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Alba Optics' Stratos Ghost VZUM AF-Lens are high quality performance sunglasses with a minimalist design. The frame is very light, and the top-quality photochromic lens provides clear, unobstructed coverage. However, the arms are not the most secure, and there's no hard case for keeping these expensive sunnies safe.
Handmade in Italy, the Stratos frame features Alba Optics' VZUM AF-Lens, which is a lightweight polycarbonate interchangeable lens. This AF version provides glare reduction and has a built-in colour equalizer to 'enhance the beauty of colours,' as well as blocking at least 99 percent of UV light with its UV400 rating.
The lens on the Stratos is 142mm wide and 60mm deep, and provides plenty of coverage around the sides. It's not as excessive as some of the trendily huge sunnies recently, though – this balance feels spot on to me.
The VZUM lens provides a crystal clear view, which I found completely free from distortion. The colour and contrast-boosting elements don't make the view as striking as the Oakley's Prizm lens does, though it's a lot more natural, which some will prefer.
The photochromatic lens is incredibly useful, as it adapts with the light conditions. It is hard to determine quite how quickly it works, but I was never left wishing they were ever either darker or lighter. So they do change rapidly enough! There are six other lens options for specific light conditions, too, and they're easy to swap in and out.
There's a central vertical vent in the lens which is effective at letting steam escape – I had no issues with these misting up.
The lens is attached to Alba Optic's lightweight TR90 frame. This minimalist construction consists of just two thin arms and a nose piece, which together weigh a mere 10g.
The lens is 17g, which brings the total weight up to just 27g. The frame is even lighter than the one on Alba Optics' Delta glasses (13g), which I also praised for being light. The Stratos glasses really do disappear on your face.
The interchangeable lens system is super easy to use. By rotating the arm counter-clockwise it can be removed without any force. Repeat on the other side, then press down on the nose pad, and the lens is fully separated from the frame.
With this system I never had any concerns about damaging the glasses, and when the lens is in place it is very secure.
For a custom fit, the arms can be adjusted to four different positions on each side, and the length of the whole arm adjusts between 11cm and 12cm. It is a little stiff to move, but only needs to be done once when setting up. However, these adjustable arms do rattle inside, and could be more stable.
Adjusting the length in this way does help to keep these glasses in place by hooking well around the ear, but the arms don't track in narrow enough. I found the glasses kept on slipping down. Not very far, but enough that I had to frequently nudge them back to where I want them to sit, which can become irritating over the course of a ride.
While this is a slight issue on the road, it's a much greater issue off-road – the fit isn't suitable for rough terrain blasts, at least not for my medium-sized head.
The glasses come in a drawstring pouch which Alba Optics says is a technical microfibre fabric, so it's good for cleaning the lenses too, though a hard case is always preferred – especially at this price.
At £173.46, these are cheaper than Rudy Project's Defender ImpactX Photochromic 2s at £191.99, which are also impressively fast-reacting, but effective light-sensitivity isn't always so expensive. The dhb Vector PhotoChromatic Lens Sunglasses offer great clarity as well as a good tint range for £90, for instance.
Overall, these are very impressive sunnies with a fast-reacting photochromatic lenses, an obstruction free view and wide-wrapping protection from the wind. They're also incredibly light. It's just a shame the arms don't provide a secure enough hold on averagely-wide heads.
Exceptional lens that adapts to changing light conditions effectively, but the frame doesn't provide such a secure hold
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Alba Optics Stratos Ghost VZUM AF-Lens
Size tested: One Size
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Alba Optics says: "You are pedaling. Once again. Perfection is your goal. Improving not only performance but your status as an athlete. You want to progress: responding to something that simmers inside you. For this, you need clear vision. And for this, we have designed STRATOS: eyewear that helps you focus on the goal whether you are racing a stage or training on your home terrain."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Alba Optics lists:
Ventilated VZUM™ lens
Interchangeable VZUM™ lens
Adjustable temple fit
Lighter Tr90 frame
Handmade in Italy"
Very clear and fast-reacting photochromatic lens, but the frame can slip down and need regular readjustments.
The interchangeable lens doesn't require any force, which is great for durability. But the adjustable arms shake around a lot, so I'm not sure how these will last – they seem slightly vulnerable.
Very very light.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very high quality lens provides an incredibly clear and distortion free viewing experience across changing light conditions. While the frame is lightweight and works very well for easy lens changes, it's not as supportive as it needs to be. That said, those with wider heads probably won't have an issue.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Effective photochromatic lens, simple interchangeable lens system
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Can slip down frequently, no hard case
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
A little cheaper than the premium options, but you can buy glasses with effective photochromatic lens for a lot less – the £90 dhb Vector, for instance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Stratos shades feature a very high quality lens that provides brilliant unobstructed coverage and is fast-reacting. The frame is also very light. But these glasses do slip slightly, which is irritating.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Gravel riding, indoor turbo and rollers, track
Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.