Monday, September 17, 2012

What I Use to Shoot DSLR Film/Video (A Complete DSLR Filming Equipment List)

A couple of months ago, I did a post on what I thought I would need to get into the DSLR filming game (previously having always rented/borrowed other people’s equipment).  Well now that that has happened, I think it’s time to update the idea to what I actually use on a regular basis when shooting.  I’m helping a friend put together a purchase list, so this kind of goes hand in hand with compiling the list, so I thought I’d just do both things at the same time.  Also, I think we’re going to be upgrading to a Black Magic Cinema camera soon, so this is a good way to take inventory on what will be cross-compatible (I’m pretty sure it’s almost everything except for the 7D battery grip).

  • Canon EOS 7D body
    I spent a long time deciding which Canon DSLR we’d go with.  Here is a post on the decision, but long story short, most cinematographers I spoke with actually preferred the cropped sensor, telling me the full sensor on the 5D has too much depth of field, believe it or not.  The 7D also has 60fps (for slo-mo) and TWO image processors (making it better than the 60D or T3i family).  Canon actually released a 6D at Photokina today –basically the 7D with a full-sized sensor and some more bells and whistles, but it’s $2,100 and I’m thinking the 7D is still the way to go (it’ll be interesting to see what Canon does with the 7DmkII).
  • CF Cards and case
    I try and use only SanDisk class 10 cards.  They are consistently the fastest and most durable cards available.  That said, you pay a premium for SanDisk.  I do own a few Transcend cards that have never let me down and seem to be almost if not exactly as fast. For the case… Pelican makes great CF card cases, but they are ridiculously overpriced.  I use this one from Cowboy Studio.  It holds 4 CF cards (and/or SD cards) and cost $8 vs. $25 for the virtually IDENTICAL Pelican case. Here’s a previous post I did on CF/SD cards.
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (77mm threads)
    This lens is a must have for Canon cropped sensor users.  From what I understand, at the 16mm end of the spectrum, it can even be used with the full sensor 5D. Here is a previous post on this lens.  I don’t often make this bold a statement, but: BUY THIS LENS!
  • Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 US IS (72mm threads)
    This was the kit lens from my 40D still camera.  I don’t use it very often, but I always take it along for use in a pinch.
  • Nikon E series 50mm f/1.8 (58mm threads)
    Purchase via Craigslist for next to nothing (like $50). I actually took the lens apart and removed the click mechanism for the aperture ring to make it more like a cine lens.
  • Nikon E series 28mm f/1.2 (58mm threads)
    Same as above.
  • Vivitar 70-200mm 1/3.8 (58mm threads)
    Same as above.
  • Nikon F Mount to Canon EF mount adapters
    Every now and then you’ll get a loose one, but they can’t be beat for the price (under $10 on eBay).  I recommend buying more than you need, that way if a couple are loose, you can just toss them and still come out ahead on price. Beat in mind these won’t transfer exif data or allow auto aperature and focus.  You can pay more (quite a bit) for adapters to handle these things from the camera body, but I prefer to just control everything manually.
  • Rear Lens Caps
    I had to buy new Canon back caps for all the non-Canon lenses since I outfitted them all with Canon mount adapters.
  • Lillput 7” LCD Monitor
    Here’s my previous post on this item.  For the price ($200), you simply can’t beat this monitor.  Having an external LCD for pulling focus is essential when using sticks.  It’s a little trickier (cumbersome) when shooting hand-held.  I haven’t purchased an LCD magnifier/loupe, but I really need to.  They are essential for pulling focus hand-held, especially in bright sunlight when the camera’s on board LCD is essentially useless.
  • Extra Batteries for LCD Monitor
    Cheap and readily available via Amazon or eBay
  • Cokin P Filter Holder with adapters for all lens sizes
    I like to have only one set of filters that can be used with all my lenses, and I like not having to thread them into the end of the lens each time I use them.  This is very similar to a matte box system.
  • 85mm Square ND Filters
    You cannot shoot outdoors (in sunlight) without ND filters.  These are essential filters that (supposedly) don’t change the color cast of your shot while lowering your aperture so there is more depth of field to your shot.  These come in various darkness levels, with a “ten stop” (3.0) being the darkest glass you can get.  Here’s a previous post on the system.  I should probably update the post, since it sounds a little more negative than how I currently feel using the Cokin P size system.
  • Bolton Hard Case
    These are FANTASTIC water tight cases, and beat the PANTS OFF the price of a Pelican Case.  You can read my full review here.  I purchased two sizes, the 18” and the 20.5”.  In retrospect, I think the 20.5” is overkill for my needs.  I will likely get another 18” and use only two 18” cases for my camera(s) and lenses in the future.
  • Vivitar VIV-PG-7D Battery Grip
    When you take the battery out of the body and move it to the grip, you remove one of the hottest items from the camera setup and reduce instances of overheating (the other item being the LCD screen) .  Using the battery grip also allows you to power your camera on 8 AA’s if you’re ever in a pinch.  Bear in mind, using the grip ads girth to your camera, and will change the physical set-up of your rigs, rods, follow focus, etc. I actually ordered a different grip than this Vivitar, but the Amazon vendor ran out of the brand I bought, and they sent me this one instead.  The knob on the Vivitar that tightens the grip to the body remains loose even when the grip is tightened all the way, and thus rattles and creates some sound.  I have to tape it down to prevent this (pretty annoying).  That said, this non-OEM version is CONSIDERABLY cheaper than the Canon grip, and is virtually the same piece of equipment.
  • Extra Canon Batteries
    This is the one place where I am sure to ONLY purchase OEM.  There are too many crap batteries out there to gamble.  Canons recharge quickly, retain their charge the longest, and last considerably longer than any of the knock-offs.
  • XTG Dual Battery Charger
    I love having a charger that tells me how much charge is left on each battery (two independent LCD screens).  I also love being able to charge two batteries at a time, and the fact that it comes with a car charger as well as a wall plug is great when shooting in the field.
