The eyes are probably the most sensitive part of our body. Our eyesight is the sense that we rely on the most, and the thought of losing it would freak anybody out. That’s why a welding lens is the protective gear that a welder should pay the most attention to before buying, and make sure they get a top-of-the-line product.
Auto darkening welding lenses are a practical solution for eye protection because you don’t have to flip your helmet every time you stop welding. Let’s take a look at how auto darkening welding lenses work.
How Auto Darkening Welding Lenses Work
The welding lens consists of one UV/IR interference filter (which blocks out UV and IR radiation), three polarization filters (which darken the light that passes through them, kind of like sunglasses) and two liquid crystal cells, or LC cells (which bend the light that passes through them).
The UV/IR interference filter is in the front and is made of glass and metallic layers, which reflect 99.99% of the IR radiation. In conjunction with the three polarization filters, they absorb up to 99.9997% UV radiation. This is when the lens is switched off.
When the lens switches on, the LC cells come into play. They turn and with that they bend the light that passes through them even more, letting less light pass, giving you a darker shade.
I hope this helps you get a better understanding of how auto darkening welding lenses work, so you can begin the journey through my favorite lenses. Hopefully, you’ll find one that’s right for you!
Best Auto Darkening Welding Lens
Overall Best: AmeriArc 2×4 Welding Lens, Variable shade 5-13
AmeriArc is a company that specializes in welding lenses, so you know you can expect quality when you see their brand on a lens. This welding lens is one of their top products.
The display doesn’t show orange and green tones, which are the ones that strain your eyes the most when welding. Instead of showing true colors, the display gives a clear blue tint to the picture to keep your eyes more relaxed.
What I love about this particular welding lens are the control dials. You can set the sensitivity, delay, and shade according to the type of welding or grinding you’re doing. The delay setting lets you control the time it takes to switch from dark to light state. Shade control is probably the most important feature and this lens has a shade range from 5 to 13 and a fixed light state at shade 4.
The thing that makes this lens even better though, is that it’s solar-powered, which means the batteries will last a long time. If you want to know more about solar-powered lenses and how they work, I’d suggest reading this article.
Like all adjustable welding lenses, it will probably be a bit too thick for some welding helmets, so keep this in mind before buying.
- Blue tint decreases eye strain;
- No orange or green tones;
- Adjustable control dials for shade, sensitivity, and delay;
- Solar strip for charging and longer battery life.
- Too thick for some welding helmets.
The “4C world-renowned welding lens technology”, as Lincoln Electric advertises it, is actually really good. This lens uses liquid crystal cells (like an LCD TV) to eliminate imperfections and color saturation for a crystal clear view of the arc and puddle.
This lens is quite versatile. It offers a broad color range and hues, both in light and dark states. The variable shade ranges from 8 to 13 and the light state is at shade 3. The two independent sensors provide a quick switch from light to dark state.
Because the quality of the picture doesn’t allow blurriness or distortion, it means there’s very little strain on the eyes. This is super helpful for long hours of welding because eye fatigue can lead to really painful headaches.
My favorite thing about this welding lens, however, are the recessed controls. You can set the sensitivity, shade, and delay to your own preferences depending on your working environment or the type of application.
The fact that this welding lens doesn’t have a solar strip is a big downside. It uses lithium batteries, which you’ll have to replace quite often. Some customers actually claim that they replace them every week or two.
Another issue with this welding lens is that it may be too thick for some helmets. Even if you manage to make it fit, there will be no room left for a cheater lens.
This is probably one of the most expensive welding lenses you can find. And what makes it even more expensive is the fact that you would have to replace batteries often.
Overall, it’s a great welding lens for the more experienced welder. If you’re new to welding, you will need time to learn how to set the controls for each type of welding and surrounding (inside or outside). The thickness of the lens is also something to take into consideration as it will not fit in all types of welding helmets.
- 4C technology for clear view;
- Less eye strain;
- Control dials for sensitivity, shade, and delay.
- No solar strip (uses lithium battery);
- Very thick;
- A bit pricey.
Best Fixed Shade: TW Supply, 2 pieces Shade 10 Glass GOLD 2″ x 4.25″
For around $10 you get 2 gold coated lenses. The shade 10 lens is made from hardened glass that is very durable. You can usually find the same model in shades 9-12.
The gold coating reflects UV and IR radiation more than any other type of lens, so it’s the safest lens for your eyes. The only drawback about this product is that it’s packed in just a plastic bag, so you might end up with damaged lenses.
- Reflects 99% of UV radiation;
- Made from tough hardened glass.
- Items might get damaged during transport.
Fixed Shade Runner Up: Lincoln Electric 2X4 C-Series Welding Lens Shade 11
This welding lens also uses “the world-renowned” 4C technology of Lincoln Electric. Although it may sound a bit silly, it’s a real thing. The 4C lens really does give you a very clear view with true colors and hues, which can be seen in both light and dark states. This means there is practically no strain on the eyes.
The lens is compatible with most 2×4.25 cartridges and can also be used with a cheater lens because it’s not as thick as the Lincoln KP3775-1.
This lens is quite durable. The ABS lens housing endures high temperatures and you get a 2-year warranty for internal defects. A 2-year warranty is a serious thing. So unless you break it or put it directly on a heat source, you’re safe with this one welding lens for the next two years.
Even though Lincoln claims this welding lens fits most welding helmets, some customers disagree. A solution would be to file down the shell, but that really is a hassle.
But the biggest issue with this model is that some welders have complained that they still get flashed even when it’s charged.
The fact that this lens has a fixed shade of 11 means you can only use it for low-to-medium amperage welding. If this is what you’re looking for, then this lens is a great solution.
