Sunshift Photochromic Motorcycle
Light Sensitive Anti-Fog Motorcycle Helmet
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
And what, you might ask, is a
Good question! The words
"photochromic" and "photochromatic"
are used interchangeably, so I decided to consult
Merriam Webster to figure it all out.
Both words are adjectives (a word that
modifies a noun), and photochromic is defined as "capable of
changing color on exposure to radiant energy (e.g.
"photochromic glass" or "photochromic visor")
and it's also defined as "of, relating to, or utilizing
the change of color shown by a photochromic substance".
I guess that makes sense, but I'm still not sure why the
word photochromic seems to be more commonly used than
In any case, the Sunshift Photochromic (that's the word they use)
motorcycle visor is claimed to be "the worlds [sic]
first, fully patented, photochromic visor available for
UPDATE: Is it the first? See the
World's first? You may recall the
Fog City and ProGrip photochromic visor
inserts we reviewed a few years ago, but note that
they are not complete motorcycle visor replacements,
only inserts that must be
separately fastened to a helmet visor, which gives them
what I think are some serious drawbacks, as we noted in
Before I describe the
Corporation "Sunshift" photochromic visor, let's take a
little foray into the future...
The ultimate motorcycle helmet visor of the future
would have a feature set something like this: a control that allows the
rider to infinitely adjust the amount of tint from perfectly
clear to limo dark along with the ability to instantly
turn it on or off and maybe store a few settings for
something like bright sunlight, riding into the evening
sun and morning.
While we're at it, how about adding the ability to
program in a gradient, and we may as well have the
ability to completely customize the position of the
gradient (dark on top and
lighter on the bottom?) to the rider's preference.
Oh, and let's see: how about this -- a knob that allows the rider to
change the tint color and create any color combination in the spectrum?
That may sound like the visor on George Jetson's
helmet, but with today's incredibly rapid pace of technological
evolution, I'm sure we'll have one
sooner than you think.
In fact, here's a little
secret: A.C.S.A.S., the developer of the Sunshift
photochromic visor described here, is already working on an "electrochromic" visor.
They said they're called T.O.D (Tint
On Demand) and will be available exclusively through
in North America.
The electrochromic visors will be powered by the
A.C.S.A.S. "M5 Switchblade" power system, which was described in the
webBikeWorld reviews of the
AFX FX-11 Lightforce helmet, where it's used to
power the built-in fan and LED light and also in the
Shoei Syncrotec Police Helmet, where the system is used
to power an LED light.
The plans are for the A.C.S.A.S. electrochromic visor to
go from clear to tinted and back with the push of a button. How cool is
But until that day arrives, we have the Sunshift photochromic
visor. The Sunshift is currently available
helmets, like the
Akuma Ghost Rider that we reviewed not too long ago
and which has become very popular with motorcycle riders
all over the world, but visors for more helmet brands
and models are coming soon.
The Sunshift visor looks just about like any other
replacement visor -- when no UV light is present,
it's about as clear as a normal visor.
There's maybe a very slight tint, but many "clear"
visors have a very slight tint also.
The Sunshift is virtually indistinguishable from any
other clear visor and it weighs nearly the same.
The standard Akuma dark smoke visor for a size XL helmet
weighs 111 grams (3.875 oz.) and the Sunshift visor for
the same helmet weighs 118 grams (4.125 oz.)
Bring the visor out into the sun and the Sunshift turns dark gray, going from clear to
about a 50% light transmission tint within a couple of
minutes. We haven't had much sunshine around here
lately, but one afternoon Chris and I took advantage of
a sunny interlude to try it out and take some photos.
Temperature and, of course, the amount of direct
sunlight will slightly affect the photochromatic effect.
In late afternoon direct sun and about 60 degree
temperatures, the Sunshift went from light to full dark
in about 2 minutes. We discovered that it isn't
easy to record the changes with photographs, but here's
a sequence of 6 photos (Photo 1 through Photo 6) taken about 30 seconds apart:
2: +30 seconds
3: +60 seconds
4: +90 seconds
5: +120 seconds
6: +150 seconds
The helmet was directly facing towards the bright sun as we took these photos,
which we have posted un-retouched. The bright sun and the white paper behind the visor
makes the tint appear lighter than it is. In
reality, the tint
is virtually as dark as the dark smoke visor that came
with our Ghost Rider helmet, as you can see in the next
comparing the standard 50% light transmission Akuma
tinted visor on the top with the Sunshift photochromic
visor on the bottom:
Sunshift Photochromic visor before change (left), Akuma
dark smoke visor (right).
