Thursday, March 06, 2014

Superfocus busto

I liked my Superfocus glasses. I really did. It was great being able to turn a little dial and have anything at any distance be in perfect focus with the entirety of both lenses--something no single-vision, bifocal, trifocal, or progressive glasses can do.

But surely you noticed that the verbs in that paragraph are in the past tense. "Loved," not "love." "It was great," not "it is great."

About three weeks ago, I started noticing that the rear surface of the left flexible lens had a stubborn oily smear on it when I tried to clean the glasses every morning. It took me several days of dealing with this before it dawned on me what it was: it was the fluid leaking out. The reasons this wasn't immediately obvious were (1) it wasn't noticeably changing the optical characteristics, and (2) all the photos I had seen online of people with leaky lenses showed an obvious bubble in the fluid, which I did not have.

But after a week or so, enough fluid had been lost that the left lens was no longer focusing correctly. That got worse day by day. Now, after about two weeks of daily degradation, it's completely intolerable. My left and right lenses are focusing at completely different distances. If my right lens is set for computer distance, the left is focusing about 12 feet away. If they are relaxed all the way out for distance vision, the right is perfect, but the left actually adds a negative lens (i.e., concave) to my regular prescription, which is the last thing I need. It's driving me bug-nutty.

Well, I thinks, this is just a bump in the road. They have a one-year warranty against defects. So I'll send them back, have them repaired or replaced, and all will be well again. I tried calling the manufacturer to make arrangements for the work to be done.

But I kept getting their after-hours recorded message--even in the middle of the day--and nobody returned the calls. I tried their email customer service--no response.

I called my local authorized vendor. They had not heard of any trouble at Superfocus headquarters. (This brand is just a tiny part of their business. One of their employees once told me that they sell just three or four pairs a year there.) But they were happy to try to get me help. They have been calling and emailing for a week now. Nothing. When a company's factory-authorized retailers can't get messages returned, you know there's trouble in River City, trouble with a capital T.

The author of one of the reviews of the glasses I had relied on had been having some issues with Superfocus customer service, so I looked back at his blog to check for any updates. What I found was not comforting:
Update 2/27/2014. Those seeking information on SuperFocus glasses should take note of the following. At the present time it appears that Superfocus has ceased operation, or at least has paused operation while it "takes stock" in itself. I have absolutely no information about what is happening, however as of 2/24 Superfocus has declined to answer any phone calls or emails, and while their web site is still up, the "Shop" portion is inoperative. Multiple customers have stated that they had shipped their glasses to Superfocus for service and now are unable to get them back. It is my sincere hope that Superfocus will emerge from their current crisis in better, stronger condition, because their product is too good and game changing to be allowed to fail without a fight.
A commenter to this post added this:
I sent back, at SF request, two pair of Bauhaus frames and leaking lenses both tinted and clear about 3 weeks ago. As of last Thursday, when I called for a status update, I had to leave a message…no response. I called again today twice to hear a recording that I had reached them “after hours” when it was clearly during business hours. I again left a detailed message. It is my opinion that SF has gone out of business and left their customers “high and dry”. So, I am out about $2,000. I also have two pair or Leonardo frames. If anyone has any intel on what has become of SF, please post so we can all understand the situation/status of SF. 
And this:
Yes, something is definitely going on at SF, and it can’t be good. I had shipped my Leonardo focusing module to them two weeks ago to look at a coating issue. When I called yesterday to check on status, the recording said they would be “closed for inventory” from 02-24 to 03-03, and for “reconsidering our structure” or something like that. The message today is different – just saying it’s after normal working hours, which of course it is not. My first order of business is to get my focusing module back, not only because it is valuable, but because there is no other source for it. My second order of business is to hope they get their act together because I really don’t want to go back to progressives. I have left a message, sent a web site comment, and sent an email, so far without results. I also sent an email directly to the customer service rep I had been working with, and also no response. Most likely he is out of a job and has more to worry about than my focusing module. 
And this:
My situation is nearly identical. I sent back my Leonardo’s – which kept popping out of the frame – and spoke with someone two days after I sent them via Priority Mail. Now, it is simply a recording – and no “live chat” or anything else available. I am bummed. The investment is one thing — but then to NOT HAVE MY GLASSES RETURNED after I was coached to return them? That is a double-whammy. Our best bet may be to use Twitter, Facebook etc to call them out. 
I have left a message on the Superfocus Facebook page (at which time I noticed that they had linked to my November blog post describing my first month of use), asking point-blank whether they were still in business. No reply from the company, though somebody I don't know posted this response:
They seem to be RIP. They were open on 2/20 when I placed my order and by 2/24 gone. Meanwhile they went ahead and billed my flex spending.
I asked on Twitter. Nothing. I even tweeted Penn Jillette to ask if he had heard anything about the company's status. No reply. I have done a daily Google News search, hoping that I could learn of a bankruptcy filing, or a corporate takeover, or some sort of formal announcement that the company regretted that they were unable to continue in business and had laid off staff. Something. Anything. But no.

