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Black Diamond Spot Review


Headlamp

Click to enlarge
Price:   Varies from $30 - $40 online  —  Compare at 5 sellers
Pros:  Good spot light capability, above average in almost every category
Cons:  Less battery life than competitors
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Overview

The Spot was a close runner up for our Editors' Choice award because it has the best beam performance and battery life for a compact headlamp that only costs $40. Many headlamps that cost more than $80 couldn't match its brightness and close proximity scores. With each new revision, the Spot has become brighter, and this release also brought a new feature called PowerTap to adjust brightness with a tap of the finger, which we found novel but not a major usability improvement.

Improved Spot for 2016
A new and improved version of the Spot was made available in 2016. If offers some significant improvements over the older version including 53% more light output (200 lumens vs. 130), better optics with 2x wider beam, and is now waterproof.

Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new Spot vs. the older 2015 version. We are in the process of testing the upgraded Spot, and we will post a full update with our findings soon. In the meantime, the text and ratings still reflect the older 2015 version.

No headlamp tested has a better trail finding score while still delivering a long battery life and weighing less than 100 grams. With similar performance, and the option to use and refresh rechargeable batteries, we awarded one of our Editors' Choice marks to the Black Diamond ReVolt.

Besides other BD models, only one other brand sells a headlamp that scored better overall than the Spot. The Coast HL7 has a much more powerful and even beam with better control, but it is 1/3 heavier and has a fraction of the battery life.

RELATED: Our complete review of headlamps

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jediah Porter
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
May 10, 2015

Improved Spot vs. The Old Version (2015)


Black Diamond has updated the Spot at the end of 2015 to include 200 lumens (versus 130 lumens found in the 2015 model), improved optics with a spot mode beam that is about 2x bigger in diameter and produces a smoother light beam pattern, is is now waterproof rated IPX8, meaning is can be submersed to 1.1 meters for 30 minutes. The weight is the about the same, we measured it at 91 grams vs. the older model's 96 grams, and the list price remains $40.

Check out a side-by-side comparison below, with the latest model for 2016 pictured on the left and the older version from 2015 shown on the right.
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge 

Hands-On Review


Here's a summary of the key differences between the new 2016 version and the older Spot:
  • Better Optics — the improved Spot offers better optics for both spot mode and close proximity mode. The beam pattern is smoother and the spot mode has a beam that is about 2x wider in diameter, allowing you to see better the trail ahead. In our tests, we found it could not see quite as far as the old Spot, we measured the old one at 71 meters maximum beam distance, while the new one only threw a 66 meter beam. But for trail finding the wider smoother beam of the new Spot is a net positive, even if it's 5 meters less far, you still get a better sense of the trail ahead. Close proximity lighting is very smooth and evenly lit over a wide area.
  • 53% more Lumens — The Spot received a big jump in overall light output, moving from 130 lumens to 200 lumens. This results in a wider beam, not further, but we found is a nice addition.
  • Now waterproof to 1.1 meter depth — the Spot has an IPX8, which means it is both waterproof to 1.1 meter submersion for 30 minutes. BD warms that some water may get into the battery compartment, but it will keep working. The older version was just IPX4, meaning it was splash proof but could not be submerged.
  • Less comfy headband — the new Spot, as well as the new Black Diamond Storm, both included on subtle change to the headband we didn't like, namely they flipped one of the two headband buckles inward, which is a bit less comfortable over time if you have the band relatively tight. For most people this isn't going to be a dealbreaker, but it seemed an annoying design regression to us.

We are in the process of testing the improved Spot, and will update this review soon once we have completed our test. In the meantime, you can read our review of the 2015 version below, which applies still today except for the key differences noted above.

Hands-On Review of the 2015 Spot


The Black Diamond Spot has long been a solid product. The Coast is flashier with its strong beam, and the unique rechargeable function of the ReVolt pulls it ahead. If you are looking for something simple and functional, the Spot is an excellent runner up to the award winners.

Performance Comparison


Click to enlarge
The Spot has a very strong and long beam.

Trail Finding


The Spot has the best trail finding score for its weight: an impressive 8 of 10. This is what separates it from other compact headlamps in the $30-50 range like the Yalumi Spark Pro 120, which gets a 6 of 10. As you can see in the beam comparison photo below, the Spot shines much further.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond SpotYalumi Spark Pro 120

However, you can also see, when put against the burly brightness of the Coast, it is not in the same league. Just look how much further down the bike path the Coast shines below.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond SpotCoast HL7

Close Proximity


This is another metric where the Spot stands out from similarly sized lights, and gets an 8 of 10. For example, the Princeton Tec Vizz has a similar trail finding score, but does not have nearly as even a beam in close-distance mode and gets a 6 of 10. See below where the Spot casts a wide even beam and the Vizz concentrates it in the middle.


Close-proximity Beam Pattern


Black Diamond SpotPrinceton Tec Vizz

Battery Life


Battery life in the Spot is about average and noteworthy for a headlamp with such good lighting quality scores. This is where the Spot really blows away the Coast HL7, as you can see in this battery life vs. beam performance graph. If you want a great beam with a long battery life, its hard to beat the Spot.

The ANSI measured high mode time for the Spot is 3.7 hours compared to the Coast's 3.4 hours. Read the full Headlamp Review to learn more about ANSI measurement standards. The ReVolt, with its rechargeable batteries, bests them both with a burn time of 10.6 hours.

Click to enlarge
The Spot runs off of 3 AAA batteries.

Brightness


We measured a max beam distance of 71 meters from the Spot, which is almost the highest number from a headlamp of this weight. The Yalumi light, which is about the same price and about the same weight, throws light basically the same distance. The Petzl Tikka R Plus is a little heavier than these but sends light half the distance. The Coast, on the other hand, blows them all away with 128 meters.

