L.F. Deardorffs Triamapro
was their attempt to build a precision hand camera. Some of you will
be unfamiliar with the term “ hand camera “. When I interviewed Merle Deardorff
I used the term Press camera and was promptly told that it was a hand camera.
Merle preferred that term because he assumed that most photographers using
the Triamapro would hold it instead of using a tripod. As usual with
the Triamapro, its existence is due to a series of seemingly disconnected
The 1920-40s were an interesting time for L.F.Deardorff
& Sons. In the mid 1930s the company was producing their folding
8x10 (V8), 5x7(V5), Baby(V4)(1936) and their line of huge studio cameras.
They had a salesman on the road, Lewis Kellsey who promoted the cameras
with great vigor. While traveling he stopped at a camera shop and was approached
by a man who wanted a camera with more movements than a Speed Graphic.
He said that Deardorff had one and what size did he want it in ? The man
ordered a 4x5 and gave a deposit. When Kellsey returned to Chicago
he gave the order to Merle. Merle thought for a minute and said to Kellsey
“ Why did you accept this order, we don't make a camera like this ! “ Kellsey
as I said was a salesman first. Designing and building were not his strong
points. He had no idea how long it would take to come up with this new
camera. Merle Deardorff on the other hand was an expert on the creation
and execution of everything Deardorff built. He took the basic idea of
a Speed Graphic and improved upon it by adding all front movements, rise
and fall, lateral shift, tilt and front swing. Also added was a revolving
back. A point of history here, the Triamapro was the first Deardorff camera
with front swing. One of the really neat features was an auxiliary
double extension wide angle bed in the cameras rear frame. It also
had one of the industries first synthetic bellows (1944).
The Triamapro could be ordered with
the range finders of the day i.e.: Hugo Meyer or a Kalart. It had no rear
shutter as in a Speed Graphic. Merle preferred the synchronizing of leaf
shutters. All this was in 1938. Some of these features predated Linhofs
by 15 years. How many Triamapros were made? About 500. The production
was from 1938-1948 with a couple built in the 50s from leftover parts.
One interesting fact here is that there were 3 versions of the 4x5. All
slight but with non interchangeable parts ! There were 2 5x7 Triamapros
built also ! Here are the specs of the Deardorff Triamapro. The back has
a pop up cloth sided hood and accepts standard CFH (Graphic style), Graflex
Style film backs were also an option enabling the use of bagmags.
Lens board ............4x4 graphic style
Rise & fall...........................3” Lateral
Front tilt ........................60deg
Front swing .......................40deg
Bed lowers.........................30deg ( for wide angle work )
Shortest lens 2.75 in
Weight 6.25 lb
Are they worth it ? They are fairly easy to use
but lack the smoothness of a Linhof and the beat ones usually need some
repair work. They are rugged and take good photos the movements are a bit
hard to lock down. Remember this is a 1930s design and construction methods
are not the same as the 1990s. This was a very precision camera in its
day, and the condition of those still in existence show that they earned
their keep quite well. What does TRIAMAPRO mean ? TRI-triple
extension bed. AMA-
There you have it. If you ever see a 5x7 Triamapro E
mail me !
Triamapro Page 2