The $40 list Black Diamond Iota provides night time and early morning runners with a much lower cost alternative to the amazing Black Diamond Sprinter at $80 list. But, that cost savings comes with a big reduction in performance. The Sprinter offers better lighting, is much more comfortable to wear when running, and includes a red tail light that makes you more visible to cars and might just save your life. Serious runners will be wise to pass on the Iota and buy the Sprinter instead. But, for the occasional runner on a tight budget, or someone who runs exclusively on trails, the Iota is a contender.
Black Diamond Iota Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, rechargeable, well suited for night time running use
Cons: Below average beam throw, poor battery life, not competitive with general-use lights
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The BD Iota is a good light for those who love to take regular runs at dusk, dawn, or at night. Its big advantage is that it sells for half the price at $40 of the light you'd really want for running, the Black Diamond Sprinter which costs $80.
The lighting level of the Iota is pretty good when viewed for the special purpose as a runner's headlamp. The beam is wide, evenly lit, and lights up the path ahead sufficiently. While we much prefer the Sprinter's brighter and wider beam (as well as the Sprinter's rear tail light), the Iota is good enough to get the job done on well-defined trails, roads, and paths.
The Iota is pleasantly small and light at only 1.9 ounces or 53g. It is reasonably comfortable to wear when running, although the band is narrower than we'd ideally want to see (much narrower than most other BD headlamps, and it is no match for the stability and comfort offered by the Sprinter's balanced design and supportive top band.
The light's lithium-ion batteries are easily recharged using a micro USB charging cable. Rechargeable batteries are great for a runner's headlamp since it eliminates the hassle and cost of buying replacement batteries.
Battery life is relatively short, at 1.8 hours in our test, which stacks up poorly against most general purpose headlamps but will meet the needs of most runners.
Poor beam distance makes the Iota a compromised solution for general-purpose use, where the ability to switch into spotlight mode is core functionality.
The Iota beam just doesn't stack up well against stronger general-purpose lights like the BD Spot (shown above, right), or even versus the $20 Petzl Tikkina.
No Rear Tail Light for Road Safety
We consider the red safety tail lights on the Sprinter to be a very valuable feature for anyone who runs on the road, a feature that could literally be a lifesaver. While those who run exclusively on dedicated trails may find the red tail lights unnecessary, if you run even part time on the road, or in an urban environment on sidewalks with frequent road crossings, we think the tail light makes the Sprinter well worth the extra $40 over the Iota.
The Iota does a good job at creating the budget light for runners. If you are a runner who frequently runs in the early morning, at sunset, or at night, the Black Diamond Sprinter is the light we recommend and think you'd really want to use. But, the Iota provides good-enough performance at half the price, and so if you are on a tight budget, it just be might be the right solution for you.
— RJ Spurrier