Are you ever out on the water all freaking day long? Hopefully you are! Even if you’re not you’ve probably fished during the day and lingered around until it starts to get dark. In years past I often found myself  in those situations and just as commonly I ran into a problem: I still wanted to be able to spot fish but with my sunglasses made it too dark to see anything. Take them off, and the glare is back. Frustrating. Smith Polarchromic sunglasses have solved this problem for me. For those that haven’t seen those cheesy infomercials, the idea behind polarchromic lenses is simple: They lighten and darken as ambient lighting conditions change. As you can imagine this comes in very handy out on the water. Whether you’re fishing from the dark in the morning to the dark at night (our favorite!) or you’re simply out on a regular day with a mix of clouds and sun the lenses adjust to maintain optimal visibility.

Smith Hideout Frames in Mahogany with Polarchromic Copper Lenses


Smith has a variety of polarchromic options with different ranges  suitable for saltwater fishing as well as freshwater. The range is measured in VLT (Variable Light Transmission). The smaller the number = the less light that is transmitted through the lens. Copper (VLT:12%) and brown (15%) are obviously the most common (and best) tints for traditional freshwater fishing. The benefit of Polarchromic Copper lens is that it has a range of VLT: 13-20% so it darkens up enough for when the sun is at its brightest but eases up as the evening sets in.

Now because of the dilemma I mentioned earlier, I opted for the Polarchromic Amber lens (you can also read a review of the Smith Chief’s with this lens) which has a VLT: 15-30%. The reason I went this route (and I’ve loved it) is because it lightens up even more so that I can continue sight fishing even after the sun has set and have the benefits of cutting that annoying glare! At 15% they darken up enough to where I’ve never been left wanting a darker lens. One down side to this slightly higher range that probably won’t matter to most people is that in direct sunlight you can see my eyes. I don’t know why it bugs me but it does. If you don’t care (you probably don’t) then I haven’t really found any other downsides to my choice.

Demo with Polarchromic Amber


I can’t claim to have used Costas and a lot of the other popular brands because prior I wore Oakley’s polarized lenses exclusively (they’re some of the best plastics out there IMO). I can’t imagine any improvement on Smith’s glass. I’ll be honest, for fishing, I’m not completely stoked on Smith’s plastics. They’re great for chillin’ and they’re definitely fine for fishing but the optics are noticeably inferior to Smith’s Techlite (glass) lenses. The glass is tack sharp, way tougher than plastic, and much more scratch resistant (12x more so than plastic according to their site). Ultimately if you’re looking at some Smith’s as your go to fishing glasses then I would much recommend that you stick to their Techlite offerings.

Here’s some of the benefit’s of Smith’s Techlite lenses listed from their website:

  • TLT optics – tapered lens technology corrects light distortion that other lenses commonly experience
  • 20% lighter than other glass lenses
  • 12x more scratch resistant than plastic lenses
  • Hydroleophobic – they repel moisture, grit, and grime
  • A/R coating – vacuum applied anti-reflective (A/R) coating applied to the back of the lens eliminates sidelight reflections. Let me just say that this is big for me. This is one thing that I’ve really appreciated about these lenses – when you turn your head and the sun shines in just right you don’t get that blinding reflection in your eyes.


The top reasons I’d recommend Techlite/Polarchromic lenses to any angler really boil down to basics:

  1. Low light performance
  2. Lens clarity

After using Polarchromic lenses I see absolutely no reason to go back to regular polarized lenses. Fly fishing is a very visually intensive activity and I tend to sight fish as much as possible so the ability to see as well as I can under any conditions is important to me. You don’t want to miss out stuff like those subtle flashes as your bug drifts through a run and you got an interested fish that simply needed another cast that was more drag-free and six inches further out. The bottom line is that the optics are and Polarchromic is a must for any dedicated angler. Attention Smith Optics:  one big downside is that Smith’s Techlite offerings is somewhat sparse. THey have a ton of rad frames but they’re only available in plastic. Most of the glass models are pretty plain. I would really love if some of their other popular models were available with Techlite lenses. Most people probably aren’t as picky as me but it would be nice. Anyway, find one you like and it will be worth it. Holler.

Smith Touchstone Review  |||  Smith Chief Review


Smith Techlite & Polarchromic Review
These lenses offer incredible optics and unmatched versatility, but at a price. A price I'll be willing to pay until something significant changes my mind!
The Good
  • Durable
  • Total optical clarity
  • Versatility
The Bad
  • A bit pricey
9.7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (12 Votes)

About The Author

Chinese Boy

The ringleader at OSF, Nathan likes well-proportioned fish, moonlit walks by the river, and stripping streamers through dark lies on the dreariest of days. View full bio.

6 Responses

  1. Thomas Larsen

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been looking into the Polarchromic lens for awhile. I think I’m taking the plunge. Have you guys been able to try the ChromoPop lens yet? I’m looking into the ChromaPop Polarchromic Ignitor lens. wondering if you have any thoughts on them.

    • Nathan Leavitt

      You won’t be disappointed! Yeah, I’m actually working on a Chromapop review right now! The Chromapop are a plastic lens as opposed to the techlite glass that you get with the Polarchromic. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the clarity in the Chromapop. I’m sure you could see a difference if you looked back and forth between the two but honestly, I’m really detail oriented and I haven’t noticed a difference in clarity. Tough choice between the two! Polarchromic is definitely versatile and CRISP. Glass holds up better to scratches and what not too. I’ve been 100% stoked with both but if I had to choose between the two for my FIRST good pair I’d probably go with the PC’s. Only because I tend to fish from early to late and do a lot of sight fishing so I really like the versatility. You’ll be stoked on either, I’d just look at the conditions you’ll be using them in and let that decide. Thanks for dropping by, Thomas! Hope that helps! If you have more questions don’t be afraid to ask!

      • Thomas Larsen

        I’m assuming you mean Polarchromic when you say PC. I know I want them to be Polarchromic, but I noticed that you can get Polarchromic in the CromoPop lens in the Ignitor lens color. I guess I’m just having a hard time deciding if I like that color of lens. Unfortunately I can’t find a store that carries that color.

  2. Houston

    I first switched to Smith’s techlite glass after scratching up a pair of Oakleys (right after warranty expired of course) well actually I wore the scratched up oakleys for a while because they were expensive, but eventually they broke and I went with the Smith’s because 1 the glass was supposed to be more durable and 2 they had a lifetime warranty and 3. at the time the ones I bought were under 100 bucks. The idea of the polarchromic lenses sounded good but wasn’t sure how much of it was just a gimmick. I loved them. For all the same reasons already stated. Then they fell off my head and shattered. Customer stupidity isn’t covered under warranty but I called anyways, even though they couldn’t replace them for free they did replace them for much cheaper than it would have been to buy new because the ones I had were discontinued and the price had risen since I bought them. Excellent customer service. Then I went canoeing and dropped the replacements in the middle of the lake. I miss them and won’t buy anything else.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.