Auto Darkening vs. Fixed-Lens Welding Hoods: Which is Safer for Eye Protection?

Fixed-shade lens

In the world of welding, the debate has been going on for a long time on which is better and provide the welders with the best protection, auto-darkening, or fixed-shade welding helmets. Basically, both types of helmets adhere to the guidelines of National Safety Standards and both are capable of providing optimum welding protection for your eyes, ears, and your neck.

In this article, we’ll do a little comparison between auto-darkening and fixed shade welding hoods, and take a look at both these types of welding helmets along with the advantages and disadvantages of both and which helmet is better for which kind of welding process etc.

Auto Darkening Welding Helmets

Auto darkening welding helmets provide welders with optimum protection along with excellent clarity and great adjustment features. The lens stays inactive when not in use and generally stays in a shade level between 3-4 under natural light conditions. And looking through the helmet is quite clear and you can wear it for pre-inspection tasks.

How does ADF work?

But once you start the welding process and it detects the arc, the lens gets activated and the ADF (Auto Darkening Filter) takes into effect automatically and the shade level increase between the range of 8-13.

The larger the number of arc sensors in the helmet, the higher the chances of detecting the arc and activating the ADF quickly. Most of the ADF welding helmets normally come with 4 sensors and can detect the presence of an arc within a few milliseconds. It even doesn’t matter the position of the welder is in, it is the sensors that detect the arc and activate the darkening filter.

Pros and cons of auto-darkening hoods

For outdoor projects, the auto-darkening helmets work better as they come with good light sensitivity adjustment features. Another highlight of these welding helmets is that it offers you a stable positioning even while working for longer hours. Welders don’t need to reposition it all the time as you can see through the lens even when you are not welding

It also provides the welders to have maximum control over the torch as you don’t need to reposition it frequently and hence can concentrate more.

As a downside, auto-darkening helmets can be really expensive if you are looking to buy a high quality one.

Fixed Lens Welding Helmets

On the other hand, the passive welding helmets have been the choice of welders since the beginning years as they have been highly regarded as very effective in terms of providing excellent protection to the face of the welders.

Fixed-lens welding hoods are really simple on the design side of things. There are no sensors. Just the helmet, and a piece of coated class that will protect your eyes from welding.

Most of the time the standard lens shade is 10, even though it might vary depending upon the manufacturer. The lens of these welding helmets is made using standard glass materials and coated with UV protection to safeguard your eyes from the harmful rays that emanate during welding.

Comparison between auto-darkening and passive welding hood

When compared with the auto-darkening helmets, the passive helmets are affordable as you can get your hands on a safety helmet for just under $50. But the reason the auto-darkening helmets are priced higher is only because of that automatic darkening feature and the technology behind it.

The passive welding helmets are also extremely lightweight since they don’t have any delay control options or light sensitivity features. They don’t also have any batteries which make them light in weight when compared to the auto-darkening welding helmets. They are also extremely convenient to wear and come in a compact size. There are fixed lens helmets that are specially designed to help people work in tight spaces, for example, a pancake welding hood is just for that, it is small, comfortable, and lightweight or the JACKSON SAFETY Passive Welding Helmet is one of the smallest passive welding helmets in the market, ideal for areas with limited space.

These helmets also offer an excellent optical clarity and provide welders with a clean view when compared to the other welding helmets. This is made possible due to the fact it comes with only a single shade and doesn’t change color automatically when a light source is detected.

Another thing that welders like about the passive helmets is that the replacement of the filter glass is not expensive and it is so easy that anyone can replace them on their own.

If you are using different welding methods for every other welding job, then you can buy lenses in different colors, shades, and easily replace it according to the job at hand. Using the helmet is also extremely easy as unlike the auto-darkening helmets, there is no adjusting the light sensitivity or the delay control as all you need to put your helmet on, set it in the right position and stays put until you remove it.

Are autodarkening welding helmets safe?

If you want an answer to this question, then YES, Auto-darkening welding helmets are safe, they are best in class welding helmets that offer you complete protection along with high levels of comfort. While it may seem to be a very trivial matter of using your hands to adjust the helmet to stay in the right position, it is really annoying for the welders and with the auto-darkening helmets, that problem is eliminated. Welders can work freely and comfortably without the worry of sweat dripping around their eyelids or moving the helmet down to do some tack welds. But still, I would recommend investing in a top-notch welding helmet if, for example, something from Jackson brand (can read a review here)

There is one problem though, some welders, including myself, say that working with auto-darkening welding helmet gives them a funny feeling like there is sand in their eye. That’s probably because the arc has done a little damage to their eyes. Most people solve that problem by wearing a fixed-shade welding hood.


The new generation welding helmets are game-changing, to be honest, they are really comfortable and fairly safe. As for beginners, to make the learning curve smaller, I would definitely recommend buying one with an auto-darkening feature, because with a fixed-shade it might be too overwhelming to start the arc in the right place and lay your first beads. It helps a lot to position the weld to make sure the base metals actually stick.  But if you are on a tight budget, don’t buy a cheap Chinese one, just go with a one that has a fixed lens.