If you follow the eye-care sector long enough, you begin to appreciate why Alcon (NYSE:ACL) generally carries a premium valuation. Considering the problems and/or operating issues at rivals Cooper (NYSE:COO), Bausch & Lomb (NYSE:BOL), and AdvancedMedical Optics (NYSE:EYE) and the fact that eye care isn't a primary focus at Novartis (NYSE:NVS), Alcon gets that "best of breed" premium.

That doesn't necessarily mean investors should just close their eyes to Advanced Medical Optics, though.

It would be easier to write a bullish column on AMO if the second quarter had been especially strong, but that's not quite the case. Though reported revenue was up about 13%, pro forma revenue would have been down slightly. Margins, though, were a little better on an adjusted basis, and there was decent operating-income growth on that same basis. Of course, sticklers on earnings quality may not be so willing to make those positive adjustments, so the operating leverage isn't necessarily going to look equally strong to all investors' eyes.

Unfortunately, there wasn't obvious strength in any of the three major business segments. Intraocular lens growth was OK, but not great -- the company is more or less holding its own against the likes of Alcon -- but growth in the multifocal intraocular lens (IOL) market seems to be coming along a little slowly. By the same token, AMO continues to actively train physicians on how to implant the ReZoom IOL, so there's still reason to believe in future growth.

In the eye-care business, overall sales growth didn't look so good because of issues in Japan and the impact of discontinued products, but underlying sales of multipurpose solutions in the U.S. are nevertheless getting a boost from the problems at Bausch & Lomb. On the laser vision correction side, total procedure volume isn't particularly encouraging, down about 1%, but higher-value procedures are helping the results.

If Alcon were a better value, it'd be easy to suggest forgetting about turnaround stories like AMO and Cooper and just go with the best. But since Alcon isn't a particularly compelling value, I think there's at least a case for considering AMO. So long as the company continues to improve operating margins and build up the potential of the ReZoom lens, better days could still lie ahead.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).