My problem is the not knowing. If I knew for sure that they were belly-up and there was no chance of getting my glasses repaired or replaced, I'd start the process of getting myself different ones. But I don't want to do that if Superfocus is just having some sort of temporary difficulty and will be back on its feet soon. Of course, if that were the case, you'd think that they'd be responding to their customers--or at least to their vendors--with some sort of hopeful message and a target date. The stone-cold silence can really only mean one thing, I'm afraid.

Still, I have two last slivers of hope. First, I'm having the local retail shop contact several others to ask whether their experience is the same and if they know anything about the situation. Second, I'm hoping that one of my readers in Southern California will do me the great favor of going to the company's street address and just seeing if there's anybody there in the middle of the day. Are the lights on? Door open? Mail piling up outside? If there is somebody there, what do they have to say about the deafening silence?

The address is 7065-2 Hayvenhurst Avenue, Van Nuys, CA, 91406. I've looked on Google Street View, and it's an ordinary office-type building, obviously not a factory. If anybody is willing to do that for me, I'd be most grateful. The not knowing is driving me crazy.

But I'm about 95% sure that the answer is going to be that they have just shut everything down with no notice--which is a pretty scummy way to exit, leaving everybody in a lurch. Even if a small miracle occurs and they come back from the dead and repair or replace my glasses, I'll never be able to recommend that anybody else take the risk of buying a pair because of the distaste, distrust, and uncertainty this will have left me with.

It's so sad. It was such a great idea, the first real game-changer in glasses since progressive lenses came along. I'm sorry that they apparently had pervasive engineering/design/manufacturing troubles and sales insufficient to sustain ongoing growth and improvement. I had really thought and hoped that I'd be wearing and promoting these things for years to come.

ADDENDUM, 3/8/2014 

My friend Rob was kind enough to take time to explore the street address when he was in the area on other business Friday. Here's his report:
Went by there this afternoon. The address is a 2 story suite of offices, maybe 10-12.  
Every single office appeared to be vacant. The specific address had no sign, no name on the door, no evidence that there had been a business there recently.  
But then, that was the case with EVERY office in the building. I am wondering if they had the whole property and just use "2" as the main office for mail & such.  
There was only one car in the lot--ONE. It was 4PM on a Friday afternoon. In Southern California finding any parking lot that time of day with so many empty spaces if virtually impossible.  
I did try the door and of course it was locked. Nothing (mail or whatever) piled up outside the door.    
Really no evidence that there had been any kind of active business there in quite some time. 
So that about tears it.

I went shopping for more conventional glasses Friday, and the optometrist at another local shop said she had heard through the professional grapevine that SF had gone out of business. I don't know why it's so hard to find information on the subject if it's common knowledge in the field.


Michael Fisher said...

A Dutch-born guy, Adrian Koppes is CEO of Superfocus LLC

Home address:-
11 Cherbourg #52. Newport Beach, CA 92660

(949) 721-5732

Anonymous said...

I was having your experience, but just got email from SuperFocus today saying my repaired glasses were on the way. There is still some life left for SF. Yay!

Meghan Gohil said...

They didn't have the whole building previously. I had been there a few weeks ago to pick up my glasses, and they had a couple suites on the 1st and second floors; however, when i went there there was only one employee (despite there being a bunch of cubes) - I went there around 1:30pm in the afternoon back in january.

Anonymous said...

I drove by . . . all Superfocus signs have been taken down. The entire building has been vacated. I spoke with one of the neighbors who lives in an apartment building, and he said that there appeared to be a raid of some sort earlier this week or last week (though he didn't say what day). They are officially out of business.

