Beauty LightOmatic [1959 - 1960]

The new LightOmatic introduced coupled centre-the-needle exposure metering, which was a big step forward in ease of use. In this system, the user simply adjusted the shutter speed and/or aperture setting until the meter needle-pointer aligned with a single mark (which also visually solidified the concept of under and over exposure).

Coupled metering made the LV lens dial of the Super L redundant, but the shutter speed/aperture dials remained semi-interlocked. Simultaneous adjustment of both dials deactivated the interlock. Changes to the aperture dial setting did not alter the set shutter speed, but changes to the shutter speed setting synchronously modified the aperture setting to maintain an exposure value. The two-stage metering system was set aside, and the light meter cell accordingly lost its covering flap. The meter film speed range was boosted from 6 to 1600 ASA.


Abandonment of the LV system also allowed the shutter to be changed back to a Copal SV. The lens was a new Beauty-S 45mm f1.9, with a specification unchanged from that of the Super L's Canter. This was the first Beauty camera to have a focus dial scaled in both feet and meters, a feature that was retained in subsequent models.

The LightOmatic further differed from the Super L through incorporation of a self-correcting (parallax [1] compensating) bright-line [2] viewfinder. The viewfinder frame-lines automatically moved synchronously with the focus setting; downward and to the right for close focus, and upward and to the left at infinity. The camera also gained a nifty wind-arm shutter lock, which prevented accidental exposure when the arm was flush with the camera body. The Lightomatic was also the first model to have "Beauty Camera Co. Ltd" engraved into its bottom-plate.


[1] Parallax Error (from "parallel axis error") arises when a subject is closer to the camera, and the image seen in the viewfinder is not the same as that captured through the lens, due to the viewfinder's offset position (see the Glossary for more information on parallax compensation).


[2] In a bright-line viewfinder, the frame-lines are reflected from the reverse side of the viewfinder objective lens (not to be confused with a "bright-frame" viewfinder found in the LightOmatic II (see the Glossary for more information on bright-line and bright-frame viewfinders).

A design peculiarity was the graphic next to the top-plate meter needle window, which attempted to permanently illustrate lens adjustments required to centre the needle, and a weird film-type reminder with two setting options: colourful sideways-w, and black & white sideways-w (presumably representing colour and black & white films).



The model was distributed under the alternative name of Beauty LM. As far as I can tell, the only difference between the two was their top-plate engraved name, and the badge on the front of the body, which read "AUTO exposure" on the LM, and was reversed to read "exposure AUTO" on the LightOmatic. However, I've seen a couple of LM models with an older Canter S lens. Maybe they were early products: known serial numbers do strongly support LM production before the Lightomatic.



Based on known serial numbers, I estimate that around 20,000 LightOmatics and LM (together) were made. Today, both the LightOmatic and its LM counterpart are uncommon.


The LightOmatic sold for £38/19s/6d here in the UK in 1960 (according to Amateur Photographer magazine); the year in which Japanese import quotas started to become more relaxed.

Here's a link to a full page advert by the "Camera Specialty Company" (from a 1960 edition of Modern Photography). This, along with other US advertisements, refers to the Beau LightOmatic, but has an illustration of a camera with the "AUTO exposure" badge found on the LM. I have been unable to find a photograph of an actual LightOmatic with this hybrid detail, and so am fairly confident this was merely a marketing error.


Follow this link to view the instruction manual for the Beauty LightOmatic at Orphan Cameras.

I paid £13.50 (plus p&p) for my camera in July 2016. Happily it's in FWO, although the focus adjustment is a little stiff.

Known serial numbers

L2702, L2750, L4447, L4568, L4591, L4594, L4644, L4687, L5362, L5449, L5627, L6442, L6727, L6758, L6811, L7755L7781, L8068, L8345, L8440L8505, L8595L8516, L9034, L9350, L9516, L10735, L11363, L11679, L11798, L11865, L12338, L12644, L13833, L14086, L14089, L14884, L15198, L15274, L15640, L15831L15846, L15999, L16016, L16108, L16965, L17225L17292, L17478, L18092, L18482L18794L19069, L20678, L20964, L21412L21695, L22255L22488, L22862  (38 + 18 examples)

Beauty Lightomatic
Beauty Lightomatic
Beauty Lightomatic
Beauty Lightomatic

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

Beauty Lightomatic advert

Below: the Lightomatic was badged "exposure Auto", while the LM's read "Auto Exposure". 

Beauty Lightomatic and LM
Beauty LM box