Beauty Lightmatic SP [1963]

The name given to the very last camera made by the Beauty Camera Company abandoned the "O" between Light and matic; possibly because this sort of 1950s portmanteau nomenclature was largely out of fashion in the new decade. Prior to this time, letters in camera names usually had a meaning (S for a rangefinder, L for a light meter). I can only guess that the meaning of "SP" was "shutter priority" (or "spare parts"), since the Lightomatics had been initially designed to encourage this approach to exposure setting.


The Lightmatic SP offered very little innovation: just tweaks here and there.


The top plate was slightly restyled/simplified. The frame containing the illumination/rangefinder/viewfinder windows was reshaped. The meter needle window was smaller. The size of the rewind knob was increased such that the crank handle folded into it, and no longer sat in an indentation in the top plate. The wind crank arm was less shapely and gained bulk. The frame counter was moved from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock, relative to the wind crank. The lens barrel was changed to incorporate silver-edged film-speed and aperture dials. There was a new colour-changing-dot, shutter cocked indicator, and a new film transport indicator (a spinning disc), located under the wind crank arm, and therefore only visible when the wind-crank arm was operated. The meter sensitivity adjustment facility, tucked behind the shutter release button on previous models, was abandoned.

 

I would question the logic of the film transport indicator; discontinuation of the rewind-knob-arm body rest allowed the SP's control to turn as the film was wound, and so provide a visual confirmation that the frame had been advanced.

 

Sales

 

I don't know what the SP cost in the UK, but would guess it was around £30, and primarily sold by Dixons.


In my estimation, this is a rare model (but not necessarily valuable), and almost invisible in Internet scribblings about cameras. Those I've have seen for sale usually look good, but exhibit a variety of obvious mechanical faults - just like mine. Based on low serial number observation, I suspect less than 10,000 were made.

 

Known serial numbers

 

C1291,C1492, C1952, C2402, C6404, C8507

Postscript

When the  Lightomatic III was launched in 1961, it was pretty much in step with current trends and technology, but the 1960s were a time of rapid change. 1961 heralded the  introduction of  exposure automation in 35mm rangefinder cameras; first seen in models such as the Canon Canonet and the Fujica 35 Auto M. In 1962, the step forward was the switch to better performing Cadmium Sulphide (CdS) light sensing systems, first seen in the Taron Marquis. In 1963 the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 combined exposure automation with CdS metering.

 

Beauty Camera development had fallen behind to the extent that their Lightmatic SP had little chance of competing. According to JCII records, there were 170 Japanese companies in 1954, when the JCII was established. In 1984, only 11 of those remained in business (all dates and figures quoted from "the Evolution of the Japanese Camera").

Bellow: the Lightmatic SP seen from a couple of angles.

Beauty Lightmatic SP
Beauty Lightmatic SP

Below: the top-plate with wind-arm cranked to reveal the spinning-disk film transport indicator. The small dot between the shutter release and the frame counter is the colour-changing shutter cocked indicator.

Beauty Lightmatic SP top-plate

I paid £6.51 (plus p&p) for this camera in June 2015. It shows few outward signs of heavy use or abuse, but it has some serious mechanical issues. I rather suspect that internal components, once accurately machined, became cheaply die-cut, and the emergence of plastic on the outside was probably matched by more plastic internals. On my SP, the shutter blades are stuck; they try to open, but something is preventing this. The focus adjustment only operates between 5 feet and infinity. The rangefinder image doesn't appear to move at all, and is way out of alignment at all focus settings. The self-timer is stuck. On the plus side, the meter is lively. I don't particularly like this model: it just seems to have lost some of the charm of earlier Lightomatics.