When the Sunshift visor is at full tint,
it takes several minutes for it to go back to clear once
it's removed from the UV light. We placed the
fully tinted Sunshift visor in the shade, facing away
from the sun, for more photos, but it didn't become
noticeably clear until we brought it indoors. The
UV reflections and ambient UV light will keep it tinted
at various levels of light transmission, whether its
sunny or cloudy.
The two photos below show the tint of
the visor as it was taken immediately out of the sun in
Photo A, then about 3 minutes later in Photo B.
It's important to note that with current
photochromatic technology, a visor
(or eyeglasses using the technology) will not instantly
turn from clear to dark and back to clear
again like, for example, when riding in and out of a
tunnel or in and out of the shade on a tree-lined road. That's
an unrealistic expectation and
we'll have to wait for the electrochromic visor for
instant "on/off" capability.
Photo A: Sunshift visor in shade.
Photo B: Sunshift visor in
shade +180 seconds.
Where the Sunshift visor does shine, if
you'll pardon the pun, is when the owner will be riding from
daylight into darkness or vice versa.
There are a few reasons I can think of why the Sunshift is a good idea;
not always easy to remember to take a separate clear or
tinted visor and they're not easy to store on a
Also, you may not know beforehand that you'll be caught
out at night. And on many helmets, it's not very easy to switch
visors -- I've had more than one visor or attachment
mechanism break while I was in the process of changing
under perfect conditions (e.g., on my kitchen table).
By the way, when riding in and out of a tunnel or
other temporarily dark (or light) area, treat the Sunshift photochromic visor just like a tinted visor;
that is, open it or stop until your eyes are adjusted.
The Sunshift visor was designed by
A.C.S.A.S. but, believe it or not, the manufacturing
process was developed by
MXL Industries and they also manufacture the visor, right here in the good 'ol U.S. of
A. (Pennsylvania, to be exact). MXL is one of
those unseen heroes of the motorcycle industry -- they
make visors for Shoei and many other helmet
manufacturers but, unfortunately, very few motorcyclists even
know the company exists.
The Sunshift retails for $75.00, which
is relatively inexpensive, if you've priced any new
tinted visors lately. It's a brand-new product and
it currently fits only Akuma helmets, but they're
working on more versions for all of the popular helmets.
Akuma also raves about the anti-fog
properties of the Sunshift visor, but we haven't been
able to verify this due to the weather.
Sunny day riders may find that the photochromic
capabilities of the Sunshift photochromic visor may not
be fully exploited. But for those motorcyclists
who don't want to worry about getting caught out with
the wrong visor at the wrong time, the Sunshift is a
wonderful invention. The price is right also, and
this may just be one of those technological trinkets
that you'll want to own just to show off to your
Review: Sunshift Photochromic Motorcycle Helmet Visor
Retail Price: $75.00
|Colors: Clear to dark smoke gray
Comments: See the
Helmet Visors page | Visor provided by Akuma Helmets
| Review Date: April 2007
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From "D.": "I just finished reading the article on the
Sunshift Visor and was wondering why there is no mention of the version Scorpion
makes for there helmets. I use one of their "Shade
Shifter" visors and it works great, especially on overcast mornings that
turn clear. Plus it doesn't fog up. I imagine the technology is
similar if not the same, and the price is in the same range. I hope more
manufacturers start coming out with this."
Good question! I sent an email to the manufacturer asking about their
claim to be the first. Their response was that they are the first, as the
the Sunshift was patented in 1997; here's the official U.S. Patent and Trademark
Visor for Use With a Crash Helmet" patent that was filed on April 26, 1996.
Note that the Scorpion page for the Shade Shifter
claims that the visor is "Standard on all EXO helmets.", but we're in the
process of evaluating a Scorpion EXO 400 and it has a clear visor only.