9other Beauty cameras in my collection:


JapanBeauty Super L [1958 - 1959]



The Super L was the Beauty Camera Company's first model with a built-in light meter. Typical for the time, this comprises 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. The Super L went one step further, and was originally sold with an amplifier - a plug-in additional Selenium photocell used to boost meter sensitivity for dim light readings (a few cameras of the time, such as the Mamiya Elca and Minolta Super A, offered this facility). The meter control therefore has 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.

Beauty Super L meter dialExposure setting revolves around the Light Value system (this article): meter readings are shown as LV numbers, and transferred to the lens barrel via an LV setting ring, which is coupled to the aperture and shutter speed control dials to provide simplified (i.e. one adjustment) exposure set-up. LV ring adjustments firstly change the aperture setting, and then alter the shutter speed if achievement of a LV exceeds the maximum or minimum possible apertures. There is a single aperture/shutter speed adjustment dial, which moves each synchronously to maintain an LV, or can be used to pre-select a shutter speed for the LV ring to assign an aperture to.

In all other respects, the Super L was quite conventional. It was produced until 1959 and superseded by the Lightomatic, which featured a coupled meter and abandoned the amplifier facility.

The Super L was re-badged as the Beauty Camera Company (B.C.C) Varicon SL. I have been unable to find any information on Varicon branding, but it was presumably a name change specific to a non-USA sales region? The Super L wasn't sold in the UK, but based on the USA advertised $99 price tag, it would have cost around £56 here in GB. That would have been the equivalent of a whole month's average pay. Documents published at Photo.net reveal the camera could be purchased for $49 by 1959, and was less expensive than the replacement Lightomatic (at $69).

Click here for a complete comparison of Beauty 35mm rangefinder models.




Viewfinder: Coincidence rangefinder integrated with viewfinder. Bright line Albada with fixed parallax correction marks.

Focus: Coupled rangefinder with manual ring on lens barrel.

Lens: Canter-S 45mm f1.9 (6 elements in 4 groups) coated Lanthanum glass (Discovered by Leitz laboratories, Lanthanum is a metallic element used to make high quality optical glass, because of it can be made thinner to provide a high refractive index, and it has a low-dispersion, which reduces chromatic aberration, i.e. the failure of a lens to focus all colours to the same convergence point.).

Close Focus: 0.8m / 2'7".

Diaphragm: 5 blade stopping down to f/16.

Shutter:. Copal SVL with speeds from 1 to 1/500th sec,. plus B. Self-timer of about 10 seconds.

Cable Release: None.

Meter: EV 5 - 17 range.

Exposure: Uncoupled Sekonic Selenium photocell with three sensitivity settings, and filter factor adjustment.

Film Speed: From ASA 6 - 800.

Filter Size: 46mm screw thread.

Flash: Cold shoe and PC terminal. M and X sync with selection lever. X sync at 1/60th sec.

Film Advance Lever: 180° single stroke (including 20° offset).

Frame Counter: Counts up. Resets automatically when camera back is opened.

Rewind: Camera-bottom rewind tension release button with top crank.

Back Opening: Sliding catch.

Size: 140 x 84 x 72 mm (w x h x d).

Weight: 756g.


My Camera

The product of a small and little known manufacturer with no UK distribution, coupled with a short production run almost 60 years ago, makes the Super L understandably uncommon. Examples come up for sale infrequently, and rarely still have their detachable amplifier. Prices have typically been from £250 without to £400 with the amplifier ... but they don't sell.

Low supply and low demand make this collectable camera difficult to value today; it really is a case of what-you're-willing-to-pay, coupled with the level of interest at the time of the sale in the case of an auction.

I was willing to shell-out some extra dosh for this scarce camera, which became available in February 2018 (without an amplifier, but it does have its original lens cap), since it completes my Lightomatic-type family. Two other bidders spent a week driving the price up, one of whom must have been pig-sick when my dying-seconds bid pipped his/hers by 50p. Haha ... how many times has someone done that to me? The final price was £50.50. I would not normally spend that sort of money on an ancient and obscure model, but I had £40 in Nectar points, so I parted with £10.50 worth of real money for my Super L.

Thankfully my camera is as described - in FWO and good condition. What I like about this camera is that it demonstrates the rapidity of technological advances. In 1958 it offered the latest exposure setting system, but just a year later uncoupled meters were out-dated.




NB: The user manual says - there is also an indicator which shows the type of film loaded in the camera at the time of shooting (page 4) - but there is no such device on the this model!
It also states - be sure that the Rewinding Knob rotates in the direction indicated by the arrow on the Rewinding Knob (page 7) - but it doesn't have an arrow either!

Beauty Super L

Beauty Super L

Beauty Super L

Beauty Super L advert