I should Work at Oakley
Intro/Opening comments/disclaimers (skip if you want)
As the aftermarket has been a reoccurring topic on these forums, and a few brands are clearly taking the niche seriously with research and development, I decided to *gasp* pass on OEM for my Jawbone to give a couple brands a shot. In this case, Fuse and Revant Optics are featured in this review, as up to this point, I find they've been taking strides in reception and providing transparency in their background. As a disclaimer, I work for neither company and have no incentive to making this review in favor to one or another. This review just serves the purpose of fulfilling the curiosity I previously had to the benefit of others.
As some here may know, I have already reviewed Revant Optics' HC3 Elite (I'm gonna say "HC3" for shorthand through the review) earlier this year when the line just started rolling out in another thread:
That being said, I'm not going to dwell on the HC3 as much as before, but rather include it in this thread for comparison purposes. I'll also touch on any differences pertaining to this "Fire Red MirrorShield" finish vs. the "Stealth Black" finish I reviewed previously. But long story short on the other thread: the HC3 was very impressive in every regard, only leaving myself and other users to question about the development process — which Revant recently provided in a brief video:
Fuse's (also known as EyeCandy) Fuse+ lenses on the other hand, had actually piqued my curiosity before trying Revant. Previous discussion notably pertained to the involvement of Carl Zeiss optics, and whether or not, or how this was made possible on such a very inexpensive product. I know one poster here tried to contact Zeiss to confirm their involvement and had no response. Earlier this year, however, Fuse did shed light on the topic in a blog post where they essentially put out that Zeiss was involved with coating and testing procedures:
Up until that point and my own experience, there was one particular(awesome) review at this forum by @ajirbl. He/she addressed nailed key points, such as curvature, ongoing experience with Fuse products, and even sharing an almost impossibly-distinguishable slide comparison between Fuse+ and OEM lenses. Unless I missed it, I don't think he/she ever revealed which picture coordinates with which lenses. Like I said before, neither company put me to this review or anything, but this review really got me curious.
Why didn't I try this sooner myself? Like I said, there was a bit of a grey zone regarding the Zeiss collaboration. With Revant, I was occupied with throwing money at Oakley's 2015 R2 releases, and the mirror versions of the HC3 didn't release immediately. So now I'm here, I actually received both lenses in the mail on the same day. Call it fate.
I gave the lenses a little more than week's worth of everyday use in errands, driving, and cycling. Just so happened I got a mix of light and cloudy weather, too.
Table of Contents (copypasta the number and Ctrl+F to jump to a section)
1.0.0 - Packaging/presentation
1.1.0 - Fit and finish
1.1.1 - Fit1.2.0 - Visual performance review
1.1.2 - Finish
1.1.2 - Finish
1.2.1 - Clarity1.3.0 - Final Thoughts
1.2.2 - Color
1.2.3 - LT/miscellaneous
1.2.2 - Color
1.2.3 - LT/miscellaneous
1.0.0 - Packaging/presentation
One big draw to the aftermarket is not only can it cover retired frames, but it's offered at more attractive price points. For my Jawbone, there are still OEM lenses. I could've bought a non-polar +Red or Fire Iridium from Oakley for $60.00 a set, or the Polar "Fire Red" HC3 and the "Blaze Mirror" Fuse+ for roughly $75 (~$50 and ~$25 respectively) after coupons and free shipping on both. With my background on curiosity, as well as previous input and experience, and the aftermarket brand development...the risk was well worth it.
In my mailbox, the Revant HC3's came in a small box while the Fuse+'s came in a padded envelope. No big deal as both come with product box inside anyway; and in those product boxes are the usual: Lenses (duh) in foam sleeves, microfiber bag, stickers and a promo statement.
Not that boxes are a big deal, but Fuse put some nice effort. It's got some gold accents on a glossy printed photo of the Floridian waters. The Fuse bag has some spiffy flat pull tabs and is a bit wider than the Revant offering. Again, not the biggest deal because neither bag and box is functionally superior. Just to be fair, I personally would also give a nod to Revant's clean and simple aesthetic. Does a great job showcasing their logo.
1.1.0 - Fit and Finish
1.1.1 - Fit
In researching these brands, the common theme was great optics, sub-par fit. Both Fuse and Revant pushed to improve fit on their premium offerings, and I know Revant in particular has been very pro-active in addressing public customer concerns, like on Amazon and here at OakleyForum.
With Revant's HC3 being familiar territory, I again had no issues with fit. The lenses go in my Jawbone frames without any fight and lock in as normally expected. There are slight bevels so you don't cut yourself while handling. The vents are pretty much on-point with OEM placement.
