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Kevin, I think you were already quite accurate about the different rendering of various lenses in this focal range. I own a 50mm f2 Ai which is pretty soft wide open but has about the smoothest OoF rendering I have seen with funny looking halos occasionally.
Then I have the 50mm f1,4 S.C which is scary sharp, even wide open. OoF rendering is a bit nervous or jittery but when paying close attention to what elements you have in focus and try to avoid much happening out of focus it's a terrific lens. Closest focusing distance 2 ft/0.6 m
My girlfriend owns the 50mm f1,8 AF-S. Very sharp, very contrasty. Ranges between slightly nervous and very smooth OoF rendering. Not the quickest AF, but AF at least is still faster then on any of my 50mm lenses
My 55mm f3,5 Ai micro Nikkor is also very sharp. Renders OoF very smoothly when focusing on close subjects. As a standard lens on average to far distance I don't like it to much because the f3,5 aperture doesn't work well to seperate subjects
My favorite 50'ish mm lens is the 55mm f1,2, I own the S.C flavor but it's mostly identical to th early Ai version. It's very sharp and contrasty at f2. At f1,2 it's dreamy but still sharp. OoF areas are rendered very smooth. It's easy enough to blow out a background that would be in the way at f2. Unsharp edges and corners as well as a lillte lens distortion for me add to the unique character of this lens.
50mm lenses I would like to own? A 50mm f1,4 AF-D maybe