  • Photography & Cinema Gear Box (GB-1)
    I spent about three weeks pricing simple camera rigs/cages and pricing parts to build my own.  Even when I was thinking about just buying aluminum or steel “blanks” and drilling/threading my own holes, I was just under the price of this rig ($79 as a promotional price, but it hasn’t gone up to the “MSRP” in the two months I’ve been watching the item).  It’s a solid camera cage for a fair price (not the bloated “fake” prices from some other manufacturers charging a premium because something is “professional”), and comes in just over the price of any decent DIY rig I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a LOT).
  • Quick Release Adapters
    Having a “universal” quick release plate receiver on every device is a must for me.  I really don’t want to be messing around with threading the camera onto different equipment when I should be shooting.  By mounting a receiver plate to my crane, fluid heads, dollies, hi-hat, etc., I save a lot of time when switching the camera from one piece of equipment to another. I spent a lot of time researching which brand/system would be “the most” universal and cost effective.  I finally ended up going with P&C’s custom Fancier 717 system, because for the price of one Bogen 557, you can get THREE P&C quick-release adapters.  I haven’t used them enough (haven’t purchased the Fancier 717 fluid head yet) to say whether or not this was the best way to go.  I may still end up going the Bogen 501HD fluid head and Bogen 557/357 quick-release plates route, depending how the 717 stuff functions (if the 717 is not satisfactory, I’ll switch to the Bogen 501HDV and/or 701HDV heads).
  • Two Bogen 3046 Tripods
    These are pretty heavy duty.  I actually use one as the legs for my Kessler Krane, even at 12 feet. I don’t extend the legs though. Hopefully this is just a temporary situation.  I’m still looking for a super cheap (I don’t care if it’s really old and heavy) industrial tripod to use with the Kessler Crane.
  • Bogen 3047 & 3063 Heads
    Left over from still shooting. These use the same octagonal quick-release plates so they’re interchangeable.  They will soon leave the kit as I upgrade to fluid heads though. Actually, they’ll probably remain in the box for “emergencies.”
  • Bogen 3221Tripod w/ Bogen 3030 Head
    This smaller tripod and head get used to support an LCD monitor, either the Lilliput 7” in video village, or sometimes a larger 24” LCD for video village.
  • Hi-hat
    It’s a 16” circular piece of wood with a 3/8” bolt through the center and a quick-release plate receiver.  It keeps the camera stable when setting it on the ground or on the surface of a dolly (no sticks), etc.  It’s the best $12 you’ll ever spend.
  • Skate Wheel Dolly
    You need to build one of these.  Here’s a post on the subject.  This version is really heavy duty (you can ride on it, even with a crane on the platform) and cheap to build.
  • Ladder Dolly
    Similar to the dolly above, but a little lighter duty.  As the title would indicate, it’s a dolly that rides on an aluminum ladder instead of rails like the bigger dolly above.  This is good when you want to place your dolly higher up in the air (for a table shot, for instance) as you can simply set the ladder across two objects. (here’s a video from YouTube user “hawaiirod”)
  • Sand Bags
    For keeping light stands and tripods in place.  These can also be placed under dolly track to minimize bounce and rattle.
  • Apple Boxes
    You will invariably need to raise things up, whether it’s equipment or people.  You could always grab whatever is lying around, but it’s nice to know you have something solid and stable, and of a standardized size.
  • Utility Cart
    This cart from Harbor Freight is absolutely the best way to go.  It’s super solid and cheap, and holds a lot of weight. For under $100 it simply can’t be beat.  You could go for the larger version (36” wide instead of just 30”), but you’ll likely run into problems getting it through tighter doorways.
  • Laptop with Canon EOS software installed
    For monitoring the camera (if you don’t have an LCD monitor) and for transferring data from CF cards to hard drives.  You will also need the EOS software (previous post on subject) to install the Technicolor profile, which you ABSOLUTELY should do (previous post on subject).
  • CF/SD Card Reader
    For transferring data to a hard drive when the cards fill up
  • Clamp on Lights
    El cheapo lights that consist of a spring clamp, an aluminum reflector cone, a bulb fixture and a cord.  They’re $5 and can be attached just about anywhere (you’ll usually need to put a diffuser in front of them and/or flags around them). You can find them at Big Lots or Harbor Freight.
  • Ikea China Balls with dimmer switches
    This is the best/cheapest diffusion lighting I’ve seen.  There is no easier way to control the overall “brightness” of a set.  Make sure you purchase dimmer switches made for higher wattage loads.  If you run a series of lights (several China balls or whatever), regular dimmer switches will overheat and sometimes burst into flames (seriously). Actually, the search I just did shows that Ikea doesn’t sell the cheaper ball shape anymore, just weird shapes that are a little pricier.  However, Filmtools sells something similar (identical?) to the old Ikea balls for cheap.
  • Various Light Stands
    I always buy stands when I see them for super cheap at thrift stores and in the clearance bin.  You will eventually end up using them, so why not get them for super, super cheap instead of paying a premium in an “emergency situation?”
  • Bounce/Fill reflectors
    I found some collapsible car windshield sun deflectors (some in gold for a nice warm tint, some in silver for a more neutral light) at Big Lots for super cheap and bought them all.  You can also just use white poster board.
  • Lots of Extension Cords
    You’ll hear the term “stinger” on set.  I say extension cord.
  • Lots of Clips
    Many people use wooden clothes pins (often referred to as C47’s), but I prefer to use metal document clips like you’d get from an office supply store.
  • Cord/Accessory Bag
    For adapters, HDMI cords, and everything else that doesn’t have an “official” home.  I use an old, large, soft-side camera bag for mine.
  • Extension Cord Bag or Bin
  • Tape
    I am still looking for a good source for cheap Gaffer’s tape.  Gaffer’s tape (a heavy duty cloth tape) is WORLDS APART from duct tape, but you pay a premium.  It’s like $14 for a single roll!!!
  • Sharpies, China Markers, Pencils
  • Water Bottle
    Stay hydrated, kids!

