Smith Goggle Lens Guide

Smith Goggle Lens Guide

Smith Goggle Lenses, Blister Gear ReviewProduct: Smith I/O Goggle Lenses

  • Clear
  • Gold Sensor Mirror
  • Sensor Mirror
  • Red Sensor Mirror
  • RC36
  • Ignitor Mirror
  • Polarized Rose Copper
  • Platinum Mirror
  • Photochromic Red Sensor
  • Red Sol-X Mirror
  • Green Sol-X Mirror
  • Blackout
  • Gold Sol-X Mirror

MSRP: $25–100

Having multiple lenses at your disposal is crucial if you’re serious about shredding hard in all conditions, from whiteout to bluebird, or you just want to be as safe and prepared as possible on the mountain.

And given the number of goggles on the market designed to make swapping out lenses super easy, the number of lenses to choose from is growing. So what are your options, and what should you be looking for as you think about buying a new pair of goggles or another spare lens?

To begin to answer those questions, we’ve worked up a “cheat sheet” of the lenses offered by Smith Optics, and we are working up similar guides for other companies in the interchangeable lens game.

Different brands have different approaches to lens technology, but with almost 50 years of experience in making snow goggles, Smith is among the best in the industry.  The interchangeability of the Smith I/O line allows a rider to bring a few specific lenses while riding and change them throughout the day as light conditions change.

Before getting into the lenses in Smith’s line, here is a brief rundown of how the tint and opacity of lenses is usually designated in the industry.

Any decent lens will block all ultraviolet (UV) light, but what differentiates lenses is their transmission of visual light. The Visible Light Transmission (VLT) measures the percent of the visual spectrum (wavelengths from 390-700 nanometers) that reaches the eye through a lens. The lower the VLT percentage, the darker the lens and the better suited it is for brighter, sunny conditions. With any given lens, a manufacturer (Smith included) will label it with a VLT value.

Visible Light Transmission, Blister Gear Review

Different tints and mirrors alter the VLT of a lens, making it darker or lighter. A new class of lenses, termed “photochromic,” are made with photosensitive chemical compounds in the lens that actively change the lens’ tint based on exposure to UV light. This technology has the potential to change the game in snow goggles, but for now, it can’t compete with the level of versatility that two different lenses can offer. (See Will Brown’s analysis of Smith’s Photochromic Red Sensor later in this review.)

While VLT is the standard way for brands to rate how light or dark a lens is, over the years, we’ve found that VLT numbers don’t tell the whole story about how a lens performs. Combinations of different base tints and mirror coatings can make the contrast and color transmission of one lens different from another, though the two may have the same VLT rating. Looking at the VLT rating and manufacturers description alone, it can be hard to know which lens you’ll prefer. This guide ought to give you a better sense of how these lenses perform, how they differ, and which ones may work best for you.



  1. For the past 25 years I’ve used either Smith’s Gold-lite or RC36 lenses in all conditions, without issue. One lens does it all, and lasts for years. The few times that I’ve tried to use any of Smith’s mirrored lenses I experienced distracting reflections – drops of moisture on the lens or the most minor of scratches created obvious distorted visual effects, and I concluded that mirrored lenses were just a gimmick and not for me. Am I just unusually sensitive, or have the mirrored lenses improved (it’s been at least 5 years since I gave up on them) to the point where this isn’t an issue?

    • Hey Stewart,

      Your concerns are definitely valid. Mirror coatings on lenses make scratches much more prominent than on a lens like the RC36. However, some mirrored lenses (in my opinion) allow for much higher optical clarity and contrast, and the anti-scratch technologies have almost certainly improved in the past 5 years. If you were wearing stamped lenses (rather than spherical) the mirror coating would have definitely been less durable than in a spherical lens, and caused much more distortion as well. I think you should try out the Sensor and/or Ignitor, they’re both all around lenses and I think you’ll be pleased with the Ignitor’s performance as compared to the RC36 in sunny conditions.


  2. Thanks for the excellent review. I bought the green sol x and the sensor mirror. Is there one lenses I between that would be best for typical spring day with snow then sun then then snow then sun…?