Rakewell said...

Thanks for checking.

Anonymous said...

There may be an alternative if Superfocus really has gone belly up. Adlens says they're bringing their Focuss line to the U.S., apparently through Lenscrafters to start with, where'll they'll be marketed as "CustomFocuss".

CustomFocuss uses a similar fluid-filled lens design, but the adjustments are in the temples instead of the bridge (I hope this doesn't mean the two lenses are adjusted separately, but not sure from their video). More important (to some anyway), Adlens figured out a way to accomplish this with a rectangular lens shape, allowing for a more conventional look than SF's Harry Potter style.

So far, so good. But Lenscrafters still offers no hint or when or where the product will be available, or even confirmation that they'll carry it at all. Fingers crossed, but in the meantime, the URL is:

Unknown said...

I heard from SuperFocus today: "Superfocus is transitioning to a different business model. As a result, the office is closed, production has been halted and no new orders are being accepted. Product shipped to the company is being returned to the sender. We plan to keep you advised as events unfold.


Dave Wood said...

I got this email today: "Superfocus is transitioning to a different business model. As a result, the office is closed, production has been halted and no new orders are being accepted. Product shipped to the company is being returned to the sender. We plan to keep you advised as events unfold."

Regarding Adlens and Lenscrafters, bear in mind that Lenscrafters is the service wheel of Luxottica, which owns approximately 80% of the worldwide market in eyewear. It is as close to a monopoly as you can get. They own essentially every brand you ever heard of, and the markups are enormous. I'm sure they won't roll out a Superfocus-like product if they feel it will eat into their gaudy profit margins.

Rakewell said...

I got the same email.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether to feel blessed or cursed that they folded up after I ordered but before I received my glasses. I am glad I found this blog so I at least have some clue what's (not) happening.

I followed the Lenscrafters lead from an earlier comment. Nothing shipping in the US yet, but I did determine that there's a knob on each temple piece in their design: "By using a discreetly positioned knurled knob in each endpiece of the frame, the wearer can adjust the power from near to distance and anywhere in between, creating a variable progressive powered lens." and they can be adjusted independently. Prices are expected to be comparable to the Superfocus prices. More waiting...

oracleif said...

I'm not sure why the LensCrafter/Luxottica relationship is relevant. LensCrafter obviously sells some non-Luxottica product, and AdLens announced last fall that they had reached an agreement with LensCrafters to make LC the exclusive retailer for CustomFocuss for the first half of 2014. The question is whether that story was true; if it is, speculation about LC's motivations are rather beside the point.

Andy Johnson said...

I was told my repaired glasses were on there way back to me. Unfortunately, it was just the lenses along with a note that they would be unable to repair the glasses and that production had been halted. I wonder if the lawyers are circling.

David Tartaglia said...

I am a disappointed former Superfocus customer, as well.

But I just visited the Adlens website and discovered several opticians in the USA already carry their product. Luckily, one is in Sarasota, FL, just 12 miles from my home.

Will visit tomorrow and report back.
Dave Tartaglia

Unknown said...

I talked to Adrian today and he confirmed that SF went bankrupt. There is nothing he could do to help me. Stated he felt bad about the way it has all gone down.

NSBD said...

Such sad news as I went to the site in preparation for a new Rx, which was barely functional, and so found your site and one of your links. Adlens is coming out soon, hope that works, but I just don't know what to think of this as I LOVED my Superfocus Bauhaus, and was on my second Rx, going for my third. Thanks for the reporting.

NSBD said...

I called a local Lenscrafters, they called back and Adlens will be there, said to call back in mid-April.

David Tartaglia said...

I looked at the Adlens product yesterday, Sadly, it is not a replacement for Superfocus.

Each lens must be adjusted separately by a large knob on either side of the frame. So it cannot be instantly adjusted for both eyes on the fly. It is designed to be used mostly for reading. It does not correct astigmatism and is not recommended for distance work, like driving.

NSBD said...

David, are you looking at the correct model of Adlens? The Superfocus competitor is "Focuss" and not yet priced on the web site.

"AdlensFocuss™ is your distance prescription combined with Variable Power Optics (VPO™) and a stylish frame. It’s a complete pair of custom made adjustable glasses, for distance, near and everything in between. All at the turn of a dial."

Rakewell said...

