Beauty Super L [1958 - 1959]

The Super L was the Beauty Camera Company's first model with a built-in light meter, and featured a brand new body design that abandoned the 35 Super/Canter/Super II chassis. The Beauty Camera Company were among the pioneers of Japanese integral metering, and had begun work on this project early the previous year; although Mamiya was the first to market with the 1958 Mamiya Elca.


Typical for the time, the metering system comprised an uncoupled Selenium photoelectric cell with a flap cover and peep-slot, which was closed for bright light metering and opened for lower light readings (see the Glossary for more information on Selenium meters). The Super L went one step further, and was originally sold with an amplifier; a plug-in additional photocell used to boost meter sensitivity for dim light readings (a few cameras of the time, such as the Elca, offered this facility). The meter control therefore had three light-level calibration scale reading points (High, Low, and Amplified), plus exposure compensation alignment marks for yellow (+1 stop) or orange (+2 stops) filter adjustment factors. The meter could accommodate film speeds in the range of 6 to 800 ASA, and was made by Seiko Electric Industries, who still make Sekonic light meters today.


Exposure setting revolved around the LV system (see the Glossary for more information on the LVS), which was supported by a new Copal SVL shutter (as used in the 1962 Yashica Minister II, and the 1964 Minister D).

 

The aim of the LV system was to simplify exposure set-up for users who were not interested in the merits or subtleties of shutter speed and aperture combinations. The user first set a preferred shutter speed, and gave no heed to an aperture setting. Next they took a meter reading, which was displayed by the needle-pointer on the top-plate as an LV number. This was manually transferred to the lens barrel via an LV setting ring, which was coupled to the aperture and altered the aperture ring setting to the required f-stop for the set LV and shutter speed combination (e.g. LV13 = 60th+f/11 = 30th+f/8 = 15th+f/11, etc). Exposure setting was consequently described as a one-step process.

 

An intermediate ring between the adjacent shutter speed and aperture dials moved both synchronously to maintain an LV value, so that the more discerning photographer could make adjustments to the aperture/speed combination, according to their needs. 

 

The shutter speed and aperture dials would also automatically uncouple when limits were exceeded.

  • For example, say you set a shutter speed of 1/60, and the LV  to 14, which in turn sets and aperture of f/16. If the LV is increased to 15, the shutter speed dial changes from 1/60 to 1/125.

  • At the other end of the scale, if a shutter speed of 1/2 is set with an LV of 3, this sets an aperture of f/1.9. If the LV is decreased to 2, the shutter speed dial changes to 1 second.

The shutter and aperture dials could be manually uncoupled by holding their intermediate setting ring, and simultaneously turning the LV dial. This allowed the shutter speed to be set against a preferred aperture to achieve a desired LV.

 

The lens was the old Canter-S 45mm f1.9, as found on the Canter and Super II cameras, and the focus ring was still scaled in feet.

 

The Super L had a small and proud screwhead behind the shutter release (as did all subsequent Lightomatics except for the SP). Some say this is a rangefinder alignment adjuster, but it's not; it's a cover for the light meter adjustment control (see the Lightomatic II repair page for more information).

 

Variations

 

I am not aware of any variations for this model, but the Super L was rebranded as the otherwise identical "Varicon Super L/SL". Follow this link for more information on Varicon.

 

Sales

 

The serial numbers I have been able to collect suggest that there may have been as few as 8,000 Super Ls made (see the Varicon page for details), but they seem to have survived well, and whilst uncommon, they can still be found for sale.

 

So far as I can establish, the Super L (and the Varicon) was never sold in the UK. In the USA it had a retail price of $99, but sold for far less - as can be seen in the advert to the right.

Follow this link to see a full page magazine advertisement for the Super L from the March 1959 edition of Modern Photography magazine. Note the error, where the shutter is described as a Copal MXV, which did not support LV exposure setting. More than that, the statement that the viewfinder "corrects parallax" is a bit misleading since the user had to frame within additional frame-line markers to compensate for parallax errors (the camera did not correct parallax).

 

Follow this link for a copy of the Beauty Super L instruction manual at Orphan Cameras.

Beauty Super L
Beauty Super L
Beauty Super L
Beauty Super L
Beauty Super L meter

Below: an advertisement by the Direct Import Co, from the October 1959 edition of Modern Photography magazine.

1959 magazine advert for the Beauty Super L from the Direct Import Company

Below: an image captured from eBay, of a Beauty Super L with its meter amplifier fitted. The asking price was £248.03 (July 2021)

Beauty Super L with amplifier

This is a hard to find and potentially expensive camera, especially with the (often missing) detachable amplifier. Accordingly, I paid a whopping £50.50 (plus p&p) for mine in February 2018. Thankfully my camera is in FWO and good condition.