    • Hey Randy,

      The Ignitor, RC36, and the Photochromic Red Sensor would all be up to the task. If I were you, I’d go with the Photochromic Red Sensor- its technology makes it the most versatile among Smith’s mid-light selection.


  3. I don’t see the Sensor Mirror on Smith’s Website? Is that something they have renamed? I was looking for a low/flat/storm lens for my new I/Os – I’m giving up my Oakley A-Frame High Intensity Yellow after may years :)

  4. Jed,

    Awesome – and thanks so much for this great review, I really found it very helpful.


  5. Questions on the Photochromic Red Sensor:

    Do you have a feel for how quickly they lighten up?
    I am fine if they are relatively low tint in a slot of bright light/snow while skiing, but the opposite is not true. I would hate not to see something important if I ended up in the shadow of a cliff or some trees.

    Any thoughts? Thanks.

    • Hey Nick,

      If you’ve been riding in really l bright light and then move into a shadow, the lens isn’t going to lighten up in a matter of seconds. However, the VLT range is narrow enough that the lens at its darkest doesn’t make going into shadows momentarily too dangerous. In other words, it’s not going to get too dark in the sun in the first place to make seeing in localized shadows extremely difficult.

      The lens doesn’t change too suddenly, certainly not instantaneously. In fact it’s hard to discern it changing, but easy to notice once it has changed. For example, I notice that I’m able to see quite well on the shadowed out front side of Taos (late in the afternoon when most of the mountain is in shadow) with the same lens that was doing great in super bright light earlier that morning. It ultimately adjusts to much broader, ambient light changes from morning sun to the cooler, lower afternoon light, not so much moment-to-moment changes from a sunny spot into shadow.

      Hope this helps give you a better sense of how the lens performs.


  6. Hi,

    found this guide really useful!

    i bought the virtue goggles and they came with the green sol-x lens, which hopefully i will use but i wanted something more for lower-light, but the only options to buy in uk are the ignitor and rc36 (going to Val Thorens in less than 2 weeks didn’t want to risk international shipping) could you give anymore detail on what would be a good option? i’m kind of leaning towards the ignitor if it’s very versatile?


  7. Mist,

    If you’re going for something for low light, those are going to be pretty similar. their VLT values are pretty close, but if I had to choose one to have with the green sol-x, I’d probably go with the RC36. by a hair, I would prefer the rc36 in low light conditions, and the mirrored igniter is probably more versatile. hope this helps.


  8. Hi,

    I am a beginner snowboarder and don’t go very often and I want to buy a goggle that I can use all the time (I won’t go snowboarding on really bad days). I’m deciding between the ignitor and the red sesor, which one is more suitable? Does it make a difference is I have astigmatism?


    • Denise,

      I’d go with the Ignitor, it’s the best all-around lens I’ve ever had. I can’t speak on how each one will perform with your astigmatism, but I don’t think one will be better than the other. I have mild astigmatism in my left eye and both lenses work great for me.


  9. This was a great help. I am going from Smith Fuse goggles with gold sensor/Ignitor lenses to I/O with Blue sensor/Red Sol-X. Even more pleased with my choice now. Before the Ignitor could be a bit light on super bright days. The gold sensor was good in low light/foggy/snowy conditions but if it did brighten up some I would get headaches quick. Seems the blue sensor could help avoid some of that till I can (quickly now) swap out lenses.

  10. Hi,

    thanks for another best review on the internet.
    My resort has 2 sides. North one is in shadow for almost all winter long. Which lenses is best for bluebird days in huge shadow? I´m considering Ignitor Mirror. I have red sol-x mirror for sunny days on the south side and blue sensor for cloudy or stormy days.



    • Martin,

      I think the Ignitor does very well in shadows and in bright sumlight. I think you’ll really like its versatility.


  11. Hi guys, great review. Im looking at the dr bob goggles which come with the yellow lens and the Ignitor lens. Have you guys got any experience of the Yellow lens? Would that combo cover me for most conditions?