Going over this list, I still need to buy:

  • LCD Magnifier/Loupe
  • Follow Focus
  • Fluid Head
  • 10 stop ND filter (3.0)
  • I should probably make some flags for lighting.  Currently we just drape cloth over stands.
  • Matte/Dulling Spray (for dulling bulbs and reflective surfaces)


Notice anything else I’m missing or something that’s in your kit that you couldn’t live without?  Lemme know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My List of the Best Actors of My Lifetime

  • Chris Cooper (easily one of my favorites)
  • John Cusack
  • Johnny Depp
  • Matt Damon (and not his buddy Ben Affleck –though Casey is definitely in the running)
  • Robert Downey, Jr. (I realize he’s having “fun” with his career now, but I think he deserves it after all the sh*t he’s been through --he’s also a stellar actor even though he’s made some bad ones)
  • Harrison Ford
  • Dustin Hoffman (I still love going back to early stuff like Straw Dogs and obscure things like American Buffalo –also, best Willy Loman ever)
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  • Daniel Day Lewis
  • John Malkovich
  • Ian McKellen
  • Viggo Mortensen
  • Edward Norton (another super favorite)
  • Gary Oldman (what happened with Air Force One and The Fifth Element though?!)
  • Brad Pitt (he gets a Mulligan for Seven Years in Tibet)
  • Pete Postlewaite (oh, how I miss him)
  • Robert Redford
  • Ken Rockwell (another super-fave)
  • Kevin Spacey 
  • Benicio Del Toro (but what happened to this guy?!)
  • Denzel Washington (just barely made it for the plethora of bad movies amongst the good)

