Friday, December 28, 2012

The Beauty Lite III 35mm Rangefinder Camera

Introducing the Beauty Lite III 35mm Rangefinder Camera from the Beauty Camera Co. LTD. of Tokyo Japan. Manufactured starting in 1961 this camera was also known as the Lightomatic III or the Lightmatic III. The camera's glass is a fixed Biokor-S 45mm f1.9 fitted with a Copal-SV in lens leaf shutter. Shutter speeds range from 1/500th to 1 Sec with a B setting, aperture range is 1.9 to 16. The camera's other features include a self timer, X and M Flash syncing through a pc flash socket, and a built on coupled Selenium meter. Metering is a single needle centering type, viewable both on the top of the camera and through the viewfinder. Focusing is achieved through a very bright coupled split image rangefinder in the camera's viewfinder.

The Beauty Lite III is extremely well made, with a rugged metal frame and nice fit and feel. Weighing in a just over 1 lbs. 8 oz., the camera is substantial but not bulky. The size and design is similar to the Leicas of the time. Film advance is a very positive single stroke mechanism with the ability to lock the shuttle release by pushing the advance lever flush with the camera body. Shutter Speed, Aperture, focus and ASA(ISO) setting are all controlled via rings on the lens, and though space is tight all controls are easily managed.

Available viewfinder information is limited to framing, focusing and metering needle, but the viewfinder, rangefinder, focusing frame and metering are all bright and easily viewed in all lighting conditions. Film loading is a typical manual slotted take up spool and is very easily achieved. Rewinding is also typical of most cameras of this vintage, with a top mounted rewind knob and a film release button on the bottom of the camera.
One nice cosmetic design feature is the notched rest for the camera's film rewind knob, purely a design flourish, but adds to the overall quality look and feel of this camera. I have an admitted soft spot for rangefinder cameras, as I first learned true photography on my Father's Kodak Retina IIIs, and the Beauty reaffirms that soft spot. The camera handles well and is whisper quiet. The bright rangefinder makes focusing easy and the lens mounted controls puts everything at your finger tips. After shooting my 1st roll, I found the Biokor-S lens to be extremely sharp with nice contrast. Edge to edge sharpness appears to be excellent and exposure is consistent over the entire image area.

Thank You to my Wife for finding this little gem, it made the perfect Christmas gift. I suspect this will become my general "carry" camera, always loaded and ready. The 1st roll through this camera is developed and scanned and samples are to follow.


  1. My girlfriend just recently picked up a beauty lite iii at goodwill of all places! we loaded up some b/w film and took it for a spin, but nothing on the film when we got it developed =( camera seems to work just fine. Any tips? we can't really find any information on people actually using the camera video youtube or the like. Any help would be appreciated! thanks

    1. Hello and Thanks for Looking. You made a great Goodwill find if you can get it working.

      The first think you can check is if the shutter is actually opening. You can do this by opening the back of the camera, setting the shutter speed to 1/60th, setting the aperture to f1.8, pointing the camera at a bright and cock and fire the shutter. If you see light, the shutter is working. Another thing to check is film advance. The best way to check this is to tension the film slightly with the rewind knob when you load it and watch to make sure the rewind knob turns as you advance the film. If both these items check out, you may want to try another roll of film to roll out the film was loaded improperly the first time. It happens to all of us at some point. I hope this helps.

  2. Hello, D. Matthew! I have one of theses cameras. It had been kept in storage for many, many years. It is obvious that it needs some cleaning. I followed your instructions above and confirmed that the shutter is working. Shutter speed is fine too. However, I can't move the focus ring at all. Couldn't figure out how to change ASA either. It seems to be stuck at 100. Also, how can I tell if the Selenium meter cells are ok? Would appreciate any help. Thank you. Alexandre