Julbo Ultra Review

by Brian Mullin on July 27, 2011

The Julbo Ultra is an impressive pair of sunglasses, being comfortable, fog free, durable, scratch resistant, and offer superb optical clarity, with great varying light capabilities from their photochromic properties. Julbo stepped up the ante this year and lightened the photochromic protection category of this lens, so they are more useful in wooded areas, during inclement weather, and evening usage. In the many months of use, they have been through every weather condition possible, snow, hail and rain, and have withstood heinous terrain and my full abuse, and they have performed flawlessly, and they are my go to sunglasses.

Julbo Ultra
The Julbo Ultra uses the atypical performance oriented thin frames, though the sides are slightly wider than most, and the suspended lens hangs and floats freely from the tacky nose piece section, offering excellent field of vision and fit. The hinged wraparound frames have a nice sculptured curve, and are quite flexible, for better fit and comfort, and hold during athletic movement, and the stem ends are soft and pliable for ease of installation. It uses the Zebra Light lens, which is made from the near indestructible NXT, and offers anti-fogging, impact resistance and light-sensitive photochromic features. The Ultra comes in two colors, Red and White, and Black, and includes a nice zippered soft case to carry, and protect them.

Measured Specs

  • Weight: 31.3 grams (1.1 ounces)
  • Lens size: 75mm x 45mm ( 3 x 1 3/4 inches)
  • Arm Length: 120mm ( 4 3/4 inches)
  • Frame Width: outer 150mm ( 6 inches) inner 140mm ( 5 1/2 inches)
  • Frame Length: 170mm (6 3/4 inches)

Zebra Light Photochromic Lens
The Ultra use’s Julbo’s new Zebra Light photochromic lens made from the unbreakable, lightweight and very transparent NXT lenses. They quickly darken with a light brownish tint or lighten with a yellow tint depending on light intensity, and have an anti-fog coating that has been laser etched into them, and an outer hydrophobic coating for water removal and marking prevention. They adapt to varying light conditions from Category 1 (16% visible light coverage) in low-light conditions to Category 3 (80 % visible light coverage) in powerful light in as little as 30 seconds (not measured).

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
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 it adds additional spaciousness. I 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 lens is attached at the nose section, and for a short distance along the inner frame, so the pliable lens is free to float. This feature gives the frame additional flexibility, which increases comfort, and allows some give to the system when moving about on the bike, and when your head is bumping and oscillating around.

The curve and shape of the frame, along with the rubbery nose piece and stem ends, and the floating lens, keeps the sunglasses stuck to your head no matter how rough the terrain becomes. They are quite comfortable, with a nice fit and feel, greatly aided by the flexible frame and floating lens, though I wish the stem or arm ends had some padding, since they can sometimes dig into your ears on long rides. Although the frame is very pliable and confirms to your head, there is no ability to adjust the frames, and they 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 Light photochromic lenses, and the new protection category 1 to 3 coverage is superb, especially if you frequent wooded areas or like to do late day and evening rides. The category 1 to 3 means the lens has a 16-80% visible light transmission, and the tint changes from yellow for low light to light brownish for brighter conditions, both of which I enjoyed, offering exceptional clarity and depth of field. In extremely bright conditions, they aren’t dark to provide adequate protection, but that is pushing the design limitations of the lens.

The lens have a anti-fog coating that works amazingly well, and they stayed clear in almost any marginal condition that I tossed them into, like dense fog, heavy rain, snow and steam room humidity, as well as my own perfuse sweating.

Bottom Line
The Julbo Ultra is a superb pair of sunglasses, and have exceptional clarity and spaciousness, and the flexible frame and suspended free floating lens, offer maximum comfort and resiliency while moving. The lenses’ photochromic capabilities are great in varying conditions, and the new protection category 1 to 3 coverage is stupendous, 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 Ultra is expensive (like a lot of the competition), and do not offer any method of adjustment (most don’t), and the ear piece needs some padding.

The Julbo Ultra is my go-to sunglasses, with amazing scratch resistance, excellent comfort and superb clarity, and the new lighter category photochromic protection makes them extremely useful for evening and wooded rides.

Strengths

  • Photochromic – the lighter category 1 to 3 is ideal
  • Scratch resistant
  • Comfortable – flexible frame and floating lens
  • Superb Clarity
  • Anti-Fog coating

Weaknesses

  • Frames not adjustable
  • Expensive
  • Frame ear piece needs padding

MSRP: $180

Ultra models:

Ultra – 4293011
Frame Color – White/Red
Lens – Yellow-Brown Tint Cat. 1-3
$180.00 / Item #4293011

Ultra – 4293014
Frame Color – Black
Lens – Yellow-Brown Tint Cat. 1-3
$180.00 / Item #4293014

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