Then there are the “classics” that are so obvious it’s not really worth putting them on a list (Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Anthony Hopkins, Marlon Brando, etc.) I realize I included Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, who fall into this category, but it’s just ‘cause I like them so much more than those other guys!

I wish I could put Val Kilmer on this list for his portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone, but he’s SO bad in everything else (except maybe Heat).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Buying Glasses Online

I don’t necessarily love having to wear glasses, but I do love spectacle fashion.  However, I’m a sensible boy, and dropping $500 on a pair of specs is not really feasible.

I’m also not a fan of most chain glasses places.  The past four or five times I’ve gone into a store here in Colorado (Lens Crafters, Pearle Vision, etc.) to try on frames, the counter is manned by some sort of quasi-meth head, frantically pushing $800 Tag Heur frames, even though I tell them 10 or 20 times I’m not interested.  Seriously, where do they find these people?  And do they get NO training in sales?  It’s like they’re TRYING to piss you off.

The last pair of glasses I purchased from a chain was a great pair of Versace Versus from a LensCrafters in a mall in IL.   I was able to actually purchase in a store because we had great Vision Coverage on our insurance plan at the time.  It’s been a while since I’ve had that luxury. The sales guy was knowledgeable and friendly.  He wasn’t pushy.  He took my face measurements and ordered frames with temples that were actually the length I needed (as opposed to simply “the way the come” like all the discount places: Costco and anything online), and when the frames arrived, he spent a decent amount of time adjusting them to my face and making sure they fit correctly.

I am willing to spend extra to get that kind of treatment, but I’m not willing to spend $300 or more on a pair of glasses when the sales person is an idiot (the past four or five times I’ve gone into a place).

I did purchase a couple of pairs of glasses at Costco before going the online route, and while they were considerably cheaper (around $120 for frames and lenses), they didn’t fit quite right, especially in the temple length.  I asked the lady behind the counter about it, and she said something like, “Yep, that’s what happens when you order from a warehouse.  The prices are lower, but you get what’s in stock, not necessarily what you need.”

So if I’m buying from a warehouse where I can’t get the frames at least “semi-customized” to fit my face, I might as well really be getting a discount, thus I turned to the internet…

Zenni Optical

Zenni has a great selection of promising frames starting at around $6.95.  I found that most of the frames I wanted were in the $12.95 to $15.95 range.  They advertise free lenses, but of course the lens "options” (higher index, anti-reflective coating, better anti-scratch coating), quickly ad up.

820415My first pair of frames came to $28.85 delivered.  That was frames ($9.95), an upgrade to 1.59 index Polycarbonate lenses ($9), anti-reflective coating ($4.95), and delivery ($4.95).

The temple on these were too long, and there was no internal metal rod in the temple piece, so I couldn’t really adjust them to fit around the back of my ear (the temples don’t bend and stay put).  They didn’t fit quite right, and usually started hurting after about an hour or two.

I had upgraded to the higher index Polycarbonate lens (a $9 upgrade), but I’ve since found out from a representative at Zenni that Polycarbonate is actually a softer material (than regular plastic), and thus scratches more easily.  I found that out the hard way; my glasses were seriously scratched… by a baby (seriously).

Not only did the lenses scratch, but the frames broke at the top of the left lens after about 9 months of light use (since they hurt after an hour or two, I only wore them when going out).

RimlessThe second pair of frames I purchased from Zenni were intended for everyday use at the computer.  I wanted the lightest frames/lenses I could get, so I ordered a pair of “memory titanium” frames with “frameless” lenses.

I don’t know where they’re mining their titanium, but if it is actually titanium, they must add egg shells to it, because these frames broke not once, but twice, in the exact same place (the bridge… by simply taking them off my head).  Last time I checked, titanium is INCREDIBLY strong, so either I’m the Incredible Hulk, or they’re lying about the frames being made of titanium.