Here's a video about the Adlens Focuss. (Fun game: Count how many times the guy says "absolutely.")

NSBD said...

Rakewell: "(Fun game: Count how many times the guy says "absolutely.")

I think it is 11. Hope I win a free pair! :D

NSBD said...

Rakewell: (Fun game: Count how many times the guy says "absolutely.")

I think it is 11. Hope I win a free pair! :D

David Tartaglia said...

I was looking at the currently available models to see if one would work in place of the Superfocus, right now.

I guess I'll just have to wait for the new product. Sigh...

NSBD said...

Hey Dave,

Yeah.. those other models are not for people with progressives, and are not the same as Superfocus, that is the yet-to-come Focuss.

j said...

What were all of you missing in the SuperFocus. (well besides the fact they went bust...)

Given a new chance what would you have them improve in the product so that I has more commercial success the next time someone decides go for it?

Is it the aesthetics?
Is it the weight?
is it the reliability?
Is it the fact that you have to move the knob?
Is removing the need to move a knob important? For example: finding the distance to the things we are directing our gaze at and automatically adjusting the focus accordingly an important feature?

David Tartaglia said...

For me, reliability was the only drawback. The fluid lens ruptured three times in 14 months.

Otherwise, I was completely satisfied. Best vision I have had in many years. Using the focus wheel became automatic within days. I still find myself reaching to adjust the focus in my old fashioned trifocals.

Miriam said...

Some of the Superfocus dispensers listed on the web have Bauhaus/Corbu and Leonardo focusing mechanisms for sale.

I just bought one of each to make sure my SuperFocus glasses last as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

I bought the original slider superfocus glasses almost 2 years ago. They had the aforementioned slider and leakage problems along with surface coating scratches. I live 40 miles from the Van Nuys "factory" and made several visits there making sure they new me and that I was going to make sure they honored their guearantees on this expensive technology. They occupied about half the building and did the insert manufacturing there. After the 3rd pair I switched to the Leonardo and ordered 2 frames (1 clear lense and 1 gray sun lenses). 4 months went by after paying with a Capitol One card. I went by the factory after being told by Matt that they hsd been shipped. They were no where to be found and the offices were empty. About 10 days later I recieved The clear lenses and insert but not the sunglasses frame. I called and left messages to no avail so I called Caputol One and they took back all the $437 charged and put it back on my card for not fulfilling the "complete" order! The Leonardos are FANTASTIC!!! The wheel works perfect and is a much better design. If they want the money back someone will have to get in touch...all they have to do is make good on the written invoice.

NSBD said...

Adlens has a dedicated site up for the customfocuss:

Martha Krieg said...

Me, too! I dropped off a prescription at the optometrist's Friday (the lady who deals with SuperFocus wasn't in), and called back today. Sigh.
OTOH, I'm sure the repairs were eating their time, materials, and lunch. I also had a leaky lens, and one of the later pairs I got the screw dropped out of a templepiece in a couple of weeks. So what would I change?
1. Make the outer surface of the membranes a lot less easy to scratch. Probably tricky to do that and keep them flexible, but it is hard to keep them clean enough.
2. Revise the connection of the temple-piece to the hinge so an ordinary mortal can replace the screw. THEY even broke the pair where the screw fell out trying to replace it.
3. I had the slider kind, and liked the Harry Potter look - goes well with medieval clothes (seriously). The only things I couldn't use them for was driving where I had to simultaneously read a road map and drive on a city expressway, and do close work involving both hands (embroidery, chain mail) while watching TV.
4. The weight was something of an issue, but not nearly as much as the scratchable membrane.

Hope they can make it back!

Miriam said...

Focuss is here! But not very widely available: Available at some Lenscrafters stores. My local one (Stoneham, MA) is offering them for $599 (25% off), and they take a week or two to make. Good excuse to go on a vacation to get them.

NSBD said...

I have my appointment for Adlens Focuss this week. Yeah, I live in a test market!

Miriam said...

I went over to Lenscrafters today and took a look at the Focuss.

Unfortunately, they don't meet my needs for two reasons:

1. One of my eyes has a -6.25 cylinder. Their range is -6.00 through +3.50

2. The SuperFocus glasses that I have now have 16 different settings, and if I'm not mistaken, Focuss has just four. I know I use more than four settings.

