Re: Smith Optics vs Costa Del Mar
Hey guys -
I am the one who did that interview, and it actually led to a series of additional interviews culminating in an article which is coming out in the next American Angler magazine.
I think there's some good information here and possibly some bad information.
Regarding weight: this has more to do with size of frame and lens than with glass versus plastic. Glass is a little heavier but that is more noticeable on bigger frames. I have a pair of glass Costa aviator-style glasses and a pair of super lightweight blade-style Smiths that I run in. I don't personally notice any difference.
Regarding quality level: the Costa 580 Silver Mirrors in glass are my personal choice as the best all-around lens, but lens choice is subjective. Most people I have put those lenses on do tend to agree. Costa says the 580 business is due to a formulation that deletes the 580nm part of the visible light spectrum, which as I recall gets rid of yellow light.
One thing I have learned talking to sunglass companies for many years covering this industry: they have more jargon and are less forthcoming than any other product sector. I am not sure I believe anything I hear from any of them, because what they do is highly technical and dumbing it down for a lay audience may render it less than completely accurate. However, in my experience, the Costa 400 series is similar to the Oakley polycarbonate and to the Smith polycarbonate glasses. 580s are more expensive than any of those three options and I think they do represent a quality upgrade, particularly in glass. I say that based on fishing and wearing all three companies' lenses for a long time. Your mileage may vary.
Smith is the only company to offer the photochromic lens technology and it is pretty cool. As I recall it is based on silver halide and works similar to old school film, except the "exposure" chemistry can be reversed. As you go into the sunlight the chemical reaction causes the material in the lens to darken, thus cutting light. It doesn't affect polarization quality but it can be very useful, especially in a light-color lens meant for early morning wear.
Oakley has done a good job of focusing on the ballistic protection aspects of their lenses and serves a lot of military contracts. For eye protection purposes they are probably the most extensively tested if that is a factor for you. I have also personally witnessed Oakleys being wholly manufactured in the United States at their factory in California. I believe both Smith and Costa import their glasses, if that is important.
Good luck with your choice,