Beauty LightOmatic III [1961 - 1963]

This model is the most common Beauty in circulation today.


The most obvious design change was movement of the meter cell to surround the lens (another popular trend in early 1960s camera design). The rationale was the light cell was closer to the lens, and more accurately "saw" what the lens captured. A bonus was that if a filter was fitted, it covered the meter cell, and so no user exposure compensation adjustment was required.

 

A subtle but significant improvement was the addition of a range-finder style handle to the lens aperture ring, which made the control easier to find unseen, and consequently encouraged shutter priority exposure setting.

 

Alterations to the top plate meant the space between the shutter release and meter pointer window was finally left empty (i.e. no naff graphics or tables). The slowest film speed range was raised from 6 to 10 ASA. 


Beyond this, the changes were cosmetic and modest. The increased use of plastic meant the lens housing got a new all black look, loosing most of the chrome. The focus adjustment lever was squared and made of plastic, as was the M/X flash synchronisation switch.  Even the lens cap was made of plastic. Overall, the III shed 60g of weight, compared to the Lightomatic II. The III was otherwise functionally identical to the II.

 

Variations

 

The LightOmatic III was also sold in the USA with the alternative name Lite III.

 

Sales

 

My estimate of the number of LightOmatic IIIs made, based on serial numbers, is in the order of >50,000, however, this number needs to be viewed in a context of other "popular" cameras. The 1961 Canon Canonet, for example, sold 1,000,000 units - 20 times more than the LightOmatic III - in a 21/2 year period (according to Canon's website).

 

From 1st January 1962, UK import restrictions on photographic equipment from Japan were completely removed. Here in the UK, the LightOmatic III was sold by the high street giant "Dixons", who specialised in the exclusive importation of products from smaller manufacturers, and sold them cheaply in large quantities. In 1962, the price was £29/17s/6d.

 

Dixons' strategy was pretty innovative. In the early 1960s, a prejudice against Japanese products existed, due to their pre-war reputation as shoddy goods. Indeed, "Wallace Heaton" (one of the most prestigious London camera shops) placed a notice in their 1961-62 "Blue Book" (an annual catalogue), which reads - We are', of course, aware that Japanese cameras have had an extensive build-up in the United States. We have not accepted this at face value, but decided to include ... only those instruments which we have been able to test ... and which we have found to be optically  and mechanically sound (I've edited the exact quote to make it less wordy).

 

Follow these links for a copy of the Beauty LightOmatic III or the Beauty Lite III instruction manual.

My research into this camera threw-up some unexpected findings: several examples of LightOmatic Biokor lenses which had been fitted with M42 screw mounts (click here for another one, and here for a Biokor from a LightOmatic II [text in Japanese]), and even someone selling a Leica L39 adapter (although fitting it appears a little complicated).

Known serial numbers

Lightomatic III/Lite III

V1389, V3414, V3664, V6001, V8357, V8927, V10413, V10668, V10585, V11242, V11746, V11828, V12389, V13043, V13411, V13421, V13575, V14802V15020, V15412, V15516, V15824, V17388, V22415V22691, V22734, V22965, V23360, V24212, V25536, V26438, V26441, V28216, V30279, V30765V30806V31338, V32870, V34170, V36392, V36597, V37464, V37477, V37561, V38108, V38130, V38496, V38589, V39548, V39900, V39962, V40092, V40547, V43099, V44542, V45689, V45787, V46017, V46110, V46325, V46713, V46758, V50648, V50983, V51888

V1015 is this the serial number of both the Lightomatic and Lite cameras depicted in the model's instruction manuals.

beautylite.jpg

Below: the LightOmatic III from a March edition of the Leader-Post newspaper (Saskatchewan - Canada). Note the misspelling of "famous".

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Bellow: a few views of the LightOmatic III, including the simplified top-plate details.

Beauty Lightomatic III
Beauty Lightomatic III
Beauty Lightomatic III top-plate

Below: the Lightomatic III box.

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Below: an internet image of the Lite III.

lite3.jpg

Below: the Lite III from an October edition of the Pittsburgh Press (USA).

Left: a Beauty Lite III box.

lite3ad.jpg

I paid £11.50 (plus p&p) for my camera in July 2014. The condition is very good, and everything works, although the meter needle seems a little jumpy at times.