They are a much sturdier design than SuperFocus, all sealed together.

Here's a photo of the specifications:

Miriam said...

Update from Adlens:

"CustomFocuss has three guide points in the dials that offer a "click." These are near, intermediate and distance. Additionally you can shift the dial all the way to the bottom for a "boost" of add power for more up close magnification. These "clicks" are merely suggested stopping points for that particular range. The dials physically stop with your indication, so you can stop that dial anywhere along the way. If you would like to quantify this into "settings" you can safely say that CustomFocuss has 50+ "settings." More importantly it covers your entire visual needs. The clicks are not a setting, but a guide. You can stop that dial wherever you wish, the demo models in the stores are designed to show the technology but the Rx is merely Plano with a +2.00."

Rakewell said...

Thanks for the updates, Miriam. I look forward to seeing those things when they're more widely available.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about CustomFocuss only covering -6.25 to +3.5, my eyes are -6.75 and -7.25.

I wonder if they'd make a 'no prescription' pair, so I could wear my contacts and use these as adjustable-power reading glasses.

For just reading, that would probably be a waste of money. But I work with computers and audio equipment, and am constantly struggling to keep near things in focus--switching rapidly among short distances, like from desk to screen, and between various patch panels within 1-3ft range. Something with a dial to quickly refocus would be a godsend to me, even without built-in prescription.

Miriam said...

Adlens already makes lots of inexpensive no-prescription options:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Miriam, that is a good suggestion. I could simply buy them and try them for ~$30.

I still think 0-prescription CustomFocuss (with contacts for my normal prescription) would be better. The cheap solutions use the 'Alvarez' sliding lens method, which has some disadvantages: narrow(er) field of view, weird blurriness on the edges, two separate knobs to adjust each eye separately, not very attractive to look at, etc.

I wouldn't mind paying more to avoid those problems, and solve my need for rapid refocusing at close distances--even if i'd have to wear contacts AND glasses to achieve it.

I was initially drawn to the CustomFocuss product because of its similarity to the defunct Superfocus technology--deformable lenses using a single control, with a field of view similar to regular prescription glasses.

NSBD said...

The Focuss seem to have separate knobs for each lens, though with three "click-points" for near, intermediate and distance. You can, however, set them anywhere in-between and they have a "super-close" where you can temporarily turn the dials in extra close. It will remain to be seen how well having separate dials actually works in everyday use.

Anonymous said...

NSBD, it looks like you you're probably right--there does appear to be a control on each stem, near the hinge. They do not have any photos that explicitly show both controls, but there are close-in 3/4 shots of a control on the LEFT stem, while in the video and still shots, the guy is clearly reaching for the control on the RIGHT stem.

Darn! I guess I assumed these would be more like the SF 'Leonardo' design, with an inner frame that adjusts both the left and right deformable lenses equally at the same time.

Separate controls, while better than nothing, would suck because not only must you make two adjustments, you have to do each with the opposite eye closed, or ignore it somehow--that's probably going to be a dealbreaker for me.

My goal is to be able RAPIDLY refocus between different near distances (handheld & desktop printed materials, phone, tablet, computer screen), and between near and far distances. As of 3 years ago I could do this effortlessly with my normal corrective glasses or contacts (I'm pretty nearsighted). But I guess presbyopia is setting in fast and it is getting noticeably harder to do this.

Separate controls would make the refocusing process longer and even MORE cumbersome than simply swapping between normal and reading glasses. Looks like SuperFocuse had the better idea--too bad they're gone.

Miriam said...

Alas, my prescription is out of range for Focuss. Someone else will have to buy a pair and report back to us.

Larry said...

Michael, one ought not to post the home/residential address of an individual.

Anonymous said...

I really should stop reading blogs at 3:00am. The comments are interesting and so I continue to read long after I found the answer I was looking for. As I approach the end of the comments, I see the name Miriam. I'm in awe! How did the "blog" know my name??? Time to shut down for today. Thank you for the nice read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Miriam said...

Unfortunately this Adlens Customfocuss release does not include a wider power range. If anyone would like to sell me a SuperFocus Leonardo focusing mechanism, please get in touch.

Miriam said...

I asked if they could make a 0-prescription pair, and here's the response: "There are no current plans to sell a 0-Power AdlensFocuss, but as we constantly evolve the technology and product we will keep our customers updated."