colour, you may not be able to see the target at all, reducing your chances of a hit.
Similarly, if you are shooting in the woods and your lens is too dark, you restrict the amount of light and visual information needed to pick up the target.
How do you know how light or dark a lens is?
The LTV value. This stands for Light Transmission Value, meaning how much light passes through a lens. Essentially we are talking about the transparency level of the colour on a scale of 1-100%.
The higher the number, the lighter and lens, the lower the number, the darker the lens.
For ease, this value is also assigned into categories from 0-4:
- Category 0 80-100% VLT
- Category 1 46-79% VLT
- Category 2 18-45% VLT
- Category 3 8-17% VLT
- Category 4 3-8% VLT
At X Sight Sport, we currently have 22 lens colours with LTV values ranging from 5% to 100%.
Enhancing contrast to improve visibility
Choosing a lens to enhance colour contrast is the next step in selecting a lens colour. Typically lenses will be selected to change the colour of the background, surroundings, or clay colour to improve visibility. Altering the background colour can help a target stand out against the background to help you see it better and pick it up quicker.
The most popular discipline of clay shooting in the UK is English Sporting. Typically backgrounds can vary from green tree lines, grass, brown banks, open fields, and sky. The most common clay colours used are black and orange. Some lens colours, such as purple, can suppress or mute green background colours creating an amplifying effect on orange targets, which helps them stand out.
But what lens colour should you choose, and how many should you have?
It is sufficient to have a lens for full sun, a lens for low light, and something that sits in the middle for overcast & cloudier days. But you can, of course, have as many lens colours as you like. The general rule of thumb I recommend when choosing a lens colour to maximise your visual acuity is to pick the lightest lens you can get away with for the light conditions to keep your eyes wide open.
Most affordable multi-lens sets will come with 3-5 lens colours that will cover you in all conditions. The more affordable models on the market tend to have reasonably standard colour options, which will produce a mild effect on contrast enhancement. Whilst some of the more premium brands offer a much more extensive selection of colours, tints, coatings and unrivalled performance, giving you more choices for usage across the year.
Some shooters only use one colour but will have three tints of that colour, so they have a suitable lens tint for every light condition. Whilst other shooters will have six different lens colours. Everyone’s eyes are different, so each individual may have a different preference for lens colour. By trying them for yourself, you’ll know what is right for you.
Shooting glasses lens colours – What do the different lens colours do?
The most common question we get asked at shows and events is, what the different lens colours do? There is no substitute for trying them for yourself as everyone sees colours differently but for anyone wanting to know the basics, here is a brief description of what each colour category of shooting glasses lens is used for.
Purple is a calm, soothing colour to wear and is very easy on the eye for hours at a time. It works as a background neutraliser by filtering green light from the colour spectrum. This results in suppressing green and brown backgrounds such as treelines & grass banks which ensures orange clays stand out against the scenery we typically encounter when shooting in the UK.
These colours not only filter green light similarly to purple lenses but also filter out blue light, which causes eye strain. They provide a moderate contrast boost between orange clays and the sky or green and brown backdrops, which makes these tints a popular choice for shooting Trap. They are suitable for a wide variety of light conditions, particularly mid/overcast light and shooting away from the sun. Shades of vermilion & red are also well known for helping those with a red/green colour deficiency pick out targets better.
Many shooters use different shades of brown lenses to help manage bright light. They work best in fields & open areas with bright sunlight or any stand you are likely to encounter direct sunlight. Unlike traditional brown sunglasses, brown shooting lens colours often have a tint of red or orange, which helps increase the contrast of orange targets and offers some background suppression. A standard brown colour lens will have minimal contrast-enhancing effects than one specifically designed for shooting which could be tinted with red/orange. For example, our dark crimson lens combines dark brown and pink, and our auburn lens combines dark brown and orange, and both have excellent contrast-enhancing effects. X Sight currently offers one of the darkest brown lenses on the market at only 5% LTV – Category 4 (HD Brown), which helps increase depth perception & contrast in bright, sunny conditions – this makes shooting high targets against direct sunlight much more manageable.
Orange is a high-definition colour and is one of the most popular lens colours for shooting. When people try an orange lens for the first time are often amazed at the sharpness it provides. A dark tint of orange produces an almost monochromatic picture that easily distinguishes orange, & black clays against various backgrounds. Orange (and yellow) lenses can block blue light, helping improve the visibility of targets in hazy, foggy, or cloudy conditions. Orange-coloured lens tints are also great for depth perception and definition, which some people find helps distinguish black targets against green backgrounds.
Yellow lenses are excellent at making your ambient surroundings appear brighter, improving definition & boosting target colour contrast. Orange clays appear more vibrant, and black targets seem more defined and easier to pick up against green backdrops and grey skies. They should primarily be used for poor light, low visibility, and dark and cloudy conditions. They are popular with both clay and game shooters.
Blue lenses are less commonly seen on the clay shooting circuit because instead of making orange clays stand out, they do the opposite by filtering out red light from the colour spectrum essentially making them appear dark people. We first introduced a blue lens for archery to highlight the yellow centre on a target by suppressing the contrast of the surrounding red ring. For clay shooting, blue lenses can be helpful in improving the visibility of both orange and black clays against the sky, in particular when the sun is shining on the clay producing a washed-out effect. But they have limited use for clay shooting in comparison to the other colours.
X Sight Sport Lenses in this category include Ice Blue, Ultra Blue
Clear lenses are designed for shooters who need eye protection from a safety aspect and the elements without colour enhancement.
X Sight Sport lenses in this category include Clear
Mirror Coated Lenses
Mirror Coated Lenses
Mirror-coated lenses are suitable for situations that require a reduction in the overall brightness of the light. They reflect light away from the eye (beyond the standard absorption of a tinted lens),, which is ideal for light-sensitive people. The different colour coatings are mainly aesthetical. They have little effect on the colours you see through the lens.
Grey lenses are best used to help you see better and keep your eyes relaxed in bright light. Just like traditional sunglasses. Grey isn’t a specialist clay shooting lens colour as it will reduce the brightness of all colours equally but will not impact the colour contrast of the background and target.
Which shooting glasses lens colours are perfect for you is a personal choice. Every shooter has the preferred lens colours they feel most comfortable using. To find the lens colours that are right for you, why not take notice of the different lighting and landscape conditions around where you shoot and match these characteristics up to the lens colours that would be just right for you? Ask yourself if you have trouble seeing specific clay colours against certain backgrounds. You can also notice what glasses other shooters are wearing. Why not even ask to try them?
We do have a few retailers now that stock our display case, so you may be able to go and try the lenses in person if you are located near any. Have a look at our stockist’s page https://xsightsport.com/retailers-distributors/