Upload & Sell: On
Dylan is right about the 50 f/2 being the best value for money I bought a 50 f/2 H-C AI'd two weeks ago on E-bay for $52. It is in MINT condition. I also bought an EX early 50 f/1.8 AI-s, the long nose, for $46. Here are the five 50mm lenses now in my kit. I took this shot a few minutes ago with the 105 f/1.8 AI-s
55 f/1.2 S-C AI'd, 50 f/1.2 AI-s, 50 f/1.8 AI-s, 50 f/1.4 S AI'd, 50 f/2 H-C AI'd
The 55 was the first AI'd lens I added to my kit and that prompted me to buy the other two. I haven't spent a great deal of time with either so I can't comment on their performance but Bjorn is a big fan of the f/2. I will say, however, that the 55 is the most enjoyable lens to use. I'm a bit enamored at the moment with the knurled focusing rings on these older lenses. But I had last edition AI copy of the 55 f/1.2 and it is a wonderful lens as well. The 55 produces a slightly smoother bokeh than the 50 f/1.2 when used wide open.
With regard to the classic NOCT, it does one thing remarkably well and that is render points of light beautifully in a darkened scene. If that is something critical to your photography, this may be the lens to buy. But frankly, it seems like a great deal of money to spend for such a fast lens when there are alternatives available at a tenth the cost. If you have unlimited resources no problem buying a lens like this if only for the cachet. It is difficult to believe one needs a $3,000 lens to take a sharp photo and with modern sensor technology and processing software the speed of the lens is almost irrelevant. So if you're shooting at night and want to avoid coma in the corners while producing brilliant points of light, the NOCT is the way to go. Otherwise if I were building a kit of MF lenses, I'd likely start with an f/2 and keep my eye out for a clean copy of the 55 f/1.2 with a serial number above 400xxx. Trying to find an S-C with the Nikon AI conversion kit is like looking for a needle in a haystack... Luckily I found a mint copy at a great price... but that was dumb luck.