The Spot is a light we have a kind of love-hate relationship with. For most practical purposes, the Spot is a terrific product that offers quality lighting at a good price, enough so that it wins an Editors' Choice award. It offers excellent optics, with strong performance in spotlight mode, and one of our favorites for use around camp or around the house, with a nice evenly lit flood beam. But, our love for the Spot is not unconditional. The Spot packs a lot of features into this little light, which is great, but they try to control them with a single button; accessing advanced features on the Spot is not easy to use involving a complex combination of single, double, and triple clicks combined with press-and-hold button actions. We also found several areas where the marketing claims on this little light over-promises and under-delivers. We cover this in more detail below but beware that the marketing claims for the Spot's battery life and waterproof features are, in our opinion, shamefully overstated and the actual performance does not match what the marketing claims promise. The Spot is nonetheless a quality light, and if the marketing claims were toned down to better match its actual real-world performance, we believe both Black Diamond and their consumers would be better served.Those looking for a quality light at a lower price might want to check out the Petzl Tikkina, which now offers double the brightness it did in the past, and provides a level of performance that will likely meet most people's needs for a price about 30% lower price than the Spot. That said, the Spot is definitiely a step up from the Tikkina. Those looking for firepower should consider the Black Diamond Storm which is significantly better than the Spot for only about $10 more.
Black Diamond Spot Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent spot light capability, wide evenly lit flood beam, above average in most ways
Cons: Below average battery life, claimed battery life is wildly misleading, single button hard to use, lame waterproofing
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Spot has long been a solid product, and it has been given some nice updates and improvements in the last few years, most importantly to the optics of the light, which now offer among the best beam patterns of any light we tested.
The Spot is one of our favorite lights, but it is not without some shortcomings, which we'll cover below. Lower cost competing lights have also improved significantly over the past few years, and the Spot now faces strong competition from lower cost lights like the Petzl Tikkina, which offers strong performance at a 33% lower cost, and is one of the other lights we recommend considering before buying the Spot (the other being the BD Storm). Below we'll take you through the Spot's performance, with ample comparison and contrast to other top contenders worth consideration.
The Spot is a strong performer when it comes to trail finding due to excellent optics, rendering a fairly wide beam that shines for 94 meters earning it an impressive 8 of 10. This is what separates it from other compact headlamps in the $30 range like the Yalumi Spark Pro 120, which gets a 6 of 10. As you can see in the beam comparison photos; the Spot shines much further and wider.
The Spot (shown left in the image above) does face some stiff competition from the much lower cost Petzl Tikkina (right). You can readily see the Spot shines further, but the Tikkina is not too shabby with a 62-meter beam distance. If price is more important to you than performance then you may find the 33% lower cost of the Tikkina compelling.
This is another metric where the Spot stands out from almost every other competitor, and earns a 9 of 10 due to its wide and very evenly lit beam. The Spot offers significant improvement over the lower-cost Tikkina in close proximity situations, with its outstanding and even flood mode.
Battery life in the Spot is below average and one of the more disappointing areas for a headlamp with such good lighting quality scores. This is an area where the Spot gets bested by its $10 more expensive sibling, the BD Storm, and even more so by the Petzl Tikka and Tikkina.
The ANSI measured high mode time for the Spot is 2.9 hours compared to the Storm's 5.0 hours. But, the disturbing thing here is that Black Diamond advertises the Spot as offering 30 hours battery life in high mode, which, in our opinion, is a preposterously exaggerated claim based on our testing. This stems fromBD's refusal to use the lighting industry's reasonable ANSI FL1 testing standard (which, ironically, BD helped define in 2009 as a member of the standards committee), but instead BD uses an obsolete battery life test standard dating from 20 years ago, and developed before LED lights were the standard and that we feel gives wildly misleading estimates of battery life for modern LED lights. You can read the full backstory, if you are interested, in our article, Why Headlamp Claims Are Deceptive.
At 89 grams (3.1 ounces), this is the lightest headlamp to excel at trail finding. Much lighter weight headlamps like the Black Diamond Iota (1.9 ounces) trade weight for beam power. Considering the lighting abilities of the Spot, its low weight is impressive. You'll need to go to up in weight another 1 ounce (or 23 grams, about the weight of 1 AAA battery), to get better trail finding. The BD Storm is 26% heavier (4.0 oz) and, the Zebralight is 45% heavier (4.5 oz), but both offer significantly better trail finding performance.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is a relatively weak area for the Spot, where it scored a 6 of 10. The issue here is that the Spot has a lot of features, and yet they rely on a single button to provide you access to the bulk of those features. The button itself is well designed and easy to use, even with gloves, but trying to get at all that functionality requires mastering a complex sequence of a single, double, and triple clicks combined with press-and-hold button actions.
The Spot is easy enough for basic functions, but once you get into trying to use advanced features like the red LED light, Lockout (to prevent the light from turning on accidentally in your pack), and dimming, we find ourselves frustrated with all the modes, and a confusing mix of press-to-hold features versus single and double clicking.
The Spot offers a brightness adjustment feature Black Diamond calls PowerTap Technology. The PowerTap feature allows touch a spot on the right side of the headlamp to flip the beam strength up or down. This feature works pretty well, even with gloves on, and it bridges the gap in ease of beam adjustment with the main button. PowerTap works as advertised, but it is easy to accidentally activate the PowerTap feature in normal use, and so it takes a little getting used to.
This is an ideal all-around headlamp capable of just about anything, from demanding trail runs to lightweight backpacking.
The Spot is Not Waterproof
Black Diamond markets the Spot with a claim of IPX8 waterproofing, meaning it should be good for 30 minutes when fully submerged to a depth > 1 meter. This IPX8 implies to naive consumers that the Spot is a great choice for use underwater or in wet environments where top-notch waterproofing is crucial — even better, apparently, then the IPX67 BD Storm. But, don't believe the hype.
In fact, the Spot offers no waterproofing seals and as a result water readily leaks into the battery case. The Spot has none of the thoughtful waterproofing features of the better foul-weather lights such as the Black Diamond Storm or Zebralight H600w, and in practice, it is really a lame performer under wet conditions, no better than splash proof in our opinion, and a terrible choice for use underwater. We consider Black Diamond to be a terrific and ethical brand. And so we're left scratching our heads at what genius in Black Diamond's marketing department thinks it is a great idea to puff-up the advertising claims of the Spot's performance so far beyond what consumers will find its real functionality in the field delivers. Like with their dubious battery life claims, this is a clear-cut case of BD making a decision to overpromise in their advertising, and underdeliver in the product. Why, BD, why?
Considering the beam performance and battery life, $40 list is an excellent value for this light, and you can often find it online selling for less. It is built to last, and will serve you well for many years.
The Spot is one of our favorite lights. It delivers a big punch for a small and light headlamp, and offers some of the best beam optics of any light we've tested. While it faces some tough competition from lower priced lights like the Petzl Tikkina, and more powerful lights like the BD Storm and Zebralight, the Spot is an excellent product with a long and reliable pedigree, and winner of one of our Editors' Choice awards.
— RJ Spurrier