Julbo Contest Review

by Brian Mullin on December 24, 2010

The Julbo Contest is a pretty amazing pair of sunglasses. They are comfortable, fog free, durable, scratch resistant, and offer excellent wind protection, great varying light capabilities and superb optical clarity. During my six months of use while mountain biking, they have become my loyal companion, and have been in hideous rain and wind storms, suffered ill treatment, and have dealt with every light and temperature and terrain condition possible. Throughout all these situations and environments, they have continued to hold true to all of their excellent features and functions.

Julbo History

Julbo was founded in 1888 by Jules Baud in a little town close to Morez France, which resides in the Jura Mountains. The company has 70 employees, and is wholly owned by the Baud family, and is currently run by the brothers Christophe and Matthew. They originally started out making optical (corrective) lenses, but they evolved into sunglasses and action sports wear. In 1950 Julbo was the first company to produce true mountaineering glasses (the Vermont Round), so they have a rich history in high altitude optics.

Julbo Contest

The Julbo Contest uses a Lifestyle frame type, being more stylish and sporty. Instead of the atypical skinny frame, it utilizes a wide section by the hinge and temple, which offers additional side protection from sunlight and wind. The hinged wraparound frames have a nice sculptured curve, and has soft rubber shock absorbing material for the nose and ears, offering grip while doing athletic movement. I tested the Zebra lens version of the Contest, which is made from the near indestructible NXT, and offers anti-fogging, impact resistance and light-sensitive Photochromic features. The Contest comes in several versions and colors, the Zebra (NXT, Photochromic 2-4, Antifog) in White and Black, and Interchangeable X3 (Spectron 3+, Spectron 1, Spectron 0) in Black, and they all come with a nice zippered soft case to carry, and protect them.

Measured Specs

  • Weight: 38.2 grams ( 1.35 ounces)
  • Lens size: 41 mm x 67 mm ( 1 5/8 x 2 5/8 inches)
  • Arm Length: 71 mm ( 4 3/4 inches)
  • Frame Width: 140 outer mm ( 5 1/2 inches) inner 130mm mm ( 5 1/8 inches)

Zebra Photochromic Len

The Contest use’s Julbo’s Zebra photochromic lens made from the unbreakable, lightweight and very transparent NXT lenses. They quickly darken with a light brownish tint or lighten with an amber tint depending on light intensity, and have an anti-fog coating that has been laser etched into them. Per Julbo fodder “adapts to varying light conditions from Category 2 (59-percent visible light coverage) in low light conditions to Category 4 (95-percent visible light coverage) in powerful light in as little as 30 seconds”.

NXT Lens

The NXT polymer technology was born of the successful efforts to develop advanced transparent armor for U.S. Army helicopters. Commercial applications for this new polymer material led to the production of lenses and shields for sunglasses and sport eye wear. The NXT lens is manufactured by pouring resin into a low-temperature glass molds. This reduces the tension in the material and gives better optical quality, excellent transparency and improved long-term stability. The NXT lens meets the ANSI Z87.1 standard for industrial application impacts, meaning it must withstand a pointed 17.6 ounce projectile dropped from a height of 50 inches, and 1/4 inch steel ball traveling at 150 ft/sec! I did not test either compliance, but I am glad it can take a wallop. Julbo lenses offer 100% protection against sunlight UV types, which include UVA’s, UVB’s, and UVC’s.

For some in-depth fodder on Sun and Eyes, refer to Sun/Sunshine 101 and Eyes 101 for further information.

Impressions

One of the outstanding features of the Contest, is the full coverage they offer, giving good field of vision, aerodynamics and excellent wind coverage. I dislike eyewear that makes your eye water when you go ride into a strong headwind, or when you start to boogie going downhill. The Contest offers incredible wind protection, almost like wearing a pair of goggles. I think the wind protection is due to the large lenses, wrap around frames, which act like side shields, and that they sit close (but not to close) to your face.

Another pet peeves of mine, is lenses that fog up on you, like when you go into a dense section of trees that might be humid, after a rainstorm, or when you start sweating, and then pop into a cold spot on the trail. The Contest rarely seemed to fog on me in any of the adverse conditions that I dumped them into, so the anti-fog coating works amazingly well.

The side sun coverage that the frame offers are quite nice, and cuts down on eye fatigue and scattered light entry, and the frame and lens curve around enough that the sides don’t interfere with your peripheral vision. I always like sunglasses that have suspended lenses, as it gives better panoramic vision, without any distracting frame in your lower vision, giving an uninterrupted viewpoint.

The curve and shape of the frame, along with rubbery shock absorbing nose and ear coverings, keep the sunglasses stuck to my head no matter how rough the terrain tossed at me. Sometimes the width at the temples can make it interfere with helmet straps, though it’s a minor annoyance, and the frame bows out a bit much for a fitting properly within a full faced helmet.

They have been comfortable, with a nice fit and feel, though I wish the rubbery temple section was a tad softer, since they can sometimes dig into your ear ever so slightly. There is no ability to adjust the frames, since they’re not pliable (stiff), and lack any additional features for fine tuning.

Thanks to the durable NXT, the lenses have been bombproof, and I have gotten no scratches, which is pretty amazing, since I always seem to do that with any eyewear, even the ones that are supposed to be unscratchable (marketing hyperbole). I have repeatedly dropped them, abraded them (accidentally) and have not been nice, and I have yet to scratch them.

They offer excellent varying light capabilities due to the Zebra photochromic lenses, and the amber tint has been especially nice on the cloudy and foggy days. Sometimes buzzing in and out of trees in the bright afternoon sunlight the lens did not change fast enough for those conditions, but it is a very minor issue. I usually ride in places in which I am going in and out of the shade, into wooded areas, and I also ride a lot in the late afternoon, so I appreciated the photochromic lens. They are slightly dark at dusk, but that is really pushing the limits of its design specifications.

The lenses have phenomenal optical quality, and they’re a distortion free with a high degree of clarity. The lenses are large and curved enough for a nice panoramic field of view, and being suspended adds additional spaciousness.

Bottom Line
I love the Julbo Contest sunglasses, as they are comfortable, stay put, have exceptional clarity, and offer excellent wind and side sun protection. The lenses’ photochromic capabilities are great in varying conditions, while the anti-fog actually works in real world conditions. The durable, scratch and impact resistant NXT material is pretty amazing, and offers outstanding safety. The Contest is expensive (like a lot of the competition), and the frames are a bit stiff, and do not offer any method of adjustment, and the temple’s padding needs to be softer.

The Contest is my new benchmark for sunglasses, with amazing scratch resistance, excellent coverage and superb clarity. They have become my default biking sunglasses.

Strengths
-Photochromic
-Scratch resistant
-Side sun protection
-Excellent wind protection
-Comfortable
-Superb Clarity
-Anti-Fog coating

Weaknesses
-Frames not adjustable
-Stiff frames
-Expensive
-Work poorly with full face helmet
-Temple’s padding needs to be softer

Contest models:

Contest – 386311
Frame Color: White
Lens: Zebra Antifog
MSRP: $160.00

Contest – 386314
Frame Color: Black
Lens: Zebra Antifog
MSRP: $160.00

Contest – 386014
Frame Color: Matt Black
Lens: 3 Lens Set
MSRP: $130.00

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 31, 2010 at 1:22 am

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet January 2, 2011 at 6:22 am

Thanks!

Reply

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