Ken Hough Photographic Repair Service, Specializing in the Restoration of Deardorff View Cameras 
presents the webs most authoritative

Deardorff Historical
Web Site

    1923                          1988
M F G.  B Y

As of Sept 1st 2010


      (Please put the word  "Deardorff " in subject line)

Contact Info at bottom of page. This is a LONG page go ALL the way to the bottom please

A Brief History Lesson

    Laben F. Deardorff had been a camera repairman for  nearly 30 years before building the first 8 x 10 Deardorff. He had been employed by Rochester Camera Company in the 1890s. Part of the design of the Premo line of cameras was his responsibility. Rochester Optical factory records do not say what part. He moved to Chicago and set up shop as a repairman.  He developed a skill of re-figuring lens to improve their performance in addition to modifying existing view cameras such as Eastmans &  Senecas  to have front tilt and swing. He knew the optical advantage of these movements even if the camera manufactures did not ! Around 1920 according to Merle ( his son ) some pro photographers and architects approached Laben to build a camera to photograph buildings so the image had parallel lines. His own camera at last. Employing his three sons Merle S., John Milton and James Russell.  L.F. Deardorff  & Sons proceeds to make a camera very much influenced by the English Folding Field camera design of the 1880s but with more movements.  Labans camera of 1923 maintained a resemblance all the way to the last Chicago  built Deardorff of the 1980s. Those first 10 cameras were self casing and  had rear swing and tilt, triple extension bed,  front tilt and  a rising lens board panel. Why the rising panel? So the photographer could change the image position without refocusing or changing the tilt setting. These first 10 cameras had a 5 1/2 X 6 inch lens board. Merle told me the lens board size was so  photographers would buy their boards. They went to the standard 6 x 6 Eastman board after those first 10 cameras. The photographers most likely also had Eastmans and did not want to buy different lens boards. Production figures in 1923 were 10 V8s ( 8x10s). 1928 saw a run of 15 then another 25 cameras. 1929 saw 175 made. Changes made from 1923-28 were the lens board, 5 1/2 x 6 to 6x6. The rear frame size went from 11 3/4 inches square to 12 inches sq. The front standard went from a wood and aluminum piece to all aluminum.
    1930 saw the departure of the ALL handmade camera. Till that time every metal part except the gear racks and gears were made by the family members. The metal parts were hand polished and clear lacquered.  The orders for the cameras were overwhelming for a 3 person factory. This made it necessary to to economize production. Batch production became a must. No more one at a time parts were to be made.  In 1930 they went to outside sources to produce many metal parts. Frame corners were now a stamping as were other parts. All brass parts were PAINTED in a Dulux gold paint. This lasted till 1937-38.
Why gold paint ? So there was NOT so much work in preparing the metal ! Clean it and paint it ! Merle Deardorff described to  me the exact way to prep both both types of metal.  I have since restored about 25 of the early cameras and there  is nearly 7 hours satinizing the metal. Painting takes about 3 1/2. The wood went from light brown in '23 to red/brown in '31 to brown in '37.  In 1937/38 the metal parts saw the application of nickel plating. This lasted till the end of the Chicago camera production in 1988. In 1992 The new L.F. Deardorff & Sons  started production in Tennessee. The most radical change was the use of stainless steel in place of nickel plated brass. Their production ended about 1996. It should be noted,  Laben himself spelled his name Laban and Laben.

Mr. L.F. Deardorff circa 1931                       USPS Stamp

Correct Terminology
Throughout this site I use the same terms that the factory did to describe the various model of cameras and part names. You will see the term "OS". It means simply an older style of camera. An out of production camera or part.  Deardorff used the terms V to represent a "View camera". Using these terms helps differentiate the early from the later models.

     All Vs are folding View ( V ) cameras. All V8s are folding 8x10s.  A V8 OS  can be any version of  an 8X10  pre front swing camera from 1923-49. A V4 OS is the Baby Deardorff, circa '36-49. A V4 is a "4x5 Special" circa '50-88. A V5 OS is a 5x7 without front swings circa '26-49. A V5 is a "5x7 View" circa 1950-88. Other examples are : "S"=Studio, "HP"=Home Portrait, "T"=Triamapro, "P"=Portrait, "HS"=Handy Stand.
   Deardorffs folding cameras had a front standard and a rear frame NOT a rear standard.
Most metal parts from 1938 are nickel plated. The rear swing on V5 and V8 was Cast Aluminum till 1938 then it was Stainless Steel. On Larger cameras like the V11, 12x20 the front and rear turntable are cast alumn. Gear racks are nickle plated brass. OS style 5x7s can not be converted to front swing.  Go here:  front-swing.html  to see how you can affect front swings with a non front swing camera.
Early Camera date revision!!

Click these to learn about your Deardorff
When was it made? Dating a Deardorff

Learn the fine details of a Deardorff

How to care for your Deardorff


Grading your Deardorff

Merles S. Deardorffs History of Deardorff

About the book, Corrective Photography

Front Swings with a no front swing camera

Click the links below to go to the different cameras! Have fun!


V5-OS 5x7 View

V4-OS (The Baby)

V5 &V4, 5X7 View- 4x5 Deardorff View-
Deardorff 4X5 Special)

V11 (11x14)

8x20 / 12X20


Studio Cameras

Portrait Camera

Home Portrait Camera




Want to buy a Deardorff?
This is the link to Ebays Search for Deardorff

The reason for this web site is twofold. First it is to educate the viewer about Deardorff Cameras and the people who made them. Second, to share my enthusiasm for this fine camera.
It is only opinion.

Presented By
Ken Hough Photographic Repair Service Specializing in the Restoration of Deardorff View Cameras since 1981. Factory Trained 1981-88. 219-462-0281 Weekdays only please !


(Please put the word  "Deardorff " in subject line)
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 About  Me

My History with Deardorffs

Cameras For Sale


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Web site Links
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