Because Lincoln C-Series is solar powered you can go for months without changing the batteries because it charges from the arc while you’re welding.
- 4C technology;
- Less eye strain;
- Compatible with 2×4.25 cartridges;
- 2-year warranty.
- Fixed shade;
- May be too thick for some helmets.
ArcOne is a serious brand when it comes to welding equipment, and this welding lens is no different. It’s equipped with an HD display and two independent sensors, one on each side. This means that they also catch flashes on the sides, not just in the middle of the viewing area.
Thanks to the two independent arc sensors, this ArcOne lens switches from a light to dark state in 0.5 milliseconds and it has a dark to light state delay of 0.2 seconds. This is very good, unless you’re TIG welding, because, for that, you want the delay to be a bit slower. You can pick between a dark shade of 10 or 11.
The manufacturer is so confident about this welding lens that you get a 3-year warranty for it. It is also dust and water-resistant.
Some welders have complained about inconsistency in the shading, which is not really a problem, but it can get really annoying.
- HD display;
- 2 independent sensors for better detection;
- 3-year warranty.
- May not be appropriate for TIG welding;
- A bit pricey;
- Possible shade inconsistency.
Bonus Recommendation: Miller Electric Welding Lens, 10, Auto-Darkening
When you see the Miller brand on a welding product, you expect a high-quality product. However, I think they could have done better with this product.
This is a lens with a fixed shade 10 and a shade 3 in light state, much like the other lenses we reviewed so far. This particular welding lens does not have a grind mode, so when grinding you have to take it off, or you won’t see a thing. The display doesn’t cancel out green tones, so it might strain your eyes after a while.
The lens is quite thin though, so you can always put a cheater lens with it. It also fits most 2 x 4.25 cartridges.
However, this lens does seem very fragile, and more than a few users have complained about it cracking after only a few hours of use. The lens doesn’t seem to handle heat very well. Other welders have said they get flashed even when it’s supposed to be charged, and this is the worst thing that can go wrong with a welding lens.
- Two independent sensors (arc sensors);
- Fits in most 2×4.25 cartridges;
- Good switching speed;
- Solar strip, no batteries.
- Shows green tones;
- No grind mode;
- Doesn’t stand heat very well.
How to Choose the Right Auto Darkening Welding Lens: Buyer’s Guide
Now that I’ve explained how auto darkening welding lenses work and showed you my favorite picks, it’s time to show you what your choice should be based on.
Type of welding
Different types of welding produce a different light intensity. This is why you can get different fixed shade lenses or adjustable shade lenses. For stick and TIG welding, the shading should be between shade 9 and 13, and for the other types of welding, it should be between shade 10 and 13. But the exact shade you choose depends on individual preference.
Welding indoors or outdoors seriously affects the auto darkening properties of the lens. This is why it’s important to get a lens that lets you control the settings. The sensitivity dial lets you adjust at which light intensity the lens will darken.
The display can filter out certain color tones, and this can make all the difference in how you see the weld puddle and eventually, the actual quality of the weld. The difference between red and orange is very important when welding, so the more real the colors, the easier it is to distinguish between the two.
Not only that, but true colors seriously reduce eye fatigue. Luckily, most of the new welding lenses offer a very realistic picture. But the tint color is again a matter of personal preference, as some feel like a blue tint is more gentle on the eyes.
If you work in a shop, you probably do most or all of the grinding yourself, and this can seriously affect your choice of the right welding lens. Some lenses don’t have a grinding option, so you would have to keep flipping your welding helmet every time you start grinding because if not, it will activate the lens and switch it to dark state. Then, you won’t see what you’re grinding and possibly ruin your work.
Believe it or not, even the slightest weight difference between lenses can make a lot of difference. Imagine working an 8-hour shift of welding with a helmet on, your neck will feel the strain. So keep in mind how long you’re gonna be wearing the helmet for, and decide whether or not you must have a lighter welding lens. The adjustable lenses tend to weigh more, but are way more practical, as I’ve mentioned before.
Because you’ve had to absorb so much information, I want to refresh your memory with a quick reminder of the products and let you choose which one is appropriate for you.
The AmeriArc lens with a variable shade range is my number one pick because it has control dials so you can do different types of welding and in different environments. It also has a solar strip along with the batteries, unlike the Lincoln Electric variable shade lens, which only uses batteries, and as some welders claim, “eats through them”.
If a fixed shade welding lens is what you’re looking for, then I’d go with the ArcOne because it’s more durable than the AmeriArc Fixed Shade, and it also lets you pick between a shade 10 and 11. Although it’s a bit more expensive than both the AmeriArc and the Miller lenses, that difference should not be more important than your eyesight. The manufacturer also has a 3-year warranty on this product.
I was a bit disappointed with the Miller lens, and it seems I’m not the only one. A lot of welders have complained about the quality of the product, and that is not to be expected from a serious name brand like Miller Electric. On the upside, you can always depend on the sensors to react on time and protect you from the arc flash which is the most important feature an auto darkening lens should have.
Best 2×4 Auto Darkening Welding Lens: FAQ
What is the best auto darkening welding lens?
There is no straight answer to this, as it really comes down to individual preferences. You can decide based on your type of work, working environment, helmet type and size, and eye sensitivity.
What is the darkest welding lens?
The darkest shade is 13, and you can choose between a fixed shade lens, or an adjustable one.
What shade is best for stick welding?
Depending on the amperage (and individual eye sensitivity), the shade for stick welding should range between 9 and 12.
How do I know if my auto darkening welding lens is working?
The simple “sun test” is the solution. You put on your helmet, turn it on, look at something in the shade, then look at the sun. When you turn towards the sun, the lens should automatically switch from light to dark state. If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with the lens.