I have a Rolleiflex T, model 1 (gray leather, with a decal inside stating for sale only in military exchanges in Europe), uses a 75mm Tessar. I bought it used about 3 years ago, had it overhauled, shutter checked, etc, and have been using it with great results. I remember using a 3.5f in the late 60's, and I'm thinking about moving up to something newer. I'm not having problems, but I know the Planar series is a better lens.
Some of my questions:
If I don't care about the lens speed, is the 2.8f worth the price difference? (seems like I've heard over the years that the 3.5f is sharper, can't remember).
Is either one noticeably better than the Tessar I have?
What is a good vintage, (for shooting, not collecting) that balances cost with quality and reliability? (seems like I've heard the 70's vintage are popular.)
Depending on how much the newer one would be, I would like to keep the one I have, as a backup. Is there anything special about it?
I can't really help with your questions, but just want to say that I have a 3.5F from 1961 and it is a great camera. It's probably my favorite camera, and the one I carry with me most of the time.
I have a 3,5 F with Planar lens and an older Tessar RolleiFlex as well--I've only used the Tessar model a few times as in couple of rolls of film and its nowhere near the optical quality of my Planar 3,5 (especially Wide Open and yes I know the Tessar design will result in the image sharper when stopped down) but then maybe the Tessars vary a bit as I'm not that familiar with the T models. As for the 2,8 versus 3,5 Planar I honestly can't say and I have both BUT my favorite is again the 3,5 version. It is the best RolleiFlex model(that I own) as far as I'm concerned but then I have a Maxwell Split Image focus screen installed on that one and WOW-What a pleasure to use compared to the old dark screens.
Of the older Rolleis the 3.5 Planar had the best reputation.
I don't have any opinions, but i'll be happy to share some facts ;)
The camera you have is very desirable. It is both a fine camera, but fairly uncommon.
It is a first rate camera, mechanically sound and not just 'an economy model'.
That's a 2 sentence condensation of a long and interesting history.
As for the lens, the ADVANTAGE of a Planar / Xenotar over a similar era Tessar is higher edge performance wide open. At f/8, they are practically the same.
Again, the Tessar is not in any way an 'economy' lens. The limitation of the design is edge performance at a high speed. But unless you are using the camera to make 30 x 40 prints of fine detailed onjects, using perhaps a film yet to be invented, you won't see a practical difference with your T.
Said differently, if you were making your living shooting color images wide open, the Planar / Xenotar would be better. But Avedon never needed anything more than his Tessars from mid '50s Rolleis ( yes, the ones Fred Astaire danced with in Funny Face were Avedon's ! ).
You will find the 3.5F & 2.8F to be faster handling, but no big difference in picture quality. If you enlarged the T's negarive in a perfect enlarger, like a Focomat IIc or a Durst 1200, you'd be able to see a difference between the 3.5 F and a 3.5 T ONLY if you shot a picture of something that made such a comparison possible, like a test target or building. But the T's image would be so good on it's own, you would never notice a deficiency.
Rolleiflex owners have always enjoyed joshing Hasselblad users over the superior results the Rollei TLR gets. And why not, it's that much simpler. Content yourself that your Rolleiflex T is the equivalent of a Hasselblad with an 80/2.8 Planar.
If you want to get a fancy Rolleiflex, get as new a model as you can. The Schneider and Zeiss models are dead even in performance. The 3.5 is a hair better ( an absurdly fine hair ) but a half stop slower. A toss up.
Comparing the late 50's / early 60s camera you have, to the end of the run examples: '70s-'80s Planars & Xenotars, you'll find more of a difference. But hardly a distinction that would make a bad picture good, or a good picture bad.
A thousand dollars is a fair price for a good, user, correctly functioning late model Rolleiflex. An excellent Rollei technician is Harry Fleenor. Contact him to find out a current overhaul price. Then shop for a good camera to fix up. Most Rolleis, like Leicas, haven't been used enough to be reliable today... like leaving a Rolex watch in the drawer for 40 years.
Good luck. You have a real treasure... show us the pictures !
I have a 2.8 E and a 3.5 F, both with the Schneider Xenotar lens, which is the same design as the Planar, but made by Schneider. I like the image quality of the 3.5 better, but don't ask me to describe the difference. The F is lighter and at 75mm, 5mm shorter (wider), in addition to the half a stop difference in aperture. The most recent F Planars are multicoated, but I don't miss it. If you have to get it overhauled anyway, or if it is in good shape, then you can go back to the 1950's, the C, D or E, and get a great camera. In my way of thinking you can't go wrong, so long as you're willing to get it fixed up. Tom Perkins
I have shot with a 2.8 F for many years now and it has never disappointed me yet. Save your money keep the camera you have and order a Maxwell screen for it. Amazingly brighter! All Rollei TLR cameras are wonderful well crafted instruments.
The 3.5F is the way to go IMO, doesn`t matter if with a Planar or Xenotar, they are both great.
Bet on the 3.5f with the Xenotar;).
Thank you all for your comments, just what I was looking for. df has made me think that I should probably have a sense of what my T is worth. Is there a web site where I can get an average value? (at least for insurance?)