Not all mirrors are created equal. Domes and convex mirrors, for example, have different shapes, different properties and are used for different purposes.

Domes can be either metalized — making them reflective — or clear. Metalized domes offer a wider field of view, but produce a smaller image size than convex mirrors. Convex mirrors offer a narrower field of view, but produce a larger image size. Domes are usually fairly close to hemispherical and are round at the base. Convex mirrors are still domed, but are much more shallow — more like a dish than a hemisphere. Convex mirrors are often round as well, but other shapes including rectangles are popular in certain applications.

Applications for Metalized Domes

The wide field of view produced by metalized domes make them a common choice for hospital hallways near elevators. To avoid collisions of people hurriedly pushing wheelchairs, gurneys or equipment, metalized domes allow patients and staff to see both left and right down a hallway simultaneously.

Applications for Non-Metalized Domes

Commonly found in playground equipment, non-reflective transparent plastic domes prevent children from falling out of the playground, yet allow children to see out while letting parents see in. For safety-minded manufacturers of child-play equipment, these domes are often chosen for their ability to withstand both the elements for outdoor use, as well as the wear and tear of heavy traffic.

Applications for Convex Mirrors

Much shallower than mirror domes (about 75 mm for a mirror that is one meter in diameter), convex mirrors are often found in retail stores, parking garages, and on roadways. A convex mirror produces a narrower, but sufficient field of view. The image size, however, is much larger on a convex than a dome, permitting the user to see the reflected image from much longer viewing distances. This would allow a single clerk working in a store to clearly and easily watch people in the aisles as they shopped. The enlarged images produced by convex mirrors make them a favorite for the narrow and winding roadways of Europe.

Domes and convex mirrors serve different purposes for different industries. Once a customer determines the purpose that the product will serve, the manufacturer should be able to advise as to whether they need a dome, a convex mirror or something else altogether.