When the first pair snapped at the bridge, I wrote Zenni, and after some back and forth (it took some effort), they finally agreed to put the original lenses I purchased in a new pair of frames… but they insisted I pay for the new frames!!!  So I sent the broken glasses back (at my shipping cost BOTH directions), but when I received the new frames back, the lenses were scratched and extremely spidered at the edges.  When I wrote to report the problem, they said this happened when they put the old lenses in the new frames.  Oh, really?  Duh.  When else would it have happened…?  And why in the WORLD would you think this makes it acceptable?!  I’m supposed to just go, “Oh, OK, my bad.  I’ll just wear them damaged since it happened while you were installing them.” [blank stare]

So at this point, I had paid for a second set of frames that I was now using with ridiculously damaged lenses (luckily the damage was just around the edges, so I could still see through the center).  No matter though, since the frames broke AGAIN in the exact same place (the bridge) after around two months of light use (I wasn’t wearing them except for at the computer since the lenses were embarrassingly scratched and cracked).

I got on the Zenni site to leave a review warning potential buyers about the faulty material of the frames.  Obviously this wasn’t titanium since it kept breaking at the bridge so easily (exact same place, twice, when simply taking the glasses off).

After leaving my review, I was contacted by Brandon at Zenni who offered to send a replacement pair of glasses (lenses and frames at no cost).  Why now?  Why did I have to go through all that after reporting the problem directly to the company in the first place (vs. finally getting a decent response by writing a negative review on the website)?!

Funny (not really) thing is, they never posted the review I wrote.  That seems extremely shady to me, especially since I was trying to let users know about a very consistent problem with the material of these particular frames. For posterity, here’s my original review (that they still haven’t “allowed” on their site):

I purchased these frames as a lightweight option for everyday wear while I work at the computer. I was excited by the "titanium memory" bridge.  I wore them for a week before they snapped right in the middle of the bridge when taking them off one night!  After some back and forth with Zenni, they agreed to put my old lenses in a new frame (but they made me buy new frames!). Well, since these are half-rim lenses, the lenses were all scratched and spidered around the edges when I got them back. They said it couldn't be helped and they wouldn't correct their mistake. HORRIBLE SERVICE in this regard.  Not only that, but about two weeks later I took off my glasses and... THEY SNAPPED AGAIN IN THE EXACT SAME PLACE (right in the middle of the "titanium" bridge)!!!  So... these frames are NOT titanium, and they WILL break easily. I'm not rough on my glasses, and I broke TWO PAIRS of these in the exact same way... simply by taking them off.

starsWhen Zenni contacted me to make reparations, I was in the process of giving them one last try.  I purchased a pair of $12.95 frames, #828415, similar to the very first ones I purchased (I’m a sucker for the little cowboy stars on the temple and front corners), except these have adjustable temple pieces (the metal rod that runs through the temple so you can bend them around your ear and they stay in place), and the only “upgrade” I made was purchasing the anti-reflection coating ($4.95).  I chose the 1.57 mid-index lens which is “free.”  With the $4.95 for shipping, my total cost was $22.85.  So far so good.  The lenses seem to be positioned correctly, and the frames are more comfortable than the previous ones I had purchased.  These are currently my everyday glasses.

So now I have a credit at Zenni, and at some point soon (before my six month time limit is up), I will choose another pair of Zenni glasses.  Hopefully the endeavor will be a success, but my initial experiences have taught me that with Zenni it’s kind of a crapshoot.

[Update] After nearly a month of back and forth, I should be receiving my replacement glasses soon.  I decided to give “rimless” frames one more shot (they are just SO light and nice to wear while working at the computer).  I had been issued a credit in the amount of the total price of the frame/lenses that originally broke (but not a credit for any of the shipping I had to keep paying for in the correction process).  I chose frames that cost a little less, so I could get the new shipping covered.  However, when checking out, the remainder of the balance was never able to be applied to the shipping (thus I was going to be paying money again for shipping).  I was not willing to give Zenni any more money for the exchange on these glasses, so I spent some time writing back and forth with Zenni, first with Brandon, and then with Michael.  Michael really worked to get things straight.  Though it was annoying that it was taking so long, he really was trying to get me what I needed (the new replacement frames/lenses AND shipping at no cost to me).  Michael notified me that he had adjusted my coupon to an amount that would accommodate the frames/lenses and shipping.  However, when I tried, it still wasn’t working.

