The Legendary Deardorff

Today some of my friends were discussing "progress". They were talking about computer hardware. It was interesting to learn that we consider innovative devices of only 10 years old almost to belong in a museum. This is luckily not the verdict of all types of innovation. For instance, in 1893, Laban F. Deardorff created his first innovative field camera. This camera has been sold for more than 100 years, actually till 1996. It is a wonderful camera that is still sold on eBay. There are still quite a few photographers that still use (or dream of) a Deardorff.


The Deardorff

The Deardorff is one of the world's best known wooden field style cameras. The Deardorff Company has been in continuous operation since 1893. Over 23,000 8 x 10 cameras have been produced since the first camera was assembled.

  The current model 8 x 10 Deardorff has a suggested retail price of $3900. It has a 30" bellows, swings, tilts and fall on the front and swings and tilts on the rear standard.

  All the gear drives, tracks for the three beds, and the friction points for the swing and tilt movements are made from stainless steel so the camera should never wear out. All parts and workmanship (except for the bellows) are guaranteed for 30 years.

  The current model has been in production since 1942 with only minor modifications. Models prior to 1942 will not have the front swing adjustment. It is possible to buy one of the earlier models and have the front standard re-built for about $625. This modification can be done by Deardorff or by Ken Hough (219) 464-7526 who repairs and rebuilds Deardorff cameras.

  The Deardorff people do not really feel the front modification is cost effective unless the photographer plans to do studio work or serious architectural work with the camera.

  The weight of the camera is 12lbs. Lenses from 210mm/8.25" to 600mm/24" can easily be used on this camera. Shorter lenses can be used but the bellows will limit the movements. Lenses longer than 24" should be telephoto lenses to allow for focusing for objects closer than infinity. The Deardorff is the one fieldcamera that has been accepted by many studio photographers as their everyday camera.


Excerpt from View Camera, Volume 1, Number 2, November 1988.

 A Deardorff advertisement in Collectors Photography, September/October 1987

A Deardorff advertisement in Collectors Photography, September/October 1987