Oakley Sutro Lite Photochromic review
Stylish retro frames paired with all-weather lensesGBP £172.00 RRP | USD $214.00 | EUR €200.00 | AUD $279.00 Skip to view deals
The Oakley Sutro Lite sunglasses are a half-frame version of the oversized Sutro.
Their profile is smaller on the face than the Sutro, but you get similar retro-style looks, plus the ability to fit replacement lenses.
Here, though, that’s something you may not need thanks to the use of photochromic lenses, which adapt to ambient light levels.
I’ve found them to be impressive performers through the back end of winter and into early summer. Although not without flaws, they offer very good eye protection for everything aside from the brightest sunny days.
Oakley Sutro Lite Photochromic details and specifications
The Sutro Lites on test here have photochromic lenses, which change tint depending on the conditions you’re riding in.
As ambient light conditions become brighter, the additional photochromic lens layer becomes darker.
These lenses darken to allow as little as 23 per cent light transmission, but can ‘open up’ to let through 69 per cent when it’s dark.
If you don’t want photochromic lenses, Oakley says the following Prizm lenses (Oakley’s standard single-tint lenses) are also available:
- Prizm Road: 20 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Road Jade: 15 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Trail Torch: 35 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Black: 11 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Sapphire: 12 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Snow Sapphire: 13 per cent light transmission
- Prizm 24k: 11 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Ruby: 7 per cent light transmission
- Prizm Dark Golf: 22 per cent light transmission
The non-photochromic version of the glasses costs £152/$194/€170/AU$239 and is available with black, white, carbon (colour) and navy blue frames, as prescribed by Oakley.
The photochromic lens option adds £20/$20/€30/AU$40 to the cost, and can be had with a carbon or white frame.
Oakley also sells replacement Prizm lenses at £73/$85/€80/AU$110 apiece, so theoretically you could buy a second lens (instead of a second pair) and switch them over as the seasons change to save a little cash.
The nose piece is anchored in place by a metal strip that fits into the frame. This isn’t adjustable, but sat quite high on the bridge of my nose (and therefore close to my face) without the bottom edge of the lenses coming into contact with my cheeks.
The arms are partially sprung, almost snapping into place when you fully open them.
An integrated, lightly rubberised grip on their inner face helps them adhere to your head.
The Sutro Lite weighs 33g.
Oakley Sutro Lite Photochromic performance
Overall, I’ve been very impressed by the Oakley Sutro Lites.
In response to brands such as 100%, Oakley has been going through a ‘shock and awe’ design phase in recent years, which arguably began with the Jawbreaker.
Although the retro styling may polarise opinion, when you wear the Sutro Lite with a helmet, it appears a little less ostentatious. No doubt, this is helped by the fact there isn’t a glaring reflective lens colour in the mix.
The arms wrap around my medium-sized head with good grip, and the rubberised section is just enough to increase grip without feeling overly tacky (for example, when I’ve just had a short back-and-sides).
In my view, they’re a definite improvement over rubbery arm socks of old that could break down with exposure to sunlight, heat and sweat.
That might still happen here over a longer period of time, but these would appear to be far more resilient.
I found the nose piece just visible on the bridge of the nose, although it was less intrusive than the one on the Oakley Kato. The central silver strut is too central and close to the head to be seen when riding, which is good.
The upper part of the frame is positioned so it merges with where my eyebrows are – in effect, it’s also hidden from view.
The only time I noticed it was when testing the Kask Utopia Y helmet, which has a prominent brow that caused a small amount of contact over rougher surfaces.
This is a helpful reminder that it’s always worth trying on any pair of cycling sunglasses with the helmet you intend to use them with.
Photochromic lens performance
The photochromic lens is worth the extra cost if you need a lens for year-round use.
Although you may covet shoutier lens colours from a style perspective, those can’t offer the flexibility of use the photochromic lenses can.
In testing, I found the 69-23 per cent range comfortably covers almost every common light condition, aside from the brightest cloudless summer days.
I could wear them at night on my commutes home, and have been able to do so through to early summer commutes in broad (sunny) daylight.
The lens changes tint gradually, so you don’t notice it happening.
Clarity is good on the whole too. In bright sunlight, the lens performs just like most other high-quality lenses.
Darker twilight conditions can produce some glaring of car headlights, presumably because the photochromic molecules are partially activated and cause some light to be refracted through the rest of the lens.
It was something I really noticed at the beginning of testing, but soon got used to as my riding hours racked up.
Aside from that, I was surprised to find 69 per cent transmission offers close to the same experience as wearing clear lenses in dark light. No doubt, that’s partly due to the human eye adapting, but I never felt the need to take them off once night had fallen.
Changing seasons also means changing temperatures. Cold winter conditions can cause excess misting, but I found airflow under the lens good enough to avoid this.
In warmer spring and early summer temperatures, I found much the same. My wet eyelashes didn’t scrape against the lens, despite how close the Sutro Lite fits to the face.
Oakley Sutro Lite Photochromic sunglasses bottom line
The Sutro Lite is another good-performing pair of Oakley cycling sunglasses, and aren’t as outlandishly styled as they might first appear.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but under the retro styling is a design that has worked very well throughout winter and into early summer.
Moreover, the Photochromic lens option offers impressive versatility, despite the odd conditions-specific optical flaw.
If you only wanted one pair of sunglasses for year-round use, these could be a good option.