I have been using the Black Diamond Spot for 3 months now, and I must say, I am very pleased with its performance thus far. My previous headlamp was a Petzl Tikkina that served me faithfully for 4-5 years. I upgraded for several reasons, but mainly because headlamp technology has improved quite considerably in the past several years. The output of my Tikkina just wasn’t cutting it anymore, and it lacked a very important feature that I needed for my nighttime road runs, a strobe.
After researching a ton of lights in the under $50 I settled on the Spot. The Spot retails for $39.95, but can be had for less with a little bit of shopping around. Weighing in at just 54 grams (+ batteries), the Spot has a max output of 75 lumens, throwing over a 70 meter distance. The spot comes with 3 AAA alkaline batteries, and I have been using that set out of the box for months now. When it comes time to replace them, I will be moving to lithiums for longer life, better cold weather performance, and a reduction in weight. That said, I am getting impressive life with the original set of batteries. I use this light at least four times a week, and even more during hunting season.
Before moving onto what I love about the Spot, I thought I would mention what I don’t like right up front. My main reason for doing so is that the Spot’s only weakness (in my opinion) is only due to its overall strength.
What do I mean by that? Well, the Spot is a very powerful and flexible light, and for simplicity’s sake, Black Diamond decided to have just one button to control all of the features of the Spot. I love simplicity as much as anybody, but what Black Diamond’s has actually done is make the light a little bit complicated by attempting to make it simple. In my opinion, the Spot should have more than one button to control the various features of the Spot. This downfall doesn’t make the light unusable, it just makes it complicated enough that you have to learn how to use the light. It isn’t intuitive out of the box. More on that later…
Variety. As I mentioned in, “The Bad”, the Spot is a very powerful light. Actually, I should say the Spot is a very powerful collection of lights, since it is actually three lights in one. The Spot has a main light, a less-powerful pair of secondary white lights, and a pair of red lights to provide proximity light while preserving the user’s low-light vision.
The main light has a lumen rating of 75 (max) to 4 (min), with a battery life of 50 (on max) to 200 hours (on min), and an effective distance of 70 (on max) to 8 meters (on min). The secondary pair of lights has a lumen rating of 16 to 4, a battery life of 90 to 250 hours, and an effective distance of 15 to 5 meters.
Output Flexibility. Many lights out there have different output modes, most often a high, medium, and a low. The Spot takes this even further: both the primary beam and the secondary set of lights are able to be finely adjusted by entering that light mode and holding the button down to gradually dim the light. The high beam alone can be adjusted from its max of 75 lumens down to 4 lumens. That is flexibility!
Indicators. The spot has a small indicator light on the side of its body. This indicator light is activated each time the light is powered on, notifying the user of the overall health of its battery life. If the indicator flashes green, the batteries have greater than 50% of their estimated life remaining, an orange indicator represent 25-50%, and a red indicator represents less than 25% remaining. The indicator light will also flash blue when it enters lock mode, and when the user attempts to turn the light on while it is in lock mode.
Strobe. Both the secondary white lights, and the red lights have a strobe mode. As someone who runs at night on fairly well traveled roads, the white strobe function is a must-have feature. It is amazing how much more visibility I have as a runner by using the strobe function!
Adjustability. The Spot’s main assembly can be tilted at varying angles, as well as removed from the head strap completely. To be honest, I don’t use the tilt feature much, and according to reports it can be one of the weak spots (no pun intended) of this light. In my research, several reviewers of this light have noted that the tilt function loses its tension and eventually wears out to where the light will only hold itself in the up or down position.
Unlike many other headlamps that I have used, the Spot is able to be easily removed from its head strap. This has proved to be a very useful feature. I have often clipped this light to the sternum strap of my backpack instead of having to wear it on my head.
What would I change?
Well, I am glad that you asked. As I mentioned previously, I think that Spot should have more than one button to control all of its features. As it stands now, hitting the button once will enter the main light mode. Turning the light off and turning it on again, the light will enter the secondary mode. Holding the button down for three seconds, the light will enter the red light mode. Holding the button down for six seconds, the light will enter “lock” mode. This will disable the light until the button is held down again for another six seconds to unlock it. Quickly hitting the button three times, the light will enter strobe mode. The set of lights that are used for strobe mode will be dependent on the mode that the light was previously used on. You can see how this “language” of button operation can quickly get confusing until you learn how to use the light.
While the one button operation takes a bit getting used to, I also don’t really have a perfect alternative in mind. My past lights have all used a slide switch to control the power and light modes. The switch is nice, but it does have its drawbacks: it can be inadvertently switched on while stored, and it is only useful for two-mode lights. With three light sets, two strobe modes, versatile dimming, etc., the slide switch definitely isn’t the answer for the Spot.
One button may be the best way to manage the Spot, but I would change how that one button performs. It would be nice if there was a way to start the Spot at the low 4 lumen mode and gradually bring up the light. In the current condition, the light starts out in high and is able to be gradually reduced, which isn’t ideal in any situation. I also wish that the lock out mode was a small, slightly recessed tactile switch.
In conclusion, my opinion is that the Black Diamond Spot is the best in its price range. Its many features are worth the bit of learning that it takes to operate the light’s many modes.