    • Tom,

      Unfortunately Yellow is the one lens in Smith’s I/O line that I don’t have any experience with. However, I’m pretty confident from what I’ve heard from riders that swear by it that it’s a capable low-light and storm day lens that you wouldn’t want if the sun was out. Pairing that with the ignitor (or even one of the Sol-x options if you want better bright-sun performance) should be a great combination.


      • Thanks Jed, that’s very helpful.

        My other lens combo option here is for the blackout + red sensor mirror – but i’m worried that wouldn’t give me much mid condition coverage – do you have an opinion on that vs yellow+ignitor?



    • Tom,

      Blackout and Red Sensor is another good option. It depends a lot on what light conditions you’re dealing with normally. Ignitor/Yellow will be solid in low and mid light conditions, but some people prefer a darker lens than the ignitor for bright sun. With the blackout/red sensor combo you’ll be happier in bright light, and solid in low/flat light. I personally am fine with the red sensor when the sun is out but areas are shaded out, but I can see why you would be concerned about missing the ignitor for mid-range versatility. So basically, the red sensor is more versatile than the yellow, the ignitor is more versatile than the blackout, but having a more specialized lens isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You won’t go wrong with either option.


  12. I am looking to purchase the Smith I/o goggle and I’m looking at two goggle choices….either the red sol x with the red sensor…..or the platinum mirror with the red sensor???? I guess the decision really comes down to the platinum mirror vs the red sol x mirror because the red sensor is in both.
    Do you have thoughts or opinions?? I do like the mirrored look.

    • Hey Gary, the Red Sol-x and Platinum mirror are both great sunny-day lenses. The red Sol-x will be better in bright, full-sun conditions, and the Platinum will be more versatile. The Blue sensor is the same as the Sensor listed in this review.


  13. I see there is also a Blue Sensor lens on the site. Have you tried it? Thoughts?

  14. Thanks, this guide is well written and very helpful but how do you tell the different lenses apart? Is there any marking on them? I have two pair of these, the first pair was red sensor mirror and platinum mirror. The second set came with black out and red sensor mirror except it wasn’t a red sensor mirror. Having a tough time figuring out what lens it is. It’s very close to the platinum mirror and now I’m not even sure which one is the platinum lens. I also have the photocromic red sensor which at least has the word photo on the lens. Any suggestions. Thanks David

  15. David,

    The Platinum Mirror will have a slightly more reddish tint than the Ignitor. If you still have questions about which one it is, go to a local shop and compare yours with one off the shelf. Hope this helps.


  16. I found this guide to be super helpful! As a relatively new snowboarder, I am finding that lens tint matters waaaay more than I ever thought. I have Oakley’s with the persimmon lens, but am looking for something a little bit better. Some people say the persimmon’s are the best all around lens for Oakley, but I feel like it doesn’t work amazingly in low light and is pretty good in brighter light. Which Smith lens would you recommend as the best all-around lens? I was thinking green sol-x or red sensor. Just curious as to your thoughts. Sorry if you’ve been asked this millions of times!

    • Abby,

      Glad you found the review helpful. Given what you said about the Oakley persimmon, I’d go with the Red Sensor. If you want something more comfortable on sunny days but still capable in low light, the ignitor is another good option.


      • Thanks so much Jed! I think I made the right choice by ordering an I/OS with the Red Sensor Mirror and the Blackout lens. It was the darkest one I could find here in Europe. I heard some people Post-lasik rave about the Smith Green Sol-X Lens but I can’t order it from here.

  17. I have very sensitive eyes after lasik surgery and I am confused about what I should buy. I also have light blue eyes so I need strong protection. These days on very bright sunny days my eyes become red and itchy (even when wearing dark sun glasses) and I get headaches easily. I am afraid it will be much worse on the ski slopes. Any suggestions for `goggles that would meet my needs? I would need something for bright sunny days and also days that are more cloudy.