The Fuse+ was not quite on par. Thickness is proper, and the edges are beveled, but not rounded. However, in the photo below, the top profile of my right lens wasn't so straight. Defect, perhaps. I ultimately had no issues with fitting, but it wasn't as clean of a drop-in and closure as the HC3's. Note that because the Jawbone has a unique closure and somewhat wider tolerances, I guess this passes as a bottom line non-issue. I don't know how it plays out in other frame designs.
One last note regarding fit is that when you close the jaw, both aftermarket lenses don't let it mate with the frame/nose as perfectly as OEM. My best guess is because these companies sized the lenses according to the Jawbone's profile without accounting for the rubber pads that take up vertical space inside. Left and right, these lenses slide in just fine so I don't think there's a real error in measurement here. I've never had the jaw pop or bend open because of the slight increase (less than a millimeter?) in lens height.
1.1.2 - Finish
Both the Fuse+ "Blaze Mirror" and HC3 "Fire Red" have very pleasant mirror finishes that look very consistent, especially the Fuse+. Truthfully, I expected something more like Oakley's own Fire Iridium, and actually find these to be more like Ruby. The illustrated product pics on their websites led me to guess otherwise. No harm really, as this is the case even with Oakley's own lens presentation. I just mention this as an FYI.
However, there is one thing I noticed: revisit the solo close-up pics and pay close attention to the reflections. The white surface I took the pictures on dominates the reflection of the Fuse+, but you can see the end of the surface in the photo of the HC3. I did try to match these to investigate consistency, but it really is there. If you revisit the first photo of this review, it's hard to make out, but in person the Fuse+ seems flatter than the HC3 (and OEM for that matter). When you pair this with the mention of a less perfect fit, maybe the base curve is incorrect — as least on my own pair.
Did I find this to compromise the perceived quality of the Fuse+? Not that I noticed in terms of alignment in clarity (as I'll discuss later). But I'm putting the FYI out there. Interestingly Fuse does address imperfections in another blog post:
A lot of their reasoning are realities in production, and I don't know if their prices reflect QC, but they sound like they'll try to do right with every customer.
1.2.0 - Visual performance review
While it looks like I'm comparing oranges to oranges (or rubies to rubies), this is still actually apples to oranges (but both still rubies) in the respect that the HC3 is polarized and the Fuse+ is not. As much as I'd like to make the most accurate comparison, reality is that I'm not big on polarization. I have slight fear of becoming "reliant" on the filter just has I have become so with sunglasses outdoors, and I can do without the rainbows. Otherwise the HC3, being Revant's top lens in optical quality, doesn't come with a non-polar option right now.
One FYI is that the Fuse+ polarized is $37.99. Not a bad premium over the $27.99 for the regular Fuse+.
1.2.1 - Clarity
Like in my previous HC3 review, clarity is a toss-up against OEM. The Revant video I link above shows that the lenses undergo assessment in production. The lenses do feature a taper correction, and according to posts I've seen before — as long as the mirror coating is done right — the gap between Oakley's XYZ and everyone else is heavily influenced by having such a profile.
I couldn't find any explicit statement that Fuse incorporated tapering with their Fuse+ lenses, but it seems like it, especially when accounting for the involvement of Zeiss. Along with @ajirbl's review, things looked really good in my view. I had no visual alignment issues, or trouble with reading finer definitions. I'm pretty sure the Zeiss claims are real. The previous mention of difference in profile didn't do any harm in this department. Even in doing "line" tests, things seemed to match up pretty well between the Fuse+, HC3, and OEM lenses.
In actual use, both aftermarket lenses performed very well. I could make out definitions just fine and glare was not a problem with either lens. There is inevitably a nod towards the HC3 for being polarized, but if I pitted the Fuse+ against non-polar Oakley lenses, it was a draw to me. Very impressive as again...$27.99.
1.2.2 - Color quality
Both lenses have a cool/blue tint to them, maybe close to Oakley's Ruby Iridium because it's surely stronger than +Red. I guess it's a rule of thumb when it comes to orange/red coatings on neutral bases because I've seen it be the case with nearly every brand/pair. I'm just generally not a fan of cool/blue tints — I still don't know where they help; but I had this coming as I really just picked both these lenses for aesthetic. I had too many +Reds, too many green/Jades, too many blues, I wanted to squeeze some oranges/rubies....
Everything has been pretty even for me with the HC3 and Fuse+....except for this department, starting with how the Fuse+ comes up short on color consistency. You know how there's a bit of a "fade" on most mirror-coated lenses near the edges? For +Red you might find more blue, with Jade maybe more purple, etc if you look to the extreme edges. In the case of the Fuse+, that "fade" is closer to the center of the lenses — or at least with the set I have. It takes very little eye movement to fluctuate between a near-neutral, and a cool/blue tint where some stuff can then wash out. This happens when shifting left/right, as well as to upper region of my Fuse+ lenses.
