As a user of Leica RF, Nikon SLR and Olympus OM SLR in 35mm, I would strongly recommend Olympus. They are compact, relatively cheap, and for me personally Zuiko glass is exceptional. I've heard they are called the Japanese Leica, and I can see why.
You need to describe the types of photography you will be doing before any intelligent suggestions can be made: nature, street, portrait, journalism, night, macro, astro, micro, technical ...? Are size or weight important, do you need a 'system' camera, what about AF or VR, matrix metering, TTL flash, fast motor drive, extreme telephoto ...?
So far you have mentioned f 1.2 lenses, but you haven't mentioned your use for an ultra-fast lens. Ultra-fast lenses will limit you to Nikon, Canon and Leica [although Minolta and others also made f 1.2's they aren't common]. Most f1.2 lenses aren't very good performers compared to a maker's f1.4. The exception being the Noctilux $5,000+ style lenses that are optimized for very little comma when shooting wide open and are made for taking nighttime pictures of city lights; but these lenses are only so-so compared to a standard f1.4/f1.8 lens when used for general shooting.
Good fast glass will most often be more expensive then the body depending on what you choose. Your best bet is to go to KEH.com and shop your glass prices under any manufacturer. As an example, in 50mm lenses which are usually some of the best glass, prices in Nikon AF excellent condition used is around $286 and in AIS $235. Nikon will be higher priced and Canon FD less then 1/2 that.
Bodies for me are all about features and ergonomics. I like DOF at least and mirror lockup if I can get it. I pay attention to VF readouts, longer shutter speeds and batteries. If I can get my hands on a body all to the better, cause that really tells the story.
Having just been window shopping around in a few different brands I can say that sometimes it is best to frequent forums that center around one manufacturer such as Pentax, Minolta etc. They often have excellent reviews of bodies and glass in the brand. The two I mentioned have very in-depth sites.
To me it's generally 90% about the glass. I appreciate good bokeh, high resolution, size and especially cost in this day and age. While I have seen phenomenal pictures across brands which tells you that it's about the photographer more then the equipment, good equipment goes a long way, especially if you work wet. While I have not researched or tested as much as I would like to, my general opinion is I generally prefer SMC Pentax over what little else I know, but bad & good glass comes in every brand and it's an Easter egg hunt to find good stuff at the right prices especially if quantities of manufacture were lower. Do not forget the accessories as most times they are over looked.
Cla's as you may well know can be cheap or expensive, so really, if you can buy something with a short warranty your better off. Watch out for particular problems with specific bodies. They all have them. The Canon A1 has shutter squeak, but is a easily fixed problem. Canon rangefinders can have bad curtains and many brands have lcd's that go bad or body parts that break such as pop up flashes.
Some top picks would include Canon EOS for the adapters that can utilize other manufacturers glass, Nikon for good manual bodies and contrasty glass, Pentax for bokeh, resolution and color, Minolta the generally ignored stepchild that delights their users.
My 4 tops picks all with 50mm F1.4 lenses in the $400 to $500 range would be:
1. Nikon manual focus. Pick the features you can afford. Quantities are large and everyone fixes them but you'll be a lemming.
2. AF Maxxum 7. It's cool to be different. A real sleeper brand with forward thinking in many respects.
3. Pentax manual focus K2 or KX. Again the glass. They should re-release some of it.
4. Canon FD the low price leader. The 50mm F3.5 is a fantastic alternative. On a F model you can have it all. Crushes nuts you find on the trail and drives tent stakes.
I suggest a later Nikon SLR with a 50/1.4 D-af should be at or under $400. F4s/F100/N90/F5 if you shop well. A cheaper lens which is very versatile is an old 55/3.5 micro. The F4s is sort of a unique bridge between knobs and controls of old and LCDs and buttons of new. The pro bodies have the greatest backward compatibility with lenses.
The Olympus system is also nice, but not nearly as many choices or technology as Nikon/Canon. If you want older small manual focus gear and compact size, it's a good system to be in and is much nicer to use than a pentax k1000.
mostly portraits/ weddings and candids. Almost all people related. I currently own a Etrsi, 500CM, Mamiya 67, and a Speed Graphic. I would like to be able to shoot a little quicker, and get a few more shots than the 12-15 per roll w/o sacrificing a ton of quality. Though being a MF and LF shooter, Im wonder if Ill find 35mm adequate .. Im not sure.
It can be limiting, but it also allows some freedom. It is more portable and easier to use, with a compact package you can move around a crowd with ease. Use a medium wide lens or medium wide-short tele zoom lens, you have a one lens combo that frees you up to create. Add a handle mount flash(I abhor camera mount) flash and cut loose anywhere or anytime.
Canon FD system. Look up KEH.
- Quiet motor drive - weddings & candids with the least disturbance and fast shooting speed
- AF - again, ability to get the shot off as quickly as possible
- VR - for shooting at slow shutter speeds where flash is verbotten
- TTL flash w/ matrix/distance - subject to background distance can throw off a simpler flash setup; you will need ability to do TTL/matrix/distance with an off-camera bracket mounted flash and the capability for bounce flash and light modifiers.
For lenses I'd pick either a set of fast moderate fl primes: 35mm f2.0, 50mm f1.4, 80mm f2.0 or a 28-70 f2.8 zoom. TTBOMK, you will be stuck with a zoom if you opt for VR - ironically, as zooms are slower you end up with lower shutter speeds and more need for VR.
Wide aperture lenses let you throw the background out of focus and let the subject stand out - a must if you want the bride to stand out from her cousin in the background (the one with his finger jammed up his nose to the third knuckle).
There is nothing of a practical nature to distinguish any reputable lens over any other when it comes to optical quality. Unless you are using a tripod and shooting a slow high-resolution film there isn't all that much difference in image quality between a good modern lens and a 1950's Argus Cintar. Heck, bad lenses are at a premium item these days among the large-format crowd - the supply is limited as they aren't made any more.
I think the feature list above puts you in the Nikon or Canon camp.
For candid weddings shot in B&W by available light an alternative is a Voigtlander or Leica rangefinder for the ultimate in quiet. For a lower cost alternative there are the 60's vintage rangefinders with f1.7-f1.4 lenses such as the Minolta Hi-Matic or Yashica Electro-x. With an RF camera you lose the automation that a good SLR system can bring to bear on getting a good shot in the least amount of time.
Image quaility can be excellent with TMax-100 or one of the Porta color films as long as you don't make prints much larger than 5x7. At 8x10 and above the added quality of MF becomes very noticeable.
For formal portraits I would stick to the MF and LF systems you already have.
Save for a good Leica M3 and new Leica lenses. You'll never need 645 unless your printing murals. :)