Casio's TR series of Exilim compacts has propelled the Japanese company to record profitability this year after the cameras caught a firm grasp of the massive Chinese selfie market. According to a report from Nikkei Asian Review, Casio is on-track to make a $403 million profit this year, and a good part of that has come from the sale of its unusually shaped EX-TR compact cameras that the company has designed to appeal to female selfie shooters.

Just after the launch of the first TR - the Exilim TRYX EX-TR100 – in 2011, Casio's photography business was in such trouble that it pulled distribution in the majority of territories it operated in. At the time Casio concentrated on the 'cool' looks of the camera and its ART modes that created HDR and painting-effect images, but since 2013 the TR cameras have proved such a hit with the Chinese that its imaging division expects to make a ¥4.2bn (about $34.5 million) operating profit. That comes after four years of losses, up to 2012. 

The secret of the camera’s success has been a combination of a growing fashion-conscious design and the product’s suitability for shooting selfies. With a hinged frame the TR models can support themselves standing upright so are ideal for placing on a table facing the subject. They also have a number of ways to trip the shutter including squeezing the frame, using a 'selfie pad' on the side of the body, using a count-down-display self-timer, by the camera detecting the subject putting his/her hand in a certain part of the frame and by touching the 3" LCD. The 921,600-dot LCD also acts as a digital mirror so the subject can check hair and make-up before the picture is taken – as the camera lens and the LCD face in the same direction. 

It has become common to feature digital retouch shooting modes in compact cameras, but Casio’s Exilim TR models go a step further with make-up modes that offer up to 12 levels of skin smoothness as well as skin tone adjustments to suit the way you want to look. A step beyond that even is make-up mode bracketing that provides three images with smoothness levels either side of the setting you chose yourself. In the latest model, the EX-TR70, make-up mode is now available when shooting movies too. 

For those not sure of their best side, pose bracketing gives you five chances to look good as the camera's voice guidance counts down three-two-one between pictures so you have the opportunity to ruffle your hair, bend a knee or pout a little bit more. 

All of the EX-TR models use a lens with an angle of view equivalent to a 21mm on a 35mm system. Such a focal length would seem excessively wide for general purpose photography, but when holding a camera at a short-arm's length it has proved perfect for getting you and your friend in the frame. Instead of a flash the cameras are equipped with an LED light that's positioned very close to the lens axis to create soft and shadowless lighting – and the LED is round to form an attractive circular catch-light in the eyes. Genius. 

The cameras have proved so popular in China that Casio has opened three stores that sell only TR series models. The stores are designed like make-up boutiques, to set the products apart from other cameras in the market. At up to ¥100,000 (about $800) a pop these are not low-cost novelties priced for the mass market, so clearly Casio has been doing something very right indeed. 

For more information on the Casio Exilim TR series see the Casio digital camera website.