Is it the end of the world? No, but I'm not even looking for it and it's very noticeable. In a casual situation this is no big deal, but on the bike when you're trying to be more aware and working yourself in with fatigue as a factor, switching tints back and forth sucks.
The near-neutral zone of the Fuse+ is awesome in providing vibrant color definition, and I'd love that to be consistent throughout. Top-tier for me if this was the case, but I'm pretty sure the intention is to have a consistent cool/blue tint. I did shoot Fuse an inquiry (right after my ride on the first day) because I don't want this to be deciding factor of this comparison...but I'm still waiting for any response with a week passing.
It also has to be noted that this color fluctuation is mainly noticeable in bright light. In cloudy weather, everything's looking mostly on the cool side. In general, I found the Fuse+ to run more neutral than the HC3 even in those cool/blue sections.
The HC3, seems to be the opposite. Like I just said, the cool/blue hues are hurting color perception, but the tint runs consistent as expected. Despite my previous lingering doubts on whether or not the clarity is really as good as I perceived, there was without a doubt the color definition was totally on-point with the "Stealth Black" version. I already acknowledged that the cool/blue tint comes with the orange/ruby mirror finish, but I had my hopes up.
So that being said, there are trade-offs between the Fuse+ and HC3 in this department when we're comparing rubies to rubies. I can only wonder how the Fuse+ polar compares.
1.2.3 - LT/miscellaneous
Per spec sheets, the polarized HC3 is supposedly running brighter than the Fuse+ (16% vs 10%). In practice I feel the opposite...perhaps because the polarization filter handles glare more effectively, or the blue tint in the HC3 is stronger. You generally can't go wrong here because both do the job in bright light as intended. Light/dark environment switches don't present a real problem for either lens.
Fogging was a non-issue with both lenses during my rides, although I'll note that the Fuse+ was not vented. I don't think there was any special treatment involved, and maybe the air was moving well during the rides, but that's still impressive.
I didn't see any claims by Fuse pertaining to the Fuse+ having a hydrophobic coating; only for their Ion series. Running water on my lens, it didn't seem like the coating was there. Revant advertises the HC3 with a hydrophobic coating dubbed "Revant Repel", and it seems to work in my experience.
The polarization filter of the HC3 gave me no issues. If anything, I found it less noticeable in this "Fire Red" than the previous "Stealth Black" I reviewed. Head turns and tilts on the bike had even less apparent switches, and dealing with "rainbow-ing" on screens also seemed lesser. Maybe the combination of mirror finish and/or tint plays a role in the differences, but generally speaking as someone who doesn't care for polarized, I'm glad to find that the shortcomings are not so apparent.
1.3.0 - Final Thoughts
If you a manged to read this entire review, you're gonna find there a few things that tip towards Revant's HC3 Elite: finish, color/tint consistency, and a hydrophobic coating. The Fuse+ on the other hand has price and generally does better with color definition/perception in my eyes. I have to emphasize that both seem to do remarkably well with clarity.
Of the HC3 selection I've tried, I kinda like the "Stealth Black" finish more than this "Fire Red" just because it wins out in color definition. Aesthetic and seemingly less apparent polarized downsides tip in favor of the "Fire Red". I'm looking at Revant's tint list and the "Plasma Purple" or "Titanium" tints may be more up my alley.
Again, I did shoot Fuse an inquiry regarding the color/tint issue (I only realized the edge finish afterwards). Not sure if they're busy or the e-mail didn't get through, because their policy statements seem very customer-friendly. Might give it another shot, but I'm also waiting on the other people's reviews to find out if it's the same story, or if I just got a bad set. I don't want to make the Fuse+ sound so unfavorable — hence me being open to it just being my set — because these could be very awesome if I found the aforementioned issues resolved.
So as it stands, strictly based off the sets I ended up with, the Revant HC3 comes off as the more refined, closer-to-OEM, lens. The Fuse+ right now is standing as a solid value option, so the recommendation really comes down to your budget and tint preferences.
And my quick bottom line with aftermarket lenses:
If you're trying to resell your Oakley's or make a solid collection: get OEM lenses
If you've got a retired frame and/or can't find a desired tint/mirror/polar combo: go aftermarket.
Before, it was a universal truth that aftermarket lenses had subpar optics; but now there's at least a couple brands making a real push for actual quality. Not so much the case of putting "Civic rims on your Ferrari" (if that was ever possible) anymore.
The only thing I'd hold my breath on is walking into an O-Store (let alone HQ) with aftermarket lenses. I mean really, it's just a death wish with the tanks and all.
*long day, so sorry for any typos/errors