    • Chantal,

      It definitely sounds like you need a goggle with interchangeable lenses like the I/O for your eye sensitivity. To avoid headaches (if they’re coming from light sensitivity), I’d go with Smith’s darkest lens, the Gold Sol-X, for sunny days (or another lens with a very low VLT, see page 4 of the review). You’ll lose some versatility when riding in lower light or shadows, but that may be a small price to pay if it helps ablate your headaches and itchy eyes. For a lower light lens, to be used on storm days, try the Red Sensor. Because light can change quickly and your eyes depend on it, it’s pretty essential that you have two lenses that are easy to change quickly. Hope this helps, and good luck with your recovery from surgery.


  18. I got the red sensor mirror and platinum mirror w the goggles on sale. Wore the red sensor for a long weekend in varied conditions and found the bright times of day to cause my eyes to fatigue. I also found it quite hard to see when it was cloudy or stormy. At deer valley, the weather changes peak to peak. How would you suggest utilizing these lenses? Is the platinum mirror more versatile? I do not often change lenses intraday. Thanks

    • David,

      I would definitely recommend bringing your extra lens with you on the hill and swapping it on the lift as needed. try to find a pocket that allows you to match the curvature of the lens to your leg or abdomen- I put it in my front pocket and hardly notice it. I think changing lenses intraday will help solve your problem, but if you don’t want to do that I’d err on the darker side if you’re not sure how the light will be and are concerned about eye strain.


  19. Hi and thanks for a really good article. I have been looking at both the Zeal Slate goggle and the Smith IO which seems to be getting the best reviews and in particular with regards to anti fogging which is important to me as I tend to steam up. Cost difference is negligible so I guess the Smith IO is the better goggle to go for. The options for lens combinations I am considering are the Green Sol-X with the Red Sensor or Blackout with the Red Sensor. My thoughts from reading the article are that you would probably go for the first combination but please can you confirm. I currently have an old pair of Oakleys with a light yellow lens that are good in low light but leave me squinting in bright light although I have managed to live with them like that to date. Thanks for your help.

    • Richard,

      Green Sol-x and Red Sensor would be a great combination, I’d probably go for that over the blackout just based on my personal preference. However, blackout is my next favorite high-light lens, so i don’t think you can really go wrong. As for the frames, that’s all personal preference; but for what’s it’s worth that trilab colorway is definitely my favorite.


      • Hi Jed

        Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately I have just noticed that the Trilab strap has Camp Vibes which is probably not the message I want to be giving out on the slopes. Guess it might only relate to tents etc in the States but also has a slightly different meaning in the UK.


        • Hi Jed

          After not liking the strap on the Trilab I am now looking at the Bobby Digital with Green Sol-X and Red Sensor or the Kelly Blockhead with either the same lenses or with Ignitor and Blue Sensor. Which combo would you go for?


  20. Continuing from the previous post I am quite liking the Trilaboration, mud green frame, camo strap and that only comes with the Blackout and Red Sensor lenses. Fashion over performance maybe …….. Thoughts please.

  21. thanks so much for taking the time to make this post. i was tickled to read through the reviews, @ the end to hear “it handles Mt Hood sun,” as I’m moving to Portland and buying new goggles with the hope I get to ski a ton @ MHM!! assuming I only want to buy 2 lenses out of the gate, should I opt for the green sol x + red sensor option, or the blue sensor mirror + ignitor?

    • Hey Jeremy,

      I’d definitely go with the Green Sol-X/Red Sensor pair for shredding MHM (which you should be stoked to ride, it’s one of my favorite resorts and gets really fun with wind lips and jibs in the spring). While I’d prefer the blue sensor over the red sensor for contrast in the mostly treeless Mt. Hood Meadows during flat-light conditions, the Green Sol-X will be better on sunny days and will be fine into late May when MHM usually closes. I think the level of sun in spring/summer will be better suited for the Green Sol-X than the Ignitor. Hope this helps.


      • Thanks Jed, much appreciated. I certainly am stoked to call MHM home and have access to day trip skiing. I currently live in Chicago and make it out west just one week a year. So MHM gets alot of sun? I assumed being PNW it would be cloudy + stormy more than anything else. Again thank you for taking time to share your expertise and POV. Shred on!

  22. if I have the I/OX with Blackout lens and the red sensor, what lens would you suggest for the mid light. and would you suggest also picking up a green Solex. Ski in Colorado

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