Click to enlarge
The Spot in action in Indian Creek, Utah.

Weight


At 96 grams (3.3 ounces), this is the lightest headlamp to excel at trail finding. Much lighter weight headlamps like the Petzl e+LITE (0.9 ounces) traded weight for beam power. Considering the lighting abilities of the Spot, its low weight is impressive. The Coast HL7 is one third heavier (4.4 ounces) and, because it put the battery pack in the back, much bulkier.

Ease of Use


The score here is lower than the other top five overall point leaders, but an 8 is still respectable. The button could be designed a little more intuitively and could be a little easier to use with gloves.

The Spot offers a brightness adjustment feature Black Diamond calls PowerTap Technology. The PowerTap feature allows the user to make rudimentary beam adjustments with a pretty casual bump to the side of the light housing. This feature bridges the gap in ease of beam adjustment between regular button pushes and the automatic adjustment of Petzl's Reactive Lighting technology. In actual application, our testers found PowerTap novel, but not super intuitive. Perhaps with even more use it would become second nature.

Best Applications


This is an ideal all around headlamp capable of just about anything, from demanding trail runs to lightweight backpacking. Only the rechargeable capabilities of the ReVolt make it marginally more appealing.

Click to enlarge
Tested headlamps, including the Black Diamond Spot, around a New Years Eve campfire, upstate New York.

Value


Considering the beam performance and battery life, $40 is an excellent value for this light. The Editors' Choice, the Coast, is $4 less expensive and has a brighter beam. However, it burns through batteries and therefore is not as good of a long-term value. Sadly for other headlamp manufacturers, the fact that Black Diamond gives you so much here for $40 makes paying any more harder to justify.

Conclusion


Normally we only give one Editors' Choice award. In this case, that would have been just the Coast HL7, which has a much brighter beam and better beam control. However, the Coast's battery life is so short that it raises a yellow flag. In the past we filled the second Editors' Choice slot with the Spot. However, Black Diamond has since better tuned the battery life of the rechargeable ReVolt. That product now pulls ahead for our award. Nonetheless, the Spot remains an excellent product with a long and reliable pedigree.

Other Versions


Click to enlarge
Black Diamond Icon
  • Cost- $90.00 ($50 more than the Spot)
  • Weight with batteries- 8.2oz (4.8oz more than the Spot)
  • Measured Max Distance- 82m (11m more than the Spot)
  • Measured Run-time- 9.4 hours (5.7 more than the Spot)
  • Contender for Top Pick for Trail Finding due to beam distance and excellent battery life

Click to enlarge
Black Diamond ReVolt
  • Cost- $60.00 ($20 more than the Spot)
  • Weight with batteries- 3.7oz (.3oz more than the Spot)
  • Measured Max Distance- 56m (15m less than the Spot)
  • Measured Run-time- 10.6 hours (11.3 more than the Spot)
  • Batteries can be charged right in the lamp using a USB adapter
  • Editors' Choice award winner

Click to enlarge
Black Diamond Sprinter
  • Cost- $80.00 ($40 more than the Spot)
  • Weight with batteries- 3.7oz (.3oz more than the Spot)
  • Measured Max Distance- 39m (32m less than the Spot)
  • Measured Run-time- 5.1 hours (1.4 more than the Spot)
  • Top Pick award winner for runners
Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 5, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.3)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 75%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 25%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   May 5, 2016 - 01:14am
PeteBurke · Backpacker · Burke, VA
Took the spot on several Appalachian Trail section hikes.
I also use it for car camping/around the house.
I'll start with the negative. All the modes and brightness settings are a bit of a handful. It can take a few clicks of the button to get into the mode you're looking for. If it were more intuitive, this would be a five star review.
That said, I love and rely on this headlamp.
I consider a red light mode a must-have for camping in crowded AT shelters. Red mode means not waking everyone up during late night privy runs.
The high beam helped me navigate a steep, rocky trail to a spring after a long, hot day.
Weight is a total non-issue. I barely know I'm carrying it.
Even though this lamp is not rated waterproof, I give it high marks. I foolishly left it in an exposed outside pocket of my pack during an afternoon of pouring rain. Upon trying the light that evening, it was dead, and I figured I had fried my new purchase. But the next day, I took out the batteries and left the light open, hanging on my pack. After a day of drying, the Spot was in perfect working order and has functioned flawlessly for months since. My takeaway: the Spot means it when it says it isn't waterproof, but nonetheless, it is a resilient and somewhat idiot-proof piece of gear.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 21, 2016 - 04:36pm
David Martin · Climber · London
Yes, the light output and modes of output are great. The button presses required to cycle through them are not exactly intuitive but that is probably the price we pay for some many options.

However, the Spot is let down by a major shortcoming: its lock system. This is de-activated by a 5 second press of its button. Such a simple system means I am continuously finding the Spot shining brightly from within my backpack! The degree to which the Spot can be activated with no user input amazes me.

Sorry, this is an unacceptable shortcoming for a device which I consider a safety critical item. I've resorted to taking the batteries out between uses, which is obviously fiddly and simply shouldn't be necessary.

A real shame as its otherwise an ideal unit, but completely let down by the likelihood it will contain dead batteries when I need it most.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 23, 2015 - 12:48am
Coloradeaux · Backpacker · Denver, CO
Not as bright as higher end headlamps, but it strikes the right balance for those on a budget and want performance. Tapping for brightness adjustment and locking the headlamp to prevent accidentally turning it on isn't super intuitive. Read the owner's manual and use it a few times before you take off on a long trip.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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by Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier


Unbiased.