Finally, after a couple more days of e-mail and frustration, I received a phone call from Michael –-an actual person here in the U.S.  Turns out he is the Asst. Manager of Customer Relations, and a really nice guy.  We discussed the situation, and he promised he would take care of everything immediately.  After a couple more days of “try it nows” that didn’t work, he finally got things sorted out, and I assume the new frames/lenses are currently on their way to my house (I received an order confirmation e-mail, so…).

I was surprised by this final level of personal attention.  It was great to receive an actual phone call from the company, but it was a LONG time coming after a LOT of effort and patience (and relative cost) on my part, so I’m not really sure what my final opinion is of Zenni.  I guess at the incredible discount over any chain store and even Costco’s prices, you have to expect to deal with some issues, so…

Website Usability: Navigating the Zenni website isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I do like that you can upload a picture of yourself and virtually “try on” different frames.  I wonder how accurate the sizing is, and you will likely spend some time finding a picture that works correctly with the system (a photo of your face that’s the right size and perfectly straight on).  However, it’s infuriating that they have a place to “save your prescription” since it doesn’t work… ever.  I’ve tried using the feature over and over again, but it’s never worked (it only imports part of your saved information, or it imports completely incorrect, seemingly random, information).  Thus, you have to input your entire prescription EVERY TIME you order a pair of glasses.  Not only that, but sometimes after you load your prescription in and hit the “order” button, instead of adding the order to your cart, it clears all the prescription fields and you have to enter all the information again.

Grade: C- (upgraded to a “C+” after personal phone call)

[UPDATE] My glasses (#804811 - rimless with memory titanium temples) arrived relatively quickly.  The lenses seem to be correct, and they are the most comfortable glasses I’ve ever owned.  Hopefully they last!


Warby Parker

Their website states: “Beautifully crafted eyewear for $95, including prescription lenses. For every pair sold, we distribute an additional pair to someone in need.”

Clearly aimed at hipsters (every frame is thick and clunky and the website was named after two obscure Kerouac characters (“I’m so cool I know Kerouac that you don’t!”)), these guys have a smaller selection than most other online retailers.  However, the quality of the materials (both lenses and frames) is CONSIDERABLY higher than their online competitors.

p.s. How did the hipster burn his mouth eating pizza? He ate it before it was cool.  Thanks, Miguel (who, incidentally, wears the Beckett frames in Matte Black –though he has 20/20 vision and doesn’t actually need glasses! [eye roll] Seriously.

Warby Parker’s lenses are good material (impact resistant, UV-proof polycarbonate), anti-reflective, and anti-scratch coated, and the sunglasses are all polarized.  You don’t have to “upgrade” to receive the good stuff; it’s just the way they are.  Here’s a link to the description of their materials on the Warby Parker website.

I love the fact that you can try frames on at home, but I’ve had some trouble with availability.  Often the frames I want to try aren’t available for home try-on.

After trying for several months, I finally got the selection I wanted, and these are the five pairs I tried on (the maximum number you can get at once for home try-on)…

(click image for webpage)

Beckett- Revolver Black Matte are probably my favorite style.  I really like the matte finish, and the taper of thickness of the temple pieces behind the ear make them very comfortable.  They are quite sturdy, and the five barrel titanium hinges rock (all Warby Parker glasses have these hinges).

(click image for webpage)

Huxley - Tennessee Whiskey (though “clear” are pictured) are my second favorite style and the best fit; plus they are available in clear, which is something I’ve been looking for since seeing Bruce Willis’s glasses in Moonrise Kingdom. [blush] I will probably order these in clear and also in RX Sunglasses (whiskey tortoise as seen above).

(click image for webpage)

Winston- Old Fashioned Fade (third favorite, but a little bigger (taller) than Becket and Huxley).  I love how they’re a little boxier, or more square, than what you typically see.

(click image for webpage)

Fillmore - Sandalwood Matte work for me, but they’re not a favorite (too round, I guess). Again though, I am loving the matte finish.

(click image for webpage)

Thatcher - Whiskey Tortoise are waaaaay too big, bordering on 90’s secretary glasses.  The photo doesn’t really convey this information, but believe me: they’re huge.

The Warby Parker webpage is a little annoying as far as navigation goes (long load times, strange paths you are forced to take to get where you’re going, etc.), and I did have trouble finding a couple of colors for certain frames (for instance, I didn’t realize you could “scroll horizontally” for more choices on the Huxley page and nearly missed my favorite pair of glasses!), but overall the web/navigation experience is fine.  I guess this should be expected for a smaller selection like Warby Parker’s.

Finally, unlike the other online giants, Warby Parker does have a few “showrooms” scattered around the nation, mostly in big metropolis type places, but also in Columbus, OH, oddly enough (though I think that location has a limited selection, which is funny since the selection is so limited to begin with).  So if you happen to live in a city with a showroom, you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of the “try on at home” experience to see which frames work for you!

Grade: B+

Abysmal.  Just effing horrible.

When I was getting ready to give Zenni a final shot, I was looking for online coupons and discounts (I found none for Zenni) and stumbled upon this company.  They were running a special for “free frames, all you pay for is lenses!”  Since their lenses were only $6.95 and included anti-reflective coating, I decided to give them a shot and ordered three pairs for just over $20 delivered.

I actually love the frames I received (just cheap plastic, but one pair actually had spring hinges), but the lens centers (the focal points) are almost comically placed (it’d be funny if it weren’t going to actually RUIN my eye sight).  In one of the three frames that I purchased, the left lens was around 7mm low, and the right lens was nearly 8mm high… for a difference of 15mm in the focal center of each lens!  Not only that, but the pupilary distance was 8mm off from the measurement I had ordered.  In fact, all three pairs of glasses were incorrect as far as pupilary distance was concerned. One pair 3mm, one pair 5mm, and then the aforementioned 8mm pair!

All three pairs made my head swim when I put them on, so I took them to my eye doctor to have them checked out.  He couldn’t believe how off they were!  He was actually baffled by how they could screw up that bad.  He said it was like they were trying to make them wrong (‘cause how could you misalign things to that degree?!).

I contacted the company, and in an e-mail of somewhat broken English was told that they wanted to correct the problem (but they didn’t tell me how!).  I wrote them back and asked what they meant, and they said they would replace the glasses.  However, two of the three frames I had ordered were no longer available!  Not only that, they decided for some reason that they were only going to correct two of the three pairs.

I also had to recreate all my account information, because they had “updated their site,” which I assume is code for: “for some reason, your information has disappeared from our system.  Tough luck!” since the site still looks and functions exactly the same (i.e.: horribly).

So after searching for two replacement frames, I e-mailed back with my prescription and the frame numbers.  They wrote back that I would need to log back in and select “chat” after adding frames to my cart.  So I went through that horrible process again (my prescription was loaded and lost no less than four times while trying to add glasses to the cart) and finally got to the point where I could chat with a representative to complete the order.  That took another at LEAST 45 minutes (I finally had to find a physical copy of my prescription, scan it in, and upload it to the site).

I am certain that I will receive frames with lenses that are either the wrong prescription or the wrong pupilary distance.  Ugh.  I will never order from these guys again.

The website is just awful.  They have too much product to try and organize on a website (and they’ll only show you a maximum of 30 frames per page)!  Sometimes links open a pop-up, sometimes they open in a new window (absent of all navigation controls), any time you open a new window the incredibly annoying “do you want to chat?” box chases you around the screen, the filter selections almost always disappear after you look at a pair of glasses and you have to start all over with your selections, the same frames show up many multiple times in a single search… all told, just a really horrible web experience.

These guys carry a “normal” line that starts at $4.95 (and the frames at this price are surprisingly cool), but they also offer “designer glasses” like Nicolle Miller, D&G, etc. that range from $59.95 up into the $200-$300 range.  Can you imagine spending $300 on glasses only to receive glasses with the pupilary distance 10mm off and the lenses installed all wonky?!

I would not recommend this company, unless you’re into ruining your eyes, and in that case, why not just saw the bottom off some plastic bottles and tape them to your eye sockets?

I guess if you are aware of the risk, the prices are so ridiculously low and the selection so huge that you might still give them a shot, but be sure to have your optometrist check the glasses once you receive them so you don’t ruin your eyes (and be ready to just toss any incorrect glasses in the trash, as it’s not worth the effort to get them replaced by the company  –you’d still be ahead of the game regarding price, so it might be worth it).

Grade: F

[UPDATE] It’s been 16 days since I placed my order, and still the glasses have not shipped.  These guys suck worse than a giant suck machine.